Hunting in Colorado: 12 Great Public Hunting Lands

Written by Zoe Carina
Updated: October 31, 2023
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Since humans evolved into being, they have hunted animals for food, clothing, tools, and other things. After worldwide colonization and the imposition of capitalism, hunting shifted from sustenance to a sport or recreational activity. This shift creates issues such as overhunting, species extinctions, and commercialization.

To solve these issues, humans do not have to stop hunting; however, we have to think critically and plan carefully to maintain the balance of the area we are hunting from.

This article will focus on subsistence hunting because trophy hunting holds no respect for the land or animals. Colorado offers many options for those interested in procuring food for themselves and their community through hunting.

Before you get started, make sure you have the right license and have paid the appropriate fees. Here are 12 public options for hunting in Colorado.

Barr Lake State Park – Brighton

Barr Lake State Park

You can see beautiful views of over 150 bird species at Barr Lake State Park.

©iStock.com/Nancy Strohm

Barr Lake State Park is located in Brighton, CO. The drive is about half an hour away from Denver via car. While the park is open for recreation year-round, Barr Lake’s hunting season starts in late September until February.

The park offers discount parking prices for senior citizens. There are spots available for buses and motor coaches. While there is no camping, Barr Lake is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

At Barr Lake State Park, hunting is only permitted in the Wildlife Refuge area in season. If you’re interested in waterfowl hunting, you’ll have plenty of opportunities here. You’ll need a reservation before setting out.

Boyd Lake State Park – Loveland

Boyd Lake State Park in Colorado- best camping near Fort Collins

In addition to hunting, Boyd Lake offers water sports and camping.

©iStock.com/marekuliasz

Boyd Lake, located in Loveland, CO, is another location prime for waterfowl hunting. The park is between 57 minutes to an hour and 12 minutes away from Denver via car. Hikers, picnickers, and campers can enjoy Boyd Lake year-round, while hunting season starts on September 29th.

Camping is permitted at Boyd Lake, with almost 150 pull-thru campsites that include showers, horseshoe pits, and playgrounds. Among other animals, snakes are commonly seen in the lake.

There is a designated hunting zone within the park that hunters must remain within. A reservation is required to hunt. For game killed in the water, hunters may only use a fishing aid or a hunting dog, or they can manually retrieve the bird.

James M. Robb Colorado River State Park – Grand Junction

Beautiful Sunrise in Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction, Colorado

Colorado River State Park consists of five different sections.

©Jeremy Janus/ via Getty Images

Another park great for waterfowl hunting is James M. Robb Colorado River State Park in Grand Junction, CO. The drive from Denver is a little over four hours by car. There are five unique sections of James M. Robb Colorado River State Park: Island Acres, Corn Lake, Colorado River Wildlife Area, Connected Lakes, and Fruita. The park is open year-round from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

For multi-day excursions, camping is permitted at the park all year. There are a total of 130 sites across the five sections.

Hunting is only possible in three of the five sections: Island Acres, Corn Lake, and the Wildlife Area. Waterfowl blinds are available for reservation between September and February.

Crawford State Park – Crawford

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, in fall.

Crawford State Park is about five hours from Denver, CO.

©LHBLLC/Shutterstock.com

For those interested in big game hunting in Colorado, Crawford State Park, in Crawford, CO, is a great option. If starting in Denver, the drive takes between four hours and 40 minutes and five hours and 40 minutes. The park has a per-day fee entrance and is open year-round. Hunters can also buy an annual pass.

Campgrounds at Crawford State Park are available mostly by reservation, while a few are first-come, first-serve.

Both waterfowl and big game hunting are allowed in season at Crawford State Park. With the proper licensure, hunters can work 100 yards away from anyone fishing and 150 yards away from the campgrounds.

Harvey Gap State Park – Rifle

Rifle Falls State Park

Rifle Falls State Park offers camping, while Harvey Gap State Park does not.

©Colin D. Young/Shutterstock.com

For those looking for a less crowded waterfowl hunting experience, Harvey Gap State Park, in Rifle, CO, is a great option. The park is a little between three and four hours by car from Denver, depending on the route taken. There is a per-day fee that annual pass holders do not need to pay.

Camping is not permitted and Harvey Gap State Park is open between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Within the season, waterfowl hunting is permitted 100 yards away from any building or day-use area. Hunters must be 50 feet from the centerline of the road and stay at the north end of the lake.

Highline Lake – Rifle

Highline Lake State Park

Over 200 bird species have been spotted in Highline Lake State Park’s skies.

©iStock.com/ca2hill

Located about four hours and 20 minutes from Denver, Highline Lake State Park in Rifle, CO, is a great option for waterfowl hunting in Colorado. The park is open year-round and offers horseback riding as one of the activities. There is a daily vehicle fee.

The park has 31 tent and RV sites available for reservation. No electricity is available, but there are coin-operated hot showers and laundry.

There are seven waterfowl blinds for hunters to use during the season. Between Monday and Friday, starting 30 minutes before sunrise and ending 30 minutes after sunset, hunters can shoot birds on the lake.

Navajo State Park – Arboles

Navajo State Park, Colorado

With nearly 160 miles of shoreline, there is plenty of space to catch something by the water.

