If you’re traveling north on the Million Dollar Highway, as you reach the end, you descend from those winding roads and lofty peaks, to more easy-going driving through the farming country of the Uncompahgre Valley.
The major town around here is Montrose, and the free camping in Montrose makes this a good place to stop for a night and take advantage of the town’s facilities.
Why stay in Montrose?
The scenery here is pleasant enough, but it doesn’t compare to the dramatic alpine vistas around Ouray. While Ouray is a destination in itself, I wouldn’t normally plan a trip around Montrose, unless it was for one of the town’s festivals and events.
During the rest of the year, I don’t see Montrose as a destination, but it does make a good place to stop while you travel through.
In my case, after Zennie was finished with those scenic yet strenuous mountain roads, we were happy to get back to “normal driving” for awhile! 😉
Montrose is also an easy place to do things like grocery shopping, laundry, catching up on the internet, or stocking up on any other supplies you need. And there is free camping in Montrose, why not?
One interesting side note… If you’ve visited the Black Canyon of the Gunnison (well worth seeing!), there’s a tie-in to Montrose. All that agriculture around here? It’s made possible by the Gunnison Tunnel, a 5.8 mile irrigation tunnel that was a wonder when it was opened in 1909.
Free camping in Montrose, Colorado
Personally, I love it when towns provide free camping for visitors. It makes it much more likely that I’ll stay here! That’s partly because I like finding free places to camp, and partly because I want to encourage this practice and let them know people are putting it to use.
When I do stop in town for a night, I’ll also make use of their restaurants, grocery stores, laundromats, gas stations, and more. It seems like a win-win!
In Montrose, head to the West Main Trailhead, where you’ll find free campsites in a parking lot near the river. RV’s are allowed to park here for 24 hours for free. There is a bathroom with flush toilets, but no other facilities.
This parking lot is actually an access point for the pathway along the river, which makes a nice place to stroll and stretch your legs after a day of driving.
When I stayed here, there were plenty of empty spaces for free camping in Montrose. That was during peak summer season, but not any special events. There was quite a bit of day use by people going walking or running along the river, but it was very quiet at night. There was one other vehicle parked here overnight.
Near downtown Montrose
Perhaps the best thing about this location is that it’s walking distance to downtown Montrose.
The town has an attractive little downtown that made me feel like I was going back in time a few decades. There are leafy green trees, western art, real estate offices, a decent selection of restaurants, and several shops selling outdoor gear. (What Colorado tourist doesn’t need more outdoor gear?) 🙂
I wandered around town checking things out, but was unable to find eclipse glasses for sale anywhere. That would have to wait until I got closer to the zone of totality up in Wyoming!
Eventually I settled on a Mexican restaurant for dinner, and then spent a quiet night in my free campsite by the river. And a good thing about being out of the mountains was that I had great cell service! Perfect for catching up on my blog. 🙂
City of Montrose – Montrose West Main trailhead
Municipal park. Free RV camping by the riverside park. Bathrooms with flush toilets, water available, no other facilities. Good cell phone service, easy walk to downtown. 3 stars, because though it’s just a parking lot, it has a good location. And it’s free!
Rating: 3 ***
Altitude: 6,053 ft
GPS: 38.47491, -107.88497
I love towns that provide free camping, and I feel it’s my duty to make use of them! Do you know other towns that provide free campsites? Please share in the Reply section below, so we can all make use of them. Thanks! 🙂
PHOTO CREDITS: Deanna Keahey