Close this search box.

Forest Road 130 Dispersed Camping Near Leadville, Colorado: Ultimate Guide

The Arkansas River Valley is a spectacular spot in central Colorado, surrounded by the towering Sawatch Range including the state’s tallest peak, Mount Elbert. The region is popular among hikers, climbers, anglers, and many others for all kinds of recreation,  including dispersed camping! There are lots of developed campgrounds in the area where you pay for an established site with a fire ring and table, with access to bathrooms and amenities. However, if you want a more rustic and affordable alternative, consider dispersed camping along Forest Road 130. There are no fees, no amenities, and no reservations – which makes it feel like a real mountain adventure. 

Here’s a comprehensive guide to dispersed camping along Forest Road 130 near Leadville, Colorado.

Forest Road 130 Dispersed Camping Fast Facts

Forest Road 130 Dispersed Camping Guide

Click on a topic area below to learn more about dispersed camping available along Forest Road 130 near Leadville, Colorado. Have a question or thought to share? Leave a comment at the bottom of the page. 

Area Description and Map

This forest road runs for several miles in the foothills below Mount Elbert, with close proximity to Leadville (15 minutes), the Mount Elbert Trailhead (15 minutes), Weston Pass (30 minutes), Turquoise Lake (20 minutes), and other great local spots to check out. 

It is a bit off the beaten track, with lots of spots and privacy available even during busy holiday weekends like Labor Day. There are a variety of sites ideal for tents, campers, and even RVs..

While the road is dirt and 4WD is recommended, it is accessible by most 2WD vehicles. Dispersed campsites are found along Forest Road 130, 130.A, 130.B, 130.C, 130.D, and 130.S in the map below. 

Photos - Forest Road 130 in Colorado

Pre-Trip Planning

When dispersed camping, you are on your own. Cell phone service is not guaranteed, and there are no bathrooms, water, or facilities. Planning ahead and bringing along the right gear is the secret to having a safe and successful camping trip. Here are three key considerations:

Check the Weather Forecast

Know before you go! Research the weather forecast for your trip several days before you go and plan accordingly by bringing the proper clothing and gear. If the weather looks particularly bad, consider rescheduling if possible. Visit the National Weather Service forecast page for Forest Road 130 below:

National Weather Service Forecast

Pack the Right Gear

Self-sufficiency is essential while dispersed camping. You must provide all of your own supplies and gear, including firewood, fuel, food, water, and toilet paper (an easy thing to forget!). Start with the ten essentials, add camping basics like your tent, sleeping bag and pad, and remember everything you need for cooking, cleaning, and free time around camp. Read my complete dispersed camping packing list for more info.

Pack the Right Gear

Many local counties, towns, ranger districts, and national forests have their regulations and restrictions – especially regarding fire bans and rules. You can find info on current restrictions for the Leadville Ranger District and San Isabel National Forest below. Always abide by fire bans and restrictions – violations create a risk of wildfires. In many areas, violating a fire ban is a criminal act with severe penalties.

Lake County Fire Restrictions

Getting There

Forest Road 130 is accessible by most 2WD vehicles with reasonable clearance. Go slow and take your time. Once on public land, you can drive until you find a campsite along the road that meets your needs. Do not create new campsites – this increases recreational impacts and leads to permits, reservations, and other regulations to manage the damage.


Leave town and drive south on US-24 for approximately 8 miles. Turn right onto County Road 10 and drive 0.1 miles, then take a right onto Forest Road 130. Drive for approximately 1 mile until you reach public land.


Leave town and drive north on US-24 for approximately 25 miles. Turn left onto County Road 10 and drive 0.1 miles, then take a right onto Forest Road 130. Drive for approximately 1 mile until you reach public land.

Campsite Selection

When looking for campsites, here are a few tips to find the best spot:

Get there early for the best options.

The best spots are taken earlier in the afternoon. Arrive in the morning or on a weekday to get the prime sites with the best views.

Look for campfire rings and clearings:

These are the tell-tale signs that you’ve found a potential campsite. Some are small, just large enough for one vehicle, others are massive.

Don’t pick the first site you see:

It is tempting to settle and snag something quick. I recommend making a list of options and then picking the best overall.

