Camping At Colorado State Parks Can Resume Starting May 12

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A familiar sight to anyone who sleeps in a tent. Blackpackers, an organization that aims to encourage people of color to experience the Colorado outdoors, held its inaugural camp out Aug. 17-18 at Eleven Mile State Park west of Manitou Springs.

Gov. Jared Polis announced Monday that camping in state parks can resume as early as Tuesday, May 12.

“Camping, of course, is a safe activity,” Polis said. “Most of our campsites are 50 [to] a hundred feet apart."

Visitors have not been allowed to camp in state parks since Colorado Parks and Wildlife closed campsites in late March. All reservations through May 11 were canceled and full refunds provided.

Counties will still have final jurisdiction over whether to allow camping at the state parks in their borders.

Coloradans must have a reservation for a campsite before they head out.

While campsites open, cabins, yurts and other shared shelters will remain closed while parks and public health officials develop safety protocols. 

“We know that the outdoors are a big part of our way of life in Colorado," Polis said. 

Tom and Carrie McNamara, a retired couple in Fruita, are avid hikers and campers. They hike about three times a week and go camping six to eight times during the summer.

They have a camping trip scheduled next week at Ridgway State Park, and were worried for weeks that it would be canceled.

“We grew up camping and introduced our children to it as well,” Tom McNamara said. “It’s been a part of our life forever.” 

He said that if he didn’t have hiking or camping, he wouldn’t know what else he would do. 

“It opens up your brain,” Tom McNamara said. “It’s relaxing, it’s calming, stimulating at times depending on what you see. Being on the river and watching the water go by is just fantastic.” 

“If we didn’t have that outlet, we’d strangle each other,” he joked. 

Camping itself was never the problem, Polis said, but the fact that people tend to frequent restaurants and make other stops on their way to parks. He recommended that Coloradans get all their necessary supplies at home, drive straight to the parks and then come right back home. 

“Don’t risk infecting areas that have been freed from the virus,” Polis said. “We want to limit those interactions and just enjoy the outdoors for the sake of the outdoors.”