A Vanlife and RVers Guide to Boulder
Vanlife has been a part of Boulder's DNA since the 1970s when hippies flocked to this University town at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. While Boulder doesn't have any campgrounds, there's a lot to see and do here while passing through in your van, camper or RV. Wave hello to our vintage VW bus mobile visitor center, and pick up a copy of a book on vanlife cooking, written by a Boulder couple.
We welcome you to roll on into town, fill up and spend the day checking out our hiking trails, biking on 300 miles of bikeways, strolling downtown Pearl Street, dining at incredible restaurants or picnicking among 45,000 acres of scenic open space.
Park and Explore
See the Famous Flatirons
Those slanting ochre sandstone formations you'll see in our logo and referenced all over town are Boulder’s pride and joy. An up-close look at the Flatirons for yourself is a must. Head to Chautauqua Trailhead, where you can take some pictures and go for a hike on an extensive trail network if you'd like. (On summer weekends, you can ride the free Park-to-Park Shuttle from the CU Regent Lot or downtown to avoid parking hassles.)
Stroll Pearl Street
If the Flatirons are Boulder’s pride and joy, Pearl Street is its heart and soul. With four brick-paved blocks closed to traffic, this open-air promenade has the energy of a European plaza, lined with dining and shopping, great for people-watching and catching street performances.
Visit the Boulder Reservoir
Cruise out to Boulder Reservoir to picnic, swim, sunbathe or rent a paddleboard to float around this scenic spot that's been called one of Boulder's best beaches. Before you go, check entry fees and hours.
Go for a Hike or Nature Walk
Put your feet on a trail for some nature therapy and adventure. Two gentle but spectacularly scenic trails are available at Wonderland Lake or Bobolink Trailhead. If you would like more of a workout, head to Realization Point (be prepared for a short but steep and winding drive up Flagstaff Road) and try Range View or Boy Scout trails. And if you're really looking for a lung-buster, try Green Mountain or Bear Peak.
Museum of Boulder
The Museum of Boulder tells Boulder’s story with the most fascinating multimedia exhibits, starting with the area's Indigenous history, covering the town's culture-defining hippie movement and illuminating the Boulder of today. The museum has spacious galleries, a maker's workshop and a rooftop that's perfect for photo ops in front of the Flatirons.
Taste Tea at the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse
How a hand-carved, hand-painted and hand-assembled Persian teahouse ended up in Boulder is quite the story (read it here). You can visit Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse and enjoy a cup of tea — one of dozens of varieties they serve, sourced with care from across the globe. A nice, big, shady patio beside Central Park makes this a great place to dine outside.
Thanks to several city-supported art programs, Boulder has seen a recent explosion of murals, with more than 135 scattered across town. On our murals page, you’ll find a map, so you can visit clusters of murals in neighborhoods across Boulder.
Where to Camp With Your RV, Camper or Trailer
While there aren’t any RV parks in Boulder, there are a few RV-, camper- and trailer-ready campgrounds nearby. Keep reading below.
Additionally, A-Lodge Boulder has two reservable camper van spots. This hotel in beautiful Boulder Canyon feels very woodsy yet is just two miles from downtown. They do not host RVs but welcome Sprinter vans and vanlife-style vehicles under 20 feet in length with no generators. Hookups are not available. You’ll have access to the hotel amenities, including a pool, plus you'll be close to all kinds of outdoor recreation.
Leave plants, rocks and historical items as you find them so others experience the joy of discovery.
Lavern M Johnson Park
In nearby Lyons, Colorado, about 30 minutes north of Boulder, this pretty park on the St. Vrain Creek is close to town but is close to nature, too, with fun activities like tubing, playing in the splash pad and picnicking. There are 16 RV sites in the parking lot with full water, electric and sewer hookups. Reservations recommended.
