The South Platte Ranger District 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.
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.
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 maps you may need to enjoy your visit on our District. We have Devil's Head Lookout and Smokey Bear T-shirts available for purchase.
Alert: Although the district address is listed as Morrison, CO neither our office nor any of our campgrounds, are located in the town of Morrison, CO. 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.
At a Glance
Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed on Federal holidays and weekends.
Some day use areas & campgrounds have day use and/or camping fees.
Wilderness areas have freeself-issuing permits at all trailheads to help quanify visitor use to help allocate funding.
Restrictions exist for motor vehicle use, including snowmobiles, ATVs, motorcycles, 4x4 vehicles, and other Off Highway Vehicle (OHV). Free Motor Vehicle Use Maps are available. These maps indicate which roads and trails are open to what type of vehicle.
The Interagency Senior Pass (previously known as the Golden Age Pass) and the Interagency Access Pass qualifies for a 50% discount at concessionaire run campsites. The discount only applies to the fee for the campsite physically occupied by the pass owner, not to any additional campsite(s) occupied by members of the pass owner's party.
19316 Goddard Ranch Court
Morrison, CO 80465
South Platte Ranger District Office:
From Denver, CO take C470 to Highway 285 South (toward Fairplay, CO). Travel 6.5 miles along Highway 285 to Goddard Ranch Ct. The district office is located on the left (across traffic) and is the 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.
The South Platte has numerous trails where mountain biking is permitted including several sections of the Colorado Trail. The most popular and best know biking area is the Buffalo Creek Mountain Bike Area which includes approximately 40 miles of trails that have been developed specifically for mountain biking. Weather permitting, riders can enjoy the trails eight to ten months of the year.
Safety on the trail
Wear a helmet, eye protection and other safety gear.
Buddy up with two or three riders as riding solo can leave you vulnerable if you have an accident or breakdown.
Drinking and riding don't mix.
Rules and common courtesy
Be considerate of others on the road or trail.
Ride only where permitted.
Leave gates as you find them.
Yield the right of way to those passing or traveling uphill.
Pack out what you pack in.
Remember, designated wilderness areas are reserved for the most primitive outdoor adventure.
Minimum impact camping
Select lightweight equipment, possibly in earth-tone colors that will blend with the surroundings.
Use existing campsites whenever possible.
Avoid building fires.
When climbing, shift to a gear that provides comfortable forward momentum and maintains traction.
When descending, apply enough brake to maintain control, but avoid locking your bike's wheels.
Avoid trails that are obviously wet and muddy to avoid trail damage.
Cross streams slowly, at a 90-degree angle to the stream. Walking may be preferable as stream bottoms are often slippery.
Weather permitting; riders can enjoy the trails eight to ten months of the year.
Some day fees may apply.
Trail Etiquette: With the increasing popularity of the Buffalo Creek area, it is important that all trail users understand and practice proper trail etiquette. When you encounter other trail users, make verbal contact by saying 'hello' or 'good morning' to get their attention. Once contact has been made, yield the right-of-way to other trail users. Remember, equestrians have the right-of-way in all circumstances with Hikers secondary. Mountain Bikers need to take special care when approaching other users, you should slow to a walking speed when passing and yield to all other trail users. Also, trail users traveling uphill have the right-of-way over downhill traffic. Courtesy is important and contagious!
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Areas for Mountain Biking at South Platte Ranger District
The South Platte Ranger District has 21 developed campgrounds containing a total of 341 campsites, and one group campground which can accommodate groups up to 125 people. Additionally, dispersed camping is available in several areas of the District.
There is a 14-day stay limit anywhere in the Forest; vehicles must be parked in established sites. No vehicle parking behind barriers. Please call the District office with any questions regarding locations for dispersed camping (303) 275-5610.
Campgrounds are in winter use: some are closed for the winter; those that are open do not have water. All campgrounds that are open are first-come-first-served.
Varies from $15 to $18 (peak season)
Most designated campgrounds are on a first-come, first-served basis. However, some are set up to accept reservations for the peak camping season: Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day weekend.
To reserve a site call 1-877-444-6777 or visit www.recreation.gov. Reservations must be made a minimum of 4 days in advance. The minimum stay for weekends is Friday and Saturday; 3 day minimum stay for holidays. Check in time is 2 pm; check out is 12 pm. *TIP: Know the name of the campground you wish to reserve for, as recreation.gov does not have first hand knowledge about the actual campgrounds. Those campgrounds that do not take reservations WILL NOT display on recreation.gov.
Because we are the closest district to Denver, our campgrounds see quite a lot of use during the summer months. Those that accept reservations see the highest use. There is no way of telling the availability of a first-come-first-served site before driving into the campground.
