The Outdoors,  Travel Guides

Salida Camping: Tips and Tricks for a Successful Trip

Salida Camping

These days, it can be tough to plan last-minute camping near Denver. The popular spots are often sold out for most weekends and you feel SOL. But, there is still hope to find the perfect camping spot in Colorado. All it requires is driving a bit further from the city. One of my favorites is Salida, Colorado. At just 3 hours from Denver, Salida camping provides the perfect mix of outdoor adventure with all the amenities of a charming mountain town. I highly recommend Salida camping for any of my beginner campers for that very reason. This area is developed enough to provide solace in mountain towns if you’re craving civilization while on your trip. 

I use Salida camping broadly as it sits in the expansive area of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. Here you’ll not only find eight “fourteeners”, but you’ll also find other mountain towns like Buena Vista and Poncha Springs. It’s helpful and often not a big deal to be flexible when looking for Salida Co Campgrounds. Anywhere in the Collegiate Peaks/Pike-San Isabel National Forest is bound to be an amazing camping experience. 

Salida, Co Campgrounds

Developed and Reservable AHRA Salida Camping

Salida camping is diverse and plentiful. We stayed at Point Barr Campground along the Arkansas River. Point Barr is within the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area and therefore maintained by Colorado State Parks & Wildlife. It is reservable for $28/night, allows dogs, and offers basic amenities like a fire pit, picnic table, and bathrooms. A word of caution, while this Salida campground is awesome and placed right along the river, the road into the campground is narrow and not developed. We thankfully had a 4-wheel drive vehicle however I don’t think it’s required. AHRA provides several other campsites which you can reserve here.  

Dispersed Salida Camping

If you’re not looking to spend, there are also options for free camping in Salida. Dispersed camping is any camping that is outside designated camping areas on public land. You can find dispersed sites in Salida on AHRA land using this interactive map. Dispersed Camping is also authorized in the Pike-San Isabel National Forest. You can find a list of dispersed sites on the USDA Forest Service website. Keep in mind that these sites do not have any amenities and be sure to respect the leave-no-trace rules. Finally, you can check out Four Mile Travel Management Area for dispersed camping options in Beuna Vista, Colorado.  

Pike-San Isabel & Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands Salida Camping

Campgrounds on the National Forest land are run by the USDA Forest Service and range from developed and reserved to first-come, first-served. All campgrounds can be reviewed and reserved using These sites typically cost around $20 per night.

Private Salida Camping

Another option is to stay at privately run Salida, CO campgrounds. This is typically a great option for those of you with RVs as they provide several more amenities and larger sites. Examples include the Mt.Shavano KOAWilderness Expeditions RV Park, and 4 Seasons RV Park. Using apps and websites like Hipcamp and The Dyrt are also options for Salida camping. On these sites, people offer up their private land for campers. The amount of amenities varies across these sites and keep in mind that private campsites can often cost more than previously mentioned options. 

Salida, CO Things To Do

Salida, CO things to do

Go into Town

Salida and Buena Vista are two Colorado mountain towns that offer charming blocks with friendly locals, coffee, food, and shopping nestled within the Collegiate Peaks. You truly can’t go wrong visiting either spot. Of course, when we went I had to see both. I’m certain that you will be obsessed with Salida’s old-school feel. Among the Brick streets and faded murals lie some Salida favorites like the “F” Street Five and Dime, Brown Dog Coffee Company, and Ruby Blues Vintage Clothing Store. Of course, if you need a break from shopping and eating, head to Riverside Park along the Arkansas River to take a stroll. 

The Arkansas River

You can’t just stare at the river when you’re in camping in Salida, you have to get in. Whether that’s on your favorite watercraft or just dipping a toe, experiencing the Arkansas River is a must for Salida camping. This river offers some of the best whitewater rafting in the country. You can book a rafting experience through any number of river outfitters in the area. Fishing is another popular activity along the river that can be done in solitary or with the aforementioned river outfitters. This map provides fishing access points along the river. For something a little less formal, grab a tube and head to Riverside Park in Salida for some tubing down the river or just hanging out on the rocks. 

Hike and Bike

Of course, you cannot escape this part of Colorado without completing one of their epic hikes. And no, this does not mean that you have to hike a fourteener. There are plenty of accessible trails for all skill levels that will give incredible views. I actually really like AllTrails’ list of suggested hikes in Salida. I’m not a biker, but if I was I’d want to bike here. Salida and Beuna Vista areas are renowned for their mountain biking access. Check out suggested trails here.  

Especially if you’re a beginner camper, relaxing and making it through a day might be all you’re looking to do. Staying at your site, learning how to make a fire, cooking, playing cards, and reading might be all you’re looking to do. There’s nothing quite like listening to the rushing Arkansas River while finishing that perfect summer romance novel…or taking a soothing nap. If you’re looking to extend your Colorado camping trip into a longer road trip, I recommend checking out my Leadville, CO, and Gunnison, CO camping guides. You can take a route from Leadville traveling South through Salida and making your last stop in Gunnison. Anyway, I hope I’ve convinced you to check out Salida and take more PTO through Colorado’s SouthWest. Happy Camping!

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