Boondocking is a popular option for many campers because it’s free and it tends to be more remote than camping in a designated campground like a state park or national forest campground. Boondocking in Western Colorado is more limited these days due to an overabundance of campers in recent years. However, we have a few suggestions for you for boondocking in the mountains on the Western Slope.

Boondocking Etiquette and Rules

First, be sure to follow all rules and guidelines set by the BLM or National Forest Service. You can use these links to help you with questions you may have about dispersed camping or boondocking.

Forest Service Guidelines

BLM guidelines and videos

When boondocking in Western Colorado you should always follow “leave no trace” principles and leave the area where you’ve camped better than you found it. Five ways you can do this are:

  1. Having a toilet system of some kind with you or burying waste 200 yards from any water sources.
  2. Picking up and taking out ALL trash. Burning it and leaving the remains of cans and such behind is not ok.
  3. Camping in sites where others have camped before so as not to create new sites unnecessarily.
  4. Protect yourself and bears by storing all food in bear-safe containers or in your vehicle/camper in such a way that it’s not tempting to bears.
  5. Use a fire pit, build your fire only as big as you absolutely need it to be, and never leave it unattended.

Dispersed camping options in Western Colorado

Rabbit Valley, at the far west end of Mesa County, used to be a hot spot for dispersed camping. Dispersed sites are now very limited as new campsites and campgrounds have been added there. The same goes for the North Fruita Desert area (18 Road Trails) where new campsites are being added and dispersed camping is now limited. If you are camping in these areas, be aware that the desert is a fragile environment. Use existing trails to and from campsites, bury waste or use toilet facilities if available, and pack out all trash.

The Grand Mesa Uncompahgre National Forest

There are plenty of options for dispersed National Forest camping on the Grand Mesa and the Uncompahgre Plateau.  In addition, the Owl Creek Pass road that runs between US 550 near Ridgway and US 50 near Cimmaron, offers a variety of dispersed camping options as well. The links below will provide more information on where you can camp and the rules you should follow.

Grand Mesa Uncompahgre Gunnison National Forest Dispersed Camping

Owl Creek Pass information

BLM dispersed camping and recreation guide