Looking for a free mountain getaway close to the front range cities and possible on a limited budget? The Woodland Park, Colorado area may be just the place for you. You can have a two week camping trip in a quiet Rocky Mountain setting with no camping fees. Dispersed camp sites near Woodland Park are situated in the Pike National Forest and are on federal forest service land, so there is no charge for camping. Rangers do patrol the area and will occasionally enforce the two week limit and require you to leave.
As with all dispersed camping locations you will need to be prepared and self contained. There are no facilities of any kind, and depending on the time of year there may be no other people to help if you get in a pinch. The roads are not maintained in the wintertime, so if you get caught in a snowstorm you may be taking an unintended extended vacation. A camper trailer or motor home with propane appliances is a good idea and could save your life in the event of a sudden unexpected weather change. Extra food is also not a bad idea if you have to wait out a storm and deep snow on the egress roads. There is cell and wireless coverage in the area, especially on the tops of the hills, so if you choose your spot carefully there is no reason to be completely out of touch with the modern world. An electric generator with extra fuel will enable you to keep your laptop and phones charged and even allow you to watch some movies if you need to kill some time after dark.
There are a number of very nice national forest dispersed camping areas in the Woodland Park area. Rampart Range Road is closest to town and can be accessed by taking Baldwin Road north from Highway 24 just before reaching town from the east. Baldwin becomes Rampart Range Road as you start to leave town and climb into the mountains. There are a couple of forks in the road which lead to some great backwoods camping and if you stay to the right you will climb to the top near Bald Mountain where there are some sites with excellent views of Pikes Peak and easy access to Rampart Reservoir for some great fishing if that is your calling.
Rainbow Falls Recreation Area is north of Woodland Park on Highway 67 just across the Douglas County line. Turn east into the recreation area and choose your favorite spot. Easiest access to a good number of sites can be obtained by veering left at the main parking area and hugging Trout Creek. This is also the best place for easy access to trout fishing. Sites are also available on the top of the ridge and can be reached by continuing to the right at the main parking lot and winding up the hill. This road is very rough and should not be attempted by the faint of heart. Camper trailers and motor homes have been seen at the top, but probably did not reach their destination without a few moments of sheer terror.
With access to hundreds of miles of forest roads in the Pike National Forest, Rainbow Falls is a favorite destination for ATV and dirt bike riders. The main drawback to this area is that this is also a shooting area and incessant gunfire can be unnerving. Gunfire near camp sites is supposed to be prohibited, but the occasional drunken fool shooting into the trees cannot be ruled out. Rangers do patrol the area, so report incidents of dangerous gunfire if you get the chance.
These areas can be very busy during holiday weekends and unless you like staying up all night listening to loud music and a lot of yelling and howling it is best to avoid the areas during the most popular holiday weekends. The areas can be accessed in the wintertime but four wheel drive is recommended in the event of bad weather.
Woodland Park has a number of good grocery stores if you need to restock your supplies, including Safeway, City Market, and a health food store on Highway 67 just north of the downtown area called Mountain Naturals. There are also several popular pubs and restaurants if you want to take a break from roughing it and enjoy some good food in a quaint mountain town.