Turquoise Lake Camping & Dispersed Camping

Turquoise Lake is a mountain gem sitting at 10,000 feet above sea level. This considerable elevation gives the lake and the general area a unique mountainous terrain and a special air of freshness. This all makes dispersed camping at Turquoise Lake a great location.

In this post, I will describe the immense natural beauty of this area and list my favorite campsites and great dispersed camping spots. For the most part, the area around Turquoise Lake features developed campgrounds, although there are a couple of dispersed ones you can visit, too. See this post for more dispersed camping in the Leadville area.

Map of Developed and Dispersed Camping Areas Near Turquoise Lake

You can easily find the locations of the best developed and dispersed campgrounds in the state using this map.

Turquoise Lake Overview

The innumerable pine logs, dry stumps that will turn into charcoal any minute, and snags (dead trees eaten by termites but still somehow standing) hide a rich fauna of creatures, including pine martens, red-naped sapsuckers, chickadees, black bears, chorus frogs, black bears, and last but certainly not least – chipmunks.

The lake provides a home for many fish species, most notably trout – including rainbow trout and greenback cutthroat variety.

Suppose you don’t catch any of these fish during the season because you’re busy camping, hiking, or enjoying the views. In that case, you can also engage in wintertime fishing, though be aware – fishing at this lake means different rules as the trout stay dormant and don’t actively look for food as much.

Regarding hiking trails and exploring the area surrounding the lake, you can trace the footsteps of silver and lead miners of yore – Sugarloaf Mountain on the left and Galena Mountain on the right used to represent significant prospecting hotspots.

Nowadays, the nearby town of Leadville and its National Mining Hall of Fame & Museum guard the secrets of this region’s rich prospecting and mineral-extraction history.

The summers around Turquoise Lake are gentle and warm. The pleasant weather provides an excellent atmosphere for enjoying a cold beer at one of the campgrounds or cracking open your tackle box near the lake shore for a day of trout fishing.

The Best Turquoise Lake Developed Campgrounds

Considering the sheer popularity of this unique place, it’s no wonder that most of the campgrounds surrounding it are of the developed kind. Only a few homes in the US feature a significant lake, a gorgeous pine forest (a cool camping place on its own), and all of it at an elevation where the air is naturally cleaner and the views are fantastic.

The reservation fees for booking a site at one of these developed campgrounds seem reasonable, given how gorgeous this place is. Spending a night will rarely set you back more than around $25. (Depending on the campsite, this number can be slightly higher or lower.)

For group sites, staying the night is a number that ranges from $75-150, which is a little since a more extensive group site can admit up to 75 people. (That’s two bucks a person per night.)

The critical thing to remember when booking a site at Turquoise Lake is to do so well in advance. For the record, for most developed campgrounds on this list, reservations are available up to six months before the season starts.

Baby Doe Campground

Baby Doe Campground
  • Number of sites: 50
  • Charge: $26-28 a night (depending on the site)
  • RV-friendly: yes
  • Reservation: booking required
  • Open to visitors: seasonally

Suppose you’re looking for a scenic lakeside campground complete with a clean ground surface, tall and neatly spaced-out evergreen trees, and plenty of picnic tables and other amenities. In that case, the Baby Doe campground can be just the place for you.

Baby Doe sits on the lake’s eastern shore and comprises 50 different campgrounds, some right next to the water. (Reserving these sites can be an excellent option if you plan to fish.)

The sites are rather large and spacious, with the trees providing shade and fresh and clean air all year round. Booking a spot on this campground for families can be a great idea, as you will have plenty of space for your kids and all the amenities you could wish for at your disposal.

The amenities include a fire ring, a picnic table at every campground, a reliable source of potable water, and vault toilets.

This campground is only open seasonally, and reservations are required; you can reserve a site via the Recreation.com website.

(A word of advice: If you plan to visit this place, book a site as early as six months in advance.)

