South Platte Ranger District Current FAQ
South Platte Ranger District FAQs
Q: Where can I go camping?
A: You should make reservations if you are camping in developed campgrounds from Memorial Day through Labor Day at Recreation.gov, at least four but no more than six months in advance.
During winter months, reservations are not needed as open campsites operate on a first-come first-serve basis. There are no camp hosts, no trash service, and no water available. Bathrooms are the only amenities. We have no way of knowing real time availability. During the summer, most campgrounds fill up by Friday afternoon.
If you are going to be camping more than 1/4 mile from a road (for example backpacking) you must be at least 1/2 mile from campgrounds, trailheads and designated dispersed sites. You must be at least 100 ft. from water and trails.
If you are interested in dispersed camping (i.e. front-country car camping along roadways) you must be parked and camped in a designated site only, including day use parking. No parking or camping is allowed outside of designated sites. Designated dispersed campsites are posted with a sign indicating ‘P’ for parking and a tent symbol for camping.
The primary areas for dispersed camping include Buffalo Creek Recreation Area, Cedar Mountain area, Geneva Creek area, Hall Valley area, Matukat area, and the Rampart Range Recreation Area. Some sites in the Rampart Range Recreation area require reservations through Recreation.gov. Review the South Platte Ranger District recreation page for additional dispersed camping information and locations. Dispersed camping is not allowed at any time along the South Platte River Corridor (Cheesman Canyon to Foxton Road) or along the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway.
Q: What campgrounds are open?
A: Depending on the weather and mud conditions, all campgrounds are projected to open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. To check the status of any campsite please check our Forest recreation page for a complete list. All campgrounds except Geneva Park and Goose Creek have an extended season through September, about half stay open through December, and some are open year-round. Designated dispersed camping is available year-round depending upon road closure status.
Q: Where can I go hiking at this time of year?
A: All trails that are not affected by the mud season road and trail closure are open. You should always check for any use restrictions or closures before you head out for your hike. Please be mindful that winter and spring months present unpredictable trail conditions when you are more likely to encounter icy and muddy trails. We highly recommend traction devices for your hiking boots. Check out Colorado Trail Explorer for updates on trail status and conditions while you plan your hike.
Q: Are there any fire restrictions in place? Can I have a campfire?
A: Fire bans can be put in place by counties or the US Forest Service, and can change rapidly. Check the following resources for current informaiton:
Q: Where can I go target shooting?
A: You can participate in recreational sport shooting at:
- NFSR 108B (Harris Park) located off NFSR 108. Larger area suitable for short and long range. Coordinates: 39.5319° N, 105.5068° W
- NFSR 528G, (Kelsey Creek) located off Highway 126 in Buffalo Creek. Smaller area suitable for short distance. Coordinates: 39.329974° N, 105.2494 W
- Camp Fickes Shooting Range located off NFSR 550 in Buffalo Creek. Managed area suitable for short to long distance. A day use fee or annual membership to the Buffalo Creek Gun Club is required. Coordinates: 39.3496° N, 105.3684° W
- South Platte Target Shooting Information
There is a permanent shooting closure in the Rampart Range area. Please be mindful that in drier conditions, sparks from shooting may cause wildfires. You can not shoot at trees and must find a suitable back stop. You must also pack out your shooting litter, collect all shell casings and target materials, and dispose of them properly.
Check out our shooting restrictions map before you go target shooting. South Platte Ranger District is the third page.
Q: What are your shooting regulations?
A: According to the Code of Federal Regulations (title 36), recreational shooting can take place on National Forests and Grasslands in areas designated by the shooting restrictions map under these conditions:
- You must be at least 150 yards from a residence, building, campsite, developed recreation area, or occupied area.
- If you are shooting in daylight. Shooting is not allowed after dusk or before dawn.
- If you are not shooting across or on a road or any body of water.
- If you are not shooting into or within a cave.
- If you are not shooting in any manner or place where any person, property, or resource is exposed to injury or damage as a result of such discharge. Please note there are many parcels of private land in the district boundary, it is your responsibility to know where the private land is located.
- If you are not firing any tracer bullet or incendiary ammunition.
- If you are not using an explosive, including explosive targets. An explosive target is defined as any chemical compound, mixture, or device with the primary/common function of explosion, for example: tannerite.
- If you are not intoxicated.
- If you are not shooting at any tree, alive or dead.
- If you are not shooting in restricted areas. See map.
- If you are not leaving litter. Targets, shells, casings – anything you brought with – must be packed out of the forest.
Regulations specific to the South Platte Ranger District include:
- You must use targets manufactured for shooting. Targets made of paper, plastic, cardboard, shooting-safe metal, and clay are all acceptable.
- Since you cannot shoot at trees, targets need to be free standing or you will need to bring a mount/stand.
- Please also check with the appropriate county for shooting bans or ammo restrictions, especially when fire restrictions are in effect.
Q: I have a complaint or report of illegal activity, who should I talk to?
