Ultimate Guide to Dispersed Camping Near Leadville, CO

Gorgeous Twin Lakes with crystal clear water, a rich history of gold prospecting, gun-slinging, and many museums as a reminder of both, and many serpentine steep hiking trails in the surrounding mountainous region, are all parameters that make dispersed camping near Leadville, Colorado one of the best activities the Centennial state has to offer.

In this post, I’ll tell you all about the best dispersed camping spots near the town. Also, I will mention some of the important considerations of camping near this area. 

Map of Dispersed Camping near Leadville

Click on the map icons for more information about each camping area.

Overview of Dispersed Camping Near Leadville

Male and female camper tent camping near Leadville Colorado on a sunny day

Sitting at an elevation of 10,152 feet above sea level, this town represents the highest incorporated city in the whole of the US. This fact is even more astounding because the town itself is not even the highest point of interest around. The two legendary mountains – Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive, each over 14,000 feet, tower over everything else in this area, with the nearby Twin lakes posing a tranquil and sedate counterpart.

Leadville, Colorado and its impressive immediate surroundings offer some of the most impressive camping options you can find anywhere in the world (see our ultimate guide to free camping in Colorado for more information).

This is especially the case if you’re a fan of all things Old West – listening to prospecting stories around a wood stove in an old mountain cabin, visiting places where Doc Holiday drew his guns and also pulled teeth, and embarking on challenging hikes, or long and exciting endurance trailing missions on horseback. You can visit The Matchless Mine and Baby Doe’s Cabin, among other timeless curiosities, in this mountaintop settlement. 

Speaking of the Old West, how about those films where finely-dressed men and women would board a steam train and traverse the vast natural expanses that way? 

You can have the same experience if you board the Leadville scenic train, winding slowly through the rich wilderness of the broader Colorado area. The ride passes by the breathtaking Arkansas River Valley, San Isabel National Forest, and rest assured that you will have the time of your life if you decide to take a seat on this train. 

The other attractions in this area include excellent fishing spots such as Hayden Reservoir and Twin Lakes, where you can catch the best trout high mountains have to offer. 

Also, you can count on the highest golf course in the US in Mt. Massive. The course itself comprises 18 holes but it’s the fantastic surroundings that take the cake as the primary attraction for golfers from all over the world. This course sits snugly in the Arkansas River Valley, with rich ranchland, scenic and pristine forests, and the range of the tallest mountains in the state as the background. 

Best Dispersed Camping near Leadville, Colorado

Beautiful orange and green countryside near Leadville, Colorado in Fall

The warm summer weather certainly attracts the largest number of tourists, but Leadville is not strictly a summertime camping region. Well-prepared campers looking for a challenge and some of the most breathtaking wintertime landscapes flock to Leadville to explore its frosty mountain paths and icy gorges. 

The entries below are some of my favorite campsites near Leadville, Colorado. Many of these are approachable year round, but some are more season-specific. 

County Road 48 (near Turquoise Lake

Map of dispersed camping areas near Turquoise Lake, Leadville
Photo by SFC H via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)
  • Map
  • Toilets: no
  • Water availability: no
  • Visitor frequency: busy
  • Distance to Leadville: 4 miles

Only 4 miles away from Leadville, County Road 48 is a location that captures a large part of the mountainous air and atmosphere of Leadville itself. 

Thanks to the immense likeability of this place, County Road 48 represents one of the most heavily-frequented camping locations close to Leadville. Another major point of interest close to this campground is Turquoise Lake, just north of this campground.

Lastly, you can get fantastic views of Mt. Elbert from this campground.

The road here is a simple gravel one, and it’s easily navigable by most vehicles, including some pretty heavy ones such as rigs and pickups with trailers.

The best camping season here is summer, when the weather is pleasant and you can enjoy the surrounding scenery without freezing yourself to death.

Winter camping is possible here, too, but it’s not necessarily for those inexperienced in setting up camps in cold weather. Although the cold gives this place a unique charm, at 10,200 feet above sea level, winters here are no joke.

Leadville itself and the surrounding campgrounds are considered a proper mountain gem due to its beauty, the crisp air, and the sheer amount of snowfall this place gets every year.