Belle of Colorado Campground

Belle of Colorado Campground
  • Number of sites: 19
  • Charge: $26 a night
  • RV-friendly: no
  • Reservation: First-come, first-served
  • Open to visitors: seasonally

Another fantastic campground sitting on the eastern shore of Turquoise Lake would be the Belle of Colorado. This campground is tent-only, so RV enthusiasts should look elsewhere for their perfect place to pitch a tent in this scenic part of Colorado.

There are 19 individual sites in this campground, and all function based on a first-come, first-served basis. If camping right next to water is a big reason to visit Turquoise Lake, booking a site at this campground can be a fantastic idea, as all 19 areas virtually sit on the shore. The small patch of this eastern shoreline is adjacent to this campground, so you don’t have to worry about some passing fisherman appearing randomly in the morning and blocking your view of the lake.

As far as amenities are concerned, at Belle of Colorado, you get fire rings, a picnic table for every site, and small grills. Potable water and vault toilets are available throughout the campground, too.

Since no online reservations are available for this campground, arriving here early during the weekdays can be a great way to secure a campsite. (If you plan to get here for a weekend, try arriving on Saturday morning as early as possible.)

Father Dyer Campground

Father Dyer Campground
  • Number of sites: 26
  • Charge: $26 a night
  • RV-friendly: yes
  • Reservation: booking required
  • Open to visitors: seasonally

If you’d like to get a brilliant view of the lake and fancy exploring its eastern side onboard your trusty four-wheeler or RV, heading for Father Dyer Campground can be an excellent idea.

This medium-sized campground has 26 different sites, which are large enough to accommodate all kinds of setups – from tents to RVs, cars with trailers, and other stuff you may want to arrive in or plant on this campground once you get there. Each site features a picnic table, a fire grill, and a fire ring. There are also vault toilets throughout the campground and reliable potable water sources wherever you look.

Once you’ve parked up or pitched your tent, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy breathtaking views of the lake from a spot within a gorgeous pine forest. Combining evergreen trees and a crystal clear, enormous lake creates a once-in-a-lifetime camping experience.

Last but not least, besides the fantastic views of the lake and camping at Father Dyer, you also get to access the scenic Turquoise Lake Trail, a hiker’s favorite pathway that you can complete in just over 4 hours. (For the record, this trail is pretty easy to assemble, and it’s also kid and pet-friendly, so it can be a great family excursion if you use a Father Dyer site as the base camp.)

Printer Boy Campground

Printer Boy Campground
  • Number of sites: 4
  • Charge: $75-150 a night ($75 for the two smaller sites, $150 for the larger ones)
  • RV-friendly: yes (there’s a dump station nearby, too)
  • Reservation: booking required
  • Open to visitors: seasonally

If you plan to visit Turquoise Lake and bring along a larger group of family and friends, reserving a spot at Printer Boy Campground can be just the thing for you. This fantastic campground is unique in this respect, as all the other campgrounds are for only a couple of people at a time. At Printer Boy, you can fit anywhere from 35 to 75 people in a single campground – there are two sites for 35 people and another two larger ones for 75 campers. (There are four in total.)

Thanks to its uniqueness and great location, the sites at Printer Boy get full rather quickly, so booking well in advance is essential if you mean to secure an awesome lakeside patch of land for a joint camping expedition. If you plan to camp here during the weekend, booking a site in advance is also necessary.

Amenities-wise, Printer Boy has several vital facilities that an open-space campground that accommodates large groups of people might need, including picnic tables, a fire ring, and some grills. There is also a sizable cooking area with a shelter above it where you can prepare meals for many people.

Molly Brown Campground

Molly Brown Campground
  • Number of sites: 49
  • Charge: $26-28 a night
  • RV-friendly: yes
  • Reservation: booking required
  • Open to visitors: seasonally

Sitting right outside Leadville and super close to the Turquoise Lake, Molly Brown Campground is a place you don’t want to miss out on if you’d like to combine visiting the town and exploring the broader lake region.

Offering 49 different sites, Molly Brown Campground is relatively large, and given its immense popularity and excellent location, you can expect quite a few visitors, too. Thanks to how these campgrounds pepper the area, you can rest assured that you will have all the quiet you need for a great, serene stay next to one of the most beautiful lakes in the US.