Only use pre-established campsites:

Forest Road 130 already has hundreds of campsites. Do not create new spots as this increases impacts on the environment.

Do not drive off approved roads and routes:

Trampling alpine meadows and grasses can cause long-term damage. Stick to established roads and do not go off-roading.

Respect private property rights:

This area is intermixed with private property parcels. Respect landowner rights by staying on public land and public roadways.

Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics

Dispersed camping provides a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural world. While it offers solitude and adventure, it also comes with the responsibility to protect and preserve the environment. Adopting Leave No Trace (LNT) principles is crucial for ensuring that these wild spaces remain unspoiled for future generations. Below are some essential Leave No Trace tips tailored specifically for dispersed camping along Forest Road 130 and similar remote areas.

Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Research Regulations: Before you go, familiarize yourself with any local rules and guidelines. Some areas might have restrictions on campfires, or special guidelines to protect local wildlife.
  • Prepare for Self-Sufficiency: Dispersed camping means no amenities. Ensure you have all necessary gear and supplies, including emergency and first-aid kits.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Site Selection: Choose a site that is at least 200 feet from water bodies and trails. The area should be free of vegetation and not in a meadow.
  • Minimize Impact: Stick to existing trails and campsites whenever possible. Do not create new trails or clearing areas for your tent.

Dispose of Waste Properly

  • Pack It In, Pack It Out: Carry out all trash, leftover food, and litter. Do not bury or burn them.
  • Human Waste: If no restrooms are available, dig a small hole at least 6 to 8 inches deep and at least 200 feet from any water source to dispose of human waste. Cover it when done.

Leave What You Find

  • Preserve Nature: Do not pick plants, disturb wildlife, or remove rocks and other natural objects.
  • Cultural Respect: If you come across any historical or cultural sites, admire them from a distance. Do not touch or take any artifacts.

Minimize Campfire Impact

  • Check Fire Restrictions: Always know the current fire danger levels and restrictions.
  • Fire Pits: Use established fire rings if available. If not, practice mound fires or use a fire pan to minimize impact.

Respect Wildlife

  • Food Storage: Store food and trash securely to avoid attracting wildlife to your site.
  • Safe Observation: Observe animals from a distance and never feed them.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

  • Noise Levels: Keep the noise level down to maintain the natural acoustic environment.
  • Privacy: Keep a respectful distance from other campers. If you happen to camp near others, respect their need for solitude.

Safety Info and Tips

Safety should always be a priority when camping in remote areas. Dispersed camping along Forest Road 130 presents its own set of challenges and hazards, but with proper precautions, you can mitigate risks and fully enjoy your outdoor adventure. Here are some safety tips broken down into three main categories: Wildlife Safety, Wildfire Safety, and General Safety.

Wildlife Safety

  • Be Bear Aware: Store food and scented items in bear-resistant containers or hang them from a tree at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet away from the trunk.
  • Maintain Distance: If you encounter wildlife, keep a safe distance and do not attempt to feed or approach them.
  • Stay Informed: Know the common wildlife in the area and how to react appropriately if you encounter them. For example, different responses are needed for moose, bear, or mountain lions.

Wildlife Safety

  • Check Fire Bans and Restrictions: Always check current fire danger levels and whether fire bans are in effect for the area.
  • Safe Campfire Practices: Use existing fire rings if available. Keep fires small and never leave them unattended. Fully extinguish the fire before leaving.
  • Emergency Equipment: Carry a small fire extinguisher, shovel, and extra water to quickly put out any accidental fires.

General Safety

  • Emergency Contacts: Make sure to have a list of emergency numbers, including the nearest ranger station. In many remote areas, cell service may be limited, so consider alternative communication methods.
  • First Aid Kit: Carry a well-stocked first aid kit and know the basics of first aid. Include specific items like antihistamines for allergic reactions or a snakebite kit, depending on the area’s risks.
  • Tell Someone: Always let someone know your plans, including when you expect to return. Provide them with a map or GPS coordinates of your intended campsite.

By staying prepared and informed, you can tackle most challenges that may come your way. This not only ensures your safety but also contributes to a more enjoyable and rewarding dispersed camping experience along Forest Road 130. Learn more by reading our complete mountain safety guide.