Boulder County Fairgrounds Campground
The Boulder County Fairgrounds Campground is a more urban experience in the center of Longmont, Colorado, about 30 minutes north of Boulder. There are 96 sites in a parking-lot setting with lots of trees. Open year-round, with water and electric hookups and a dump station, spots are available on a first-come, first-served basis with no reservations and cash-only payment.
Pack it in, pack it out. Better yet, leave a place cleaner than you found it by picking up any trash you see. Put litter, even crumbs, peels and cores in your nearest waste or recycling bin.
Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Just 40 minutes southwest of Boulder, this state park is a high-alpine escape that feels far from the city. Beautiful Reverend's Ridge Campground sites 1-59 have electric hookups and can accommodate RVs. Reservations are needed, as this campground fills up fast.
Brainard Lake Recreation Area
About 55 minutes west of Boulder is a wonderland of forest, crystalline lakes and mountain streams just off the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway. The Pawnee Campground is near the beloved Brainard Lake, against a dramatic backdrop of jagged peaks, and has 47 campsites for tents, campers, trailers or RVs, with no hookups. Reservations are needed, as this campground fills up fast.
Kelly Dahl Campground
In a thick forest just off the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway, about 35 minutes from Boulder, Kelly Dahl Campground has 46 single-family sites that will accommodate tents, trailers or RVs. No hookups. Twenty of these sites are first-come, first-served and the rest are by reservation.
Peaceful Valley Campground
This small but scenic campground on the St. Vrain Creek in a glacial valley has 17 sites, nine of which are suitable for RVs. No hookups. A handful of the sites are reservable and the rest are first-come, first-served.
Our low humidity has its perks but can create dry, dangerous conditions. Always check for fire restrictions before making a campfire. Keep them small and manageable to avoid sparking wildfires. When putting out a fire, water it until you can handle the embers. Never let a fire burn unattended.
Is there boondocking near Boulder?
Most of the free, dispersed camping near Boulder requires a high-clearance vehicle, but small RVs, campervans and pop-ups may enjoy West Magnolia. This stunning area near Nederland, Colorado, is about 35 minutes from Boulder. There are 22 designated campsites that are free on a first-come, first-served basis. A network of trails meanders through the aspen trees at West Magnolia and are popular with hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders. Check for road closures before you go, as its high-altitude location means this area can remain closed into June.
FAQs About RVs and Campers in Boulder
Can I rent a camper van in Boulder?
Yes! A-Lodge Boulder has an impressive fleet of vans to rent and a variety of models, from cushy Sprinters to off-road-ready teardrops.
Where can I picnic?
Boulder is surrounded by 45,000 acres of open space and mountain parks. There's no better city to picnic with a view. We've assembled some of our favorite picnic spots.
Where can I shower?
Are there work or study spaces available?
Yep. There are close to two dozen coworking offices in little old Boulder. Here’s a list of (coworking spaces, laundromats, etc). In addition, the Boulder Public Library, located right downtown and with a couple of branch locations, has study rooms that you can reserve online for up to two hours a day.
Where can I park for a few hours?
Depending on what you want to do while you’re in town for the day, we may be able to recommend a parking area. Please call us at 303-442-2911.
Where can I do laundry?
We're a college town and therefore have plenty of laundromats! Here's a list.
Where can I wash and vacuum my RV or camper?
Boulder has a few self-service car washes. All have decent-sized bays for larger vehicles.
Where can I fill up on water?
To our knowledge, the nearest spot is the Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont, about 30 minutes northeast of Boulder. The City of Boulder no longer offers bulk water fills.
What about gray and black water dumping?
The nearest spot is the Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont, about 30 minutes northeast of Boulder. The dump station fee is $10.
Where can I deposit my trash and recycling?
Any roads I should avoid?
Longer rigs should avoid driving up Flagstaff Road due to a few steep and tight switchbacks.
I'm headed to Rocky Mountain National Park! Anything to know?
Yes, from late May to early October, you’ll need a timed-entry reservation. Also, dogs aren’t really allowed in the park, except in parking lots.