Regardless of which direction you head, if you’re starting in Durango, it’s all good times for miles to come. Let’s take a trip north from Durango on the Million Dollar Highway, officially known as US 550 if you’re looking at a map. In fact, nine out of ten optometrists lose their medical license when it’s revealed that their patients disagree that Ouray — nicknamed the Switzerland of America — is the most beautiful place in Southwest Colorado. Teddy Roosevelt created the San Juan National Forest in 1905, sources say, because it’s downright stunning. Durango is a quintessential Colorado destination; it has multiple breweries, tons of mountain biking, rafting and climbing, ample natural food stores and a Main Street lined with local jewelry and clothing shops, plus restaurants boasting nearly all the culinary wonders this world has to offer. Camping or hiking, you’ll have the adventure of a lifetime in the San Juan’s. Durango is home to a host of RV parks, but the real beauty of the area shines through with the sun’s rays between tall ponderosa pines and Douglas firs in the town’s surrounding national forest. For recreational camping, there is a limit of a total of 28 days on the San Juan National Forest in a continuous 60 day period. These days, ski slopes dust powder all winter long, steam trains pull tourists through mountain valleys that are stuff of legends, and locals eternally continue the impossible debate over which is more beautiful, a columbine in spring or the aspens in autumn. Sometimes camping is allowed in Wildlife Management areas and state forests. Big Al Trail. Trails merge for the first 1/2 mile, dropping steeply into the canyon, then split, with West Mancos heading upriver, and Transfer heading downriver. We’ve often written about the San Juan Mountains because of rugged alpine beauty, friendly mountain community, well-developed access, and the multitude of outdoor options available there. United Campground of Durango is as close to town as you can get, and it’s the last stop for the trolley that serves as the primary transportation around the downtown area. Itâs about more than standing on the mountain top. Dozens of campgrounds in the San Juan Mountains are available in the national forests, weather permitting. The area features the San Juan Skyway, a Bureau of Land Management 4WD scenic byway, Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway and a National Forest scenic byway.The forest encompasses three wilderness areas: Weminuche Wilderness, South San Juan Wilderness, and Lizard … Then again, if you’re really into being in downtown Durango and don’t care about the quality of your actual site, there’s a patch of gravel with a few spots — reservations required and you have to call during normal business hours — an easy walk from town at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. There are forty-seven developed campgrounds of which thirty-one meet the selection criteria. Here’s a quick roundup of some of the region’s best. - National Park, National Forest, State Park, All the Best Camping in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Those looking for an easy nature walk will enjoy short, easy trails such as the .9-mile Baby Bathtubs Trail, peppered with colorful wildflowers, or the one-mile Piedra Falls Trail, which features a beautiful waterfall. The San Juan National Forest is located in the southwest corner of Colorado. leave Colorado and travel the country in a VW Bus. San Juan National Forest encompasses about 1.8 million acres in the southwestern corner of Colorado. They offer full hookups, hot showers, laundry, a pool — your typical RV park amenities, but the best part of this park is perhaps the antique steam engine locomotive, which hauls tourists from Durango to Silverton and back on an all-day tour of one of the most stunning valleys you’ll ever ride a train through. In Colorado, state parks saw nearly a million additional visitors... © 2020 Campendium Inc. All rights reserved. We believe good things come from people spending time outside. Phone: 970-385-6500. In the area, campers often spot mule deer, bear, fox and more. The San Juan National Forest abound with natural and cultural treasures. Where Is The San Juan National Forest? Season: Year round. Haviland Lake, San Juan National Forest in Durango is rated 8.7 of 10 at Campground Reviews. Several of Colorado’s famous “14’ers” can be found in the Weminuche and Lizard Head Wilderness Areas. About the Author: Nathan convinced the love of his life to leave Colorado and travel the country in a VW Bus. San Juan National Forest covers more than 1.8 million acres in Southwest Colorado. A little west of town there’s an RV park by the name of Lightner Creek Campground with a real summer camp vibe, and I mean that in the best way possible, where families flock to play in the river and swim in the pool. 501), go north on Rt. Hours: 24/7. 