Camping is arguably Colorado’s best activity. But it’s not for every traveler.
For some, it’s a physical limitation, whether by physical fitness, back pain or age. For others, it’s a matter of logistics; if you’re flying into Colorado, you likely don’t have all of the gear you need to camp properly.
Other times, the weather doesn’t cooperate. Although Colorado is known for its frequent blue skies year-round, spring tends to get pretty rainy — and May might even see the occasional rain or hailstorm.
But you don’t have to camp in a tent to get quality time in nature. And you don’t even have to venture far past the city of Denver to do it, either.
Here’s how to plan a quality camping trip in Colorado — without having to leave the city or abandon the comforts of electricity and running water.
Camp in an Airstream
Airstreams are a huge new-old trend.
Denver-based Living Mobile Airstreams started five years ago with just one of the retro silver bubbles. Founder Bill Ward wanted one for his own enjoyment.
So did his dad, and a friend. So they all went in on it together.
More friends wanted in on it, too. So did many people they met. Ward noticed a huge demand, so he bought another Airstream, and another. Within three years, he had 24 camping trailers and 11 tow vehicles to rent out.
Airstreams are appealing, first and foremost, for their quirky, old-school appearance. The polished, shiny aluminum exterior is eye-catching.
It’s also lightweight, which makes these trailers easier to pull than many larger camping trailers. They have a smaller footprint than an RV (and don't suck as much gas, making them an economical choice). Inside the silver campers, Living Mobile has revamped the Airstreams so they’re comfortable and fully equipped with a stocked kitchen, table, small bathroom and mattresses.
Some even have air conditioning and heat, and you can hook them up to a power, sewer and water supply at a standard RV campsite. Still, Airstreams aren’t huge, so picking the right campsite can increase the quality of your camping experience.
Camp in the Denver metro area
You don’t have to go into the deep woods to get a camping experience. Our favorite city-centric campgrounds is Chatfield State Park, open year-round.
This sprawling expanse of open space is located just 10 minutes away from restaurants and shops in Littleton, but it feels like 1,000 miles away. It's just across the street from the Denver Botanic Gardens. Starting in the spring, visit the 750-acre wildflower garden along the banks of Deer Creek.
Look for a campsite with a view of the lake and the foothills. Although the highway is a short distance away, you can’t hear it or see it, beyond the trees.
Chatfield State Park boasts nearly 200 different campsites, so look for one with a picnic table and a grill and close proximity to a building with showers, toilets and a laundry room. Although they may not be necessary, it’s nice to have the option. You can find water well pumps throughout the campgrounds, so don’t worry about packing gallons of water.
Chatfield State Park has everything you could want in the great outdoors. You can go boating or fishing on the lake, and then stroll across the docks to the marina, where you can grab a drink to sip under the shady trees. Dine at the floating restaurant, surrounded by water and stunning views.
During the day, bike or hike along the trails. Go horse riding or even fly (or watch others fly) model airplanes in the special designated section. Travelers with pets will be happy to see a dog park here.
Traveling with a larger group? Chatfield has 10 group camping sites, so you can all set up your getaway together.
Although the location is convenient, wildlife is truly abundant here. It’s common to wake up in the morning to find a large group of deer grazing just steps away from your Airstream. Drink your morning coffee at the marina or under the pine trees surrounding your camper.
Cell services is pretty reliable here, too — not that you’ll want to turn on your devices.
Read more about Chatfield State Park on Tripadvisor.com.
Chatfield’s special events
Chatfield State Park also frequently organizes special events for visitors.
For example, check out the family fishing clinic, where you can learn how to use different fishing tack and gear and how to pick the best spot for casting out; a native plant walk, an easy walk led by a “certified native plant master” to learn more about the plants that you see around Chatfield; and Bike to Work Day (May 20), a great day to join the community on bike.
Beyond the city: Tiger Run Resort
If an outing so close to the city doesn't suit you, you don't have to go far up I-70 to get an authentic, isolated yet luxurious mountain experience. Not quite an hour and a half from Denver, ideally perched between the mountain towns of Frisco and Breckenridge, you'll find the charming Tiger Run Resort.
It's not quite in Breckenridge, but walking distance to a bus stop that will take you directly there, so you can enjoy all of the benefits of one of Colorado's best ski towns, but with the atmosphere of camping out under the stars and between Swan and Blue rivers. And if you haven't explored Frisco yet, put that on your travel bucket list.
Tiger Run is built in its own little pocket, boasting 360-degree panoramic views of Colorado's peaks.
Tiger Run is a mountain getaway, with all of the amenities you want to feel comfortable but none of the distracting extras (mainly: crowds, traffic and the structure of city living). Find adorable wooden cabins and camp sites lining and spiraling out from beside a bubbling creek, with full views of the Ten Mile Mountain Range — but walking distance to a 1,200-square-foot clubhouse, with an indoor swimming pool, hot tubs, an arcade, library, fitness center, laundry facility, full locker rooms and more. Outside, guests can enjoy tennis courts, volleyball, basketball and a fire pit to roast S'mores after the sun goes down.
Tiger Run Resort is open 365 days a year, even during Colorado's slow seasons and on holidays.
Bring your Airstream or RV to Tiger Run to make home in one of the full-service RV sites. (Only fully contained RVs here, though; no tent camping or pop-ups.) The RV sites are spacious, featuring water, sewer, electric and free wifi. Tip: Try to secure a campsite on one of the two rivers.
Or if you prefer, stay in one of the rustic, yet high-end, chalets.
The chalets provide more privacy than the typical condos you'll find in Colorado's ski town. Each log cabin is slightly different, but you may find large balconies, a loft, TVs, a fully stocked kitchen and, in the executive chalets, a "Colorado Room," a hang-out space with dramatic views you can enjoy right from the couch.
Just walk out your door for more than 60 miles of hiking and biking trails; there are paths to escort you all the way to Vail. Cast out a line on the rivers. In the winter, there are six different ski options within 15 minutes of these cabins.
Indeed, Tiger Run is one of Colorado's best-kept secrets, something the savvy locals know about and most travelers never see.