The Local newsletter is your free, daily guide to life in Colorado. For locals, by locals. Sign up today!
Every year, Labor Day weekend signals an end to summer, and therefore, a dramatic drop in camping excursions. There are plenty of excuses—school, work, cooler temperatures—but in reality, the long weekend doesn’t need to end the season of slumbering under the stars. Instead, why not make it a goal to slip in just a few more camping trips before the snow flies? But—and here’s the “but”—where should you go?
Colorado is home to a surplus of camping options: private and public, swanky and rustic, free and costly. Choosing can be a chore, especially when your options are difficult to nail down. But, like many things in modern life, there’s an app for that. Before you plan your next adventure, here are four to browse through.
Pro: Extensive listings (it’s like TripAdvisor or Yelp for campsites)
Con: Crowdsourcing can lead to inaccurate info and, because campground data is based on community information, not all campground pages are complete.
Built on details and descriptions from its members, the Dyrt has more than 10 million campers providing reviews and photo—more than anywhere else on the Internet. Because the Dyrt partners with 20 outdoor brands like Wenzel Tents, Primus Stoves, and Mountain House backcountry meals, Dyrt users also have the opportunity to get discounts on products, as well as win gear in monthly contests for providing campground reviews. This gamification is in part what keeps the site growing.
You can use the Dyrt to search for campsites, RV sites, and other lodging types—like cabins or glamping—and locations will pop up with color-coded icons: green tents have good reviews, red are low-ranking sites, and lime green is in-between. The gray icons indicate that there are no reviews yet. When you click on a site, information on access and amenities are included. As for the user reviews, some are helpful (cost for the site, access to water, etc.) and some read like diary entries (not so helpful).
Ultimately, you’re trusting the reviewers, but with extensive photos and some in-depth reviews, it’s information that can help you find the perfect camping spot.
Pro: Find unique camping opportunities, including spots on private land
Cons: Site doesn’t provide rates for government campsites like U.S. Forest Service and USDA land; not all sites are instantly bookable
According to Hipcamp, the site includes 9,299 parks, 18,183 campgrounds, and 364,414 campsites across the U.S. However, the real appeal of this app is that it also lists private land camping options, ranging from a place to set up in someone’s backyard to backcountry yurts and Airstream trailers. “By connecting landowners who want to keep their land undeveloped with responsible, ecologically-minded campers, we can use recreation to fund the conservation of this land,” according to Hipcamp’s website.
Do a search and you can filter by pet-friendly options or sites that are under $50 per night. In addition to campsites, you can also find opportunities to interact with the land, such as by foraging or working at a vineyard.
Pro: Find free dispersed camping on public land
Con: The Gaia GPS Topo Map is free, but the ability to overlay various maps and access to 250+ maps require a membership
Cost: To access all of this app’s functionality, you need a premium membership, which is $39.99 for the year. But if you’re finding free campsites instead of paying for them, the price could be worth it.
If the other apps on this list are straightforward, Gaia GPS is next level. With more than 250 maps from around the world, including National Forest Service, U.S. Geologic Survey, and U.S. Forest Service, you can plot your route ahead of time and download what you need in case you’re out of cell range. With Gaia GPS, you can find camping and car camping spots and also use it to track hikes (plus leave digital waypoints for things like potential camping sites and water sources).
“The app’s awesome because it lets you download maps that will show you your route and real-time location even when you’re offline or out of service—it basically turns your phone into a GPS unit using the built-in GPS trip,” says Corey Buhay, a Boulder resident who regularly uses the Gaia premium app. ”I usually use the USGS Topo map layer and the National Geographic maps whenever possible (they show a lot of campsites already marked on the map). For dispersed camping, I use the Public Land Overlay, which color-codes land based on the land management agency.”
Pro: Book federal campsites directly from the app
Con: The app only lists federal campsites, so it’s not as inclusive as some of the other apps
Of course, sometimes an oldie is still a goodie. Recreation.gov (and its accompanying app) is a key player in the campsite finding-and-booking game. With 3,500 facilities and activities and more than 100,000 individual reservable sites across the country in its database, you can search by area and filter by what’s important to you (price, amenities, site type, etc.). The website and app is a collaboration by 12 federal partners (including the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service).