9 Must See Dispersed Camping Near Durango, Colorado

Last Updated on September 20, 2023 by

Durango, Colorado, is a rocky city located in the southwestern section of the state. While you may believe that you must visit this location during the summer, you should know that any time of year is ideal for a visit.

You surely will admire the scenery you encounter around the San Juan National Forest and the spots rich with aspens and high pine trees when hiking from one stunning place to the next while in Durango.

Camping at one of the many free dispersed campsites in Durango is one of the best ways to explore nature.

If you want to get out and experience some of the nearby wilderness, there is plenty of fantastic dispersed camping near Durango to choose from.

Dispersed Camping Near Durango, Colorado
Credits: Durango.com

Below are some of our favorite dispersed camping sites and areas near Durango, Colorado, if you’re looking to save some money on your next trip.

What are the Best Dispersed Camping Near Durango Co?

1. Barnes Mountain

To camp at Barnes Mountain, you will have to drive past the Las Animas Lookout.

The drive is not simple because it is a dirt road with many hazards you probably don’t want to know about. However, once you’ve arrived and set up camp, you’ll have easy access to many of the area’s hiking routes.

If you want to go further, the Animas Mountain Trail is six miles long and may lead you to Dalla Mountain Park.

You’ll start this journey in the parking lot and work your way to the main route, turning right after right until you get the spectacular panorama of the Animas River Valley.

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2. Forest Service Road 599

Forest Service Road 599 in the San Juan National Forest, northeast of town, offers simple dispersed camping near Durango.

The campsites aren’t vast, and the road can be bumpy, but there are numerous sites to select from that aren’t as crowded as other nearby camping options.

Be mindful that the first mile or two after exiting Highway 240 is entirely private property.

Along this section, you’ll encounter a lot of ‘No Camping’ signs, so make sure to keep going until you reach the National Forest and only camp where it’s allowed.

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If you’re towing a trailer, proceed with caution on FR 599 because there are no decent turnarounds. Because of the remote location, limiting your effect and arriving prepared to be self-sufficient is critical.

3. Missionary Ridge Road Dispersed Camping

Within 15 miles of Durango, Missionary Ridge Road, located northeast of town, offers some lovely dispersed campsites.

Because most of the sites are essentially little pullouts along the road, they are best suited for car and tent campers.

Larger RVs and trailers will have difficulty finding a decent place, so go elsewhere.

Because there is plenty of private land along the way, make sure you check the Columbine Ranger District’s motor vehicle use map to make sure you’re camping in a legal spot.

In the summer, campsites tend to fill up quickly, so arrive as early as possible if you intend to camp on a Friday or Saturday night.

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There are no facilities available here, and considering the proximity of private land, it’s exceptionally vital to keep your effect to a minimum and follow Leave No Trace camping practices while camping along Missionary Road.

4. Madden Peak Road Dispersed Camping

Madden Peak Road, just east of Mancos, is situated to the north of Highway 160 and offers various alternatives for dispersed camping near Durango.

These locations are ideal for Mesa Verde National Park visitors because they are close to their entrance.

Madden Peak Road has sites adjacent to the road that can accommodate bigger RVs and campers and more private sites further into the National Forest.

The surrounding mountains provide stunning vistas, so make sure you get a spot with a view!

To reach here from Durango, go Highway 160 west until you pass the Target Tree Campground, which is constructed.

After passing through, make a right onto FR316/Madden Peak Road. Continue past the private land until you reach USFS territory, which allows for dispersed camping.

5. Gravel Pit Dispersed Camping

The Gravel Pit is a pretty small dispersed camping location near Durango, located right off Highway 160.

This is a suitable campsite for folks passing through or on their way to Mesa Verde because it is close to the highway and has very simple access.

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The drive up to the camping area is a little challenging at first, with some larger boulders and potholes, but most rigs should be able to make it.

The route then leads to a huge camping area that can accommodate several parties, with more spaces available further up the road.

Although this isn’t the most lavish scattered camping choice near Durango, it is undoubtedly convenient, and you will be only 20 minutes away from the city.

6. La Plata Canyon Dispersed Camping

Near Durango, La Plata Canyon has several great dispersed campsites with stunning views.