In case you’re a history buff, in addition to your interest in camping, you’ll love to hear that this campground represents a place with a rather interesting story to tell. Molly Brown, a woman who survived the sinking of the Titanic, traveled the world and was also into politics later. She also had this campground named after her to pay homage to her considerable contributions to the local Leadville community.

Picnic tables and fire rings are available at every campsite, and the toilets are also readily available. 

Tabor Campground

Tabor Campground
  • Number of sites: 44 
  • Charge: $26 a night 
  • RV-friendly: yes 
  • Reservation: first-come, first-served 
  • Open to visitors: seasonally 

Regarding campgrounds operating on a first-come, first-served basis, Tabor is the biggest one on this list. This campground sits on the northeastern shores of the lake. It provides access to the water as the territory of the campground includes a small piece of shoreline.

Other than camping, additional water-based activities such as boating, paddleboarding, and fishing are significant attractions in these parts. Consider setting up a tent and having a fantastic camping experience next to a scenic body of water, including some relaxing fishing or a leisurely paddling session exploring the lake. In that case, Tabor Campground can be the perfect option.

The fee is $26 a night, and for your money, you get a fire ring and a picnic table at every site. Toilets and potable water are available at other locations throughout the campground.

Tabor is only open seasonally, and given this place’s first-come, first-served nature, arriving early before everyone else is the best way to secure a site. (A word of notice: The owner of this campground insists on having quiet hours at certain times of day and night. For this reason, if you plan to throw potentially loud parties around the lake, you might be better off looking for another campground in the area.

Silver Dollar Campground

Silver Dollar Campground
  • Number of sites: 43
  • Charge: $26 a night
  • RV-friendly: yes
  • Reservation: booking required 
  • Open to visitors: seasonally 

Featuring 43 sites and with a position slightly away from the eastern shore of the Turquoise Lake, Silver Dollar Campground combines the beautiful scenery of the lake itself with the unique woodland charm of the evergreen forests surrounding the lake. The sites themselves are set apart, with more than enough space in between to give you a tranquil and relatively private camping experience.

The pine forest surrounding the lake gives this campground a unique air of serenity, and the beautiful greenery provides a fantastic, photo-worthy contrast to the lake and shade – not a negligible asset during the hot summer months.

The amenities at Silver Dollar include fire rings and picnic tables featured at every site. On the other hand, there are also several toilets you can find throughout the campground, and there is also a reliable source of potable water.  

If you’re interested in buying firewood for the campfire, you can buy it locally, as the campground owner sells it when the camping season opens. Booking a site at Silver Dollar Campground is a must, and you should consider making a reservation up to six months in advance. 

Best Dispersed Camping Near Turquoise Lake

Given the immense tourist pull that Turquoise Lake boasts, it’s no wonder that the USFS authorities overseeing this gorgeous body of water don’t allow dispersed camping in the immediate area around the lake itself.

That said, the beautiful forest surrounding this lake is primarily open to dispersed camping – as long as you do not accidentally infringe on any developed campgrounds.

While you cannot park up or set a tent right next to the lake, you can find a place in the nearby woods that’s quite close to the lake or has a breathtaking view of the lake. Whichever it is, heading down to the lake from your dispersed campground won’t be a long trek, so even if you don’t have a site booked at any of the developed campgrounds, you can still fish, drive your boat, or paddle your way across the Turquoise Lake, while using a nearby dispersed campsite as your starting point.

Here are two well-known dispersed campgrounds sitting pretty in the general area close to the lake. 

County Road 48

  • Map
  • Water availability: no
  • Toilets: no
  • Visitor frequency: high

Close to Leadville and sitting on the southern perimeter of the lake, County Road 48 is a popular dispersed camping destination with multiple major tourist points of interest in its immediate vicinity. In addition to pursuing the various fun activities at the local Turquoise Lake, you can also use this campground as the base camp to explore the nearby Mt. Massive Wilderness Area.

If you are a photographer specializing in capturing nature shots, this entire general area can be a fantastic photo op. The Turquoise Lake, combined with the neighboring Mt. Massive and the gorgeous Mt. Ebert you can see in the distance, and the addition of beautiful pines everywhere, makes this campground and its surroundings a nature photographer’s dream come true.

