BLM Camping

Shelf Road Sites

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

The Shelf Road Sites includes a road and several Bureau of Land Management camping and hiking areas, plus mountain climbing trails that are protected and maintained by the BLM in partnership with the Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI). These areas are an example of how the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) works in conjunction with other agencies or organizations to maintain the pure nature of remote regions for the “use and enjoyment of present and future generations.” 

The Shelf Road Recreation Area begins at Canon City, 45 miles south of Colorado Springs, CO. It follows a 50-mile twisting road along Fourmile Creek through valleys and canyons to Cripple Creek, elevating from 5,330 feet to 9,395 feet. The road features some of the most impressive rock-climbing routes in Colorado. The BLM maintains the 50-mile road and two campgrounds along the way. The rock-climbing courses were developed in partnership with the RMFI, which supports the climbing routes separate from the road or campgrounds. The collaboration between the BLM and the RMFI has produced a unique quality where visitors are invited to enjoy nature while leaving no trace behind. Bureau of Land Management campers in this section of Colorado find themselves within 139 miles of Great Sand Dunes National Park, 186 miles of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and 208 miles of Rocky Mountain National Park.

What to See and Do

What to See and Do

Hiking and BikingHiking and Biking

Horsethief Falls Trail

Horsethief Falls Trail is an in-and-out pathway that dashes from Cripple Creek to Horsethief Falls. The trail only elevates 567 feet and follows a creek through forests. There are periodic views of Pikes Peak and the surrounding plains.

Length: 2.6 miles

Intensity: Moderate

Pony Gulch Homestead

The Pony Gulch Homestead Trail begins at a high point on Lookout Point near Cripple Creek, descends rapidly to the canyon below, and follows a river past a dam and pond to an old homestead. There are great views along the way, with wildlife in the background. Its seclusion is noticeable from the start, with no trailhead sign in place. It is marked by cairns starting when hikers reach the canyon floor.

Length: 2.1 miles

Intensity: Intermediate

Fishing and BoatingFishing and Boating

Angling and rafting are allowed in the BLM area along Shelf Road. Many adventurers visit Fourmile Creek seeking a whitewater rafting experience during the late spring, early summer, and late fall months. Anglers find four trout species in its waters: rainbow, brook, cutthroat, and brown trout.


While Shelf Road is for climbers of every skill level, there is one that outdraws all other climbs. It is called the “Contest Wall.” Set up during a rock-climbing competition, this 1,000-foot vertical climb above Royal Gorge features a bolted trail that demands a series of strenuous moves. When climbers reach the peak, an outcrop known as “Nathan,” they pause to celebrate a significant accomplishment before descending.

Wildlife ViewingWildlife Viewing

The varied terrain along Shelf Road provides homes for multiple wildlife species. Bighorn sheep, mountain goats, elk, moose, mule deer, and black bears are common throughout the area. Predators such as coyotes, mountain lions, eagles, and falcons stay close to Fourmile Creek in hopes of catching a quick meal.


Picnic areas are dispersed along the length of Shelf Road. It is not uncommon to see families picnicking and enjoying the view beside the running creek below the road.


The night sky lights up along Shelf Road. Light pollution is minimal, with the nearest large urban area being 45 miles away and separated from the road by numerous mountains. The farther visitors get along the road, the higher the elevation, which leads to an incredible display during clear nights in campgrounds near Cripple Creek.


Bureau of Land Management Camping

RV Camping Caravan Icon

The Bureau of Land Management campgrounds come in two types. The developed BLM RV camping sites provide extra amenities and charge a per-night fee to stay. One developed BLM camping site is Sand Gulch Campground, which offers 17 campsites with metal fire rings, picnic tables, and a single vault toilet. It sits in a large meadow within walking distance of the surrounding cliffs. RV campers may stay up to 14 days at the cost of $7 per night.

Free Camping Campground Icon

There are several Bureau of Land Management free camping sites close to Shelf Road. One of the most used of these free BLM RV camping opportunities is at the Oil Well Flats Recreation Area near Canon City. Visitors are welcome to camp anywhere, but most use the suggested areas marked by the BLM. There are no amenities other than the spectacular views of cliffs hanging above Canon City.

RV Rentals Near Shelf Road Sites Plan your next adventure

Planning Your Trip

Credit: Vanna Mae, @vannamaeart

Planning your Shelf Road Sites BLM trip

Visitors searching the Internet for local campgrounds use the search phrase “BLM camping near me,” with Canon City as the center point of the quest. This tool yields many campsites in a list format. These lists are gateways to Internet sites that describe the campgrounds in detail.

Most Bureau of Land Management camping areas are isolated and remote. Camping in these areas is challenging. Travelers using BLM campgrounds should check their vehicle before embarking, including stress points like hitches, tires, frames, and internal systems. Every traveler to these areas should pack extra canned food and fill their water tanks. Extra heavy-duty clothing is a good idea when visiting Shelf Road as the region is notorious for swift temperature changes. Before heading out on a trip, check out our blog for all you need to know about BLM camping.

Leave No Trace Leaf

The BLM Leave No Trace regulation protects fragile lands like those found along Shelf Road from human impact. Minimize your presence by hiking established trails and staying in designated campsites. Many of the pathways along the road that angle toward Fourmile Creek or into the hills include switchbacks. Never take a shortcut between switchbacks as the biosystems at this elevation are fragile and especially susceptible to foot traffic. Make sure to clean up all trash.

Leave No Trace

Shelf Road Sites Location

To reach Shelf Road from Colorado Springs, take Interstate 25 South (I-25 S) for three miles, turn right onto Colorado State Highway 115 South (CO-115 S) and continue for 33 miles. Merge onto Colorado State Highway 50 West (CO-50 W) and travel 10 miles into Canon City. Shelf Road lies directly east of Canon City.

Ready to visit Shelf Road Sites? 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.