If you are looking for a great camping experience near Telluride, Colorado, you have come to the right place.
Telluride is a camping and outdoor mecca nestled at the end of a canyon surrounded by 13,000-foot peaks. The town is home to world-class festivals, a vibrant nightlife scene, and endless outdoor adventure.
There is ample hiking, mountain biking, and fishing, and it always seems to be a huge festival each month during the summer. Yet, due to the recent changes in travel due to Covid-19 and the popularity that Telluride is gaining due to its incredible scenery, it’s easy to see why finding a place to camp can be difficult.
The town is at the end of a vast canyon, surrounded by snow-capped peaks, and has only one road that accesses the town. This doesn’t leave many offshoots to find a place to pull over to spend the night.
In this blog post, we will review some of the best camping options in the area so that you can enjoy all that Telluride has to offer and binge the mountain life.
Alta Lakes Campground
Alta Lakes is one of the most popular camping options near Telluride. The campground is located just outside of town and offers stunning views of the San Juan Mountains.
The campground sits nearly 11,000 ft, so it’s often inaccessible until late June, when the snow melts.
Alta Lakes is a dispersed campground, so there are no reservations, and it is on a first-come-first-serve basis.
There are 20 campsites at Alta Lakes Campground, and they encircle the first of 3 lakes at the base of Palmyra Peak. There is a 7-day camping limit, 2 vault toilets, and no running water access.
The road to get to Alta lakes is a dirt road, steep and narrow for most of the way. It does require a high clearance vehicle. Especially the last mile or so, the road gets pretty rough, and there is no way I would take a rental car on that section.
Once you get to the first lake, there are many campsites immediately in front of you on the water’s edge. An excellent campsite is on a finger of land that goes into the lake just off to the left that’s perfect for hanging a hammock to relax in.
To the far left are campsites in an open meadow. These are perfect for larger groups, those with paddleboards or kayaks, and these have the best view of Palmyra Peak, which seems to smack you in the face.
Some of the best campsites are on the far right side of the lake, but these are popular and almost always occupied.
Once you make it to the lakes and are all settled, you can do numerous activities. We love fishing in the lake and have had great success. We typically use a fly and bubble technique that we have done from the bank and love to take our inflatable kayak up there.
Paddleboarding is amazingly pretty, with views of the mountains and pristine lake.
You can hike up to the Telluride ski resort as Alta lakes are just on the other side of Prospect Bowl, a favorite section of the ski resort.
Finally, you can hop on a trail that will take over to the ski resort for those who bring their mountain bikes if you take the uphill direction.
This trail can lead you into town and to the always refreshing Telluride brewing Company for those who head in the downhill direction.
Alta Lakes Camping Pros and Cons:
- Gorgeous views
- Easy access to water
- First come, first serve
- Lots of activities including fishing, paddle boarding, swimming
- Lots of Shade
- Rough roads requiring high clearance vehicles
- It can be crowded at times
- Snowmelt doesn’t happen until late June
- Even in the summer, temperatures can be colder due to being at 11,000 ft in elevation
- Watch out for Mosquitos in the proximity to the lake
How to Get to Alta Lakes:
Drive south from the Mountain Village near Telluride on Highway 145 toward Lizard Head pass to get to Alta Lakes. On your left, you will see a US Forest Service sign for Alta Lakes and a dirt road immediately after it. This 5-mile (8 km) steeply sloping roadway is one-way and requires the use of a high clearance vehicle. Downhill vehicles should yield to uphill drivers.
Telluride Town Park
Telluride Town Park is the only developed campground in Telluride, and it’s an excellent option for those that want to be close to town.
The Telluride Town Park Campground has 28 campsites, and you can pull in right next to the picnic table and fire ring. The cost as of this writing was 28$ per night. This may seem like a high price for a tent site; however, hotels in the area are easily over 200$ a night.
Since the pandemic, this campground has done a reservation system, but we don’t know if this is temporary or something they will permanently keep.
There are plenty of trees to make it feel secluded, and it is dog friendly.
For those who want to experience Telluride, this is the perfect location. You can walk from the campsite to the main street and enjoy the local restaurants and shopping.
The gondola is easily within walking distance, so you can ride it up to the top of Mountain Village and explore the ski resort in the summer.
