Colorado is famous for its vast and spectacular mountain peaks, many of which are over 14,000 feet in elevation
The Centennial state also has some of the highest campgrounds in the country. Included in the list is the highest Jellystone Park Camp-Resort and the highest KOA campground. Those honors go to the Jellystone Park of Estes at 7,800 feet and to the Cripple Creek KOA at 10,000 feet!
“Guests at our highest campgrounds are literally on top of the world,” said Mary Arlington, executive director of the Colorado Camping and Lodging Owners Association. The association hosts CampColorado.com, the statewide travel planning website.
Don Seppi is a second-generation owner of Sugar Loafin’ Campground. The family operated park is located just under 10,000 feet in elevation. It’s near the historic mining town of Leadville. It acts as a base camp for all types of high-altitude activities. Guests often enjoy hiking, fishing, mountain biking, ATVing and photography. Even the wildlife and wildflowers differ at high elevations.
“I think coming to Leadville is a bucket list thing for some people,” Seppi said. “You can’t do anything here that isn’t pretty. There’s mountains everywhere. You can go walking through pine and spruce forests, over and around streams, and if you hike above timberline you’ll see tundra flowers. When I would bring friends here from college, they would just stand in the driveway and take photos.”
HEARING FROM THE EXPERIENCED
Tommy Robles of North Tustin, Calif. remembers when he visited Sugar Loafin’ RV Campground the first time in 2009. He had come with his wife and year-and-a-half-old daughter to ride in the annual Leadville Trail 100-mile mountain bike race for his 40th birthday, not knowing it was one of the most popular mountain bike races in the world.
“I walked around the campground talking to people,” Robles said. “The vibe could not be duplicated. I met people from Japan, Germany, Brazil, England. I’m going around the campground saying, ‘This is crazy! I want to come back here!’ ”
Robles has returned every summer for 12 years and has met people at Sugar Loafin’ RV Campground who have since become some of his best friends. He rides in the Leadville Trail race every year and came back to Sugar Loafin’ RV Campground again this year — even though the race was cancelled due to COVID-19 — because the area is so beautiful.
“I absolutely love detaching from Southern California and going to the Rockies and just hanging out in God’s country,” Robles said. He added that there are plenty of things to do in Colorado’s high country.
“We take our stand-up paddle boards and our road bikes. We hike all over the place. We jump in ice cold lakes and swim around because it’s unbelievably beautiful. You wake up in the morning and you’re staring at Mount Massive. In the middle of summer it still has snow on its cap,” he said.
COOL COMPARED TO THE SOUTH!
Seppi said many of his high-altitude campers come from Texas, the Midwest and other lowland areas to escape the summer heat and simply to enjoy the scenery. “There are some guests who just sit outside their camping unit and glance at the mountains as they read a book,” he said.
OTHER CAMPING OPTIONS
Travelers seeking a high altitude escape in Colorado can find the campgrounds of their dreams at CampColorado.com. The website lists hundreds of campgrounds, including the ones already mentioned as well as more high altitude gems such as these, which are listed here in regional order.
MOUNTAINS & MESAS REGION
4J+1+1 RV Park (Ouray): The Clark family has owned and operated this 8,000-foot elevation campground for over 60 years. With a variety of camping options, this campground is two blocks from downtown Ouray. Everything is in walking distance.
Highlander RV Campground (Lake City): This 9,000-foot elevation campground is just north of Lake San Cristobal, It’s built on mining claims that date back to the early 1900s. Its campsites are surrounded by spruce and aspen trees.
Ouray Riverside Resort (Ouray): This 8,000-foot elevation campground is family owned and operated by Jason and Amber Perkins. The 7.5-acre park, which has an onsite restaurant, borders the Uncompahgre River, and offers spectacular views of waters in the surrounding San Juan Mountains.
THE GREAT WEST REGION
Grand Lake / Rocky Mountain National Park KOA (formerly Elk Creek Campground) (Grand Lake): If tepee camping is in your dreams, this 8,800-foot in elevation park has it! They also offer rustic cabins and traditional tent and RV campsites, some with exceptional views.
Lake John Resort (Walden): Located at 8,200 feet above sea level this family owned campground is on the banks of Lake John. It’s also close to Delaney Butte Lakes, Big Creek Lake, Cowdrey Lake and the many alpine lakes of the Mount Zirkel Wilderness. It’s also near the Grizzley Helena Trail.
Winding River Resort (Grand Lake): At 8,800 feet, this resort offers furnished Conestoga wagons, cedar sided and log cabin rentals, as well as regular campsites. Onsite activities include horse and pony rides and wildlife viewing opportunities. It’s likely you’ll spot some moose, elk, fox, coyotes, bears, and many types of birds that make the area their home.
DENVER & THE CITIES OF THE ROCKIES REGION
Base Camp at Golden Gate Canyon (Black Hawk): This campground recently renovated its facilities and went so far as to equip the restrooms with heated floors. Considering the park is located at 9,230 feet and is open all year, that’s a very good addition!
Estes Park KOA (Estes Park): Located at 7,800 feet in elevation, this park offers several RV and tent sites with raised decks to elevate you high enough to enjoy the peaks that surround Estes Park.
PIKES PEAK WONDERS REGION
Arrowhead Point Campground & Cabins (Buena Vista): At 8,200-foot elevation campground, this campground complements its RV and tent sites with furnished cabins and yurts. The park also offers a free shuttle to the Arkansas River for rafting trips.
Aspen Acres Campground & Cabins (Rye): This park is located at 9,200-foot elevation. It’s on the 103-mile Colorado Frontier Pathway and Scenic Byway, which traverses beautiful South-Central Colorado and the San Isabel National Forest. The park is just three miles from Lake San Isabel, a 40-acre stocked lake tucked in the mountains. Those without an RV or tent can rent a cabin, lodge, park model or glamping safari tent.
Cripple Creek KOA (Cripple Creek): Claimant of the highest KOA in the world!
Cutty’s Hayden Creek Resort (Coaldale): This 7,800-foot elevation campground sits on 157 acres in San Isabel National Forest. Rental accommodations are varied, in addition to their RV and tent campsites.
ROCKIES PLAYGROUND REGION
Sugar Loafin’ RV Campground (Leadville): Mentioned in several of the introductory paragraphs.
We highly (pun intended) recommend you prepare yourself for the elevation by following some simple yet highly effective means of avoiding altitude sickness (click here for a short blog post).
The Colorado Campground and Lodging Owners Association (CCLOA) hosts CampColorado.com, which shows nearly all of Colorado’s camping facilities. CCLOA works closely with the Colorado Tourism Office, which hosts colorado.com, where you can find out about attractions and events all across the state. These two statewide travel planning websites will jumpstart your dream trip travel planning!