Hours of Operation:
All campground are open from Memorial Day weekend in May to Labor Day weekend in September. Some campgrounds remain open throughout the year.
Electricity and dump stations are NOT available at any site. Firewood is available from the campground host for a nominal fee. Water is not available at ANY site during winter.
Areas for Campground Camping at South Platte Ranger District
Dispersed camping is a great way to enjoy the outdoors free of charge. Dispersed camping is primitive camping out of the boundaries of the designated campground. Many areas exist where dispersed camping is open, however certain recreational areas are closed to dispersed camping and are signed on the ground as closed.
*Remember: when dispersed camping, no toilets or potable water sources are available.
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 (Park County Road 62). Dispersed sites are located on Forest Service Road (FSR) 118, as well as FSR 119. However, there is no camping permitted within the first mile on FSR 119. Camping at trailhead parking areas are not permitted.
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.
Keep these things in mind when dispersed camping:
Plan your trip: phone ahead for restrictions and special regulations
Pick a site at least 100 feet from a water source
Tread lightly and concentrate your impacts in already heavily used areas.
Use existing fire rings if possible.
Pack it in, pack it out, including trash and food scraps. Not all items will burn
Use catholes to properly dispose of human waste
Campfires are allowed as long as fire restrictions aren’t in place. You may gather small amounts of down, dead wood for a campfire. Keep your campfire SMALL and always make sure the coals are cold before leaving.
BEARS - When you go to the mountains and forest, you are in bear county. Do not leave ANY food, trash or other bear attractant unattended. Failing to do so can result in a fine.
Areas for Dispersed Camping at South Platte Ranger District
The South Platte climbing area is a broad and varied geographic region located in the Southern Front Range generally southwest of the Denver metro area and northwest of Colorado Springs. Its recorded climbing history dates to at least 1924 (Ellingwood Chimney, The Bishop). It is known for its quality crack climbs, slab routes, and towering summits, as well as some notable vertical face climbing. It is also appreciated for its traditional climbing ethics, year round climbing opportunities, and free dispersed camping. The rock is primarily Pikes Peak Granite and can vary from solid and fine grained to friable and very coarse.
Adjacent to the largest urban areas in Colorado, the South Platte Ranger District of the Pike National Forest provides quality fishing with easy reach. Only an hour's drive from Denver, the Gold Medal waters of the famous South Platte River offer a world-class fishing experience.
This special designation is given only to the best trout streams in Colorado. Anglers can try their luck fishing for elusive brown and rainbow trout in these waters. The popular Gill Trail, which was used by many fisherman to access Cheesman Reservoir, is now open as well as the Goose Creek arm of Cheesman Reservoir. Cheesman Lake proper is NOT open to public access.
Areas for River and Stream Fishing at South Platte Ranger District
Colorado is truly "Hiker's Heaven". Conquering the peaks, exploring the valleys and canyons and experiencing the solitude of the backcountry streams and rivers. The South Platte Ranger District has a number of excellent trails suitable for the beginning hiker to the advanced backpacker. Before setting out on your hike please view our outdoor safety tips for important information concerning your safety. These few simple guidelines can make the difference in a pleasant, memorable hiking experience or a disaster.
You may also want to visit these non-Forest Service sites for other Colorado hiking information:
Note: While we have tried to insure the accuracy of the information presented here, it should be understood that the distances and elevation changes may be affected by relocations of selected portions of trails. Furthermore, adverse trail conditions may require you to detour around sections that are impassable due to heavy snow accumulations, high water, washed out bridges, forest fires, or denial of access by private land owners. Please contact the district office or fellow hikers who are familiar with the trail and current conditions before your hike.
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Areas for Backpacking at South Platte Ranger District
The South Platte Ranger District has two designated sites for target shooting. The first one is located on Forest Service Road 528G. This area used to be a rock quarry and is an ideal place for short distance shooting. To get to this area, take US Hwy 285 South toward Pine Junction. Turn left (south) at the traffic light. Travel for approximately 13 miles. After you past Forest Service Road 550, 528G is located at the next right.
The second designated area is located in Harris Park. This area is perfect for long shooting targets. To get to this area, take US Hwy 285 South. After passing Pine Junction, turn right (north) at the traffic light. This is also known as Park County Road 43. Travel for approximately 8 miles. You will come to a "Y." Stay on your right hand side, which will be Park County road 47. Travel for approximately 5 miles. Follow signs to the shooting area.
We appreciate your cooperation and ask for you to clean up your shells, as well as targets and trash you brought with you. Please keep the areas clean for future usage.
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Areas for Interpretive Areas at South Platte Ranger District