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Cool Dispersed Camping at 10,000 feet in Leadville, CO

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These two mountains are the main tourist draw to the Leadville area. On the left is Mt E;bert, the tallest mountain in Colorado and second tallest mountainn in the lower 48 states. On the right is Mt Massive which is the second highest mountian i Colorado and the third highest mountain in the lower 48 states. People flock here to climb them both, as well as the world class rafting, fishing and Jeeping.

These two mountains are the main tourist draw to the Leadville area. On the left is Mt Elbert, the tallest mountain in Colorado and second tallest mountain in the lower 48 states. On the right is Mt Massive which is the second highest mountain in Colorado and the third highest mountain in the lower 48 states. People flock here to climb them both, as well as the world class rafting, fishing and Jeeping.

After the RTR was abruptly ended I needed to decide where I was going to spend the rest of the summer. I  could just stay put in the area around Flagstaff for the rest of the summer but that seemed like a very bad idea! I was notorious with the Rangers in the Coconino NF so staying there seemed like begging for trouble! Even worse, June was a truly exceptionally hot month in Flagstaff, probably the hottest I can ever remember, which meant that it was time for me to be thinking about moving to higher ground to get out of the heat. While it’s possible to get up to 9000 feet in Arizona, I strongly prefer to be in Colorado at that elevation.
I've highighted one of the dispersed camping areas in red. You can see it is very close to town and has good 4G signal.

I’ve highlighted one of the dispersed camping areas in red. You can see it is very close to town and has good 4G signal.

Colorado is such an extremely mountainous state that  camping near a city at 10,000 feet with a good Verizon signal is actually very easy to do, and of all the places to do that my two favorites are Leadville, CO and Steamboat Springs CO. If you’ve been following my blog, you know I spent more than a month at the two of them last fall on my way home back to Arizona from my summer travels through the Rocky Mountains.  But because they are two of my favorite places, I’m always ready to go back!
Mt. Elbert from near our dispersed campsite outside Leadville, CO Bob

Mt. Elbert from near our dispersed campsite outside Leadville, CO

This year my good friend Randy and his intentional community he calls the “Band of Boondockers” was there and I’m always glad to hang with him and his exceptional group of friends, so I spent about 10 days with them. and had a truly wonderful time!!  I’m not really a big group guy but I went over every evening and sat around the fire with them and tremendously enjoyed the conversations–they even put up with my truly radical ideas!! You can learn more about their group in this post Randy put up on his blog:
Randy and his band of merry women and men!

Randy and his band of merry women and men!

It’s so amazing to camp at 10,000 feet! The temperatures never got over 75 degrees and the nights were cool enough to require an extra blanket–getting down to the 30s was common, so the temperatures were ideal as far as I was concerned! But one of Randy’s group had lived in Mexico for over 20 years and Leadville was uncomfortably cold for her, so after their 14 days were up, they left for lower elevations down by Salida CO. It’s more like 7-8000 feet above sea-level there which is cool but not as cold at night.
Many of us also noticed breathing problems with the thin air at 10,000 feet–myself included. I had been a campground host here in 2008 and even after spending 6 months in the area I still would wake up grasping for breath at night if my breathing got too shallow and slow. It isn’t enough of a problem to keep me from coming back, but the older you get the worse it gets and the more scared you are each time it happens!
Like many smaller towns, Leadville has an Aquatic Center where the public can go and swim and then shower for $6.

Like many smaller towns, Leadville has an Aquatic Center where the public can go and swim and then shower for $6. Look for one wherever you go.

By then I had been there for 1o days and it was time to move on anyway. I was generally working my way toward Jackson, Wyoming so a very logical next stop was at Steamboat Springs, so the day they left for Salida, I broke camp and left for there. I’ll tell you about that camp in my next blog post.

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  1. mike

    It looks like a beautiful place to spend your time and good company to boot.

    • Bob

      I loved it Mike!! Bob

  2. Cae

    I just spent 2 weeks in San Juan national forest and was amazed how crowded it was. But rio grand national forest was a little better. Of course, the tougher the road, the less people were there. The scenery, hiking and fishing were fantastic. Engineer pass was amazing! But I guess everyone in the rv world likes Colorado in the summer.

    • Bob

      CAE, 550 out of Durango to Ridgeway is probably one of the most popular roads in CO with the five Utah NPs just a little ways away and Mesa Verde NP nearby. That’s commonly called the GRand Circle and includes Grand Canyon NP and Monument Valley. If you include the San Juans, it’s probably the greatest collection of variety of stunning natural beauty on earth! Bob

  3. Calvin R

    Colorado looks gorgeous in your pictures. I would have to stick to somewhat lower elevations, but everything I’ve seen makes Colorado look good.
    Thanks for the videos, too. The lady with the truck camper is a happy camper indeed, and there’s information in that video that I needed to know about the Dodge Cummins and about Sprinters.
    Enigmatic Nomadics’ video with the CPAP user is very reassuring to those of us who use (or should use) CPAPs. Both his information and his attitude are useful.

