Explore the Best Camping and Backpacking Spots in Buena Vista, Colorado

July 4, 2023

Buena Vista, Colorado, nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, is a treasure trove of outdoor adventures, offering some of the best camping and backpacking experiences in the country. From tranquil campgrounds to remote wilderness, let’s dive into your one-stop guide to camping and backpacking in Buena Vista.

The Best Camp Spots in Buena Vista, Colorado: 


For camping enthusiasts who prefer the amenities and organization of developed campgrounds, your search ends here. These paid campgrounds generally provide numbered, designated campsites, which you can book in advance or snag on a first-come, first-serve basis, depending on the campgrounds regulations. Most of them feature a camp host on-site and offer amenities like restrooms, fire pits, and charcoal grills, although the exact offerings can vary from campground to campground. 

Cottonwood Lake Campground:
Set against a backdrop of aspen and spruce trees, Cottonwood Lake Campground is a local favorite offering breathtaking mountain views. With amenities like restrooms and drinking water, and activities like fishing, boating, and hiking, this campsite is a perfect blend of wilderness and convenience. This campground is $20 for two vehicles per site, and first come first serve, so be sure to arrive early on a weekend if you want to ensure a spot. These campsites do NOT have drinking water available, so be sure to bring plenty of water too, and extra if you plan on having a fire. 

Chalk Lake Campground:
Located less than four miles east of the Mount Antero trailhead, Chalk Lake Campground is another well-maintained camping option. With fishing opportunities, nearby trails, and a hot spring minutes away, it’s a great spot for those seeking both adventure and relaxation. This campground includes pre-reserved sites and first come first serve, and costs about $34 after tax. Reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance, so you may need to book this one early! 

Read next: The Ultimate Guide to Buena Vista, Colorado: Top Attractions and Activities


If you are yearning for a deeper connection with nature and a sense of solitude, dispersed camping might be your perfect match. Unlike developed campgrounds, dispersed camping—also known as boondocking—allows you to set up camp in a more primitive way. This form of camping is typically free of charge and offers the opportunity to venture into more remote, quiet areas, absent of amenities like restrooms, fire pits, and designated or numbered sites. This approach to camping provides a raw, immersive outdoor experience that can feel more adventurous and secluded.

Cottonwood Pass:
For a rustic experience in a breathtaking landscape, try dispersed camping up Cottonwood Pass. This area boasts panoramic views of the Sawatch Range and a real off-the-grid experience, without being too far from town. Remember to adhere to Leave No Trace principles to keep the area pristine.

CR 344: Starting about a half-mile past Cottonwood Lake campground, County Road 344 offers some of the best dispersed camping in Colorado. You will need 4WD and high clearance to access majority of the spots, however if you can make it the views are worthwhile and allow campers to immerse themselves in a landscape marked by high mountain ridges and stunning aspen groves. 


For those seeking immersion in Colorado’s breathtaking wilderness, backpacking trails offer the ultimate experience. This form of adventure allows you to carry everything you need in your backpack and venture deep into the backcountry, hiking from one place to another and setting up camp along the way. In Buena Vista, you’ll find a wealth of backpacking trails that provide awe-inspiring vistas and an intimate connection with our natural world. 

Buffalo Peaks Wilderness Loop: For seasoned backpackers, the Buffalo Peaks Wilderness Loop offers a fun multi-day adventure with never-ending views. This 27-mile loop takes you through diverse terrains, displaying Colorado’s rich biodiversity and breathtaking vistas.

Colorado Trail, Segment 13: One of the jewels of backpacking in Buena Vista, Section 13 of the Colorado Trail offers an incredible journey through Colorado’s classic high-country scenery. This 22-mile segment takes you through part of the Sawatch Range, home to many of the state’s highest peaks. The trail ascends steadily, providing breathtaking panoramas and the chance to spot local wildlife. Along the way, you’ll encounter serene mountain lakes, vibrant wildflowers during the summer months, and a sense of tranquility one can only find in the backcountry. Be sure to plan for changing weather conditions as this high-altitude trek can quickly see shifts in the weather in all seasons. Nonetheless, the Colorado Trail: Segment 13, promises an unforgettable backpacking experience for those who undertake it.

Read next: Backpacking Essentials: Your Ultimate Backpacking Gear Guide (PLUS a Downloadable Checklist!)


If you prefer a guided experience or are new to backpacking, Ground Up Adventures offers guided trips in Buena Vista and Leadville, Colorado. With local trail expertise and emphasis on safety, GUA provideS a rich, educational, and fun-filled adventure in the Colorado wilderness.

Hi there! I’m Shelby, a
Colorado hiking guide!

I’m here to inspire you to climb your mountain from the ground UP.
I’m an avid hiker and backpacker, and also love camping, fishing, and anything else I can do outdoors, even if it means going alone! I believe nature is the best teacher of all, and I find joy sharing this knowledge so you can feel empowered on your own adventures! 


As you plan your camping trip in Buena Vista, it’s crucial to remember we are guests in nature. An essential part of this coexistence is being ‘Bear Aware.’ Colorado is home to a healthy population of black bears, and as such, properly storing your food is not only a matter of safety for you but also for our bears. Always use bear-resistant food containers to store your food, toiletries, trash and ANY other scented items at least 100 feet downwind from your campsite and cook area. Following these precautions helps to keep both you and our beautiful wildlife safe, ensuring the rugged wilderness remains a place of refuge and wonder for generations to come.


Buena Vista, Colorado, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering an array of camping and backpacking options to suit everyone from the comfort-seeker to the thrill-seeker. No matter your preference, your outdoor adventure in Buena Vista promises to be unforgettable.

And remember, if you’re looking to deepen your understanding of local ecology or simply prefer a guided experience, Ground Up Adventures provides an excellent option for your next outdoor adventure. Learn more!

Read next: A Comprehensive Dining Guide to Buena Vista, Colorado: Where to Eat and Drink Like a Local

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