San Carlos Ranger District

The San Carlos Ranger District manages the southern half of the San Isabel National Forest. The District is 50 miles wide and 110 miles long with about 400,000 acres of National Forest in Fremont, Custer, Huerfano, Pueblo and Las Animas counties. Mountain ranges include the Wet Mountains, the Sangre de Cristos and the Spanish Peaks.

It is home to the one of the first Forest Service Campgrounds designed by Arthur Carhart, the first landscape architect of the Forest Service. Prior to Carhart being hired in 1919, the agency focused primarily on timber uses of the forest. Carhart envisioned what we now know as sustainable recreation. His recreation plan for the San Isabel National Forest was the first for the agency. He went on to work with conservationist Aldo Leopold in creating the wilderness concept. The picnic shelters and fire hearths at Davenport Campground were reconstructed in 2006 using Carhart's original designs. 

There are 11 campgrounds with 210 fee campsites plus two group sites which are reservation only. These campgrounds are operated by a concessionaire (contractor hired by the United States Forest Service), as well as a picnic area at Lake Isabel Recreational Area and four small sites in the Cuchara Creek Recreational Area.

At a Glance

Usage: Medium
Closest Towns: Cañon City
Operated By: Forest Service
Information Center: 3028 East Main Street
Cañon City, CO 81212
Phone (719) 269-8500


Mountain Biking

Areas for Mountain Biking at San Carlos Ranger District

Campground Camping

Campground Camping on the San Carlos Ranger District.

Areas for Campground Camping at San Carlos Ranger District

Group Camping

Developed campgrounds for group camping.

Areas for Group Camping at San Carlos Ranger District

Dispersed Camping

Some of the dispersed camping campsite located on the San Carlos Ranger District

Areas for Dispersed Camping at San Carlos Ranger District

Cabin Rentals


  • Reservations are required.
  • Each cabin has a combination lock.            
  • Availability of cabins varies, refer to the cabin specific descriptions.
  • Generally check-in is 2:00pm, while check-out is 12:00pm.
  • There is no trash service at any of the sites; renters are responsible for disposing of their own trash.
  • Lake Isabel has indoor plumbing; all other sites have vault toilets.
  • Each of the cabins will have a combination lock.  Renters will receive the combination  in a confirmation letter mailed to them prior to their arrival.  
  • On weekends each cabin has a 2-night minimum stay requirement.

Areas for Cabin Rentals at San Carlos Ranger District

Mountain Climbing

Areas for Mountain Climbing at San Carlos Ranger District

Lake and Pond Fishing

Lakes in the San Carlos Ranger District

Areas for Lake and Pond Fishing at San Carlos Ranger District

Day Hiking

Areas for Day Hiking at San Carlos Ranger District


Areas for Backpacking at San Carlos Ranger District

Big Game Hunting

Access from Purgatory Campground via North Fork Trail. 

Viewing Plants

Areas for Viewing Plants at San Carlos Ranger District

Interpretive Areas

Areas for Interpretive Areas at San Carlos Ranger District

Scenic Driving

Scenic driving tours of the San Carlos Ranger District.

The Highway of Legends travels through an area rich in cultural history, crossing Cucharas pass, with an option to also travel over Cordova Pass.  This route provides opportunities to see unique geological formations known as dikes. 

Areas for Scenic Driving at San Carlos Ranger District

Related Information

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


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