Campground Guide: Green Ridge Campground at Shadow Mountain Reservoir

sunset green mountain reservoir

Green Ridge Campground is located on Shadow Mountain Reservoir near Grand Lake, Colorado. The reservoir alone makes for a great camping spot, but if you also want to hike, you’re at the doorstep of Rocky Mountain National Park.

This post was originally written before the East Troublesome Fire that burned thousands of acres of the western side of Rocky, and I haven’t made it back since the fire. You can learn about closures and other fire impacts here.

Shadow Mountain Reservoir is beautiful, perfect for SUPing or kayaking, and has a beginner-friendly walking path all the way around it. There’s also great wildlife watching on the north side of the campground and there are real toilets! Grand Lake is a really cool mountain town and you can also enjoy way less people on this side of Rocky Mountain National Park.

There’s no shade in the campground, which makes for a warm morning in the tent, but it’s one of the few dog-friendly campgrounds I could find within a few hours of Denver.

Directions from Denver

Green Ridge Campground sits on Shadow Mountain Reservoir, about 2.5 hours northwest of Denver, making it an easy drive for an overnight trip or for the entire weekend. The drive takes you through Winter Park, which is a perfect stopping point for food, gas, etc.

You will go over Berthoud Pass, which as the name implies, is a mountain pass. This means you’re driving up and over a large hill or mountain. Berthoud Pass can be a little intimidating if you haven’t driven in the mountains a lot, but it’s totally doable for anyone.

The entire road is paved, but very curvy. Going downhill at any speed was hard for me, so I just pulled over and let everyone else go so I could go as slow as I wanted to down the mountain.

google map screenshot of the drive from Denver to Green Ridge Campground
There is a 100% chance that red spot is the tunnel before Idaho Springs.

Green Ridge Campground is a Google Maps location, so you can just type that into your phone and you’re good to go! Stop at Elevation Pizza just outside of Winter Park if you get hungry on your way there – it’s one of my favorite pizza places in Colorado.

Campsite Description

All of the campsites have nice big tent pads (they measure 11′ x 12’8″). A tent pad is a slightly elevated surface that makes for a more comfortable sleeping experience since you’re not directly on the ground. Don’t let the word “pad” fool you…it’s not actually cushion-ey in any way, it’s just a flat place to put your tent that won’t harm the plant life.

Single campsites only have one pad, so if you are camping with friends and have multiple tents, you’ll have to book multiple sites.

Most of the campsites are pretty exposed with not a lot of shade. This made it VERY warm in the tent once the sun came up. From what we could see of the other sites, they all seemed a little lacking on shade. The southern side of the loop did seem to have slightly more tree cover. It’s also quite windy off the water, which made for some interesting tent set-up!

Screenshot of green ridge campground with a red circle where our campsite was
We stayed approximately where the red circle is. Campsites to the left (I think that’s south in real life) were a bit more shaded, larger, and more private (next picture).
green ridge campground at shadown mountain reservoir view of campsites and mountains with a group of people walking toward a blue tent
.Blue tent is sadly not ours – we were in that giant sunny patch you see in the background.

Every campsite has a picnic table and a fire pit, complete with a grate that fully covers the entire pit. It flips open pretty easily (even for someone with as little upper body strength as me!) and is handy if you’re cooking for a group. The campground host has a large supply of firewood that’s reasonably priced. Just make sure you have cash to pay for it!

Make sure you have everything you need with my clickable (and printable if you want) beginner-friendly packing list for camping!

Each campsite also has a nice big bear locker, which is awesome because you don’t have to run back and forth to your car constantly (not that it’s very far away…but still). This place is busy enough that I highly doubt you will ever see any bears, but the lockers are a precaution that also make cooking and storing food much more convenient!

Campground Fees and Reservations

If you’re camping in a tent during peak season (summer), the cost is $23 per night as of 2021. You also have to pay a use fee for the Arapaho National Recreation Area (ANRA). This fee is $5 per day.

Longer term passes can also be purchased if you think you’ll be coming back a lot, or if you’re staying for several days in a row. The machine that you can purchase the ANRA pass from is not in the same place as the campground – it is on the same road, though. Turn left at the boat launching entrance prior to reaching the campground entrance and you will find the machine in the upper left hand corner of the parking lot. You can pay with cash or a credit card.

If you would prefer to set up camp and then get the pass, or if you forget to stop, you can also get there quickly through the campground loop to get to the boat launching area.