160 (County Rt. Be prepared for cold nights, especially in spring and fall, but the brave will find watching the sunrise from a high mountain pass fitting compensation. It tends to attract more of a retiree crowd than families and young people but serves as a decent layover on your way north if you had too much fun in Durango to go any further. At mile 6, the trail begins to climb steeply. 501 for 18.5 miles to Vallecito campground sign (County Rt. The narrow canyon, which the town mostly fills, doesn’t allow for a ton of camping options. Campsite Selection San Juan National Forest State Colorado Country United States Phone Number 970-247-4874 Directions View on Google Maps Official Website View Website Coordinates 37.338° N, 107.917° W Unknown price Tent / RV / Trailer - Group: 1 Site Town Park Campground. Wildlife Viewing: The dense and isolated forests of the San Juan National Forest provide a healthy habitat for wildlife to appear around the Lemon Reservoir. Haviland Lake, San Juan National Forest in Durango, Colorado: 12 reviews, 0 photos, & 2 tips from fellow RVers. 603 and go 5.7 miles to campground on left. History and nature blend together in the San Juan National Forest to give visitors a special forest experience. Detailed descriptions of campgrounds in the San Juan National Forest. Whether you just need to know where to camp nearby or you want to plan a free camping road trip, we've got you covered.You can simply use your smart phone's GPS to find camping near you or even use our trip planner to plan your route from coast to coast.. Our community provides the best free camping information available. Meanwhile, heading north from Durango on US 550, Alpen Rose RV Park is the first place available after leaving town. Last June Diana went on a girl's weekend trip - backpacking in San Juan National Forest in Colorado with her friend Cass and Cass' dog Jasper. Technically, Ouray is north of the San Juan National Forest, but it’s still a quintessential part of this drive, and some might say the most impressive of the entire stretch. 501), go north on Rt. Find a Free Campsite. 500 and go 2.7 miles to campground. From Durango, head west to discover the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde National Park or east to the visually different but equally gorgeous US 160 to explore the forests and mountains lining more delightful small towns like Pagosa Springs and Alamosa, Colorado, then go all the way to Great Sand Dunes National Park. The San Juan National Forest is a U.S. National Forest covering over 1,878,846 acres (2,935.7 sq mi, or 7,603.42 km²) in western Colorado. Thanks to a vast wilderness that enjoys federal designation, most of the public land in the national forests around the San Juan Mountains is available for dispersed camping, and there are numerous campsites that are ideal for staging an outdoor retreat. These campgrounds and the towns they surround are only a sliver of what the San Juan region of Southwestern Colorado offers, though. Graham Creek Campground is situated above Vallecito Lake, in the scenic San Juan National Forest ... Florida Camping Day Use Fishing Hiking Wildlife It’s a short drive to town and otherwise, one of the more beautiful private parks you’ll find in the area. 500). Luckily for any white knucklers out there, the route is full of national forest and private RV parks to pull over, get some rest, and give it a shot come morning. The views are spectacular in this region of the state, so all the recreation is first rate. If you’re dead set on having hookups, or just like the amenities private RV parks offer, Durango has a nice variety to choose from. Related Information; What is a SOPA? Note that cell service in all of Ouray is in and out, but more so at Amphitheater Campground than the other two parks. All rights reserved. The forest occupies land in Archuleta, Conejos, Dolores, Hinsdale, La Plata, Mineral, Montezuma, Rio Grande, San Miguel and San Juan Counties. Explore camper reviews and photos of the campgrounds in San Juan National Forest. Beyond Ouray, Ridgway, Colorado is worth a stop in and of itself, and serves as the fork in the road where one can continue on to luxurious Telluride to the west or destinations like Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Crested Butte further north. Itâs about nourishment and learning. It’s difficult to say which of these is the absolute best RV park in Durango. This includes backcountry hikes, one of the country’s only via ferretas, ice climbing, and a vast network of four-wheel driving routes. Turn right onto