Upper Colorado River Recreation Area
Guide

Introduction

The Upper Colorado River Recreation Area provides numerous recreation opportunities to vacationers and outdoor enthusiasts within a variety of settings and sites. This river, which extends from Dotsero to Kremmling in Colorado, is home to plenty of exciting activities that keep all kinds of enthusiasts engaged. Rest assured you will find outstanding historical, cultural and natural features along the stretch of the river.

A number of public lands along this scenic river are administered by the Bureau of Land Management, most of which are recreation sites. At these recreation sites, there are plenty of ways to stay active. Depending on where you are, you get to choose hiking, mountain biking, motorcycle riding, or jeep and off-highway vehicle (OHV) riding. Well-equipped and ADA accessible picnic sites are also provided for guests to enjoy meals with family and friends.

Whitewater rafting, canoeing, boating, and kayaking are very popular on the Upper Colorado River, and it is recommended that all who wish to enjoy the sport be prepared for the exercise, considering the rapids on the river. Fishing and wildlife viewing are other recreational opportunities available here.

Camping options at the various BLM recreation sites along the river range from primitive to dry, tent and RV camping. More camping options are provided at Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest and Arapaho National Forest.

RV Rentals in Upper Colorado River Recreation Area

Transportation

Driving

The Upper Colorado River extends from Dotsero all the way to Kremmling in Colorado, and can be accessed at various locations along US Highway 40. There are several Bureau of Land Management recreation sites that offer easy access to this river at various points. Most of the access roads are paved and maintained.

One of the access points to the river is Pumphouse Recreation Site, located about 10 miles from Highway 9 on Grand County. Another access point, also about 17 miles from Highway 9 is Radium Recreation Site.

From Dotsero, guests can gain access to the Upper Colorado River via Catamount Bridge Recreation Area, located on Colorado River Road, off Interstate 70.

If you wish to rent RVs and other developed camping and travel equipment, you’ll find rental services at Kremmling.

Parking

Parking areas are provided at and around the BLM recreation sites for visitors to park their vehicles. Do not park your vehicle outside the designated parking spots.

Public Transportation

Several bus services operate to Kremmling, some of which are Greyhound USA, Epic Mountain Express, and Go Alpine. These bus services, however, do not operate to the BLM sites along the river.

Campgrounds and parking in Upper Colorado River Recreation Area

Campsites in Upper Colorado River Recreation Area

First-come first-served

Radium Recreation Site Campground

There are nine standard campsites within Radium Recreation Site, all of which are available on a first-come, first-served basis only. Two group campsites are also available. Pets are allowed within the campsites, as long as the owners keep them on a short leash. The campground is open seasonally from May to October. Group sites are reservable.

This campground is located along the Colorado River Headwaters Scenic Byway and can be easily accessed by vehicles. Parking spaces are available for cars, trailers, and buses.

This recreation area is a high-use facility for whitewater rafters and fishermen looking to explore the Upper Colorado River.

Amenities available here include paved boat launches, picnic shelter, and accessible vault toilets. The maximum stay in the campground is 14 days.

Pumphouse Recreation Site Campground

Pumphouse Recreation Site sits on the shore of the Upper Colorado River, and offers 18 standard campsites on a first-come, first-served basis only. The campsites are available seasonally between May and October and offer tent camping options. Two group campsites are also available by reservation.

This recreation side is a popular destination for floaters, rafters, kayakers, and anglers on the river. Amenities available include boat launch facilities, picnic tables, fire grills, picnic shelter, and accessible vault toilets.

There is a camp host at the campground in summer.

The maximum stay in the campground is 14 days, and pets are allowed. Hiking trails are accessible from the camping area.

Seasonal activities in Upper Colorado River Recreation Area

In-Season

Trails

Visitors are exposed to lots of opportunities to enjoy the use of exciting and fun trails along the river. Most of the roads and trails that are found along the river are open to use for mountain biking, hiking, motorcycle riding, jeep, and off-highway vehicle (OHV) riding. For guests that are interested in exploring the backcountry areas, trails are available for this purpose, in addition to several roadless areas that provide non-motorized opportunities to those that are seeking isolation and seclusion.

Picnicking

Several picnic sites are distributed along the Upper Colorado River at the various BLM areas that sit on the river shore. One such picnic site is at Cottonwood Island Recreation Site, where outdoor enthusiasts may also find a seasonal toilet too.

Pumphouse recreation site, in addition to having a well-equipped picnic site, also features amenities that are ADA accessible such as toilets and parking spaces. Another good place to enjoy picnics along the river is Radium recreation site, furnished with picnic tables and benches.

Wildlife/Bird Viewing

The Upper Colorado River is a premier wildlife viewing area that offers guests spectacular opportunities to see bald eagles, Canada geese, golden eagles, songbirds and ducks. Besides these birds, other fauna that you will spot in the water are muskrats, river otters, beavers.

Along the shore areas, look out for raccoons, deer, and ground squirrels. With any luck, you’ll see elk, mountain lions, moose, or bear.

Ensure you only view these wildlife species from a distance and don’t attempt to feed them.

Off-Season

Fishing

Fishing is a very common sport on the Upper Colorado River, particularly on the 25 mile-stretch from Dotsero to State Bridge. Anglers on vacation at any of the recreation sites managed by the BLM catch rainbow trout, brown trout, and, on occasion, native cutthroat trout. Fishing opportunities are also available on Eagle River nearby.

You require a valid state fishing license if you wish to fish in the Upper Colorado River. Fishing is managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and applicable regulations are in effect.

Canoeing

Water-based recreation enthusiasts love this area because boating, canoeing, kayaking, and whitewater rafting are popular activities along the Upper Colorado River.

If your interest is canoeing on the river, ensure your canoe is a whitewater-outfitted boat and everyone has a personal floatation device and a helmet. If you’re using an open-topped canoe, don’t go near areas of the river classified as higher than a Class II rapid.

Only expert canoeists may visit parts of the river in Class III.

Cultural Resources

There are plenty of interesting cultural resources along the Upper Colorado River that speak to the history of the area. Recently, archeologists uncovered evidence that suggests that humans have lived in the area for more than 6,000 years.

Several prehistoric and historic sites, mining sites and early settlements exist on the banks of the Upper Colorado River, so look out for these. When you find them, don’t remove the artifacts that tell the story of the area, so that you can help preserve the sites for other visitors.

Find the perfect campsite.