South Platte Ranger District - Recreation


View of the surrounding moutains from Devil's Head Tower.

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 450,000 acres in size with elevations ranging from 5,800' along the South Platte River, to over 14,000' at Mount Evans.

Feel free to stop by our visitor center on Highway 285 in Conifer to ask what's going on and get maps you may need to enjoy your visit on our district. The district manages the Devil's Head Fire Lookout.

Note: For camping near Morrison or Red Rocks Amphitheatre, contact Bear Creek Lake Park at (303) 697.6159, or Chatfield State Park at (303) 791.7275.

At a Glance

Fees: Some day use areas & campgrounds have day use and/or camping fees.
Permit Info:
Open Season: Year-round
Restrictions:
  • Restrictions exist for motor vehicle use, including snowmobiles, ATVs, motorcycles, 4x4 vehicles, E-Bikes, and other Off Highway Vehicles (OHV). Free Motor Vehicle Use Maps are available. These maps indicate which roads and trails are open and to what type of vehicle.
  • Dispersed camping and parking is allowed in designated sites only on the South Platte Ranger District. Designated sites are posted with "Parking" and "Tent" symbols.  No parking or camping outside of designated sites.  Store all food and trash securely and pack out what you pack in.
  • Wilderness restrictions apply to all designated Wilderness areas. 
  • Climbing Area Restriction: Cliff and Rock faces along Jackson Creek Road 502 restricted from March 1 until July 31:  
Please practice Leave No Trace and Stay the Trail ethics.
Closest Towns: Conifer, Aspen Park, Morrison
Passes: The Interagency Senior Pass and the Interagency Access Pass qualifies for a 50% discount at concessionaire run campsites and picnic areas. 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. Day use is free for holders displaying the Interagency Annual Pass.
Operated By: Forest Service
Information Center: South Platte Ranger District: 30403 Kings Valley Drive, Suite 2-115, Conifer, CO 80433 - Phone: (303) 275-5610 - Hours: Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed on Federal holidays and weekends

General Information

Directions:

South Platte Ranger District Office:

From Denver, CO take C470 to Highway 285 South (toward Fairplay, CO). Travel 17.5 miles along Highway 285 to Kings Valley Drive. The office is located to the right, on the upper/north level of the building.


Parking:

There is limited parking in front of the office. Trailers should park in the lower level lot on the south side of the building.


Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information

Activities

Mountain Biking

The South Platte area has numerous trails where mountain biking is allowed including some segments of the Colorado Trail. The best know biking is in the Buffalo Creek Recreation Area, which includes over 50 miles of multi-use trails developed with mountain biking in mind.  Staunton State Park and Indian Creek offer other good riding alternatives nearby.

General Info:

Safety Information

Rules of the Trail

IMBA developed these "Rules of the Trail" to promote responsible and courteous conduct on shared-use trails. Keep in mind that conventions for yielding and passing may vary in different locations, or with traffic conditions.

  1. Ride Open Trails: Respect trail and road closures. Ask the appropriate land manager for clarification if you are uncertain about the status of a trail. Do not trespass on private land. Obtain permits or other authorization as required. Be aware that bicycles are not permitted in areas protected as state or federal Wilderness.

  2. Leave No Trace: Be sensitive to the dirt beneath you and the environment around you. Wet and muddy trails are more vulnerable to damage than dry ones. When the trail is soft, consider other riding options. This also means staying on existing trails and not creating new ones. Don't cut switchbacks. Don't ride around standing water which results in widening the trail. Be sure to pack out at least as much as you pack in. Consider improving the trail experience for those that follow by picking up and removing any litter.

  3. Control Your Bicycle: Inattention for even a moment could put yourself and others at risk. Obey all bicycle speed regulations and recommendations, and ride within your limits. Social conflicts on trails often result when riders are going too fast.

