Penitente Canyon Campground

Penitente Canyon

The canyonlands of Penitente Canyon offer a blend of peaceful surroundings and diverse recreation opportunities less than 10 miles from a major highway. Although the BLM manages the 4,552-acre Penitente Canyon primarily for rock climbers, the area also offers opportunities for heritage tourists, mountain bikers, hikers and equestrians.

• Road signs from highway to Recreation Area.

• Improved gravel roads in Recreation Area (no pavement).

• Public drinking water system (available May-Oct).

• 5 vault (or pit-type) toilets.

• Trash bins throughout campground and day-use areas.

• 15 Individual sites (3 Tent Only and 12 RV/Tent), 2 Group Tent sites, 1 CG Host site, 1 Group Picnic Shelter site.

• Standard campground amenities-table, tent pads, fire ring, food storage locker, parking.

• Interpretive, informational, and directional signs.

• Trailhead and overflow parking areas.

• Foot, horse, and mountain bike trails.

• All facilities open year-round.

• Cell phone service is spotty in canyons.

Need to Know

Natural Features


The rocks in Penitente Canyon are remnants of up to 18 volcanic eruptions that took place in the San Juan Volcanic Field between 20 and 30 million years ago. The largest of these eruptions spewed 1,000 cubic miles of ash 27.8 million years ago, creating a huge underground chamber. Rocks overlying the chamber collapsed to create the La Garita Caldera.


Ancestors of the Utes, Jicarilla Apaches and Puebloans have all left evidence of time spent hunting and camping here, along with explorers and trappers. The valley’s first settlers were Hispanic farmers and sheepherders who migrated from northern New Mexico. 

Native Americans left scattered pictographs (painted rock art) throughout these Canyonlands (the largest concentration in the San Luis Valley). Please leave all rock art as you find it. Do not touch, walk on, climb on, or disturb it in any way.

Nearby Attractions

• USFS-Rio Grande National Forest and Natural Arch.

• BLM-Elephant Rocks Recreation Area.

• La Garita Trading Post-food, gas, and small store.

• Town of Del Norte

Campgrounds Nearby

• USFS-Rio Grande National Forest – Poso CG, Storm King CG


Penitente Canyon Recreation Area is a destination known for its world-class sport rock-climbing routes and its extensive singletrack trail system, mainly used by mountain bikers and hikers. The area is rich in both natural and cultural history, making it ideal for heritage tourists interested in the Old Spanish Trail and early American frontiersmen, as well as wildlife watchers and photographers. 

• Standard Nonelectric

• Rv Nonelectric

• Group Tent Only Area Nonelectric

• Overnight

Contact Information


BLM San Luis Valley Field Office 1313 U.S. Hwy 160 E. Monte Vista CO 81144


BLM San Luis Valley Field Office 1313 U.S. Hwy 160 E. Monte Vista CO 81144

Phone Number

For campground inquiries, please call: 719-852-7074

Rental Options

Learn more about gear rental options for your trip

Driving Directions

From U.S. 285, turn west onto Saguache County Road G. After 6 miles you will pass the La Garita Trading Post. Go another 0.5 miles to a Y intersection; take the left fork (County Road 38A). The entrance to the recreation area is another 0.5 miles, on your right. Elevation = 7,930 ft.

Available Campsites

Photo Gallery