Southwest Colorado stretches from Gunnison and Crested Butte to the Four Corners, where Colorado meets Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona. It’s home to quiet mountain towns booming with hiking trails, ski resorts, and water sports.
Beyond towns like Telluride, Durango, and Dolores, you’ll find Mesa Verde and Black Canyon of the Gunnison national parks, San Juan and Uncompahgre national forests, and several state parks.
These public lands are home to roaming wildlife, clusters of mountains that soar above 13,000 and 14,000 feet, impressive rock formations, extensive Native American history, and endless miles of trails leading you to untouched backcountry landscapes.
So why does this area of the Centennial State receive less attention than the Front Range? If you’re not driving, southwest Colorado is primarily accessible via regional airports, which can be expensive. But for RVers, this area is the perfect, less-crowded destination for your next road trip.
Best Time to Visit Southwest Colorado
Southwest Colorado is a year-round vacation destination. In winter and early spring, you’ll find powder and bluebird days at Durango, Telluride, and Crested Butte’s ski resorts. Beyond these ski areas, there are plenty of options for ski tours in the backcountry. Just be sure to travel with the proper gear, safety equipment, and avalanche training.
The spring is also the ideal time to visit the desert in southwest Colorado. The Dolores River Valley is the perfect time to escape the snowmelt and mud. You can mountain bike, camp, and float the river during this time of the year.
Once the snow melts, southwest Colorado is rife with activity. As the aspens and wildflowers explode, so do off-roading, climbing, hiking, fly fishing, and backpacking. Just beware of afternoon thunderstorms when planning adventures.
The most underestimated time of the year in this area is fall. It’s the least busy time of year for tourism, but it’s the most beautiful. The aspens erupt into golden hues, the looming peaks are blanketed with snow, and the stifling heat of summer subsides.
State Parks in Southwest Colorado
1. Sweitzer Lake State Park
Sweitzer Lake State Park is a small day-use water destination in Delta, Colorado. People travel here to boat, water ski, fish, swim, and relax. You can also spot an abundance of wildlife here, like waterfowl, foxes, pheasants, and Gambel’s quail. This park is located near Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
Although you can’t camp at Sweitzer Lake State Park, there are several camping options nearby, including campgrounds in the national park or Crawford State Park. In Black Canyon, you’ll find the North Rim Campground, which offers vault toilets, water, picnic tables, and fire rings.
“Great, shady campsites with trails along the cliff’s edge,” says a Campendium reviewer. “If you want to just relax, drink your coffee on the edge of the cliff and listen to the river below.”
RV Campgrounds Near Sweitzer Lake State Park:
2. Crawford State Park
Tucked away in the foothills of the Rocky Mountain’s West Elk Range is Crawford State Park. This hidden gem has a reservoir that offers a backdrop of Lands End, Mt. Lamborn, Needle Rock, and Cathedral Peak.
The park is visited year-round for fishing, birding, and water recreation. You can catch yellow perch, channel catfish, and widemouth bass––or spy sandhill crane, western grebe, and even bald eagles. Boating, scuba diving, and water skiing are other popular activities in this area.
Crawford State Park has two campgrounds, Iron Creek and Clear Fork. Iron Creek Campground is more suitable for RV camping, with 45 sites that offer electric and water hookups. This campground includes hot showers, toilets, a nearby dump station, and a boat ramp.
RV Campgrounds Near Crawford State Park:
3. Ridgway State Park
Ridgway State Park is perfectly situated between Montrose, Ouray, and Telluride under the guise of the San Juan Mountains. Montrose is an ideal place for resupplying and vehicle care, while Telluride and Ouray are beautiful towns practically painted into the mountains. Plus, Ridgway State Park is in Ridgway, another outdoor community offering art and history.
In these areas, you’ll find world-class climbing, hiking, single-track biking, camping, paddle boarding, gold panning, and more.
Regardless of whether you explore within or near the park, Ridgway State Park is the perfect home base. The park offers three campgrounds and a total of 258 RV sites. Take your pick from Elk Ridge, Dakota Terraces, or Pa-Co-Chu-Puk campgrounds. Each campground has stunning views, restrooms, laundry, a playground, and access to biking, hiking, and swimming. Dakota Terraces is the only campground that offers year-round RV services.
RV Campgrounds Near Ridgway State Park:
4. Mancos State Park
Situated between Dolores and Durango is Mancos State Park. This public area of land features Jackson Gulch Reservoir, a 217-acre lake.
With typically dry, mild weather, this area is a year-round destination. It’s busiest during the spring, summer, and fall for canoeing, kayaking, boating, single-track mountain biking, trail running, birding, and fishing.
Mancos State Park’s location allows for day trips to Mesa Verde National Park, Durango, Phil’s World, and an expansive system of hiking trails. You can even catch the Colorado Trail from here.
The park has 32 campsites split between two campgrounds, Main and West. These campgrounds are both situated in quiet ponderosa forests with access to the reservoir. Both campgrounds are dry, but the Main Campground has picnic tables, fire pits, vault toilets, and drinking water.
RV Campgrounds Near Mancos State Park:
5. Navajo State Park
Navajo State Park is located between Pagosa Springs and Durango, surrounded by the Southern Ute Indian Reservation. The park, Navajo Lake, and San Juan River extend into New Mexico. The lake is more than 25 miles long and considered one of Colorado’s largest lakes, even though most of it is in New Mexico.
Although this destination offers a variety of activities, the park’s main attraction is water sports, especially boating. There are two marinas, Two River Marina and Navajo Lake Marina. Powerboats, personal watercraft, jet skiing, and sailboats are all permitted within the park. You can even live on your houseboat in Navajo State Park.
Navajo State Park has three designated campgrounds—Carracas, Rosa, and Tiffany––and some primitive sites dispersed throughout the public area. Rosa Campground accommodates big rigs and is open all year round. It also features electric, water, and sewer hookups.
“You really cannot beat a full hookup with these views!” says a Campendium reviewer.
RV Campgrounds Near Navajo State Park:
Tips for Driving Your RV Through Southwest Colorado
- Be prepared for changing weather, especially during monsoon season in late summer.
- Download maps ahead of time. The area is more remote than most of Colorado.
- Always carry an emergency roadside equipment kit.
- The roads can be tight, windy, and steep. Be prepared for slower travel and do a routine RV maintenance check before you depart.
- You’ll be driving through mostly small mountain towns with delicate ecosystems. Remember to be a responsible and respectful tourist.