  4. Yield Appropriately: Do your utmost to let your fellow trail users know you're coming — a friendly greeting or bell ring are good methods. Try to anticipate other trail users as you ride around corners. Mountain bikers should yield to other non-motorized trail users, unless the trail is clearly signed for bike-only travel. Bicyclists traveling downhill should yield to all users headed uphill, unless the trail is clearly signed for one-way or downhill-only traffic. In general, strive to make each pass a safe, controlled and courteous one.

  5. Never Scare Animals: Animals such as horses are easily startled by an unannounced approach, a sudden movement or a loud noise. Give animals enough room and time to adjust to you. When passing horses, dismount from your bike, walk around them on the downhill side of the trail, use special care and follow directions from the horseback riders (ask if uncertain). Running cattle and disturbing wildlife are serious offenses.

  6. Plan Ahead: Know your equipment, your ability and the area in which you are riding and prepare accordingly. Strive to be self-sufficient: keep your equipment in good repair and carry necessary supplies for changes in weather or other conditions. Always wear a helmet and appropriate safety gear.


Seasonal Information

Weather permitting; riders can enjoy the trails six to nine months of the year.


Permits & Regulations

Electric bikes (or E-bikes) are considered motorized vehicles and are ONLY allowed on routes open to motorized travel by the public.


Fees: Day use fee for Little Scraggy Trailhead and overnight fees at Developed Campgrounds.

Areas for Mountain Biking at South Platte Ranger District - Recreation

Road Cycling

Areas for Road Cycling at South Platte Ranger District - Recreation

Campground Camping

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.

There is a 14-day stay limit anywhere in the Forest; vehicles must be parked in designated sites only. No vehicle parking behind barriers. Please call the District office with any questions or check Recreation.gov.

Current Conditions: Winter use: most campgrounds are closed during the winter season; those that remain open do not have water. All campgrounds that are open during winter are first-come-first-served.  Campgrounds that remain open year round are; Deer Creek, Lone Rock, Platte River, Ouzel, and Osprey.
Fees: Overnight use varies from $18 to $22, day use is $7.
Reservation info: Most developed campgrounds have sites that are available 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 Recreation.gov.  Reservations must be made 4 Day(s) ahead of arrival and can be made up to 6 Month(s) in advance. 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. Those campgrounds that do not take reservations will not display their availability on Recreation.gov.
Permit: Interagency Senior Passes and Interagency Access Passes provide for a 50% discount at concessionaire operated campgrounds.
Usage: Because we are near Denver, our campgrounds see significant levels of use during the summer months. Those that accept reservations often 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 normally open from Memorial Day weekend in May to Labor Day weekend in September. Some campgrounds remain open throughout the year.
Rental info: Hook-ups (water/electric) and dump stations are NOT available at any site. Firewood may be available from campground hosts for a nominal fee.  Water is not available at ANY site during winter.

Areas for Campground Camping at South Platte Ranger District - Recreation

RV Camping

Areas for RV Camping at South Platte Ranger District - Recreation

Group Camping

Areas for Group Camping at South Platte Ranger District - Recreation

Dispersed Camping

Dispersed camping and parking is allowed in designated sites only on the South Platte Ranger District.   Designated sites are posted with "Parking" and "Tent" symbols.  No parking or camping outside of designated sites.

Dispersed camping is primitive, undeveloped, frontcountry "car camping". Several areas across the District allow dispersed camping, however certain areas are closed to overnight camping and allow for day use activites only.

Remember: when dispersed camping, no toilets, trash service, or potable water, are available. Store all food and trash securely, and pack out what you pack in. Please practice Leave No Trace.

General areas for designated dispersed camping opportunities:

Near OHV trails, visit the Rampart Range Recreation Area. From Denver, take US Highway 85 South to the town of Sedalia. Turn west on State Route 67 for 10 miles. Turn south on Rampart Range Road/National Forest System Road 300. You will see designated sites along the road.

