If you’re looking for an entertaining vacation for everyone in the family then look no further. The White River National Forest in Colorado is the most visited recreation forest in the nation, and for a good reason. Over ten million visitors a year come to RV camp, relax, and explore the forest during all four seasons. Lush, forested campgrounds, towering mountain peaks, and thousands of miles of trails await you. So, load up the rig and don’t forget the camera, because this is a trip you’ll want to look back on for years to come.
With eight scenic wilderness areas, 12 ski resorts, and countless rivers and lakes, it’s easy to see why this forest is so well-liked. In some parts, the elevation can reach over 7,000 feet. Fishing and hunting draw in visitors by the thousands, as well as hiking, biking, and an assortment of winter sports. So feel free to pack your gear for your favorite activity along with you in the campervan.
Whether you’re driving an RV or pulling a trailer, the White River National Forest has dozens of campgrounds to pick from. Of these RV-friendly campgrounds, we’ve highlighted the top four to help you find exactly what you’re looking for.
Located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, White River National Forest spans over 2.3 million acres. I-70 is the main interstate cutting through the forest, connecting you to local highways such as 24, 82, and 13. Flat Tops Trail Scenic and Historic Byway is a great way to see the forest from the comfort of your campervan. Stretching from Meeker to Yampa, Colorado, this beautiful drive takes about two hours to complete.
RV campgrounds and recreation areas are sprinkled across the area and are fairly accessible for large vehicles. Some of these roads are gravel, however, and may become wash boarded or flooded during certain parts of the year. Some of the mountain roads can be difficult to maneuver for RVs and trailers due to steep inclines. It’s always a good idea to plan your route ahead of time, especially in the winter when certain routes are closed or snowed in. Stay up to date on current weather and driving conditions before you head out.
Nestled in a forested area near a creek, Gore Campground offers 25 RV-friendly sites. The campground is open from May to October, and reservations can be made up to six months in advance. The maximum RV and trailer length allowed at this campground is 35 feet. Wildlife is abundant in this area, and if you’re lucky you might spot elk, mule deer, or even black bears. For this reason, a food storage order may be in effect. If you don’t have your own food storage containers, the campground is equipped with bear-proof food lockers. Other features include vault toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables. Several trailheads are located nearby, so you could start your hike or bike ride from the door of the campervan. Other options for recreation in the area include fishing, dining, and skiing in the nearby town of Vail.
Located on the scenic Crystal River, Bogan Flats Campground is one of the most popular campgrounds in the area. 35 RV-friendly sites are available and a camp host is on-site should any issues arise. Each site is equipped with benches, picnic tables, and fire rings, and drinking water and vault toilets are available at the main campground. The campground is easily accessible for large vehicles as it on a paved road just off of State Route 133. RVs and trailers must have a maximum length of 40 feet or less to accommodate the parking spurs here. The campground is open from May to October, and reservations are available up to six months in advance. Campers have numerous choices for recreation and relaxation including fly fishing, wildlife viewing, hiking, jeep tours, and historic sightseeing. This is a pet-friendly campsite, so feel free to bring your four-legged friends along in the rig.
Redstone Campground has 37 RV- and trailer-friendly campsites, some with water and electric hookups available for an extra fee. Each site has a table, fire ring, and lantern hook, and the maximum RV length is 30 feet. Flush toilets, showers, and drinking water are available along with a basketball court, horseshoe pits, and a playground for the kids. If that’s not enough to keep you and your family busy, the quaint mountain town of Redstone is located just south of Carbondale and has shops, galleries, restaurants, and even a castle. If you’re looking to be one with nature, a hike up Mt. Sopris is worth taking. This steep, 15-mile hike will provide spectacular panoramic views and carpets of wildflowers along the trail. Redstone Campground is pet-friendly and open from May to October. Reservations can be made up to six months in advance.
One of the largest campgrounds in the White River National Forest is Chapman Campground, boasting 83 RV- and trailer-friendly campsites. Just off of the paved Frying Pan Road, the campground is easily accessible for RVs and other large vehicles with a maximum length of 30 feet. The campground is outfitted with fire rings, vault toilets, picnic tables, and drinking water. Trash and recycling collection is also provided. Situated alongside the Fryingpan River, the campground is not only picturesque, but it also provides great opportunities for recreation and relaxation. The river is a renowned fly fishing spot, and anglers can try their luck for cutthroat, rainbow, brook and brown trout. There are special regulations for this area however, so be sure you are aware of these before casting out. Other recreational activities in the area include hiking, nature viewing, and biking. The campground is open to humans and pets alike from May to October with reservations available up to six months in advance.
Don’t forget to pack the hunting gear in the RV because White River National Forest has plenty of opportunities for you to use your rifle. In fact, it is home to one of the largest herd of elk in North America with an estimated population of 45,000! Check out the Blanco Ranger District just east of Meeker for elk and other big game such as deer and moose. Hunters looking for smaller game and waterfowl should head to Piney Guard station to try their luck.
White River National Forest provides a multitude of chances for water lovers to play. For a relaxing soak in the Conundrum Hot Springs, make your way to the Conundrum Creek Trail in the Marron Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area. The hot springs are not for the faint of heart, however. They are at the end of scenic but rugged eight-mile trail, part of which you must wade through a creek to reach the springs. Other swimming opportunities can be found at the Heeney Marina Boating Site and various campsites throughout the forest, so don’t forget to pack your bathing suit when you’re loading up the camper.
Hundreds of miles of trails await you inside the White River National Forest, so attach the bikes to the back of the rig and prepare for a bumpy ride. With options for paved roads or backcountry trails, all cyclists can find a route they’re comfortable with no matter their skill level. Lake Ridge Lakes Trail #2093 offers scenic views of lakes and mountain tops but is a more difficult route. Be aware that you may be sharing the trails with hikers and horseback riders as well.
Feel free to fasten the snowmobile behind the campervan this winter because White River National Forest keeps dozens of paths and areas groomed for the snowy season. Crooked Creek Path along Sylvan Lake is popular, and although the road is usually maintained during the offseason, 4WD is still recommended. Some areas in the forest are closed for snowmobiles, so be sure to check for restricted wildlife areas and opening dates before hitting the trail.
White River National Forest has some of the best fishing holes in the nation, and the winter doesn’t put an end to the action. Sylvan Lake and the Black Lakes are some of the most popular areas in the forest for ice fishing. Several types of trout swim in the lakes and streams of the forest and are as bountiful in the off-season as they are in the peak season. Be sure that you’re up to date with Colorado fishing regulations and restricted wildlife areas within the forest before setting up camp.
If you’re looking to hit the trails during the off-season, consider packing your snowshoes and cross-country skis along with you in your camping trailer. If you don't own a pair, there are various outfitters within the forest offering rentals, lessons, and guided tours. Dozens of routes are maintained for the winter and are ready to be explored. Boreas Pass Road near Breckenridge offers scenic views of the Blue River Valley and the Tenmile Range from the trail. Homestack Road of off Highway 24 offers various routes for snowshoers and skiers looking for a shorter trek.