The La Plata campsite, Miner’s Cabin dispersed campsite, and Miner’s Creek all provide you with free camping alternatives.

These are more formal dispersed camping spots located close to the main road.

There are also several Forest Service Roads in the region that allow for dispersed camping.

The route is accessible for most vehicles, making La Plata Canyon a perfect option for individuals in small cars with little clearance.

Because of the popularity of scattered camping in La Plata Canyon, it is critical to practice Leave No Trace camping and take out all of your waste.

7. Hermosa Creek Special Management Area

It lies near the Purgatory Ski Resort, north of Durango on Hwy 550. Many Forest Service Roads in this area permit dispersed camping.

However, the restrictions have recently changed, so double-check the MVUM before choosing a spot.

Most importantly, dispersed camping is no longer allowed on Hermosa Park Road, so kindly follow the rules.

This area is not recommended for trailers or RVs because many of the roads are fairly rocky. Those who can make it here, on the other hand, are likely to find a little more solitude.

Because the Hermosa Creek SMA is a highly ecologically sensitive location, it’s vital that you keep your effect to a minimum and camp in a Leave No Trace manner.

Please make sure to leave the campground in better condition than when you reached it!

8. Sauls Creek Dispersed Camping

FSR 528, situated to the east of Bayfield, offers accessible dispersed camping near Durango.

You’ll discover many locations in the National Forest south of Highway 160 that are accessible even by larger rigs.

Your campsite will have some lovely vistas, and your nearest neighbors will most likely be oil and gas wells.

Because there is some private land on the drive-in, make sure to consult the MVUM for the region.

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From Durango, take Highway 160 east and then take a right on FSR 526, which is marked National Forest Access/Sauls Creek. Take FR 527 towards the right, then remain right at the fork to get on FR 528.

From here, pull-off campgrounds will start to appear.

9. Durfield BLM Dispersed Camping

The Durfield BLM is a dispersed camping area situated on Highway 160 between Durango and Bayfield, providing easy camping.

If you intend to stay the night on a longer trip, this is a fantastic spot to stop because it’s a quick pull-off from the highway.

Remember that camping is only allowed from May 1 to November 30.

The turnoff is situated near mile marker 97 on the south side of Highway 160. Don’t be deceived by your GPS, which frequently directs would-be campers to the back of the camping area, which is not connected.

Aside from other campers, you’ll be surrounded by oil and gas wells that dot the countryside. Although the wind can really build up in this area, the highway noise isn’t too bad.

Durfield has no running water or other amenities.


This article discussed all of the best dispersed camping near Durango, Colorado – and the Pacific Northwest as a whole – is home to some of the best camping sites in the country.

Get a start here for the best dispersed campsites with our recommendations above, but keep in mind that there are countless other free campgrounds to discover.

Enjoy your adventure!


Where is the best dispersed camping site near Durango, Colorado?

The best dispersed camping site near Durango, Colorado is

  • Barnes Mountain
  • Forest Service Road 599
  • Missionary Ridge Road Dispersed Camping
  • Gravel Pit Dispersed Camping
  • La Plata Canyon Dispersed Camping
  • Hermosa Creek Special Management Area
  • Sauls Creek Dispersed Camping
  • Madden Peak Road Dispersed Camping
  • Durfield BLM Dispersed Camping

Where is dispersed camping allowed in Colorado?

In the Bureau of Land Management areas, dispersed camping is allowed. Camping is permitted in Wildlife Management Areas and State Forests on occasion. To identify camping areas, look for forest symbols and service roads. If camping is not permitted in a certain region, signs will normally be posted.

Do you need a legal permit for dispersed camping in Colorado?

Dispersed camping is entirely free, private, and requires no permits. Because the National Forests contain millions of acres, Colorado is an excellent spot to enjoy dispersed camping.

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About Ted Mosby

I am Ted Mosby from Cleveland, Ohio. I am a Freelance Architect. I live in New Jersey, USA right now and I take my RV every alternate weekend. I own a Forest River Berkshire XLT Diesel 45A Class A Motorhome. As I am a Freelancer I can work anywhere so most of my work is done inside my camper remotely.