If you like camping in mountainous areas, make sure to check out our guide to the best camping near Pikes Peak and our list of the best dispersed campsites near Denver.

Turquoise Lake Dispersed Camping

Turquoise Lake near Leadville, Colorado
Photo by Jeffrey Beall via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 4.0)
  • Map
  • Toilets: no
  • Water availability: no
  • Visitor frequency: moderate
  • Distance to Leadville: 10 miles

To get to this campground from Leadville, it’s only about a 10-mile drive on roads that are mostly fine, but can also get quite rough at times.

Dispersed camping is not allowed anywhere near the Turquoise Lake Recreation Area. The surrounding area, however, is completely fair game, with plenty of fantastic camping sites in the general vicinity.

However, getting to many of these areas is not that easy of a task, since the roads can get rough through many mountain patches, nooks, and crannies. For this reason, it is essential to only attempt to tackle these winding mountain paths onboard a sturdy 4×4 with a high clearance.

Braving the rough roads, however, is more than worth it in the end, when you reach the gorgeous mountain road pullouts and some of the coolest hilltop campgrounds in the US and beyond.

One thing to pay attention to is the notable absence of restrooms or a reliable water source. So, if you want to ensure that you will get everything you need while staying at this campground, you might want to consider bringing the supplies with you.

West Tennessee Creek

Colorado Trail near the West Tennessee Creek dispersed camping area
  • Map
  • Toilets: no
  • Water availability: no
  • Visitor frequency: moderate
  • Distance to Leadville: 9 miles

Situated north of Leadville and along Highway 24, West Tennessee Creek represents a fantastic camping area with some quite unique perks.

For example, you can get easy access to the Colorado Trail, so if you plan to go hiking in addition to your camping ventures, staying at this place can be a fantastic opportunity you don’t want to miss out on.

One thing unique about this place is its notable absence of great scenic views. What you get instead is a distinct woodland charm with densely-packed trees. While you won’t be able to see much other than the trees themselves, the atmosphere here is tranquil and you get quite a bit of privacy.

Even though this is a woodland area, the road to here is easily accessible by most vehicles. The authorities in charge of this part of Colorado have been doing a solid job of maintaining the roads leading here. Whether you plan to arrive at one of the sites on foot, riding a quad, or behind the wheel of a large RV, rest assured that this road won’t present any difficulties for you.

In terms of amenities, this place is as wild as it gets – no water, no restrooms. From here to Leadville is only 9 miles.

Halfmoon Creek

Halfmoon Creek camping area near Leadville Colorado
Photo by Nick Taylor via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
  • Map
  • Toilets: no (vault toilets available at nearby trailheads, though
  • Water availability: no (you can fetch some from the creek, though
  • Visitor frequency: busy
  • Distance to Leadville: 9 miles

Halfmoon Creek is one of the most popular camping spots near Leadville – mostly thanks to its proximity to the famous Mt. Elbert, a massively beloved camping destination and Colorado’s highest peak.

The road leading to this campsite represents one of the main access routes to Mt. Elbert. For this reason, if you plan to visit this point of interest, stopping by to spend the night at this campground can be a great starting point.

The campsites themselves disperse on both sides of the road, making a unique dotted map of high-altitude woodland pullouts that you will love to pitch your tent in.

In addition to this road leading to the mountain itself, you can use the same road to access the creek directly. This way, you can enjoy a unique stay next to a stream of clear mountain creek water that gives the entire camping experience a new atmosphere.

Forest Service Road 130

Mt Elbert near the Forest Service Road 130 in Colorado
  • Map
  • Toilets: no
  • Water availability: no
  • Visitor frequency: moderate
  • Distance to Leadville: 10 miles

Situated snugly in the shadow of the great Mt. Elbert, Forest Service Road 130 represents a convenient camping spot for visitors looking to stay close to Highway 24.

However, the campground’s proximity to this road does take away from the feeling of experiencing wilderness and being isolated in your tent or RV in the middle of nowhere.

That said, the convenience of the roadside pullout arrangement of this campsite in a way makes up for this. In addition, these campsites represent an excellent access point for such great points of interest as Mt. Elbert and Twin Lakes.