Near hiking, biking, and fishing, visit the Buffalo Creek Recreation Area. From Morrison, take US Highway 285 South approximately 21 miles to Pine Junction. Turn south on Jefferson County Route 126 for 13.5 miles. Turn west on NFSR 550. You will see designated sites along the road.

Near 4X4 roads, visit the Hall Valley area.  From Morrison, take US Highway 285 South approximately 35 miles to Park County Route 60. Turn north. After several miles, you will see designated sites along the road. Please respect private land in this area and do not trespass.

Other areas-

  • Guanella Pass: From Morrison, take US Highway 285 South to Grant. At the town of Grant, turn north onto Park County Route 62 (Guanella Pass Scenic Byway).  Designated sites are located along NFSR 118.E and 119.  However, no camping is permitted within the first mile of NFSR 119.  Camping at day use sites, trailheads, or along the Scenic Byway, is prohibited.
  • Kenosha Pass: From Morrison, take US Highway 285 South to Kenosha Pass. On the east side of the Higway, designated sites are located along NFSR 126 and 126.A.
  • Matukat area: From Morrison, take US Highway 285 South to Pine Junction. Turn south on to Jefferson County Route 126. Take 126 south to NFSR 211, also known as the Matukat road. Travel west on NFSR 211. Designated sites are located along NFSR 211 and 560.
Usage: Please observe these requirements when dispersed camping: 
  • Plan your trip; phone ahead for restrictions and special regulations.
  • Dispersed camping and parking is allowed in designated sites only.  Do not create resource damage by driving off-road, beyond designated parking locations, or behind barriers.  No parking or camping outside of designated sites.  Parking should be within 30' of site markers.
  • Developed sites, including trailheads and picnic areas, are closed to overnight camping and allow for day use activities only.
  • Tread lightly, and avoid trampling sensitive vegetation.  Locate your camp at least 100' from any water source.
  • Use catholes to properly dispose of human and pet waste; bury waste in a cathole at least 6-8" deep and 200’ from any water source. Packing out human and pet waste using self-contained waste disposal systems is encouraged.
  • Campfires are allowed at overnight sites as long as fire restrictions aren’t in place. You may gather small amounts of down, dead wood for a campfire. Use existing fire rings; keep your campfire small and always make sure it is completely extinguished before leaving. No campfires outside of designated overnight sites.
  • BEARS and other wildlife; When you go to the mountains and forest, you are in bear county. Do not leave ANY food, trash or other animal attractant unattended. Store all food and trash securely and pack out what you pack in. Failing to do so can result in a fine.
  • Also be aware that; where not otherwise restricted, camping or leaving camping equipment at any location more than 14 days within a continuous 30 day period, and/or occupying any campsite within three miles of any prior camping or equipment location for a combined total of more than 28 days within any continuous 60 day period, is prohibited. Also, leaving camping equipment unattended for more than 24 hours is not allowed.
  • In addition; discharging a firearm is prohibited within 150 yards of a residence, building, campsite, developed recreation site, or occupied area; or across or on a National Forest System road or a body of water, or in any manner or place whereby any person or property is exposed to injury or damage as a result of such discharge.

Areas for Dispersed Camping at South Platte Ranger District - Recreation

Rock Climbing

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.

South Platte Area climbing information.

Seasonal Raptor Closure: Cliff and rock faces along Jackson Creek Road 502 restricted March 1-July 31 - Forest Order 15-20 Exhibit A (map) 

Mountain Climbing

Lake and Pond Fishing

In the South Platte Ranger District area check current conditions at Wellington Lake (Private) or Cheesman Reservoir (Denver Water).

River and Stream Fishing

Adjacent to the largest urban areas in Colorado, the South Platte Ranger District provides fishing opportunities within relatively easy reach.  An hour plus drive from Denver, the waters of the North and South Forks of the South Platte River offer a quality fishing experience. Anglers can try their luck fishing for elusive brown and rainbow trout in these waters.

