Fall and camping go hand in hand: Crisp weather perfect for hiking and other adventures by day and cozying around the campfire at night. And, as a bonus for Aspen-area adventurers, taking in the kaleidoscope of fall color is another reason the season is ripe for an overnight adventure in the woods.
But as awesome as it is, camping (and backpacking) can come with a significant hassle factor: packing up the gear, figuring out where to go, and schlepping everything to the campsite. However, with car camping, you can reap the same benefits of getting away from it all with a fraction of the hassle, with your vehicle serving as a home base of sorts and cutting down on the packing and hauling.
And with that, we bring you a list of superb spots for car camping around Aspen. Book one for a last-hurrah autumn adventure, as most are open through late September, or get inspired for a spring adventure now.
1. Difficult Campground
Don't let its name fool you: Located just four miles southeast of downtown Aspen on Highway 82, Difficult Campground is easily the most convenient of all Aspen’s campsites. Featuring 47 sites, this area is nestled among aspen groves and provides gorgeous views of Independence Pass . While there, campers can enjoy access to hiking and fishing along the Roaring Fork headwaters. In mid- to late-September this area is great for leaf peeping, and given its and proximity to downtown, it's a solid choice in case the weather goes sour. Camping at Difficult is permitted from May through September and reservations are required . Trailers up to 40 feet are permitted.
2. Lincoln Creek and Grizzly Reservoir
A bit more of a trek, but well worth it, Lincoln Creek Road and its 28 campsites are about 11 miles southeast of Aspen on Highway 82. The first three to four miles of this rugged jeep road—high-clearance vehicles are highly recommended—wind along a wooded gulch, which is where you’ll find the bulk of the campsites. Once the valley opens up with views of high-alpine peaks, you’re close to Grizzly Reservoir, with another handful of campsites. You can hike from the Grizzly area to the Ruby ghost town, or stay close to the lake for fishing, hiking, or even stand-up paddleboarding. And don't forget to pack some extra layers (hey, you've got your car, after all), as most of the campsites are situated around 9,800 feet.
For the most recreational options, best views, and fewest crowds, drive the extra two miles to camp along Grizzly. Camping along Lincoln Creek is permitted from late May to late September. When the sun sets it can get quite brisk. Unfortunately, trailer space is limited, and it's a first-come basis.
3. Maroon Bells
Situated five miles southwest of downtown Aspen up Maroon Creek Road, the Maroon Bells is not just a bucket-list photo opportunity, it’s also an incredible place to car camp, with excellent hiking and views that will spoil you forever. With three main camping areas, Silver Bar, Silver Bell, and Silver Queen, and 12 total campsites, the Maroon Bells camping season lasts from late May to late September.
For the most stunning scenery and fewer crowds, aim to camp at Maroon Bells in mid- to late-September (i.e., now). This time of year it’s possible to enjoy spectacular golden leaves set against the snow-dusted Bells. And, as a bonus for car glampers, the campsites offer vault toilets, water and trash facilities. Trailers are not allowed and reservations are required.
4. Lost Man Campground
With high-alpine views and fresh air galore, Lost Man Campground is located 14.5 miles east of downtown Aspen on Highway 82. In addition to the gorgeous vistas of Independence Pass , Lost Man Campground provides exceptional hiking access to Lost Man Loop and Midway trail. Because the 10 campsites are situated at 10,500 feet near the treeline, technical, warm outerwear is recommended, even throughout the summer, including cold-weather sleeping bags. Camping season at Lost Man ranges from late May to late September (are you picking up on a trend yet?). Glampers might find the Lost Man area to be a bit chilly at nightfall for their liking, but they’ll appreciate the onsite vault toilets, water, and trash facilities. Trailer space is limited and sites are available on a first come basis.
5. Weller Campground
Providing great access to fishing and hiking around Weller Lake, the 11-site Weller Campground sits nine miles southeast of Aspen on Highway 82. Overnighters at Weller also enjoy access to vault toilets, water, and trash facilities. Situated around 9,400 feet, Weller is another Independence Pass campground where warm layers and a cold-temperature sleeping bag is recommended: As soon as the sun goes down in the Rockies, the temperature drops significantly. The first-come sites are open from, you guessed it, late May to late September, and trailer space is limited.