Three girls sit on a log holding sticks near a tent at Yampa River State Park.

Yampa River State Park

Speckled along a 134-mile stretch of the Yampa River, primitive campgrounds reside on the sprawling plains and gently rolling hills of Yampa River State Park. This northwest Colorado haven, just a five-minute drive west of Hayden, will put you at ease with its placid waters, meandering banks and spacious high-desert landscapes. Stay for a day or for a whole week — nobody’s keeping time here.

Yampa River State Park offers a laundry list of activities that will suit even the most avid of adventure-seekers. Glide down the gently flowing river on a paddleboard or sprawl out along the bank for a moment of serenity. Anglers will find themselves right at home with a sizeable rainbow trout population and unfettered access to the river’s crystalline waters. Birdwatchers will revel in the diverse wildlife like sandhill cranes or Lazuli buntings and gaze in awe at the unmatched scenic backdrops for all their photo-taking adventures.

There are four primitive camping areas operated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife within the park, each with five to 10 campsites. Stake your claim at East Cross Mountain for easy access to the towering walls and Cross Mountain Canyon's class IV–V rapids. Or if you’re scouting out the perfect OHV, mountain-biking or hiking trail, hole up at Juniper Canyon. Boaters and flat-water enthusiasts will enjoy Maybell Bridge and Duffy Mountain for the accessible boat ramps.

What makes it special?

It’s the sheer variety of camping options. This isn’t a fight-over-a-spot campground that many well-versed travelers are acquainted with. While you’ll still need to reserve a spot with Colorado Parks & Wildlife, they’re widely available — even for RV campers. The lots are spacious, clear of debris and equipped with all the amenities you’d expect like restrooms, tables, grills and fire rings.

A family walks along a gravel trail by the river at Yampa River State Park.
A family boating on Yampa River at Yampa River State Park with hills in the background
Four children tend to a campfire by a tent with green-leafed trees in the background at Yampa River State Park.

The most “Colorado” thing about this place

The build-your-own-adventure feel of Yampa River State Park makes for a one-of-a-kind Colorado experience. Whether you want to laze about soaking up the sun, engage in a high-adrenaline activity like whitewater rafting or immerse yourself in the history of the region — there’s something for everyone.

Top sensory encounter you’ll experience

Pitch your tent next to the rushing Yampa River and watch the golden sunset as you fall asleep to the soothing sound of flowing water.

A starry night sky at Yampa River State Park

Our favorite traveler review

“I love this campground and have been here many times. It is lush and green and right on the Yampa River. I take my RV here for birding and now they have an osprey nest with an active pair, to my joy. The place is very well cared for and the people are exceptionally nice. Highly recommended!” — Don, Google

Things to see & do nearby

Dinosaur National Monument is one of the top attractions in the world for dinosaur enthusiasts. Incorporating more than 210,000 acres of land across Colorado and Utah, this site is brimming with activities to fill your vacation itinerary. Bask in wonderment at the Quarry Exhibit Hall as you observe 1,500 late-Jurassic fossils, including the great long-necked Diplodocus. Walk in the footsteps of the region’s earliest human inhabitants — the Fremont people — as you explore the pictographs (paintings) and petroglyphs (carvings) strewn about the sandstone alcoves. Dinosaur National Monument is a one-hour drive west of Hayden along U.S. Route 40.

If you’re already in northwest Colorado, you’d be remiss not to visit Ski Town USA — Steamboat Springs. Just a 30-minute drive east of Yampa River State Park, this iconic city has more than 150 natural mineral springs to soak in — the ideal way to unwind after a long day of activities.


Photos courtesy of Colorado Parks & Wildlife