Pinewood Reservoir in Colorado is popular for its array of outdoor activities and convenient proximity to Denver and Fort Collins. So, here's everything you need to know about Pinewood Reservoir Camping.
Sitting on 427 acres of public land (including 100 acres of water), Pinewood Reservoir is located in Larimer County west of Carter Lake and southwest of Loveland. It’s an hour-long drive away from Rocky Mountain National Park.
The reservoir’s construction was completed back in 1952 at a cost of $1.2 million, part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. This project diverts water to Colorado’s Front Range from west of the Great Continental Divide.
With an elevation of 6,580 feet, it’s over a mile high above sea level and 1,000 feet higher than Denver’s. You should have “high expectations” for Pinewood Reservoir for more reasons than one.
A Reservoir of Things To Do
Pinewood is perhaps best known for fly fishing, particularly trout fishing. Specifically, rainbow trout, lake trout, browns, Snake River cutthroat, and Tiger muskie fish can be rich in abundance.
Visitors can fish from the shore or from a non-motorized, hand-launched boat, such as a canoe, stand-up paddleboard or kayak (which can fold up well to store in your RV!).
Unfortunately, boats with motors aren’t allowed on Pinewood Reservoir, which is why the boat ramp is always closed. Neither is swimming, jumping in the water, or cliff-diving.
But if you can’t make do without a dip on a hot day, Carter Lake and Horsetooth Reservoir have boating and swimming. They are located only about a half-hour away.
And if you’re dead set on fishing, be sure to visit anytime but the winter. Ice fishing isn’t allowed.
What if you’re not into fishing? It's a great place to hit the trails. You can either mountain bike or hike on the Ramsay-Shockey and Blue Mountain Trails. For lovely vistas, head up the Shoshone Trail, which is two and a half miles long.
If you’re looking for flatter hills to tackle, try the Besant Point Trail, which is 2.1 miles. If you want to bike these trails, just note that e-bikes are prohibited.
Want to take the load off your legs altogether? Ride a horse instead. Horseback riding outfitters are located near Pinewood, Crater Lake, and Flatiron reservoirs.
And Of Course, There’s the Camping
Pinewood Reservoir campground just got a facelift. The campgrounds overlooking Pinewood Reservoir were recently remodeled with 12 brand new walk-in tent sites and 15 standard electric sites.
The campgrounds come equipped with water spigots and vault toilets. Day parking and picnic tables are available for those who like to explore. And for those with kids, there is a natural play area at every site.
And dog lovers, rejoice! Pets are allowed as long as they stay on a leash 10 feet long or less.
Even more convenient, a campground host is on duty during the summer.
Campsites are open year-round, and you can reserve a spot 180 days to 1 day in advance of your arrival on their website. You can also call the Pinewood Reservoir camping reservation call center at 1-800-397-7795.
Campsite reservations can be updated or canceled online or by phone. Keep in mind there is a small fee for cancellations.
But maybe you’re in the area of Pinewood Reservoir but didn’t make a reservation. Don’t worry.
There are some campsites reserved for those who show up that day on a first come first serve basis. Your spontaneity may be rewarded (so long as you arrive early enough in the day).
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What To Know About Booking
While not ideal, Pinewood Reservoir requires multiple permits, and therefore more preparation.
There are the park entrance permits, another for each vehicle, another for any watercraft you happen to bring with you in addition to camping fees.
They’re reasonably priced, but still can cause an inconvenience if you plan on visiting during the busy summer months and forget to reserve one permit.
When reserving permits to camp, you need to reserve each campsite and each night. There is a maximum of 14 nights to reserve within a 30 day period.
If you didn’t book in advance, you can purchase permits at the park entrances and visitor centers.
Once you have all your permits, only then can you proceed to go Pinewood Reservoir camping. Check-in is at noon, and check-out is at 11am.
Daily permits are the most common purchase. But if you’re a local who plans to return a lot year-round, an annual county parks pass is available as well.
If you are traveling with a large group, note that more tents are allowed on your campsite but not more vehicles.
Also, there’s a maximum of 6-8 people per campsite. So when choosing a campsite, be sure to check its capacity first.
Speaking of capacity, Pinewood Reservoir is only accessible by a narrow 4-mile paved road with extreme, 8-10% grades. Therefore, larger RVs and motorhomes are not recommended.
If you’re not sure about whether your RV can fit on a campsite, speak with someone who can give you your options at 970-619-4570.
When To Go
Pinewood Reservoir camping is open all year round. The busy season begins on March 1st and ends on October 31st.
If you visit on a weekend during the summer, capacity is usually reached. But even at the busiest time, you should be able to secure a spot for both camping and your boat on a weekday.
If you’re looking to go at the quietest time, you'll probably want to avoid the summer months. However, there are rules all year round to help everyone enjoy it. Quiet hours begin at 10pm, and fireworks, drones, and firearms aren’t allowed.
No matter what time of year you go though, it is always worth checking the weather conditions here in advance. The website also lists water levels which can be important if you plan on fishing.
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Interested in more places to tour in Colorado? Please check out our 7-Day RV Adventure Guide to Colorado?
We provide a suggested route and itinerary, links to multiple campgrounds and boondocking spots, and the best spots to see along the way.
You can hit everything in seven days, do a whirlwind weekend tour, or you can take your time and explore the area over a few weeks.
Bearly an Inconvenience
The pinewood area is great for wildlife viewing. There is some beautiful wildlife to see on your hikes. While you probably won’t see bears, they do live at Pinewood Reservoir.
This makes precautions necessary to avoid attracting them to you, such as properly sealing food and keeping a clean tent. Read this if you would like more details.
Pinewood Reservoir has some excellent shoreline to experience in the landlocked state of Colorado. A shore fisherman can enjoy himself just as much as a boat fisherman. Just maybe keep an eye out for bears!
Have you ever been Pinewood Reservoir camping, and have any recommendations or advice? Let us know in the comments!
Directions from Denver:
- Take I-25 north to Exit 257B (Highway 34 – Loveland) heading west. Continue west through Loveland on U.S. Highway 34 (Called Eisenhower in Loveland)
- Watch for the “Carter Lake” road sign just past mile marker #85. Turn left (south) onto County Road 29 and continue for 2 miles.
- Turn right (west) onto County Road 18E and continue another 2 miles.
- Watch for signs directing you turn left (south) to the park entrance station. (You must buy your park entrance permits here.)
- Go back north to County Road 18E. Turn left (west) continuing approximately 1/2 mile to Flatiron Reservoir or approximately 4 1/2 miles to Pinewood Lake. Ramsay-Shockey Open Space Trailhead is at the west end of Pinewood Lake.
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