A backcountry-style campsite on Staunton State Park, which is located in Jefferson and Park counties, 6 miles west of Conifer. The 3,908-acre park, which opened on May 18, 2013, is one of the five parks taking part in the reservation-only pilot program this year. 

Courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife

You know when you show up at a campsite — tent, s'mores and family in tow — only to find out one isn't available? Starting on Jan 1, 2019, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will transition to reservation-only camping at 15 more state parks.

This conversion comes after a pilot program was successful at five parks in 2018. Park managers at Cheyenne Mountain, Eleven Mile, Staunton, St. Vrain and Trinidad Lake gave auspicious reports of the new system.

The expansion gives campers more autonomy by allowing them to reserve their own spots from six months in advance to the day they plan to arrive at the park. Previously, users needed to book a site at least three days in advance.

Travis Duncan, spokesperson with CPW, said this change will help the agency meet users’ expectations.

“This is us trying to catch up with the times and make sure we’re offering the same kinds of services that are just becoming standard,” Duncan said.   

Duncan said managers have reported more patronage and less conflict and traffic for visitors. It also gave parks staff more time to focus on other things.

“Park managers in the pilot program said that this is a huge help,” he said.

Also beginning Jan. 1, CPW will retire its $10 reservation fee and will implement a citation system for campers who occupy a site without a reservation.

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The 15 state parks that will be added to the list in the new year are:

Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area

Boyd Lake

Cherry Creek

Golden Gate Canyon

Highline Lake

Jackson Lake

John Martin Reservoir

Lathrop

Mueller

North Sterling

Pearl Lake

Ridgway

State Forest

Steamboat Lake

Yampa River

State parks joining the program on April 1, 2019:

Lake Pueblo

Chatfield