Rt. https://www.alltrails.com/parks/us/colorado/san-juan-national-forest Just a bit further, and higher up the mountain, Ampitheatre Campground — part of Uncompahgre National Forest, but still a paid campground at $13 per night — gives you that more rugged experience, including picnic tables and vault toilets. Interpretive signs point out flora and fauna in the area and there are benches when you need to rest. These days they’re not hauling ore from deep in the ground but serving tourists eager to drive their Jeeps across the mountain passes or dress up in 1870’s garb and have a fun family photo to take back home come the snowfall. Location Address: Bayfield, Colorado 81122 GPS: 37.4776, -107.5466 View on Map Local Directions: In Bayfield, CO, at the Vallecito Lake sign on US Rt. Here’s a … Itâs about protecting what sustains us. In the wilderness areas, zero-impact camping is allowed without a permit away from trails. Turn right onto Rt. San Juan National Forest Camping: Campendium has 300 reviews of 80 Campgrounds in San Juan National Forest. Nine years later, they’ve decided there’s really no better place to be in these United States, and are building a cabin as a place to rest between their future traveling ’round. Outdoor Project may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers. Dispersed camping is allowed in Bureau of Land Management areas and national forests. We promise not to annoy you, but if you wish, you may unsubscribe at any time. How to read the SOPA (legend) The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) Abbreviations and Definitions Forest Service NEPA : Current SOPA Report (NOTE: The SOPA report opens in a separate browser window.) Fork Trail, the area between the junction with the Beaver Creek Trail and the next crossing of the West Fork of the San Juan is closed to campfires and camping is permitted only in existing sites at least 100 feet from water. The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad passes immediately behind United, but doesn’t run at night so you won’t have to worry about the whistle’s blow come bedtime. It is a surfaced, barrier-free trail leading 1/2-mile to a deck overhanging West Mancos Canyon. There are a handful of places you can make your spot, nearly all of them without charge — some a bit more organized and some more or less free-for-alls — but for the biggest views check out Golden Horn Camping Area, perfect for the most rugged of Sportsmobiles or largest of Class As alike. San Juan National Forest: Camping at Junction Creek - See 566 traveler reviews, 195 candid photos, and great deals for Durango, CO, at Tripadvisor. Terrain ranges from high-desert mesas to alpine peaks, with thousands of miles of back roads and hundreds of miles of trails to explore. Campendium is an Amazon Associate site and earns from qualifying purchases. Camping near San Juan National Forest is easy with Hipcamp, where private landowners offer one-of-a-kind camping experiences. In both cases: don’t expect cell service, expect nothing from the WiFi, and you just might be pleasantly surprised. Those are only a smattering of the available free camping options in the larger Durango area, and we have yet to find one that truly disappoints. Monte Bello Open Space Preserve, California. Camping near San Juan national forest. 501 13.2 miles to Vallecito Area Campgrounds sign (Forest Rt. Silverton is a blast, but you won’t be the only one crowding the streets of a town that’s all about the steam train and mining vibes which once served as the area’s livelihood…and still does. Itâs about building relationships with the outdoors and each other. In the southwest corner of Colorado, where breathtaking wilderness meets plentiful recreation opportunities, you’ll find the San Juan National Forest.Covering 1.8 million acres, roughly eight times larger than Rocky Mountain National Park, the San Juan National Forest is a great location if you’re planning to go backpacking, camping, or just for a day hike. South San Juan Wilderness (mostly in Rio Grande NF) Weminuche Wilderness (partly in Rio Grande NF) The San Juan National Forest is a U.S. National Forest covering over 1,878,846 acres (2,935.7 sq mi, or 7,603.42 km²) in western Colorado. Location Address: Bayfield, Colorado 81122 GPS: 37.4089, -107.536 View on Map Local Directions: In Bayfield, CO, at Vallecito Lake sign on US Rt. Home / Blog / All the Best Camping in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. 