Screenshot of where the ANRA permit machine is located at Green Ridge Campground
Red circle is the ANRA permit machine. As an aside, I’m really thrilled with my freehand circle-drawing skills in Paint this evening.

Green Ridge has first-come, first-served campsites as well as reservable ones. I don’t like living on the edge, plus we were going with friends and I wanted to try to get as close together as possible, so I made reservations a few months in advance.

That being said, when we arrived around noon on a Saturday and there were still several campsites available that were actually closer together than the ones I reserved. If you’re on vacation or otherwise able to camp during the week, you’re probably safe without a reservation. Or, if you like to live on the edge and drive up last minute on the weekend, you might get lucky!

There’s no cost difference in first-come, first-serve campsites vs ones you reserve. You CAN pay with a credit card if you reserve in advance, which is nice. To reserve a campsite, go here.

Toilet Situation

The nice thing about this campground is that it has REAL bathrooms!! I do have a higher tolerance for more rustic accommodations since I have been around horses all my life. The bathroom situation at barns and horse shows is usually pretty tragic.

But Green Ridge Campground has REAL bathrooms AND sinks. They did run out of hand soap mid-way through our first day there, though, so I would suggest you bring your own hand sanitizer.

While we’re talking about bathrooms, please note that they do not have showers. If you’re looking for a campground with showers, you’re probably not going to find one that’s not in a national park. Half the fun of camping is that you can be totally gross and no one cares! Unless you don’t wash your hands. That’s just unacceptable.

Nearby Activities

The Green Ridge Campground is right on Shadow Mountain Reservoir, and like every mountain lake, it provides some stunning scenery.

sunset at Shadow Mountain Reservoir with the mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park on the horizon

There is a ton of hiking immediately surrounding the campground, including a hike that takes you into Rocky Mountain National Park. You can also simply walk around the reservoir. It seemed to be mostly flat and also on a nice wide gravel path.

You can also travel north past the dam and follow the river to cross into RMNP. If you’re not feeling that adventurous, you should still go this way to spot some awesome wildlife. There is an observation spot (complete with telescopes!) that points straight at an osprey nest, and on the sunny afternoon we were out and about, the ospreys were really active.

A rushing river flows away from the camera with green shrubs lining its banks on a blue sky day. Mountains and white puffy clouds are on the horizon.
Not where the ospreys are…I just really liked this picture from our hike. Full disclosure, I took this picture from a nice bridge, not any sort of bad-ass watercraft.

I highly recommend driving into Rocky Mountain National Park, which is just down the road outside of the town of Grand Lake. Turn right out of the campground, then go left at the fork by the welcome sign to Grand Lake and you’ll drive right in.

If you’re into paddling, you can also SUP and kayak on Shadow Mountain Lake. If you don’t have your own, there are a number of rentals in Grand Lake, which is a 10-minute drive from the campground.

Other Intangibles

This is a dog-friendly campground, which is great if you’re also dog-friendly. If you’re not dog-friendly, you may want to reconsider. Normally I would tell you to rearrange your life priorities if you don’t like dogs, but I understand that people go camping for solitude and that usually does not go hand-in-hand with other people’s canine friends.

However, our friends had a dog with them, and there were also a ton of other people with dogs, and we didn’t hear a peep from them in the early morning or late evening hours.

The dogs really enjoyed playing in the lake, so if you have a water-inclined pooch this could be a good spot, especially because it is one of the few dog-friendly campgrounds within reasonable driving distance to Denver.

Keep in mind that you can NOT go hiking with your dog in RMNP, so unfortunately your doggie pal does limit your hiking options greatly.

Overall Impression

While the campsites are a bit exposed (no shade = cooking in your tent once the sun comes up over the ridge), being so close to RMNP, the great scenery, and the easy drive from Denver makes it worth it. The bathroom amenities also make it a great place to try out camping for the first time, even if the wind (which could have been a fluke) makes setting up your tent a little challenging. You can’t find a better spot that’s dog-friendly.

Campground Recon also does great video tours of campgrounds. You can watch the tour of Green Ridge Campground on their YouTube channel.

Published by Laura Cardon

Laura Cardon moved to Colorado as an adult and quickly realized how difficult it was to get started exploring the outdoors in a state full of experts. She founded Outdoor Beginner in 2014 to fill the gap in beginner-friendly content for camping, hiking, skiing, and other outdoor activities. In addition to Outdoor Beginner, she coaches beginner trail runners and works at Runners Roost in Golden, Colorado, where she lives with her spouse and toddler.

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