Roosevelt National Forest is located in north-central Colorado near Fort Collins, nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Named after President Theodore Roosevelt in 1932, the forest covers 813,799 acres and is divided into two districts: Boulder and Canyon Lakes. There are six different wilderness areas, including Rawah, Neota, James Peak, Indian Peaks, Comanche Peak, and Cache La Poudre.
Among the highlights of the Roosevelt National Forest, Mount Evans Recreation Area is full of bighorn sheep, marmots, mountain goats, and alpine wildflowers. Santiago Mill is another popular spot in the forest, which is an early 20th-century floatation mill, built in 1935. It is the last complete mill from the depression era and is listed on the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties.
Whether you are here during the summer or in the winter, there is always something fun to do. Boating, waterskiing, fishing, and swimming are popular during the warm weather. You can find over 100 lakes and several rivers to enjoy in the forest. Hiking, biking, and OHV riding are also popular during the summer. In the winter, you can enjoy some fantastic skiing and snowmobiling tracks in the area. In addition, there are 27 RV campgrounds you can pick from in the Roosevelt National Forest. We have highlighted our top three below.
The drive to the Roosevelt National Forest is just as much fun as the campground if you take the right roads. Actually, there is no wrong road to take because it is just beautiful anywhere near the Rocky Mountains. Colorado Highway 5, or Mount Evans Road, is a scenic byway and a fantastic route that you can enjoy from Memorial weekend until October. However, Mount Evans access closes after Labor Day. The Cache la Poudre, Peak to Peak, Guanella Pass, and Pawnee Pioneer Trail Byways are also very special drives worthy of a camera.
Just 100 miles northwest of Denver, the Roosevelt National Forest is not far from Rocky Mountain National Park. With most of the forest being wilderness areas you will be hard pressed to find groomed roads as most of the roads into the forest are gravel or dirt. Between the curvy narrow country roads and the steep grades, you will have to take it easy if you are pulling a camper or driving a big rig. In fact, it is a good idea to drive slowly here anyway to watch out for wild critters that frequent the area. Once you park the RV in your campsite, it is best to leave it there and walk or ride a bike when you can, because the campgrounds are mostly primitive here.
Near Fort Collins, Dowdy Lake Campground has 62 reservable campsites, 30 of which are open all year long. Each site has an electric hookup, a bear proof food storage box, a picnic table, and a fire ring with a grill for cooking. The parking pads range from 20 to 40 feet in length. There are vault toilets and several potable water access spots in the campground. Reserve your spot well in advance because they fill up fast, especially on weekends and holidays.
Dowdy Lake is 115 acres across and allows boating but no gas motors. Swimming is allowed anywhere along the banks of the lake but there are no actual swimming beaches. If you want to take a walk, the four-mile Margaret Trail is available for hiking, biking, and equestrian use. Fishing is also popular as the lake is full of trout. Pets are welcome if they are restrained and supervised at all times. Also, this is bear country so follow bear safety rules.
Just 14 miles from Rocky Mountain National Park, Olive Ridge Campground has 52 campsites available. All of the campsites have their own picnic table, a bear proof storage box, and a fire ring with a grill for cooking. Parking pads range from 23 to 45 feet in length. There are three loops nestled in the aspen and pine trees, and each have restrooms with running water, drinking water spigots, and several vault toilets.
Inside the park you can find several walking trails throughout the forest, an amphitheater that holds fun classes during the summer, and a playground for the kids. The roads are narrow so ride your bike or walk to anywhere you want to go within the park. Pets are welcome but you have to make sure you are with them at all times and that they are restrained during your visit. This is bear country so follow bear safety rules.
Wildflowers and mature aspen abound in Jacks Gulch Campground, which boasts 64 spacious campsites. Besides five equestrian sites, the 59 RV and tent sites are all first-come, first-served, so be sure you get here early for a good spot, especially on holidays and weekends. Twenty-seven of the sites have electric hookups, but the others are primitive with a picnic table, fire ring with a grill, and bear boxes for your food.
Equestrian sites also have horse stalls and extra room for trailers but the others can accommodate RVs and trailers from 24 to 48 feet in length. If you have a horse, this campground is perfect because there are special campsites for you as well as an equestrian trail where you and your pony can go on a trek. There are two other trails that are great for hiking. Dogs and cats are welcome but make sure you are with them and that they are restrained during your stay. This is bear country so follow bear safety rules.
There are 122 different trails totaling 623 miles where you can do some mountain biking in the Roosevelt National Forest, so be sure to pack the bikes in the RV. For an easy trail, try the 1.4-mile Bitterbrush Trail with a 347-foot ascent, or the 2.1-mile Flume, which has an ascent of 41 feet. For the intermediates, try the 1.4-mile Shy Ann Trail with a descent of 625 feet and an average grade of 10 percent. And for a challenge, the 1.4-mile Trestle Downhill Trail has a descent of 1,100 feet with an average grade of 21 percent.
If you like the thrill of the climb, there are plenty of places to do some rock climbing in Roosevelt National Forest, so toss your climbing gear in the camper. The Bitty Buttress is an interesting formation with good climbing features and a small crag with several sections, including Treetop, Moby Dike, and Peapod to name a few. Green Ridge is a series of summits with gorgeous views of the Devil’s Backbone, Rocky Mountain National Park, and the Front Range. Try the Jug Canyon drop, Mount Meeker, or Longs Peak on the Green Ridge Trail near Masonville.
Hook the trailer to the RV because you can ride for miles in the Roosevelt National Forest. Whether you have a motorcycle, ATV, side-by-side, or other OHV, there are more than 50 trails and roads that are available to you here. The Main Draw OHV Area is the only staging area where non-licensed vehicles are allowed. This is a two-mile draw popular with dirt bikers. The nine-mile Donner Pass Trail and 4.4-mile Killpecker Trail are just a few of the 52 official trails in the forest where you can go.
There are more than 250 named trails in the Roosevelt National Forest so pack your hiking boots in the RV. Jacks Gulch Campground has the 0.7-mile Interpretive Loop Trail, the 1.1-mile Little Beaver Trail, and the 2.3-mile Comanche Peak Trail. The 2.5-mile Butler Gulch Trail near Empire is a moderate to difficult hike, and the 7.5-mile Granite Ridge Trail #991 near Fort Collins is long but easy. For a nice long and challenging hike, try the 15-mile Arapaho Glacier Trail #905.
Pack that hunter orange gear in the camper before heading to the forest because there are a plethora of wild critters here to hunt. From bear to turkeys and bighorn sheep to mountain lions and elk, there are plenty of opportunities for you in Roosevelt National Forest. And if you would rather hunt the little critters, you can find rabbits, squirrels, doves, grouse, marmots, and badgers everywhere around the forest. No matter what you are looking for, make sure you keep your hunting license and tags with you and practice safe hunting techniques.
If you need some shooting practice, bring your guns. The Baker Draw Shooting Range is near county roads 63 and 96 by Ault. There are 30 shooting lanes with 26 benches and shade structures. The 100-yard lanes are for rifles only with targets at 50 and 100 yards. The 50-yard lanes are for both handguns and rifles with targets at 25 and 50 yards. And the 25-yard lanes are for handguns only with targets at seven, 15, and 25 yards. The only other shooting range in the forest is the Devil’s Nose, which is near Mount Evans, is closed for construction.