Want to ensure you get out on a camping trip this summer? Pay up and book a campsite right now. Reservation season is here.

National parks:

You can make reservations at most campgrounds in Colorado’s national forests and national parks up to six months in advance through Recreation.gov. Be sure to select the “flexible” dates option so you can quickly look over a month of availability at once.

For some sites, you’ll have to pay close attention to that six-month mark. Established campgrounds near Maroon Bells — Silver Bell, Silver Bar, and Silver Queen — disappear as they become available. If you want to book July 10, the day to do that would be Jan. 10. (Shout out to the excellent Miss Adventure Pants for that suggestion.)

Rocky Mountain National Park car-camping sites also tend to book quickly, and they’re available now.  (RMNP also requires permits for backcountry camping, which become available March 1 at 8 a.m.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a much farther drive, but its sites stay available longer.

Mesa Verde — with the cliff dwellings — is a slightly different story. You can book further in advance, and you have to use a separate website. You’ll want to spend a few days on this one, given the seven-hour drive.

If you miss out on reservations, many campgrounds also have a limited supply of walk-up spots to claim.

State parks:

State parks also run on a six-month window. The state recently opened a unified reservation website.

I really enjoy traveling into Golden Gate Canyon State Park, where Aspen Meadows Campground feels like the mountains but only requires an hour of driving.

I’m also planning to check out State Forest State Park this year, where 90 miles of hiking trails “wind through old lodgepole pine forests and past crystal-blue alpine lakes,” according to 5280’s guide to state parks. It’s known best for its moose — although people also complain about the cattle and ATVs.

Roughing it:

With the exception of RMNP, backcountry camping generally does not require reservations. (Four Pass Loop will require them in the future, but it doesn’t yet.) Still, it’s best to call ahead and confirm that you won’t need any permits for backpacking.

For more detail on some of these trips, refer to Denverite's guide from last year.

Andrew Kenney writes about public spaces, Denver phenomena and whatever else. He previously worked for six years as a reporter at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. His most prized possession is his collection of bizarre voicemail. Leave him one at 303-502-2803, or email akenney@denverite.com.

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