The roads leading up to this place can get quite rough. This is not the entire length of the road, but some sections are rougher than others. Therefore, checking the current state of local roads before heading to these parts is highly recommended.

The best solution is to approach the campground in a 4×4 vehicle. Also, it would be desirable for the vehicle to have a high clearance off the ground, as this will ensure no boulders and pointy rocks throw a spanner in the works of your camping trip before you’ve even reached your destination.

There aren’t any restrooms here, and there is no potable water source. Forest Service Road 130 doesn’t get too crowded, but it’s still a good idea to arrive here early to occupy the best spots.

Twin Lakes Area Dispersed Camping

Twin Lakes dispersed camping area in Colorado
  • Map
  • Toilets: no
  • Water availability: no
  • Visitor frequency: busy
  • Distance to Leadville: 20 miles

If you plan on spicing up your camping trip with some excellent activities on water, Twin Lakes dispersed camping area is where you want to be.

Besides camping, one of the major activities you can do here is boating. This is one of the reasons this campground is so popular among so many folks who enjoy spending their time in and around water.

A word of advice, however – if you want to engage in this water-bound activity, make sure to arrive at this campground early, as it gets fairly busy quite quickly.

This is especially true during the early summer, when the largest group of swimmers, boaters, and recreational fishermen arrive and occupy the surrounding campsites.

In terms of amenities, you won’t find much here – no water and no restrooms. If you want to camp on any of the spots here, bring everything with you.

On the upside, the roads leading to this place are all fairly good. This makes all the roads to this camping area easily approachable by all vehicles, so you don’t necessarily need a specialized 4×4 to get to this area.

While Twin Lakes offers a unique waterside experience, dispersed camping spots near Breckenridge present another captivating option for nature enthusiasts. These spots, nestled amidst the majestic Rockies, provide a serene escape with equally stunning views and fewer crowds. If you’re seeking a blend of tranquility and adventure, considering the dispersed camping spots near Breckenridge might just elevate your camping journey.

Willis Gulch 

Hope Pass near Willis Gulch trailhead
Photo by Eli Duke via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
  • Map
  • Toilets: no
  • Water availability: no
  • Visitor frequency: moderate
  • Distance to Leadville: 23 miles

Suppose you’re looking for more of a secluded camping experience where there aren’t many visitors but quite a few fantastic hiking trails including the eponymous Willis Gulch trailhead. In that case, this campground can be just the thing for you. Another interesting fact about this campground is that it takes you to the start of the world-renown Independence Pass – a road perfect for cycling, scenery viewing, and with plenty of rustic cabins, hiking trails, and secretive campgrounds along the way. 

The hiking trail is some 5.5 miles with a gain of about 2,400 feet. If you plan on tackling this trail, prepare well, especially since the first part of it is quite steep. Besides hiking, you need to prepare for some climbing, too. 

To get here, veering slightly off Highway 82 is all you need to do. The proximity of this campground to the highway will make access a piece of cake. On the flipside, this also means some traffic noise. 

That said, this campground is fairly spacious and there aren’t too many visitors with whom you will have to share the premises – especially if you arrive early and take up the good sites. 

Clear Creek Reservoir 

Clear Creek Reservoir camping area near Leadville
  • Map
  • Toilets: vault toilets
  • Water availability: no (you can filter some from the nearby Clear Creek
  • Visitor frequency: high
  • Distance to Leadville: 21 miles

About halfway between Leadville and Buena Vista, the Clear Creek Reservoir campground is not exactly the closest camping option to the Leadville proper, but it offers some pretty cool sites.  

Just to the west of the reservoir, you will find about 20 sites where you can pitch your tent or park your RV for a camping adventure surrounded by fantastic mountain air and nature. 

For those looking for more of a private camping experience, you can check out the several excellent campsites that disperse along the creek itself. There are fewer fellow campers here and the creek will give your camping stay a special air of wilderness and woodland charm. 

Navigating the roads leading to this place can be quite tough. A high-clearance 4×4 will make tacking these roads easier. For the most part, however, if you’re careful enough, you can pass with a regular family car, too. 

