Mount Shavano Dispersed Camping | Maps, Photos, Details, & More

The area around Mount Shavano and Tabeguache Peak, two of Colorado’s 58 fourteeners, offers spectacular options for dispersed camping near the main trailhead. Located on a mix of forest service and Bureau of Land Management property, you can camp here for up to 14 days without fees or reservations. There are limited facilities and no drinking water available, but the towns of Poncha Springs and Salida are less than 20 minutes away.

Here’s a complete guide to dispersed camping along Chaffee County Road 250/252 near Salida, Colorado.

Mt Shavano Trailhead Dispersed Camping: Fast Facts

Mt Shavano Trailhead Dispersed Camping Guide

Click on a topic area below to learn more about dispersed camping available along Chaffee County Road 250/252 near Salida, Colorado. Have a question or thought to share? Leave a comment at the bottom of the page. 

Area Description and Map

Mt Shavano Trailhead Dispersed Camping

This dispersed camping area is located northeast of Poncha Springs. The first half of the road is on land owned by the Bureau of Land Management. The remainder is on land managed by the US Forest Service. There are more than a hundred dispersed camping spots along the road on both sides, starting in a mix of sagebrush/plains and transitioning gradually to evergreen and aspen forests and meadows.

The first several miles of the road are dirt and gravel and can be driven by most 2WD vehicles, RVS, and trailers. The road gets more difficulty the further you go, but most vehicles can reach the Mt Shavano trailhead and areas beyond it if you go slow and steady. The best campsites are further up, so fight the urge to snag the first open spot you see.

Photos - Chaffee County Road 250/252 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 the Mt Shavano trailhead below:

Mt Shavano Trailhead 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 Chaffee County 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.

Chaffee County Fire Restrictions

Getting There

Chaffee County Road 250 is accessible to most 2WD vehicles with reasonable clearance. Go slow and take your time. The road gets worse the further you go, but most vehicles can make it all the way to the trailhead.

Drive until you pass a sign stating you are entering public land. From this point onward, you can camp in any sustainable campsite you come across that isn’t taken or closed off. 

Please do not create new campsites; It increases recreational impacts and leads to permits, reservations, and other regulations to manage the damage.

Here are directions for reaching the Mt Shavano trailhead along County Road 250/252.

FROM BUENA VISTA:

Take State Highway 285 south from town and drive approximately 21 miles. Take a right onto Co Rd 140 and drive 1.8 miles. Take another right onto Co Rd 250 and drive 7.2 miles to reach the trailhead .

FROM SALIDA:

Leave town and drive west on US Highway 50 for approximately 6 miles, continuing on through Poncha Springs after 4 miles. Turn right onto Chaffee County Road 250 and drive 8.2 miles to reach the Mt Shavano Trailhead

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:

The area around the Mt Shavano Trailhead already has dozens 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 Chaffee County Road 250/252 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 Chaffee County Road 250 and 252 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 near the Mt Shavano Trailhead. 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 Salida. Here are some of my top suggestions for nearby attractions and trails.

GO FOR A NEARBY HIKE:

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:

  • Boss Lake Trail
  • Colorado Trail
  • Fooses Creek Trail
  • Greens Creek Trail

 

CLIMB A COLORADO 14ER:

The Mt Shavanot Trailhead is located near several 14,000-foot peaks you can hike or climb. These are the closest 14ers to your locations:


EXPLORE A MOUNTAIN TOWN:

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.

  • Salida, Colorado
  • Buena Vista, Colorado
  • Poncha Springs, Colorado
  • Leadville, Colorado


DRIVE UP A MOUNTAIN PASS:

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


FISH AT AN ALPINE LAKE:

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).

  • Boss Lake
  • Hunt Lake
  • Twin Lakes
  • North Fork Reservoir

Amenities and Facilities

There are no formal amenities or facilities along Chaffee County Road 250 and 252. The one exception is a pit toilet available seasonally at the Mt Shavano Trailhead. Other than that, 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: 

Shell Station, Poncha Springs – 9.5 miles away

Nearest Grocery Store: 

LaGree’s Market, Poncha Springs – 10.7 miles away

Nearest Town: 

Poncha Springs, Colorado – 10 miles away

Nearest Hospital: 

Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center – 14 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 info@thenextsummit.org.

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, which includes Chaffee County Road 250 near Salida, Colorado. 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: Here is what I recommend packing for dispersed camping:

  • Tent/RV
  • Sleeping bag, pad/cot, and pillow
  • Drinking water
  • Food
  • Stove and fuel
  • Toilet paper and hand trowel
  • Extra layers
  • Firewood and matches
  • Camping Chair
  • Headlamp & batteries
  • First Aid Kit
  • Satellite Communicator
  • Maps/GPS/Compass
  • Battery Charger
  • Cell Phone

A: The best time of year to camp along Chaffee County Road 250 and 252 is generally late May through early October. While you can camp before or after this time period, the weather is much colder, snow is possible, and you will need winter camping gear. This is not recommended for beginners.

A: Chaffee County Road 250 and 252, which leads to the Mt Shavano Trailhead, is a great place to camp before and after hiking Mt Shavano and Tabeguache Peak. There are dozens of sites available, all first-come, first-serve, and the road is 2WD accessible all the way to the trailhead. The best spots are closer to the trailhead or just beyond it if you continue along the road.

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