In south-central Colorado, the Pike National Forest has 1,106,604 acres of wilderness and wildlife in the counties of El Paso, Douglas, Jefferson, Park, Teller, and Clark Creek. It was designated in 1906 and is 14,264 feet above sea level at its highest point. Although it is mostly rugged and primitive, there are plenty of activities for you to enjoy here no matter what you like to do.
From peaks to prairies, the ecosystems and wildlife are diverse, and the geology and vegetation is extremely varied. You can see prairie chickens along the meadows and grasslands and mountain goats in the mountains of the Pike Forest, so bring along a camera in your camper to get some pictures. Whether you want to enjoy some water sports or would rather stay on dry land hiking or biking, Pike National Forest has plenty of opportunities for you and your family.
The winter is fun here too with lots of space for mushing, skiing, sledding, and snowmobiling. Have you ever been skijoring? You can try that here too. There are 21 RV campgrounds in the Pike National Forest for you to enjoy with five to 80 campsites available at each one. We have highlighted our top three picks below.
RV Rentals in Pike National Forest
Transportation in Pike National Forest
Just an hour from Denver in the Front Range of Colorado, the Pike National Forest is in the center of the state. Just west of Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak, the roads follow the South Platte River and Fountain Creek. With such a wide swath of forests and grasslands, you know there are going to be lots of scenic drives around.
And in fact, there are several, including the 115-mile Top of the Rockies from Leadville to Twin Lakes and the Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway, which is 57 miles of beauty from the Lost Canyon in Granite to Poncha Springs by Salida. The main roads into the forest part of the Pike National Forest are Highways 9, 24, 285, and 291.
Even though some of these natural spaces seem far apart, they can all be visited in one day if you want to do so. Otherwise, you can spend a few nights in each section for a well-rounded view of the beautiful Colorado Front Range Area. When you reach your campsite, it is best to park your RV and walk or ride a bike to wherever you want to go when possible because the roads can be narrow and hard to maneuver.
Campgrounds and parking in Pike National Forest
Campsites in Pike National Forest
Bear Lake Campground
Bear Lake Campground in the San Carlos District has 15 campsites. Each site has a picnic table that seats 8-10, a campfire ring with a grill for cooking, and a parking pad that can hold an RV up to 40 feet. There are two vault toilets and potable water spigots in the campground for your convenience. Bears have been seen in the area so be bear aware and keep food in bear-proof boxes.
The 10-acre Bear Lake is full of hungry hybrid cutthroat trout for the taking so bring your fishing gear. You can also swim here but there is no official beach or lifeguard. The Cuchara River tributaries also flow through the campground so you can enjoy fishing and swimming there too. The 14-mile Indian Creek Trail is available to hikers, bikers, and equestrians. Dogs are welcome, however, you must keep them restrained at all times during your stay.
Molly Brown Campground
On the eastern shore of Turquoise Lake, Molly Brown Campground has 48 campsites. It is one of seven other campgrounds in the Turquoise Lake Recreation Area, so if you cannot get a spot here, you can try one of the others. Every site has its own fire pit with a grill, a large table that seats 8-10, and a large cleared area for playing. The parking pads range from 24 to 50 feet, so you need to make a reservation early to get a spot big enough for your RV. You will also find several toilets with drinking water spigots around the park, as well as an RV dump site and trash pickup.
The campground was named after the “unsinkable Molly Brown” who survived the sinking of the Titanic. She lived in the town of Leadville, which is just five miles east of the campground. Besides fishing at the 1,788-acre Turquoise Lake, you can also take a hike on the 1.2-mile Turquoise Lake Nature Trail. This short path meets the Turquoise Lake Trail, which is 6.4 miles long and takes you to the Mayqueen Campground. Dogs are welcome but keep them restrained and supervised at all times. Bears have been seen in the area so be bear aware.
Colorado Campground in Woodland Park has 80 spacious reservable campsites, each with their own picnic table, BBQ grill, and a 30 to 40-foot parking pad. The park also provides several vault toilets and potable water spigots around the campground. This is bear country so keep your food and other scented items in a bear proof container. Pets are welcome but you have to keep them restrained and supervised at all times.
This campground is popular with backpackers as it is the closest to the 471-mile Colorado Trail, which is open to hikers, bikers, and equestrians. The nine-mile West Jefferson Loop Trail also starts here. The 182-acre Jefferson Lake is stocked with rainbow, brook, brown, and mackinaw trout, so bring your poles and fishing gear. There is a boat ramp, but gas motors are not allowed on this no-wake lake. This is good for swimmers and anglers as the water is crystal clear and clean.
Seasonal activities in Pike National Forest
Whether you need to practice your hunting shot or just like shooting at targets, the Pike National Forest has several target shooting areas for you to choose from. Chaffee County Shooting Range has eight covered shooting benches with target stands at 25, 50, 100, and 200 yards. Metal silhouette targets are available out to over 400 yards. Pikes Peak has several places to do some target shooting in the Platte and Old Stage Gold Camp Areas. Camp Fickes in South Platte also has two separate ranges. They offer 22 shooting positions with 25, 50, and 100-yard targets.
At Bear Lake Campground, the 14-mile Indian Creek Trail #1300 is available to hikers, bikers, and equestrians. The Barr Trail is a 13-mile hike in the Pike National Forest from Manitou Springs to the Pikes Peak Summit. Or you can hike up to the Devil’s Head Lookout Tower on the 1.4-mile trail with an elevation gain of almost one thousand feet. Near Manitau Lake you can hike the seven-mile Centennial Trail, which is ADA-accessible and stroller friendly. The Fourmile Campground in South Park has the 1.5-mile Limber Grove Trail that is easy enough for beginners.
Hook up the trailer to the campervan for your OHVs because the Pike National Forest has miles of trails and roads to explore with your dirt bikes, four-wheelers, or side-by-sides. Flat Rocks Campground in South Platte is in the heart of the Rampart Range network that has dozens of OHV trails. In fact, there are more than 700 trails and farm roads for OHV riding just in the Pike and San Isabel National Forests.
When is the last time you went sledding? You know it was fun when you were a kid, but it can be fun for an adult too. Grab your sled or tube and pack them in the RV because the Pike National Forest has over 100 hills and mountains you can sled down when there is some snow on the ground, which is most of the year up in the highlands.
There are dozens of nice trails in the Pike National Forest to ski during the off-season, but the Ski Cooper Alpine Ski Area near Leadville is perfect for doing some serious skiing. With 400 acres and 26 runs, there is something here for everyone from beginners to experts. They even have a kids’ ski school, restaurant, and a bar. So, pack your skis in the RV before heading to the forest.
Got a dog? Try some skijoring with them. Of course, you do not want to try it if you have a Chihuahua or another toy breed, but if you have a large breed that enjoys working and playing in the snow, skijoring can be fun for you both. All you need is one to three dogs, some skis and a harness, and some snow, which the Pike National Forest has plenty of from November through April. You can use any one of the dozens of ski trails in the forest as long as there is some powder on the ground.