DENVER — Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer, and many will be marking the occasion by venturing out into Colorado’s backcountry for a fun-filled weekend of camping.
But before you break out the camping equipment, there are some important details and guidelines to remember.
Several Colorado counties have enacted some level of fire restrictions, which could include a ban on open flames to restricting fires to only developed recreation sites.
Here are the counties, as of Wednesday, that have fire restrictions in place. Please click on each county for information specific to the region:
- El Paso
- Kit Carson
- La Plata
- Las Animas
- San Miguel
If you didn’t follow our advice back in January about booking a campsite for the summer, then you might be in a bit of trouble if you’re still thinking of camping for Memorial Day weekend.
At this point, campgrounds across the state are all pretty much booked – except for some areas where there’s still availability for one-day camping (but c’mon, who wants to go camping for just one day?)
But, where there’s a will there’s a way as the saying goes, so if you’re still looking for a campsite, here are some other ways to make this Memorial Day weekend a memorable one across our great lands:
There are still some campsites at developed campgrounds on Forest Service land that are not available to be reserved. These first-come, first-served sites will be difficult to claim, but if you’re lucky, you may be able to score one in time for the busy weekend. Traditional camping in a developed U.S. Forest Service campground typically offers a tent pad, covered grill and a parking spot. You may also try your luck at state parks, which offer limited first-come, first-served sites.
If you’re prepared to spend the weekend in the full outdoors without any services, then backcountry might be the way to go. The National Park Service offers this alternative to traditional campgrounds. However, they suggest you understand the following guidelines before heading out with your overstuffed daypack:
- Plan, plan, plan - It's critical to spend time developing a comprehensive plan if you want to enjoy an exciting and safe experience.
- Test your gear before you go - You should test your equipment prior to your trip for a smooth backcountry adventure.
- Stick to your travel itinerary - Don't change plans midway through your trip.
- Take a companion - Accidents happen, even to experienced backcountry travelers, so the best practice is to travel with others.
- Practice good stewardship - A common rule of thumb is to leave the area cleaner than you found it.
- Expect any weather - Weather conditions can change quickly, especially in the mountains.
Dispersed camping is a great way to enjoy the experience of camping away from the noise and bustle of campground camping. However, dispersed camping means there are none of the amenities you will find while campground camping. There are no picnic tables, drinking water, or toilets available.
The US Forest Service has these guidelines for camping in a disperse camping area.
Private land camping
If all other options fail, you can choose to camp on private land. Hipcamp.com connects campers to property owners. The Airnbnb-like service, which launched recently and operates in Colorado, lets you book ranches, farms, vineyards, nature preserves and public sites. The site has several listings for the weekend.
However you decide to enjoy Colorado’s parks and forest land, officials remind you to:
- Plan ahead and prepare
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly
- Leave what you find
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of other visitors