One of the other bonuses is that the campground has showers and bathrooms onsite. This is perfect for those who want to stay a little longer and still freshen up.
The bathrooms are a bit dated and expensive for what you get, but you are camping in the middle of the Telluride.
The main drawback to this campground is that the campground is crowded and almost always full. The sites are closer together, and most are on the smaller side.
If you are looking for a secluded, relaxing camping experience, this may not be the best campground.
Telluride Town Park Camping Pros and Cons
- Walking distance to the center of Telluride
- Has showers and bathrooms
- Shaded and hidden in the trees
- Easily the closest camping to Telluride
- Often crowded and full
- Smaller campsites
- Older and expensive showers
- Expensive to camp on the ground
How to get to Telluride Town Park Campground
The Telluride Town Park Campground is located at 500 E. Colorado Ave, Telluride, CO.
Go east on Colorado Avenue (Main Street) into Telluride till you reach Willow Street, then turn right. Enter the park via the bridge and access road until you come to the check-in facility for the campgrounds on the right.
Woods Lake Campground
Woods Lake Campground is one of my favorite places to camp near Telluride. The campground sits at the base of the Wilson mountain range, which has three 14,000ft peaks. The campground is only 8 miles away from the town of Telluride and is the perfect Colorado mountain lake.
The views from the lake are spectacular because of its location. There are easy-to-use facilities and easy access to the lake, and the road is not nearly as rough, so it’s easier to get to.
The lake is excellent for fishing, canoeing, paddleboarding, and swimming. The views of the surrounding mountains are breathtaking.
There are numerous hiking trails around the area, including the trail you can take to summit Mount Wilson, the largest peak in the region.
Wood’s lake campground has 41 campsites, including a group site, 4 double sites, a pull-through site, and 5 sites on the separate horse loop.
The fees are $18 per night per camping unit; $20 per night for equestrian sites; $4 per day for day-use/picnic on a campsite; $10 per firewood bundle.
Woods Lake Campground Pros and Cons:
- Much less crowded than Telluride Town Park
- Beautiful lake for fishing, canoeing, paddleboarding, and swimming
- Easy access to hiking trails
- Easy for travel trailers to get to
- Breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains
- Clean bathrooms with lights for nighttime use
- Easy drive to the town of telluride
- It can still be crowded throughout the summer months
- Not within biking distance and wouldn’t want to bike on Highway 145
How to get to Woods Lake Campground
Take Colorado State Highway 145 east from Placerville, CO, for 2.4 miles to Forest Road #618 (Fall Creek Road). 7.4 miles after leaving Fall Creek Road, turn left onto Forest Road #621. Travel about 2 miles along Forest Road #621 to the campground.
Sunshine Campground, Telluride Colorado
Sunshine Campground is an excellent option for those looking to camp near Telluride and enjoys the fantastic views that make Colorado famous. The campground is located in the San Juan Mountains and has stunning views of the Wilson range that looks as if they could be taken out of a fairy tale.
The campsites are large, and there is plenty of space between sites, making it feel more secluded than other campgrounds. There are only 15 spaces, and it is a first-come-first-serve campground with no reservations.
The fees at Sunshine campground are $20 per night per camping unit; $4 per day for day-use/picnic on a campsite.
It’s easy to see why this campground is typically full all camping season because it is close to Telluride, has fantastic views, and has no reservation system.
Sunshine Campground Pros and Cons:
- Stunning views of the Wilson Range, particularly Sunshine Peak
- Large campsites with plenty of space between sites
- Close to Telluride
- Straightforward access for those with 2-wheel drive and low clearance vehicles
- First-come-first-serve, so it’s hard to guarantee a spot
- It can be crowded due to its proximity to Telluride
- Open season is short, from June 5th to October 5th
- Only 15 developed sites, so it is on the smaller side
How To Get To Sunshine Campground
From Telluride, head west 3 miles on Highway 145 to the round-a-bout, turn left, and proceed south for 5 miles on highway 145. The camping facilities are located on the right side of the road.
The turn-off is before Alta Lakes road and before the scenic lookout for the Wilson Peaks. If you make it to those areas, you know you’ve gone too far.