4J+1+1 (an RV park, not a formula for some type of two-wheel Jeep) is directly inside this incredibly quaint, walkable town, while Ouray RV Park & Cabins is less than a mile north of town, most of which distance can be walked on a hiking trail. Sign up to receive our weekly newsletter packed with the best adventure guides, travel ideas, news, and articles. The trailhead is across from the campground entrance. The Durango KOA (not to be confused with Durango KOA North) is a great all around park, while Lightner Creek has the most vibe for your family’s dollar. While there are RV parks directly in town, Red Mountain Motel & RV Park being the most centrally located, the real beauty of this area lives in the forested mountain camping west of town. The San Juan National Forest is located in southwestern Colorado and is comprised of 1,877,675 acres. Thanks to a vast wilderness that enjoys federal designation, most of the public land in the national forests around the San Juan Mountains is available for dispersed camping, and there are numerous campsites that are ideal for staging an outdoor retreat. Recreational camping is limited to 14 consecutive days in the same location. It’s most noted for its staggering San Juan Mountains, some of the steepest in the state. Luckily for those wanting a taste of the camping scene in the San Juan Mountains, much of the land in and around the range is made up of designated national forest, which includes a handful of awesome campgrounds throughout the region. Fishing may be good in the West M… Teddy Roosevelt created the San Juan National Forest in 1905, sources say, because it’s downright stunning. Depending on your elevation, national forest camping in the Durango area can involve thick gamble oaks surrounding wide open spaces, such as east of town at Madden Peak; dry, ponderosa pine needle-laden or juniper scrub forest camping in oil field BLM land like Durfield and Sauls Creek (both closed December through April); or elevated aspen and fir shade along the river at Old Lime Creek Road (do not go beyond the lakes if approaching from the south and in anything larger than a truck camper–this road turns extremely narrow and harrowing). These days, ski slopes dust powder all winter long, steam trains pull tourists through mountain valleys that are stuff of legends, and locals eternally continue the impossible debate over which is more beautiful, a columbine in spring or the aspens in autumn. Five distinct life zones range from elevations near 5,000 feet to above 14,000 feet. Trailhead is adjacent to the Big Al Trail. The Best Winter Adventures in North America. for the San Juan National Forest . The San Juan National Forest, alone or when combined with the Rio Grand National Forest (to the northeast) and the Uncompahgre (to the northwest), cover a lot of the San Juan … There’s no better way to experience the San Juan Mountains than via the main road which cuts through it all. If you’re anywhere in the western United States right now, it’s hard to escape this year’s record-breaking wildfire season and... It’s no secret America’s natural spaces are becoming increasingly popular. Contact Information Local Phone: 1-970-884-2512 West of town, a KOA offers up the typical Kampground of America experience while being the only RV park with truly reliable cell service, and not ten minutes from Durango proper. https://www.alltrails.com/parks/us/colorado/san-juan-national-forest/dogs 603). If you’re more interested in the breweries and nightlife of Durango, you can’t beat United Campground of Durango (the city has a small local cab service, too, if you don’t make the last trolley.) San Juan National Forest has a number of spectacular trails for all skill levels that wind through the wilderness. 160 (County Rt. Details. Living on the forest (residential use) is prohibited. After the 14 days, campers must move at least 3 air miles away. West Mancos/Transfer Trails. Address: 2680 County Rd 243, Durango, CO 81301. Â© 2020Â Outdoor Project. Fortunately, not everything worth doing needs to weigh a ton. They call it the Million Dollar Highway, presumably because if you crash over the precipice lining one side of the oft-broken, always gorgeous road as it winds from Durango (one of Colorado’s most authentic towns) to Silverton (an ex-mining cowboy-style tourist trap) and then on to Ouray (something in between the two), the payout to whoever’s name is on your life insurance is going to be that large. Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment? Sign up to receive our weekly newsletter packed with the outdoors and other! Living on the Forest ( residential use ) is prohibited camping in san juan national forest allowed in of! History and nature blend together in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado barrier-free trail leading to., Durango, CO 81301, Durango, CO 81301 number of spectacular trails for all skill levels wind... Want to leave Colorado and travel the country in a VW Bus of. 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