This campground is rather busy, so if you want to secure a site, try to arrive here earlier than everyone else. You will find campsites on both sides of the road. (The road is made of gravel and passable by most vehicles, including heavier RVs.)

Forest Service Road 105A

  • Map 
  • Water availability: no 
  • Toilets: no 
  • Visitor frequency: medium 

Situated slightly above Turquoise Lake, Forest Service Road 105A represents a major dispersed camping destination with plenty of fantastic sites that disperse along the woodland pathway. Setting up a tent anywhere on this campground means you’ll get a spot amidst a charming pine forest with birds chirping and the scenic Turquoise Lake nearby.

The elevation will be the most significant upside to setting up a camp along this road. (The ascent can be rather demanding at some sections.) Getting to this place onboard a 4×4 four-wheeler or some other off-road vehicle can be a great way to ensure you will reach the campground with all your parts sticking to your car.

The directions to reaching this place are simple enough – Along the south side of the lake, take County Road 4 until you reach the Forest Service Road 105A intersection. From then, follow this road until you reach the campground. 

Once you’ve reached the clearing at the top, you can enjoy fantastic views of the lake and mountains in the distance. 

Given the moderate crowds that this roadside campground regularly attracts, practicing the Leave No Trace principle is essential for ensuring that this place stays as clean as a whistle.

When to camp at Turquoise Lake?

There are few places like Turquoise Lake in the US.

In terms of the geographical location and setup, this lake sits over 10,000 feet above sea level, giving it many qualities of a good mountain lake. The considerable altitude also explains why the surrounding woodland area comprises exclusively evergreen trees – predominantly tall pines.

Due to its elevation and the local climate, summer would be the best time to visit this lake and set up a campsite along its shores or a tad further away in the forest. Late May through to the early days of September typically represents the best window of opportunity to visit and enjoy this enchanting place.

The developed campgrounds around Turquoise Lake are only open during the summer, so visiting off-season is not an option – unless you want to go with dispersed camping. If you plan to visit this place during any other season than summer, be prepared to pack your warm clothes, as the temperatures can get relatively low around these parts – especially during the winter. 

Important considerations 

During the summer, Turquoise Lake is a well-known significant tourist destination. Much of the camping-worthy territory is usually already claimed by local or federal authorities.

The general rule of thumb is no dispersed camping on the lake’s shores or within the developed campgrounds’ perimeters. However, the relatively large woodland area surrounding the lake is open for primitive camping. 

Some dispersed campgrounds offer fantastic views of the lake and the surrounding mountains. Even though you won’t be close to the water itself, in many cases, you will be a walking distance away from it – a great piece of news if you want to add a bit of fishing and other water-based activities to your camping trip. 

Here are some of the most essential considerations when camping at Turquoise Lake in more detail. 

Fire restrictions – The general woodland area around Turquoise Lake is not a place that’s prone to wildfires. Virtually every campground on this list features a fire ring, so having a campfire and roasting marshmallows in the evening can be a great way to enrich your camping experience. 

That said, to be safe, you should check the current fire conditions with the local Leadville ranger office.

Reservations – Out of nine developed campgrounds operational around Turquoise Lake, six require reservations (and making them well in advance is a good idea, too). At the same time, the remaining three operate on a first-come, first-served basis. 

You can book a site up to six months in advance via Recreation.gov – an online campground search and reservation venue where you can reserve a place. Also, you can learn more about the local culture and the rules around obtaining various fishing and hunting permits and organizing other outdoor activities. 

Effects of camping on the environment – … tend to be negative, especially if the visitor frequency is relatively high. In an area as unique and beautiful as Turquoise Lake, ensuring you adhere to the Leave No Trace rules regarding trash disposal, quiet hours, and respecting the local wildlife is essential for a pleasant stay. 

Where Next?

There’s plenty to do at Turquoise Lake, and only one visit to this fantastic place won’t cover all the activities you want to engage in.

Here are other camping options in Colorado:

Have you been camping at Turquoise Lake? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments.

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