For fans of local history and mystery, exploring the nearby ghost towns can be a great way to get to know this area and its rich nature and culture better.

If the allure of Clear Creek intrigues you, extending your journey to explore free camping spots around Glenwood Springs could be a delightful addition. With its unique blend of natural hot springs and vast wilderness, it offers a tranquil setting that rivals the serenity of the creek-side ambiance. Just like the rich tapestry of Leadville’s history, Glenwood Springs presents an equally captivating narrative framed by nature.

Homestake Reservoir Road 

River near the Homestake Reservoir Road dispersed camping area in Colorado
Photo by James St. John via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
  • Map
  • Toilets: no
  • Water availability: no 
  • Visitor frequency: moderate
  • Distance to Leadville: 20 miles

The Homestake Reservoir Road has a couple of good dispersed camping spots you can enjoy. The individual sites disperse along the road itself, so if you’re looking for a camping spot near Leadville that you can easily approach onboard an RV or some other vehicle, Homestake Reservoir Road can be just the thing for you. 

You can also count on easy access to the Colorado Trail and the Camp Hale historic area

The further you traverse along this road, the rougher it gets. That said, if you drive carefully, you could probably navigate it fairly easily even without a high-clearance 4×4. 

In terms of amenities, you won’t find anything here – no water, no toilets. For this reason, be prepared to come here fully self-sufficient. This especially goes for food and potable water.

For more cool camping spots in the Cenntenial State, check out our guide to free dispersed camping in Colorado Springs and our guide to free camping near Red Feather Lakes.

When to Camp near Leadville, Colorado

Mountain near Leadville, Colorado in Winter

Camping in and around the Leadville area means paying attention to the weather. 

Mid-June through September are the best camping months, generally speaking. Still, you can also have some fantastic camping experiences as early as May or October on the other end of the spectrum. 

Snowfall can get heavy, so you may not like it here during the winter – unless you’ve prepared yourself purposefully for cold-weather camping. 

Another important point of consideration would be the high altitude. The air is not as thick and it can get pretty windy. This makes the sensation of cold even more prominent, so packing in some warm clothes is a must regardless of season. 

Bringing a camping stove and some additional items such as insulated sleeping bags would be a great idea. 

Fires, Pets, & Other Important Considerations 

Given the specific location and altitude of Leadville, Colorado, there are some important points to take into consideration when venturing into this unique area. Many of the local rules are tailored to address the rough weather and the great height. 

Campfires – Wilderness areas surrounding Leadville are susceptible to seasonal wildfires. For this reason, the local authorities impose certain limits that are active during the peak camping season, but may not be otherwise. 

Both BLM and USFS areas in the vicinity of Leadville have their unique fire restrictions, so consulting the local authorities before going on your camping expedition is a good idea. You can learn more about the current campfire rules in this region on Colorado’s Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Management official website

A quick note: Restrictions around campfires can be imposed relatively quickly, depending on the situation in the field. For this reason, checking this website regularly is a must. 

Pets – You can bring your pet on any of the campgrounds I described above. 

That said, ensuring your pet is safe and warm is entirely up to you, so you might want to bring in warm pet clothes in case the weather gets rough. Also, local wildlife does include some predatory animals. 

For this reason, keeping your pet on a leash at all times is a must. Regarding pet droppings, you are responsible for packing and disposing of it hygienically. 

Other Considerations – As I said before, Leadville and its majestic surrounding area is anything but an ordinary camping location. To camp here, it is necessary to get stocked on cold-weather gear and clothes, and understand that you will have little to no phone service at the site itself. 

Downloading maps, outdoor-related apps you want to use, and letting other people know where you are is essential for ensuring safety out there in the wild. 

Due to often unpredictable weather, arriving here by car or an RV can be tricky. Many of the campgrounds are only seasonably approachable by a regular car. Optimally, if you have a high-clearance 4×4, you will have an easier time finding a suitable campground for yourself without getting stuck en route. 

Where to Next?

Leadville is just one of many gorgeous dispersed camping spots in Colorado. You may also be interested in dispersed camping near Buena Vista. And if you would like to venture outside the Centennial state, check out our guide to dispersed camping in New Mexico and our guide to free camping in Utah.

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