Area Status: Open
The South Platte Ranger District is part of the Pike & San Isabel National Forests and Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands. It is located east of the Continental Divide in the central Rocky Mountains and lies adjacent to the Denver Metro area in Park, Jefferson, Douglas, Clear Creek and Teller counties.
It is proximity to Denver, with a population of over 2 million people, results in approximately 2,500,000 visits a year, a number that exceeds the total use on 47 National Forests across the Nation.
The South Platte District is 460,000 acres in size with elevations ranging from 5,800 feet in the east, to over 14,000 feet in the north.
At a Glance
Office hours are Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Closed on Federal holidays and weekends.
19316 Goddard Ranch Court
Morrison, CO 80465
Note: Although the address is listed as Morrison, neither our office nor any of our campgrounds, is located in the town of Morrison. The closest campground is at least an hour drive from our office. For camping near Red Rocks Amphitheatre, contact Bear Creek Lake Park at 303.697.6159.
|Rentals & Guides:
||Several resources exist for information on the South Platte Ranger District. The Pike National Forest map shows all recreational areas including trails, Forest Service roads, campgrounds, picnic areas, and Forest Service land vs. private land.
Trail guides, brochures and pamphlets are available at our main office and on our website. Other resources include National Geographic’s Trails Illustrated maps, Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM), USGS Topographical maps and numerous published trail guide books available at your local library, bookstore, or sports store. Call the office for free information sent to you by postal mail.
No entrance fees. Some parking areas and campgrounds have day use or overnight camping fees. Our campgrounds are operated by Rocky Mountain Recreation Concessionaire (RMRC) and honor a 50% for the Senior and Access passes. Interagency Annual passes are not subject to the 50% discount.
||Permits are not required for hiking, camping, horseback riding or general visiting of the National Forest. Wilderness areas do have free self issuing permits at all trailheads to help tally human use for funding.
Permits are required for products taken from National Forest, whether used personally or commercially, for events or gatherings on National Forest lands, or for running a business on National Forest Lands. Contact the office for more details. If in doubt whether you need a permit, phone the office for assistance.
||Restrictions exist for motor vehicle use, including snowmobiles, ATVs, motorcycles, 4x4 vehicles, and other Off Highway Vehicle (OHV). We issue a free Motor Vehicle Use Map which indicated which roads and trails are open to what type of vehicle. These are issued free of charge and can be obtained by phoning our office or from various other locations in the area.
Additionally, restrictions exist to limit human impact in wilderness areas.
Please practice Leave No Trace and Stay the Trail ethics.
||The South Platte District covers over 400,000 acres ranging from Larkspur to Guanella and Kenosha Pass.
Aspen Park / Conifer is 5 miles south of our main office on Highway 285.
Morrison is 11 miles northeast off Highway 8.
Click here for a map.
||Interagency Senior Passes and Interagency Access Passes provide for a 50% discount at Concessionaire operated campground. This does not include day fees or parking fees. Click here for more information regarding all America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Passes.
||Feel free to stop by our visitor center on Highway 285 in Morrison to inquire about current conditions, find out what's going on, and get any maps or books that you may need to enjoy your visit on our District. We carry a large selection of books, maps and other items from the Rocky Mountain Nature Association, as well as Devil's Head Lookout and Smokey Bear T-shirts.
Be aware the address and directions are to our main office, NOT TO ANY OF THE CAMPGROUNDS. The closest campground in our district is about an hour drive from the main office.
From Denver, take C470 to Highway 285 South (toward Fairplay).
Travel 6.5 miles along Highway 285 to Goddard Ranch Ct.
We are a left hand turn across traffic.
Last building in the driveway.
Signs along Highway 285 read "National Forest Information", "South Platte Ranger District", and "Goddard Ranch Ct."
Plenty of parking exists in front of the main office.
Trailers can circle around the office to turn around.
Obtain a map of the area you wish to explore and determine which areas are open for use.
Contact the land manager for area restrictions and if crossing private property, be sure to ask permission from the land owner.
Check the weather forecast.
Prepare for the unexpected by packing a small backpack full of emergency items.
Closures: After the destruction of the 1996 fire and flood in the Buffalo Creek area, several changes were made to this area. Top of the World, Baldy and Tramway campgrounds and Buffalo Picnic area have been completely removed. Forest Road 543 is closed to public motorized use from the forest boundary near Highway 126 to the intersection of Forest Road 550 near Buffalo Campground. Camping within .25 mile of either side of Buffalo Creek in this area is not allowed due to the risk of further flooding.