    • Bob

      Thanks Calvin, we’re trying hard to get the word out that there are solutions to most problems in the nomadic life. Bob

  4. Greg

    Bob, I have no use for snow, so Colorado at the higher elevations, which I love, are “no go zones” for me. BUT, those same places in the Summertime are some of my favorite, and most beautiful, spots in this country. I would guess that there are plenty of RV services and facilities around, too, no? Thanks for taking us along! -Greg

    • Bob

      Greg, I’m the same way! At the first hint of snow I break camp and head off to Utah where it will be cool enough and the crowds will have left. I find those two to be an incredible place to spend the fall. Winter of course is in AZ. Yes, there are plenty of places for RVs but there is also an unlimited amount of dispersed camping for free for RVs.

  5. Cindy

    Beautiful! I am so jealous. I want to make it happen. Hope I can soon. Thanks for sharing Bob. Cindy

    • Bob

      Glad you liked it Cindy. Bob

  6. Roxy

    I spend my summers in Estes Park, Colorado. At 7,800 feet it can get a little hot in the day (80’s) but cools off nicely at night. Last night (July 31) it was actually a little chilly, I slept in my lightweight sleeping bag. However, I don’t recommend coming to Estes and expecting to stay here for free. There is hardly anywhere to camp, most of the forest has closed for one reason or another. The only reason I can do it is because I have permission to camp in some friends driveways, surrounded by wildlife, trees, and meadows. Last night I was woken by a bear, if my door had been open he would have come right in!
    Bob, if you pass through Estes, please let me know, anyone else too…

    • Bob

      Thanks Roxy, I’ve always wanted to go to Estes Park, but the crowds keep me away! Maybe one of these days. Bob

  7. Queen

    Looks gorgeous, Bob. I admit, I’m a bit more partial to Northern NM than CO, just different views for different folks I guess.

    • Bob

      Queen, we all like different things. Bob


    I’m jealous! We’re in Wenatchee, WA (only 780′) and it’s HOT! When we first rolled up, our host (Boondockers Welcome) was pointing out his 30 amp outlet, the 50 amp outlet, water, etc. I was bragging about our huge 420 watt solar panel and how we live as if we’re plugged in 24/7 (but we never run the AC). I didn’t realize how HOT it was until I stepped out of the truck. Pretty soon I’m shaking his hand and explaining we might have to take him up on that power offer. :o) So now we’re sitting inside with the AC on *and* our ceiling fan on HIGH. Our wireless tether from our goofy T-Mobile phone works here too! Our host is quite the artist — builds HUGE wind chimes and other interesting pieces. We’re headed outside in a few to walk the cats and take some pics. Annie likes her 80s during the day but 70s are plenty warm for me . . . and the cooler at night (above freezing) the better. :o)

    • Bob

      WA can be surprisingly hot, especially at those low elevations. Glad you’ve got a solution to it. Bob

  9. Doug Rykerd

    Hey Bob, I thought you might have been in that area, but didn’t have anyway to touch base. I went up to visit Swankie for the weekend and came back over Battle Mountain and Tennessee Pass. Makes for a much nicer drive than I70 as long as you don’t mind mountain roads. Stopped for lunch at Camp Hale.
    Sadly I won’t be able to get up to Steamboat this year – just flat running out of time. Near the end of August I need to move my mother in law back to CA and I hope to bring my bike and ride back. Plus a backpacking trip with my youngest before he heads back to college.
    As usual, enjoy the journey and thanks for continuing to share your awesome pictures.

    • Bob

      Thanks Doug, sounds like you are keeping very busy! Bob

  10. joe

    When r u heading to steamboat or did u already come over also I plan on going to salida also this is my favorite town to hang out any who if I run into ya fine if not take er easy bob

    • Bob

      Joe, these posts are pretty late, I’m in Oregon now.

      • Lucy

        Bob, are you by the ocean ? lucky you enjoy, we, in Southern California are roasting our buns off, LOL !!
        My regards, Lucy.

