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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 46,000 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.)

Hiking the Scenic Chautauqua Trail

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.

Enjoying a Glass of Wine on Pearl Street

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.

Boulder Reservoir Beach

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.

Wildflowers on a Boulder Trail

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.

Museum of Boulder

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.

Photo by Denise Chambers

Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse Patio

Mural Tour

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.

Street Wise Mural Behind Boulder Theater

Try an Electric Bike Tour

If you’ve never tried an e-bike, you’re in for a treat. You'll feel like a superhero zooming up hills with the greatest of ease. The best way to see Boulder by e-bike is on a tour, but you can also rent an e-bike. Learn more in our e-biking guide.

Group Riding E-Bikes on Boulder Streets

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 It As You Find It

Leave plants, rocks and historical items as you find them so others experience the joy of discovery. 

Nearby Campgrounds

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.

Keep It Clean

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.

Golden Gate Canyon State Park

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.

Brainard Lake

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.

Campfire Safety

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.

Ready for dispersed camping?

Dispersed camping takes preparation. Read this checklist to determine if it's for you, if you're prepared and where you can go.

Camper, RV and Van Parking for the Day in Boulder

Vans are allowed to park downtown in parallel spots, and you must pay for as many spots as your van occupies, even partially. You can also find spots in city parking garages. For specific parking garage height limits, reference the city's Parking Garages page and navigate to the bottom section, "Van Access."

Boulder has a historic and continued commitment to land preservation, so the city doesn't offer many large parking lots, but there are a few options. Larger RVs, campers and trailers will need to look for street parking or larger parking lots like those at BasemarNCAR, Twenty Ninth Street Mall or Diagonal Plaza, if you also intend to patronize the businesses there.

As a reminder, there is no overnight camping in the city of Boulder.

FAQs About RVs and Campers in Boulder

Upcoming Events

It can get lonely out on the road. Plan your trip around an event to celebrate with like-minded folks!

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