Mary E Campground Telluride Colorado
Mary E Campground is an excellent option for those looking to camp near Telluride and is almost tucked away, making it less obvious for people simply driving by looking for camping.
The campground is located only 7.4 miles from Telluride and on the San Miguel River. This is a popular spot with 20 designated campsites. Each site is marked with a numbered post, has a metal fire ring, and a picnic table.
There are portable toilets and trash receptacles at the campground. However, there is no water.
Each site has a location to pop up a tent, and travel trailers/RVs up to 22 feet in length are allowed in the campground.
This campground is also on a first-come-first-serve basis and costs around 15$ a night.
Camping on Lizard Head Pass
Lizard Head Pass is a gorgeous paved high mountain pass located between Telluride and the town of Cortez. The pass tops out at over 10,000ft in elevation and offers some of the most spectacular mountain views in the country. The pass is named for one of the unique rock formations that looks like the head of a lizard.
The top of Lizard Head pass is only 15 miles from the town of Telluride or about 25 minutes by car on good weather days. This makes camping on top of Lizard Head Pass an excellent option for those who want to explore and be close to Telluride.
There are many different camping options on Lizard Head, including dispersed camping and 2 campgrounds named Matterhorn Campground and Priest Lake Campground.
Dispersed Camping on Lizard Head Pass
Lizard Head pass is almost surrounded by national forest, with the Uncompaghre national first to the north side of the pass and the San Juan National Forest on the south side.
When using a dispersed campsite, you must follow some requirements, such as being 100ft away from a water source. See this form for rules on camping in the San Juan National Forest.
One of the best places for dispersed camping on Lizard Head Pass is directly across from the rest area on the east side of the highway. Look for County Road A63 and follow the road back until you find the site you like.
Be careful with fire and always leave the place in better condition than when you found it. Pick up all your trash.
Matterhorn Campground is located about 8 miles from Telluride and is an excellent place for those looking for convenience, as reservations can be made ahead of time.
The campground offers stunning views of the Wilson Range and Matterhorn Peak and is close to Telluride.
The campground has 28 sites that can accommodate tents, trailers, and RVs up to 45 feet long. Each site has a picnic table and fire rings with a grill combo, lantern poles, and firewood for purchase.
The campground also offers restrooms and showers to overnight and day-use guests.
The cost of a site is 24$ per night per camping unit; $11 per night electric/sewer fee; $4 per day for day-use/picnic on a campsite; $10 per firewood bundle. $8 for showers (for non-registered guests).
Reservations can be made at www.recreation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777.
Priest Lake Campground
Priest Lake Campground is located about 8-9 miles from Telluride and is an excellent place for those looking for seclusion as there are only 9 designated sites. This is next to Matterhorn campground and can be accessed via the same country road, 64B.
Priest Lake is a dispersed campground that is free and on a first-come-first-serve basis. There is little room for trailers due to the size of the sites.
There is a vault toilet on site but no hookups or other amenities.
The best feature of Preist Lake Campground is the location and access to recreation. It’s close to trout lake for fishing and paddle boarding, near local hiking trails, and next to the famed Galloping Goose Mountain Bike Trail.
More About Camping Near Telluride, Colorado
Telluride is a bustling town located in southwestern Colorado and is surrounded by some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in the state. The town is world-famous for its Telluride Film Festival, Telluride Bluegrass Festival, and Telluride Jazz Festival.
The town offers a variety of activities year-round, including skiing, hiking, biking, and of course, world-class fly fishing. Telluride is also home to some of the best restaurants in the state.
The camping season is short at that high of an elevation due to snowpack and temperatures. The season starts sometime in mid-June and goes until early October.
Be wary of storms in the area as storms move in quickly and can be deadly due to lightning.
When in the mountains, always carry an extra jacket, sunscreen, and more water than you’re used to, as dehydration is expected at higher elevations.
Telluride is a beautiful town with a great history and even better views. No matter what time of year you visit, there is always something to do. The campgrounds listed in this article are just a few of the significant camping options near Telluride, Colorado.
For more information on camping in the area, please get in touch with the local ranger district office or check out the website for San Miguel County for potential fire bans and updated regulations.
Happy trails! Let us know in the comments if you have any other great Telluride camping spots to share.
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