Campground Guide: Saddlehorn at Colorado National Monument

Saddlehorn helped us kick off our 2016 road trip around Colorado, and I was lucky enough to camp there again in 2023 for a girl’s trip.

The campground fills up quickly in late April since that’s peak time to visit Fruita (the closest town) and the surrounding area. In June, there was availability the day we arrived, but the bugs and heat were definitely worse.

The location can’t be beat (the National Monument is one of Colorado’s must stunning hidden gems), but the campground’s sites can be hit or miss. If you’re in a tent, a lot of the tent pads tend to be VERY close together and don’t offer much privacy. If you’re in a trailer, van, or camper, then some of the driveways are tight and extremely uneven. Keep reading for my tips to pick the best one!


The Monument is super easy to get to from 70. You’ll drive over Vail Pass, which is tough if you’re towing or new to Colorado roads BUT doable. You also get to drive through Glenwood Canyon, which is another iconic spot in Colorado.

The drive up to the Monument itself is on a very curvy, twisty road. It’s paved the entire way but make sure to take it slowly and pay attention. A lot of people bike up the road and there are several hairpin turns. Go extra slow if you’re towing!

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 9.27.10 PM

Picking the Best Campsite

There is a huge variation in privacy on both the A and B loops. If your site is in the inner part of the loop (yellow in the below diagram), your tent is backed right up to other tents. The scrubby juniper trees don’t offer a lot of privacy.

When I tent camped on the B loop I was just a few feet away from another tent, which I didn’t like. This was less noticeable when I camped in a pop-up trailer on the B loop in 2023, but was still not ideal. Staying between the two loops (yellow zig-zag in above diagram) also presents the same issue with lack of privacy.

If you have a camper, you also don’t want to stay on the inner campsites because the door of your camper will open into the road instead of your campsite. Many of the sites’ driveways are also very uneven. We ended up using all of our chocks and having to dig a hole for one wheel just to get things even for a pop-up trailer in site 40.

If you have a tent, any of the sites on the outer part of A Loop (purple line above) or B Loop (orange line above) will be nice and private.

Camping at Colorado National Monument Saddlehorn Campground 3
Note the other tent directly behind Billy at the grill, and the picnic table directly behind our tent. This is on B Loop as well.

Site 39 on B Loop is the best campsite in the entire campground. The driveway is nice and level, but more importantly you have the best view of the monument AND a lot of extra, private space to play around and spread out.

desert mesa in the foreground; beyond the edge of the mesa is a panoramic view of the Grand Valley in western Colorado
View of Campsite 39 at Saddlehorn Campground in Colorado National Monument

All of the orange sand area in the above photo is the space available to you in the campsite. You can also see the edge of the gravel driveway, which was the most level of any I saw on the B loop. Site 40 is slightly less level but has similar views. Anything above 40 is quite uneven, even though a few of them have pull-through parking which is tempting!

If you’re in a tent, there are no tent pads and a not-insignificant amount of thorny things that lodge themselves in your tent, clothing, or bare skin. Obviously, I didn’t have that problem when camping in a trailer.

When to Go to Colorado National Monument

Spring and fall are the ideal times. The last week of April was absolutely perfect weather, and even when it got hot in Fruita, it was 10 degrees cooler at the campground. I still needed to wear long sleeves in the morning and the weather was in the mid 70s each day with a slight breeze. The evenings were cold, but I didn’t need to bundle up nearly as much as I do in the mountains.

When I camped at Saddlehorn in June, it was a completely different story. Even at 8 p.m., as the sun is going down, it’s still very hot. There are also a lot of bugs that are out as soon as the sun goes down and come back when it’s up again, which made things extra difficult. We quickly realized why there weren’t many other people camping there in June!

I’ll be back in October 2023 and am eager to experience the fall weather there. It’s another great time of year to go!

Special Restrictions

You cannot use firewood in the Monument. The park ranger at the entrance casually mentioned that to us, and after looking at each other with a distinct “Well, F***” expression, we resigned to setting up our campsite before heading back to civilization (aka Fruita) to get charcoal.

On a related note, Fruita is only about 25 minutes from the campsite and is a lifesaver if you forget charcoal. And batteries. And ice. And maybe have to make three separate trips as you realize you forgot each of these things throughout the evening.

Camping at Colorado National Monument Saddlehorn Campground 2
Not quite the quintessential camping experience

It’s kind of a bummer to not have a traditional campfire to sit around, but it’s not a dealbreaker for me. I will say that you should bring lighter fluid or a firestarter because charcoal is not very easy to light. Even if you buy the “instant light” charcoal that claims you need no lighter fluid. You do!!

Campground Fees and Reservations

Since Saddlehorn is located at a national monument, you have to pay to get into the park and to camp. Since we were planning on going to multiple national parks/monuments for this trip, we opted for the annual pass. Otherwise, entrance to the park is $25 per car and the campsite reservation is $22.

You’re going to need a reservation in the spring or fall. The Monument did fill up less quickly than the state park that’s closer to downtown Fruita. My friend made reservations in March to go in April and there was still availability. To have your pick of campsites, try hopping onto the reservation site as early as you can!

Toilet Situation

Pretty dang good! Flushing toilets, running water, AND electricity all greet you at the (very clean) bathrooms. They get a little crowded since there’s only two stalls, but I was very impressed with how clean they stayed throughout a very busy weekend!

Nearby Activities

Limitless! The Monument has super beginner-friendly hiking, jaw-dropping views, and a fantastic visitors center. Read my beginner’s guide to hiking the Monument here.

Camping at Colorado National Monument Saddlehorn Campground 1
Ready to rock at 6:30 to beat the heat…we know how to vacation

McInnis Canyons is about 30 minutes from Saddlehorn and offers even more recreation options! It’s heaven for mountain bikers, but the Rustler’s Loop trail is a great 3.6-mile hike as well. You get amazing views of the Colorado River and surrounding canyons.

Nearby Town

If you forget anything, fortunately Fruita is only about 25 minutes from the campground. We made a trip for charcoal…and then a trip for batteries, so I can assure you it’s not a long drive. Plus, it worked out since the later we set up camp, the fewer bugs and the less oppressive the heat was.

If you want to get dinner in Fruita, make a stop at Hot Tomato for pizza. GO EARLY because it’s very popular. In April, I waited in line for about 20 minutes at 5 p.m. If you want to explore downtown Fruita, most of the shops are closed by 6 p.m., so go before dinner.

Copper Club Brewery also has great beer, and if you’re there in the morning, get breakfast at Best Slope Coffee.

Overall Impression

The first time I camped here, I honestly hated it. But I realized I just went the wrong time of year. Even early June is buggy and HOT, so skip Fruita until the fall or go earlier in the spring.

Colorado National Monument is one of the state’s best hidden gems, and I’m continually surprised by the number of people who have never been here or don’t even know it exists. The trails are beginner-friendly and the scenery is stunning!

Campground Recon does great video tours of campgrounds across the country. You can watch their tour of Saddlehorn here on their YouTube channel.

Remember everything you need with the help of my simple, clickable packing list! It’s just $5 and includes dinner ideas.

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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