If the San Luis Valley isn’t already a stop within your next Colorado road trip—it certainly should be! The region encompasses some of Southern Colorado’s top destinations and mystic sights, such as the Great Sand Dunes National Park, Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Rio Grande, Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, and much, much more. Aside from offering a full spectrum of outdoor activities, our region has numerous places to set up camp—whether that means pitching a tent or finding a spot to park your RV or van.
Upon arriving, expansive and welcoming views will greet you as soon as you make your way into the “valley” which is formed by or surrounding mountains. If taking the scenic route is your preference, we recommend cruising in or out of town via “Los Caminos Aniguos”, one of Colorado’s 26 official scenic byways. Translated to “the ancient roads”, this route traverses through Colorado’s oldest town, oldest parish, and one of the first military posts. This is a notoriously great way to start or wrap up a road trip to Alamosa.
Commercial Campgrounds in and Around Alamosa
Once in the valley, you’ll have your pick from a plethora of RV Campgrounds. These locations offer sites for RVs and tents, providing all the fun of camping, but with the added benefits of amenities right on site. Located in the city of Alamosa is Cool Sunshine RV Park, which is within walking distance of Alamosa’s downtown. East of town, en route to the Great Sand Dunes (and featuring amazing views of Mount Blanca), are Alamosa KOA Campground, Basecamp Family Campground, and Alamosa Economy Campground. Only miles from the Great Sand Dunes National Park entrance, you’ll find the Great Sand Dunes Oasis, which in addition to RV and tent sites, has a cafe, store and offers sandboard rentals! If glamping is more your style, be sure to check out Rustic Rook Resort Glampground for a truly unique experience!
Public Lands in the San Luis Valley
If you're looking to camp on some of Colorado's most beautiful public lands, we've got you covered. Piñon Flats is the Great Sand Dunes National Park campground, located one mile North of the Visitors Center. It was selected as one of the best campgrounds in America's National Parks by Fodor's Travel, and it's not hard to see why. The campground is situated among pinyon pines, sagebrush, and wildflowers, beneath the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and of course—features a beautiful view of the Great Sand Dunes. The park recommends making a reservation in advance, which can be done on their website here.
Another option is Zapata Falls campground. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, this campground sits at the trailhead of the popular Zapata Falls hike. You can expect spectacular views of the entire San Luis Valley from this campsite and reservations are made on a first-come, first-served basis.
Finally, there are almost innumerable options to camp in the San Luis Valley region of the Rio Grande National Forest. Dispersed camping is allowed on most of the forest for a maximum of 14 days in a 30-day period. There are also a number of campgrounds around Antonito, Creede, Crestone, Monte Vista, South Fork, and more! For a full list of our recommended RV and campground locations, click here.
Best Practices for Dispersed Camping
The golden rule for dispersed camping anywhere—not just in the San Luis Valley—is to simply leave your site better than you found it. Dispersed camping is a unique way to enjoy the outdoors that immerses yourself in nature without the infrastructure nor amenities of a typical campground. Dispersed camping is perfect for those willing to plan ahead and visit responsibly, but for first-timers, there can be a bit of a learning curve. Here are some tips to consider before you head out for camp:
Know Before You Go: Many dispersed campsites can be difficult to locate, especially in areas that offer limited cellular service. We recommend researching the route to your desired site in advance while considering local weather and road conditions. Whether in the mountains can change abruptly, so it's recommended that aspiring campers pay close attention to the forecast and pack extra warm layers just to be safe.
Have a Back-up Plan: Dispersed sites are almost always first-come, first-serve, so more popular sites tend to fill up first on busy weekends and during the summer months. Having a backup plan is recommended so that you can avoid feeling stranded if your site is unavailable.
Picking a Campsite: If you are heading to an area where others have camped before, use the site that’s been occupied before. Plants, soil, and wildlife are affected by new campsites so this practice lessens the burden on our local ecosystems. Remaining out of view from other hikers/campers is preferable as well.
Leave No Trace: Leaving the area better than you found it goes much further than "pack it in, pack it out protocols. For example, avoid camping on bare soil if possible to avoid damaging this part of the local ecosystem. You can learn more here.
Campfires: Small fires are permitted while dispersed camping, but only when there are no present fire restrictions in effect due to high fire danger in the area. It’s always your responsibility to research local conditions before you head out.
Have Fun! There are over 100,000 acres of National Forest land surrounding the valley, and ample dispersed camping spots to enjoy. There's a lot to uncover out there, so be sure to travel responsibly and have a great time!
Camping… but with Hot Springs
It's no secret that the San Luis Valley has many amazing hot springs to choose from. But what you may not realize that you can also camp on-site at many of them. After a long day of hiking trails, fishing, or any other of the San Luis Valley's many outdoor adventures, you can soak your muscles in the healing waters of geothermal hot springs. Sand Dunes Recreation in Hooper offers cabin rentals in addition to RV and tent sites. If you're looking for a glamping experience, Joyful Journey in Moffat offers Yurts, Tipis, as well as hotel rooms, RV, and tent sites. Also in Moffat, Valley View Hot Springs offers tent and RV sites.
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