Spread over the Rocky Mountains west of Denver, Colorado, the Arapaho National Forest covers more than 700,000 acres. It's a true outdoor playground — clear, cold rivers run through deep evergreen forests and wildflower-studded meadows, and snow-covered peaks rise in every direction. Hiking trails abound; there are 30 routes in the spectacular Indian Peaks Wilderness division alone. Off the trail, you'll find picnic areas, scenic drives, fishing, camping, and mountain biking. Whether you're seeking solitude and high-elevation adventures or you're more comfortable in a crowd, the Arapaho National Forest has plenty to offer.
Camping in Arapaho National Forest
The weather in the Arapaho National Forest can change on a dime, with sunshine one moment and wild thunderstorms or even snowstorms the next. The temperature can change dramatically with elevation, which means that high-mountain campgrounds often feel 20 degrees colder. With an RV, you can choose any campsite knowing that you'll be warm and comfortable each night. Make your trip more convenient by renting an RV from RVshare near your home or your destination.
St. Louis Creek Campground
Pull into a campsite next to St. Louis Creek at St. Louis Creek Campground. Surrounded by forests and views of the mountains in the distance, this is a beautiful, central spot to explore the Arapaho National Forest. Each site includes a picnic table and fire pit, and you'll find vault toilets and drinking water in the campground. RVs that are 25 feet or shorter are welcome. Sites are first-come, first-served, so it's a good idea to arrive early at this popular spot. Rates start at $22 per night during the campground's June-September season.
Bring an RV up to 30 feet long to Idlewild Campground, which sits at 9,000 feet above sea level. You won't find hookups here, but the gorgeous forested sites are worth the trip. The campground offers drinking water, trash service, and vault toilets. The popular town of Winter Park, Colorado, is just 1 mile north. All sites are first-come, first-served. Due to heavy winter snowfall, Idlewild is open from mid-June to the end of September. Rates start at $22 per night.
River Run RV Resort
If you prefer glamping to rustic forest camping, River Run RV Resort is a luxurious option. Located in Granby, Colorado, this high-end RV resort offers all of the comforts you're after: full hookups, cable TV, Wi-Fi, a general store, hot tubs, and a wellness center. Families love the games and sports facilities, and there's even a yoga lawn for a bit of stretching. You can rent golf carts in the resort or hop on a shuttle to a nearby restaurant or wilderness area. When the sun's out, head to the lake to rent a paddleboard or kayak. Both back-in and pull-through sites are available; rates start at $86 per night.
Base Camp at Golden Gate Canyon
Located between Denver and the Arapaho National Forest, Base Camp at Golden Gate Canyon is a convenient place to camp while you explore the wilderness. With cabins, tent sites, and RV sites, there's something for everyone. The 19 RV campsites offer water and electric hookups, a grill, and a picnic table; reserve in advance if you need one of the few 50-amp spots. Pick up snacks and firewood in the camp store or liquor store, and fill up at the gas station before you hit the road. In the campground, you'll find free Wi-Fi, a laundry room, hot showers, and a playground. RV sites start at $60 per night for up to four people.
Activities in Arapaho National Forest
Hiking is the most popular way to experience the Arapaho National Forest, but there are plenty of other activities to keep you busy. If you want to see the wilderness at a faster pace, try mountain biking, road cycling, or horseback riding. Rock climbers flock to Boulder Canyon and the Chicago Lakes Trail, and anglers can try river, stream, and lake fishing all year. The forest's many lakes offer motorized and non-motorized boating. For a relaxing experience, take a drive down the National Scenic Byway or one of the five State Scenic Byways. If you're visiting in the winter, try skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or snowmobiling.
Arapaho National Forest is home to a wide range of wildlife and plant species. You can find elk and moose as well as smaller animals like red foxes and long-tailed weasels. There are over 208 species of birds, so birdwatchers are sure to enjoy their time at this national forest. As for plants, hikers will find a variety of flowering plants as well as trees. The easiest place to experience wild Colorado is the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, which offers a range of easily accessible trails and recreation areas.
How to get to Arapaho National Forest
Address: 2150 Centre Avenue, Building E, Fort Collins, CO 80526
Fee: Entry fee $0
Boasting enormous swaths of pristine woodlands, meadows, and mountain peaks, Arapaho National Forest draws adventurers from around the world. This Colorado forest offers something for every visitor, whether you want to bag a fourteener or enjoy leisurely strolls by alpine lakes. With an RV rental, you can enjoy everything the region has to offer at any time of year.
Frequently Asked Questions About Arapaho National Forest
Is there a fee to get into Arapaho National Forest?
No, there is no fee to get into Arapaho National Forest. However, there are fees in some places for camping and other recreational activities.
Is there a limit to how long you can camp in Arapaho National Forest?
Yes, there is a limit to how long you can camp in Arapaho National Forest. Dispersed campers can camp in a spot for 14 days at a time within a 28-day timeframe.
Is Arapaho National Forest open all year round?
Yes, Arapaho National Forest is open year-round. In summer, there is hiking, fishing, and boating. In winter, there's snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and a variety of other winter activities.
What type of wildlife lives in Arapaho National Forest?
Wildlife including elk, prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, eagles, and burrowing owls all live in the Arapaho National Forest. The forest also has bears, so it's best to be bear aware when you're cooking, hiking, or in other areas where you may encounter one.
What is the closest town to Arapaho National Forest?
Winter Park is in Arapaho National Forest. This ski resort town has grocery stores, restaurants, and quaint shops as well as a ski area.