A: If a person is in immediate danger, call 911. Otherwise, know that we appreciate your help. Providing the location of the event or pictures of the illegal activity help with our investigations. Please provide accurate contact information so we can follow up with additional questions or to report back on the outcome of our investigation.
Q: I want to report a missing/lost/injured hiker.
A: Please contact the appropriate county sheriff to dispatch search and rescue. They will need to know the last known location and travel plans, it will be critical information for search and rescue.
Rampart Range/Devils Head Lookout Tower
Q: Is the Rampart Range Recreation Area open?
A: Rampart Range Recreation Area road access is closed annually from December 1-April 1 to passenger vehicles, and is only accessible during this period via ATV/dirt-bike/hiking/biking (less than 50" width). This area closure is weather dependent and may be extended as needed (April 1-June 15). If extended it will fall under a mud season closure order prohibiting all motor vehicle use during this time.
When road access is closed, determined folks can still get to the Devils Head trailhead by walking or biking along the road. The distance from the north gate to the trailhead is about 9.5 miles.
When road access is open, the hike from the trailhead to Devils Head Tower is about 1.4 miles. The main trailhead has limited parking, please use the overflow parking area before the gate for Devils Head as parking on the side of the road could prevent emergency vehicles from gaining access to the trailhead.
Currently, the fire lookout and stairs will remain closed for the 2021 season for safety and repairs. We do not have an estimated opening date.
Q: Is ______________ road open?
A: Many roads have seasonal closures for winter conditions, big game winter range, and during mud season. Dates for primary routes given below are target dates. Spring-time closures are weather-dependent and may be extended or rescinded as needed.
- Crow Gulch/Slaughterhouse (NFSR 101) - Closed; Jan 1-June 15
- Beaver Creek (NFSR 123) - Closed; Jan 1-June 15
- Kenosha East (NFSR 126) - Closed; Jan 1-June 15
- Kenosha West (NFSR 810, 811, 811A, 811B, Closed Jan 1- June 15
- Rampart Range Recreation Area (NFSR 300) - Closed; Dec 1-April 1 but closure may be extended through June 15 depending on the weather.
- Guanella Pass Scenic Byway (PC 62/CC 381) - Closed from Thanksgiving-Memorial Day Weekends. This closure is weather dependent and is administered by Park and Clear Creek Counties.
Q: Can I cut firewood in the National Forest?
A: Yes, forest visitors may cut wood on the National Forest with a permit. Our fuelwood program usually runs from late May-November. General firewood collection is all dead or downed wood, no live trees may be harvested.You will need to be aware of chainsaw restrictions in the summer. There is a 4-cord minimum purchase, 10 cord maximum, at $10 per cord. Please contact the South Platte Ranger District office to make an appointment to purchase a permit.
Q: Where can I cut firewood?
A: Areas vary throughout the year but if there’s a specific location, wood type, or other special request (post-and-pole, pine needles, aspen, etc.) forward them to one of the foresters to work out a forest products permit. You may call to schedule an appointment starting mid-may.
America the Beautiful Interagency Passes (National Parks Pass)
Q: Does your office sell park passes?
A: Yes, unless we have run out of stock. Call our offices to confirm availability. The prices vary with the type of pass (annual, senior lifetime, access, etc.). Passes cover day use fees on National Forest, Senior/Access passes get 50% off campground/trailhead/day use fees. America the Beautiful Interagency Passes
Q: What are the conditions in Lost Creek and Mount Evans Wilderness?
A: Generally speaking, you should be prepared for wide temperature ranges and unpredictable weather. The nights are cold, even in the summer. Bring warm gear and a few extra pairs of socks. The afternoons are stormy in the summer. Thunderstorms can roll in without any warning, lightning can be a huge risk and you should always bring rain gear. Hikes above tree line, about 11,000 ft. or more, should be planned for the early morning to avoid afternoon storms. Hypothermia is a very real risk if you get wet and cannot dry off. Some stream crossings can be difficult or may become impassable during high water conditions. During dry conditions water resources may be scarce.
Q: Does your office sell maps?
A: Yes, we sell the National Forest Maps for $14. We do not sell topogaphic quads or NatGeo maps.We have our free Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs), these show what roads we have on the ranger district, what you can ride on them, and also display annual closures. The MVUMs show all the districts within the Pike and San Isabel National Forests Cimarron and Comanche Nationa Grasslands. Other district MVUMs can be found online or by stopping in at the district you wish to visit. If we are not available during business hours, we do have a supply for your convenience at our information kiosk outside our office.
Q: You don’t have the map I want, where else can I look?
A: We suggest searching the online USGS Map Store or at the BLM office on Youngfield in Lakewood. You should call ahead to ensure they are open. REI and other similar outdoor stores sell the NatGeo Trail Illustrated Maps.
Download Avenza Maps or COTREX (Colorado Trail Explorer), these are handy Smartphone apps with a nice selection. COTREX is great for trails around Colorado, Avenza lets you purchase and download official USGS and National Forest maps to your phone.