To help prevent the spread of invasive species, please be sure to keep your angling gear free of mud, plants and organic debris between each and every use. Unknowingly moving a species from one body of water to another, even within different stretches of the same river, can start a domino effect of invasion causing irreversible ecological damage.

Check with Colorado Parks & Wildlife for additional information.

Areas for River and Stream Fishing at South Platte Ranger District - Recreation

Day Hiking

Areas for Day Hiking at South Platte Ranger District - Recreation

Backpacking

Colorado is a hiker's heaven.  Conquering the peaks, exploring the valleys and canyons and experiencing the solitude of backcountry streams and rivers.   The South Platte Ranger District has a number of excellent trails suitable for the beginning hiker to the advanced backpacker.

The District is home to two congressionally designated Wilderness areas:

You may also want to visit these non-Forest Service sites for additional Colorado hiking information:

Areas for Backpacking at South Platte Ranger District - Recreation

OHV Road Riding

Restrictions exist for motor vehicle use, including snowmobiles, ATVs, motorcycles, 4x4 vehicles, E-bikes, and other Off Highway Vehicles (OHV). Free Motor Vehicle Use Maps are available. These maps indicate which roads and trails are open and to what type of vehicle.

Please practice Stay the Trail ethics.

Areas for OHV Road Riding at South Platte Ranger District - Recreation

OHV Trail Riding

Restrictions exist for motor vehicle use, including snowmobiles, ATVs, motorcycles, 4x4 vehicles, E-bikes, and other Off Highway Vehicles (OHV). Free Motor Vehicle Use Maps are available. These maps indicate which roads and trails are open and to what type of vehicle.

Please practice Stay the Trail ethics.

Areas for OHV Trail Riding at South Platte Ranger District - Recreation

Target Shooting

The South Platte Ranger District has three locations where recreational shooting is allowed:

The first site is located near Buffalo Creek at NFSR 528.G.  This area is suited for short range shooting.  To get to this area, take US Hwy 285 South toward Pine Junction.  Turn left (south) at the traffic light on Park County Route 126.  Travel for approximately 13 miles.  After you past NFSR 550, NFSR 528.G is located at the next right.

The second site is located near Harris Park at NFSR 108.B.  This area is suited for longer range shooting.  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 Route 43.  Travel for approximately 8 miles.  You will come to a "Y."  Stay to the right on Park County Route 47.  Travel for approximately 5 miles to NFSR 108.  Follow signs to the shooting area at NFSR 108.B.

The third site is located near Bailey at Camp Fickes, a shooting range managed by the Buffalo Creek Gun Club.  This area is suited for short and long range shooting.  A day use fee or annual membership is required for entry to the range.  To get to this area, take US Hwy 285 South to Bailey.  From Bailey, travel east on Park County Route 68 approximately 8 miles to the Camp Fickes entry gate on NFSR 550.  The range is 1 mile south of the entry gate.

We appreciate your cooperation and ask for you to clean up your shells, as well as any target materials and all trash you brought with you.  Please keep these areas clean and do not create unnecessary resource damage.

For additional information on shooting sports and locations check with Colorado Parks & Wildlife.

Usage: Please be aware that; discharging a firearm is prohibited within 150 yards of a residence, building, campsite, developed recreation site, or occupied area; or across or on a National Forest System road or a body of water, or in any manner or place whereby any person or property is exposed to injury or damage as a result of such discharge.

Areas for Target Shooting at South Platte Ranger District - Recreation

Interpretive Areas

Areas for Interpretive Areas at South Platte Ranger District - Recreation

XC Skiing/Snowshoeing

Areas for XC Skiing/Snowshoeing at South Platte Ranger District - Recreation

Snowmobiling

Areas for Snowmobiling at South Platte Ranger District - Recreation

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities

Location

 
  Latitude : 
39.4928

  Longitude : 
-105.3474

  Elevation : 
7,054' - 14,264'