Things to Do Nearby

There’s a ton of things to see and do in this area near Leadville. Here are some of my top suggestions for nearby attractions and trails.


There are lots of short options for day hikes in the area. You can simply hike along the forest road or check out one of the options below:

  • The Colorado Trail – Segment 11
  • Emerald Lake Hike
  • Bartlett Gulch Loop
  • Lily Pond Lake Trail
  • North Halfmoon Lakes Trail


Forest Road 130 is located near several 14,000-foot peaks you can hike or climb. These are the closest and easiest 14ers to your locations:


You have several charming mountain towns within a 30-minute drive. Take an afternoon to explore them, grab a bite to eat, or visit the Saloon.

  • Leadville, Colorado
  • Buena Vista, Colorado
  • Salida, Colorado


If you want spectacular views without the climb, consider driving up one of the three major mountain passes in the area:

  • Independence Pass
  • Weston Pass
  • Mosquito Pass
  • Cottonwood Pass
  • Marshall Pass


If you are an angler at heart and want to catch some trout, you are in luck! There are lots of great lakes and creeks nearby (remember to get a fishing license in town first).

  • Turquoise Lake
  • Twin Lakes
  • Clear Creek Reservoir

Amenities and Facilities

There are no formal amenities or facilities along Forest Road 130. You are on your own. Pack your own water, firewood, food, and other essentials. However, if you run out of something or forgot it at home, there are some nearby stores and towns where you can get water and other supplies:

Nearest Gas Station: 

Fast Stop Travel Centers 6.5 miles away

Nearest Grocery Store: 

Stop ‘n Save – 11 miles away

Nearest Town: 

Leadville, Colorado – 6 miles away

Nearest Hospital: 

St. Vincent Health – 10 miles away


There are no garbage drop-offs or dump spots at this dispersed camping area. You must pack out all of your trash and take it home with you. Do not throw away trash at commercial properties, you may be stopped and ticketed potentially if caught on camera.

Frequently Asked Questions

Don’t see your question addressed in our FAQ section? Leave a comment below at the end of the guide and we will get you an answer as soon as we can with more information. You can also email us your question at

Q: Is dispersed camping allowed in Colorado?

A: Yes, dispersed camping is allowed in many areas throughout Colorado, particularly in National Forests and Bureau of Land Management lands. However, it’s essential to check specific rules and regulations for the area you plan to visit, as some places may have restrictions or seasonal closures.

A: Dispersed camping is typically permitted in most National Forests and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. Some other public lands may also allow dispersed camping. Always consult with the managing agency of the land you’re interested in to confirm where dispersed camping is allowed and what rules apply.

A: Generally, dispersed camping along Forest Road 130 and similar forest roads is free. However, some areas may require a permit or have other associated costs, such as recreation passes for adjacent areas. It’s advisable to check with the local ranger station for the most up-to-date information.

A: Dispersed camping in Colorado is a back-to-basics experience, often without amenities like restrooms or water sources. You’ll need to be self-sufficient and prepared to adhere to Leave No Trace principles. Additionally, be aware of weather conditions, wildfire risks, and local wildlife. Always check local regulations before setting out, including fire bans and other safety concerns.

A: The length of time you can stay at a dispersed campsite along Forest Road 130 may vary depending on local regulations. Generally, the maximum stay is 14 days in a 30-day period for most National Forest lands in Colorado. After the 14-day period, campers are usually required to move at least three miles from the original campsite. Always confirm the specific duration allowed with the local land management agency.

Leave a Reply

Enjoy this Article? Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Join 4,000+ other subscribers and receive mountain news updates, route guides, gear reviews, and other articles in our twice-monthly email newsletter.

Welcome to The Next Summit!

My name is Alex Derr. My mission is to inform, educate, and empower the public to safely and responsibly explore the mountains of west. Thanks for visiting; safe travels on the trail!

Click here to learn more!

Ads support our mission and impact.

14er Planner

Download my Colorado 14ers Planner for Your Next Summit!

Subscribe and get my free planner with all 58 peaks in the perfect climbing order.

14er Planner

Download my Colorado 14ers Planner for Your Next Summit!

Become a subscriber to download my free 14er planner. It lists all 58 peaks in the perfect climbing order. Get it now & start planning!