        • Bob

          Lucy, I’m in Oregon but nowhere near the coast, it’s been hot but bearable. Bob

      • joe

        He what are your thoughts about Oregon I know a few from Colorado that moved to bend or and Lincoln City or it seems to have food Temps year round thanks

        • Bob

          Joe, so far I like it a lot! We had about a week of very warm temperatures (mid-90s) but otherwise its been great!
          1- Huge abundance of free camping,
          2- very nice people.
          3- Tons of beautiful National Forests and
          4- no problem getting good internet signal
          5- No sales TAX!!
          6- Some really beautiful mountains but no continual hard mountain passes!
          What’s not to LOVE! Bob

  11. Al Christensen

    The way I see it, shortness of breath at high elevations is nature’s way of telling me to take another nap. 😉

    • Bob

      You can’t argue with nature!

      • Lucy


    • Lucy

      Love naps ! specially after i retired having all the time in the world to nap, life’s good !!!! LOL.

  12. Charlie Confer

    I’m just heading out for our first boondocking adventure. We are go from Grand Forks North Dakota (the eastern border of the state), to the Oregon coast and back. We are thinking 4-6 weeks. I gladly welcome any advice or suggestions. Thank you!

    • Bob

      Charlie, that sounds like a great trip, lots of really beautiful places along that route. I’d suggest using’s route planning tool. Also, I’d look at for her campsites through there.
      Finally I’d strongly suggest you join my forum, and post your plan and ask for advice on where to go and what to see, you’ll get lots of great travel advice as well as all the ideas, help, encouragement and friends you could ever need. Find it here:

      • john

        I think all of you are a bit crazy , what will you do when old age sets in and you need help with medicine because your mind is about gone which won’t let you remember what to take or even what to do that day

        • Bob

          65 years of misery in trade for maybe (that’s a huge maybe) 10 of good times. If that math works for you, go for it. It doesn’t work for me.

        • Joe in Missouri

          John the way I see it if you stay away from doctors and learn about being healthy through proper diet, sleep, exercise, and mental status, “medicine” will be needed and my mind will be sharp.
          The alternative is a mindset of failure and dependency that is at the very least encouraged by the medical monopoly. They cover up symptoms and never even give a moment’s thought to cause or cure. The system that many pine for is just smoke and mirrors and not the medical care that I would choose to avail myself of.
          It’s a fact (check on your own) that your average US doctor dies before age 60.

    • Al Christensen

      You’re going back to ND for the winter? I guess that makes you reverse snowbirds. Brrrrrr.

  13. roadtripous

    Bob,it’s nice to read that you are checking out Oregon. Just today I got
    back home in Oregon. After camping with you. Outside of Williams,Az.
    I hope you find a lot of beautiful and cool places.

    • Bob

      It’s been great so far. We had about a week of very hot, but then it cooled down just fine. I’m near Sisters and it sure is pretty here! Bob

  14. john

    Bob , if everyone lived like this who would produce the food you eat , the gas you burn , the meds you might need , make the clothes you wear and so much more . God made us to be productive and to follow our calling in life , which is not roaming all over living off of other people . Somebody has to work to keep all these things going and so much more ,,,but I bet this won’t get published now will it .John

    • Bob

      John, we’ll have to agree to disagree. In the several million year history of humans, for all but the last 10,000 we were totally non-productive and nearly all of us just wandered around living off each other. That’s what’s written into your DNA, todays way of life is horribly destructive to us, which is why in every measurable way we are the least happy and contented people who have ever lived. Name a statistic and it’s worse today than ever, depression, antidepressant use, alcoholism, illegal drug use, stress related disease, suicide, polls on life satisfaction, every form of behavioral addiction and mental illness is at all-time highs. We are the least happy and most heartsick people ever!!!
      Worse, we have slaves around the world making our cheap crap we just throw away, we exported our horrible environmental damage all over the world so brown and black children can work themselves to death in mines and sweatshops and die of COPD in cities where they never see the sun because the air pollution is so horrible.
      No, we are a toxic cancer on this planet and we must be stopped. Preferably we will come to our senses and make course corrections that solve these problems, but we won’t. Instead we will wait for the earth take care of us in some catastrophic way.
      I’m doing what I can to prevent that. Every person that drops out of American society is one more who is not a soldier in the war against the planet. A war we are guaranteed to lose. Bob

  15. Jay H

    Bob,Hi,I just came cross Cheap RV Living. It makes me want to do it. I am 69yrs young, and getting ready for Retirement. I love to travel, and see all of USA. I am looking vans, of all types, Brother is helping me. I am a little scared, to do this by myself. What can you tell me, to help me.

    • Bob

      Jay, there are two things I think will help you not feel alone:
      1) I’d strongly suggest you join my forum, you’ll get all the ideas, help, encouragement and friends you could ever need. Find it here:
      2) Come to the RTR which is the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, a large gathering of nomads in Quartzsite, AZ in January. Everyone is welcome–no restrictions, no fees, no dues, no joining!!!! We are dedicated to 100% freedom. You’ll make so many friends–you won’t feel alone again! More info here:

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