BLM Camping

Rio Grande River SRMA

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for 1 in every 10 acres of land in the U.S.

The Rio Grande Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA) is a popular destination for fishing and flat-water rafting. This scenic canyon area is part of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Although BLM lands are rustic, you can find developed BLM campgrounds on them. You can also set up camp on public land away from developed sites, which is known as dispersed camping. Everyone is welcome to enjoy BLM-managed lands for outdoor recreation and tourism. 

The Rio Grande River SMRA is in Colorado's San Luis Valley, the world's largest alpine valley. The area is nicknamed The Land of Cool Sunshine since it sees 350 sunny days a year. Summers there are moderate, and winters are cold. This BLM site is in the general vicinity of several national parks. It’s just 66 miles to Great Sand Dunes National Park. A longer trek of 333 miles northwest takes you to Arches National Park, where you can see some of the most mind-blowing scenery in the US.

What to See and Do

What to See and Do

Hiking and BikingHiking and Biking

Pronghorn Loop

This trail is a favorite spot for hiking and trail running in the nearby town of Del Norte. It's suitable for biking, too. It winds through rock formations and across desert meadows, serving up spectacular sights of the Sangre de Cristo mountains all the while.

Length: 9 miles

Intensity: Intermediate

Zapata Falls

The heavily trafficked out-and-back trail at Zapata Falls, near Great Sand Dune National Park, rewards you with amazing views of the San Luis Valley and an encounter with a 30-foot waterfall.

Length: .9 miles

Intensity: Easy

Cross Creek Trail

This trail takes you past the largest tree in the Rio Grande National Forest and provides stunning views of Del Norte Peak.

Length: 5 miles

Intensity: Intermediate

Fishing & Boating

Anglers love fishing the Rio Grande. Trout is the catch of the day there, and you can hook trout varieties like rainbow, brown, brook, cutthroat, and Rio Grande cutthroat. The waters can get shallow, so when it comes to boating, rafting and kayaking are the most common options. The water in this area moves at a leisurely pace and is excellent for floating while taking in the views.


This area of Colorado features tons of places to climb, but one of the most popular is Penitente Canyon. The best months for climbing there are May and October. This canyon is known for its tough climbing challenges, but it has more accessible climbing courses that are bolted for safety.

Wildlife ViewingWildlife Viewing

The Rio Grand River SMRA supports a range of wildlife. Migrating sandhill cranes, avocets, bald eagles, and goldfinches pass through this area. It's also home to the prairie rattlesnake, American elk, black bear, Colorado chipmunk, and pine squirrels, among many other species. The Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge is one option to pursue if you're looking for wildlife viewing.


The Rio Grande Farm Park is a fabulous place for a picnic. You can enjoy your meal on a rustic farm with a view of the Rio Grande. Alamosa Riparian Park is another popular picnic spot with stunning scenic views, but it doesn't have any on-site restrooms.


Bureau of Land Management Camping

RV Camping Caravan Icon

You can enjoy some BLM RV camping at the Penitente Campground in the Penitente Canyon Recreation Area. Zapata Falls campgrounds is another developed location for BLM camping. Both of these sites charge camping fees, but they accept reservations up to six months in advance of your visit.

Free Camping Campground Icon

You can camp for free on BLM public lands. The BLM recommends looking for tell-tale flat, disturbed areas of land that indicate a spot has been used before as a campsite. Feel free to set up just about anywhere to spend the night.

RV Rentals Near Rio Grande River SRMA Plan your next adventure

Planning Your Trip

Credit: Vanna Mae, @vannamaeart

Planning your Rio Grande River SRMA BLM trip

Know what to expect in order to plan the best RV camping trip ever. The Rio Grande River SMRA has a varied climate, so make sure to check the weather before you go. Flash floods can happen in the summer, which is when the area gets the heaviest rainfall. You can make the most of your trip by researching campsites and stops you'd like to make along the way. Contacting the San Luis Valley Field Office is probably the best place to start. There aren't any shops in the Rio Grande River SRMA, but you can stock up on supplies at the nearby town of Alamosa. 

Before you head out on your trip, check out our blog for all you need to know about BLM camping.

Leave No Trace Leaf

You should follow Leave No Trace guidelines so that your BLM camping experience leaves a minimal impact on the outdoors. Travel on trails as much as possible so that you don't disturb the land. Carry out all waste if there aren't facilities for disposal where you're staying. Leave areas as you found them, and don't leave anything behind or take anything with you. It might seem harmless to pick a few wildflowers, but if every visitor did that, it could have a profound negative impact on the local environment. Be respectful of other hikers and don't approach or feed wildlife.

Leave No Trace

Rio Grande River SRMA Location

This site is located near the city of Alamosa. Leave Alamosa and go south on US-285. When you reach Romeo, take a left onto Hwy 142. Take another left onto U Road and stay right at the fork onto County Road 28. You'll approach a Z road where you should turn right and go on to the bridge put-in. Cross the river and take a right onto Rio Grande Ave.

Ready to visit Rio Grande River SRMA? An RV rental is a great way to experience your destination. Not only will you be close to all the action, but at the end of a long day exploring, you'll have your RV to return to for the night where you'll enjoy a full kitchen, bathroom, and nice soft bed. Not sure about renting an RV? Here’s a step-by-step guide to renting an RV with RVshare.