“Come stay in our yurt and meet our little herd of camels!” read the listing in Hipcamp, describing an off-grid, 35-acre property in Trujillo Canyon surrounded by Bureau of Land Management and national forest lands.
I saw the note while planning a daddy-daughter trip with my 10-year-old and chose “Camels and a Yurt” as our base to explore Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, plus some nearby hot springs.
Hipcamp is one of many campground-finder apps — aids that have expanded the number of places to sleep under the stars (or under a canvas roof) and the ease in which to find them.
Sure, this particular spot would cost more than a standard public campground (it goes for $110 per night), but it was easy to rationalize the choice, what with it being our first road trip in a year and my birthday week. Plus, we’d have it all to ourselves — except the camels and a couple of donkeys, that is.
Campsite-sharing apps are useful for finding and booking traditional campgrounds on public lands, but they have also opened up a universe of campgrounds and glamping sites on private land, plus a smattering of tepees, cabins and yurts in faraway places. Some of these spots come with camping equipment and meals, while others simply offer a free spot to park your RV.
Ultimate U,S, Public Campgrounds is an additional, powerful app for public lands ($3.99; thank you, Bearfoot Theory, for the suggestion). For pros who book their campsites six months to the second ahead of time, check out Campnab ($10/month service), a tool that scans sold-out parks for new cancellations and then sends a text message if one matches your requirements. It does not book the site; it just makes note of availability. Similarly, CampAddict.com checks for open reservations, including at state parks, every few minutes and emails you when a site becomes available.
Here are a few more campsite-listing apps to try:
Campendium (free, iOS only) is a massively popular crowd-sourced database of campgrounds with 460,000 members discussing some 32,000 locations. An online community of campers share site photos, GPS coordinates, camping fee updates, reviews and reports on local cell carrier coverage. The app has single-tap search for nearby RV parks, campgrounds on public lands, free camping sites, RV hookups, overnight parking and dump stations.
The Dyrt (free, Apple iOS and Android) allows you to search, review and reserve campgrounds based on user-generated information regarding tent and RV sites, plus some cabins. The Dyrt maintains an online space “for campers to connect with other campers” and boasts 1 million campsites, reviews, photos and tips. It gets about 50 new reviews a month for roughly 1,300 campgrounds in Colorado. The Dyrt also has direct-booking capability and millions of users.
Hipcamp (free, Apple iOS) is a camping and glamping list that includes 750 campgrounds in Colorado, both private and public.
Tentrr (free, iOS only) specializes in upscale campsites, or glampsites, on private land. These sites usually include most of the gear you’ll need, making this service ideal for people who don’t own camping gear and are looking for an escape. At most Tentrr sites, you get a canvas tent on a platform, camp chairs, fire pit, portable toilet, cookware and a queen-sized air mattress.
In addition to glamping, it lists affordable primitive tent sites (take your own tent and gear) located on private property. Working with Tentrr Partners, it offers curated glamping sites and exclusive sites on state land. You can add host extras and guided local activities. Sites start at $15/night.
Harvest Hosts ($99-$139/year) lists 45 host locations in Colorado (out of 2,000 in the U.S.) that allow you to camp or park your RV at wineries, trout ranches, farms, golf courses and distilleries, to name a few of the exclusive locations.
All Stay Military Campground (free, ad-free) is for current and former military members and their families, offering them an exclusive database of campsites and RV parks, with reviews, photos, weather information, and navigation to the destination. Check out the “Tents for Troops” list of 165 campgrounds that will provide two nights of free camping for active duty, reserves and National Guard servicemen.
onX Backcountry is aimed at hikers, backpackers, backcountry skiers and snowboarders, and also campsite-searchers. Its various layered maps boast more than 650,000 miles of trails and half a million points of interest like campsites, cabins, river put-ins, waterfalls, scenic stops, and breweries. I like how you can tell land designations (BLM is yellow, state land is blue, etc.) by color.
Finding free campsites:
Free Campsites (free, Android) is a community-driven platform for finding campgrounds and campsites.
Boondockers Welcome ($50/year, boondockerswelcome.com) is a network of landowners who will let you boondock, or park your RV for free, on their property. Your RV must be self-contained (i.e. all sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation must happen inside the vehicle, especially a toilet system and a built-in grey water tank). Founder Marianne Edwards calls it, “the driveway equivalent of couch-surfing,” which “saves on camping fees, builds community, and beats staying in a Walmart parking lot.” Hosts pay nothing and RVers pay a $50 annual subscription for an unlimited number of stays at any of the 44+ host locations in Colorado (or the 2,800 host locations across North America).
RVParky is a great resource for finding all kinds of campsites, from free parking at Walmarts as you make your way to your destination, to state parks and private campgrounds.
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All Stays Camp & RV ($9.99) includes paid and free/dispersed campsites, plus places to park for free, including Walmarts, rest stops and casinos. It also lists water, RV dump stations, and other RV services.
iOverlander is a free crowd-sourced app, meaning that users submit information about places they’ve camped. It’s one of the most comprehensive databases of free camping that we know of and covers all of North America. Users can upload photos, a description, and other information, like cell service and internet availability, along with GPS coordinates. There are some paid campsites on iOverlander as well.
FreeRoam: Campgrounds, Boondocking & RV Parks is an Android app for camping where you can also make friends select camping sites and night parking sites.
Mapsovercoffee.com is a road trip and camping publication.
GAIA GPS (app is free; full benefits, $39.99/year, iOS only) is a map app for hiking, off road, and backcountry adventures. The topography maps include dispersed (free) camping sites.
Campin app (free; premium, $24.99/year) is specific to Colorado. It is a curated site of free camping around the state.
CoPilot RV (free) includes reliable offline navigation and finding RV services.
Faithfulparking.com is a directory of churches and faith-based organizations that let RVers park in exchange for a donation.