The Top of the World Road 538 has been closed to public motorized use and motorized trail 695 has been closed to ALL use. The bridge at the South Platte River for the Colorado Trail was washed out during the floods but was rebuilt and opened in Autumn of 1998. The trailhead at Highway 126 and Colorado Trail was closed and relocated of Forest Road 550 just off Highway 126.
Openings: Trails were constructed near Pine Valley Ranch Park which serve as a trailhead access to the north part of the recreation area.
Because of these changes you may wish to consider rerouting your access to the area. Trailheads at Forest Road 550 (at Hwy. 126) and Meadows Campground can be used to access the Colorado Trail and the southeast portion of the area. Trailheads at Pine Valley Ranch (just off Hwy. 126) and Miller Gulch (Forest Road 552) serve the north and west sections of the area. You can use County Road 68 southeast from Bailey and access much of the area faster than using Highway 126 through Buffalo Creek.
Since the southern portion of the area receives such heavy use, consider exploring the underutilized trails in the northern section by accessing from Pine Valley Ranch Park.
From Denver, travel Highway 285 South of C470 to the town of Pine Juntion. Turn south onto Highway 126. Travel about 6 miles to the Pine Valley Ranch Park area or 13.5 miles to Forest Service Road 550. On 550, turn west. Once on 550, you will see several trailheads and access points to the many trails of Buffalo Creek.
From Bailey, travel south on County Road 68 to County Road 70 or Forest Service Road 550. County Road 70 provides access to Miller Gulch and Buck Gulch trailhead; Forest Service Road 550 provides access to Gashouse, Buffalo, Shinglemill, and Little Scraggy trailheads.
There is a small parking area in the easternmost section of Forest Road 543 near Highway 126. Please do not block access on the 543 route as it is the only access to some private land in the area. There is additional parking across Highway 126.
Most campgrounds have wheelchair accessible restrooms and some wheelchair accessible picnic tables and campsites. Check the campground map for details.
Directions to each of the campgrounds is listed within the respective listing.
2 passenger vehicles included with the nightly fee. An additional fee for a 3rd vehicle will be assessed on site. Most campgrounds are more than 20 years old and can only accomodate smaller rvs. Very few sites are "pull through" sites.
Aside from dispersed camping along hiking trails, there are several areas in our district for dispersed “car camping”.
For camping near ATV trails, Rampart Range near Sedalia offers ample opportunities for dispersed camping. Camping can be done anywhere along Rampart Range Road where a “P” symbol, a campfire symbol, or a tent symbol exists. Take Highway 85/ Santa Fe south of Denver to the town of Sedalia. Turn west on Highway 67 for 10 miles. Turn south on Rampart Range Road 300. You will see dispersed sites along the road for the next 40 miles.
For camping near ATV and 4X4 roads, visit the Hall Valley road (Park County Highway 60). From Denver, take Highway 285 South into the mountains approximately 35 miles to Park County Highway 60. Turn north. After several miles, you will see some dispersed sites along the road. Please respect private land in this area and do not trespass.
For camping near hiking, biking, and small stream fishing, the area near Buffalo Creek has several sites. From Denver, take Highway 285 South into the mountains. At Pine Junction, turn south on Highway 126 for 13.5 miles. Turn west on Forest Service Road 550. For the next 4 miles, you will see dispersed sites along the road.
For camping in High Country near hiking trails, visit the Deer Creek area, the Guanella Pass road, or Kenosha Pass area.
Deer Creek area: From Denver, take Highway 285 South into the mountains. At Highway 43A, turn north for 7 miles. Bear left. Just past the Deer Creek Campground, you will begin to see dispersed sites along the road.
Guanella Pass road: From Denver, take Highway 285 South into the mountains. At the town of Grant, turn north onto the Guanella Pass road. After a few miles, you will begin to see dispersed sites along the road. Do NOT camp at trailhead parking areas.
Kenosha Pass: From Denver, take Highway 285 South into the mountains approximately 40 miles to the Kenosha Pass area. On the east side of the road, you will see a meadow. Turn onto the road that passes through that meadow. When you stop in front of the restrooms, you will see 3 roads. The road straight ahead is a dispersed camping area.
Please keep your vehicle within 1 car length of the main roads and on already established areas. Do not create further resource damage by driving off-road into the woods or behind barriers.