©Dicklyon / CC BY-SA 4.0 – License

In the city of Arboles, about six hours away from Denver, Navajo State Park allows hunters to shoot deer, elk, and birds. With a year-round day-use season and daily fee for vehicles, it offers a plethora of activities besides hunting.

There are over 100 campsites available all year at Navajo State Park. 118 of them are by reservation only and have room for RVs. 19 of them are primitive and first-come, first-serve. There are also a few cabins available.

Hunting is only possible in certain areas of the park during the season. Contact the rangers at Navajo beforehand to figure out where hunting is permitted.

Ridgway State Park – Ridgway

Autumn at a cattle ranch in Colorado near Ridgway - County Road 9 - Ralph Lauren Double RL - Rocky Mountains

Ridgway State Park offers a variety of campgrounds.

©Craig Zerbe/iStock via Getty Images

A little over five hours from Denver, Ridgway State Park, in Ridgway, CO, is great for both big and small game hunting. The Ridgway Reservoir is about five miles long and contains over a thousand surface acres of water.

Hunters can reserve one of three yurts at a nightly fee. For camping, there are 258 sites available year-round that include electricity for RVs. There are 25 walk-in sites for backpackers. Fees are dependent on the time of year and availability.

The hunting season at Ridgway State Park is limited. For big and small game hunting, the start date is the Tuesday after Labor Day and the end date is the Friday before Memorial Day. Waterfowl hunting is available only on the Dallas Creek between October 1 and April 30.

State Forest – Walden

State Forest State Park is the largest park in Colorado.

©marekuliasz/Shutterstock.com

With 71,000 acres of wilderness to explore, State Forest State Park opens some of its land to hunters during certain seasons. State Forest State Park is in Walden, which is almost three hours away from Denver, CO. Since the area is so large, parts of the park are only available via hike or 4×4.

Camping is plentiful at State Forest State Park, with six cabins, seven yurts, two huts, and several campground options.

To hunt at State Forest State Park, you must have a permit and license, and come at the appropriate season. Contact local rangers during planning to get details.

Steamboat Lake State Park – Clark

Steamboat Lake State Park

Steamboat Lake State Park is located in Routt County and is a popular birding spot for residents

©Narrow Window Photography/Shutterstock.com

For hunting in Colorado, Steamboat Lake State Park is a quiet, scenic option. The park is in Clark, CO, which is almost four hours from Denver. Sandhill Cranes and Bald Eagles are frequently seen here, though they are not available for hunting.

In the summer, 188 campsites are available for reservation and walk-in. From May to September, reservations are recommended. In the winter, 14 electric sites stay open.

With the proper license, hunting begins after Labor Day at Steamboat Lake State Park. All legal seasons allow hunting from the Rainbow Ridge day-use area to the Meadow Point area. Hunters must stay at least 100 yards from any park building or day-use area.

Sweitzer Lake State Park – Delta

Sweitzer lake state park in Colorado

The Sweitzer Lake State Park is located in Delta County.

©SNEHIT PHOTO/Shutterstock.com

For those interested in shotgun hunting, Sweitzer Lake State Park is the place to be. Waterfowl hunters can enjoy the natural beauty of the park as well, but only on the weekends. Sweitzer Lake State Park is between four and a half to six years away from Denver in the city of Delta, CO.

There is no camping at Sweitzer Lake State Park and the park is open between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. every day.

During all legal seasons, hunters can take their shotguns within the park boundaries and catch game. Since the lake is a prime location for other nature enjoys, hunting is limited to weekends, Wednesdays, and legal holidays.

Trinidad Lake – Trinidad

Trinidad Lake State Park is at the base of the Rockies.

©Maysweetheart7/Shutterstock.com

With 2,700 acres of beautiful land around Trinidad Lake, hunting at Trinidad Lake State Park is gorgeous. The park is near the historic town of Trinidad, CO, which is a little over three hours from Denver. Though there is convenient access to I-25, The Rocky Mountains tuck Trinidad Lake State Park in a natural pocket.

There are accessible restrooms, picnic areas, and a gift shop.

There are two campgrounds open year-round that have 73 modern sites. They include electricity. There are 10 non-electric sites usable by RVs and tents within walking distance from the lake. There is a group campground that can accommodate up to 60 people.

Between Labor Day and Memorial Day during legal hunting seasons, hunting is permitted in posted areas only. Hunters can only use either shotguns or bows and arrows.

LocationType of Hunting
Barr Lakewaterfowl hunting
Boyd Lakewaterfowl hunting
Colorado Riverwaterfowl blinds
Crawfordwaterfall and big game hunting
Harvey Gapwaterfowl hunting
Highline Lakeseven waterfowl blinds
Navajodeer, elk, and bird hunting
Ridgwaybig and small game hunting
State Forestcertain sections in certain seasons
Steamboat Lakeafter Labor Day, license only
Sweitzer Lakewaterfowl only on weekends
Trinidad LakeLabor Day to Memorial Day

The photo featured at the top of this post is © juliannafunk/iStock via Getty Images


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About the Author

Zoe Carina is a writer at A-Z Animals who primarily covers plants, animals, and places around the world. Zoe has been a professional copywriter and freelancer for six years and holds a bachelors degree in communications from Florida State University, which they earned in 2019. A resident of Oregon, Zoe runs a blog called Intuitive Traveler, where they write about traveling and language learning.

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