We camped at the Bank Campground near the Shelf Road climbing area near Canon City in Colorado. It’s a convenient spot for many outdoor activities and visiting Canon City.

Shelf Road Recreation Area

We met up with some friends who are avid climbers to go camping at the Shelf Road Recreation Area of Canon City, Colorado.

shelf road recreation area sign
Shelf Road Recreation Area sign

Shelf Road is one of the most popular climbing areas in all of Colorado, with nearly 1,000 climbing routes on vertical limestone cliffs.

The terrain around the Shelf Road climbing area is beautiful and has plenty to do for climbers and non-climbers alike.

Instead of climbing, I biked Shelf Road from Cripple Creek back to the campground and the scenery was outstanding. Plus, it was downhill the whole way!

There are two Bureau of Land Management (BLM) campgrounds right at the Shelf Road Recreation Area: the Bank Campground and the Sand Gulch Campground.

The map below shows the layout of the Shelf Road Recreation Area, including the Bank Campground, Sand Gulch Campground, Shelf Road from Canon City to Cripple Creek, and recreational opportunities. Click on the map image to expand it.

This is located about 14 miles north of Canon City in the high desert.

The Bank Campground

bank campground sign
The Bank Campground sign

We stayed at the BLM Bank Campground (sometimes referred to as the Banks Campground) in our Airstream in September 2020.

It can be a little rough getting up the dirt road to the campground, but we managed fine in our 27-foot Airstream by going slowly up the rutted dirt road.

Despite online listings referring to it as both the “Bank” and the “Banks” Campground, we believe the official name is the Bank Campground (without the “s”). The campground’s sign, where the “s” is blacked out as shown in the photo above, supports this.

Directions to the Bank Campground

The Bank Campground is located just to the north of the Sand Gulch Campground as you’re heading up Shelf Road.

We missed the sign for the Bank Campground and made the mistake of heading down Shelf Road looking for it.

Don’t do this as there’s nowhere to turn around your RV and we had to back out a few hundred yards once we realized that we went the wrong way!

sign to the bank campground
Make sure you turn into the Bank Campground and don’t drive Shelf Road in your RV!

Once you see the signs for the Sand Gulch Campground, the Bank Campground entrance is just north on the left.

Don’t let the signs for Shelf Road distract you; avoid following them.

Stay to the left on the road to head to the Bank Campground, as indicated by the orange arrows in the satellite image below.

We’ve heard of others making this same mistake and having to back up a trailer up Shelf Road, which is not what you want to have to do!

the bank campground entrance
Follow the orange arrow into the Bank Campground

Bank Campground Layout

There are two loops with campsites in the Bank Campground.

Campground designers tailored the A loop for tent campers, whereas the newly expanded B loop accommodates larger RVs with its 22 campsites.

bank campground loop a and b sign
Bank Campground loops A and B

If you have a larger rig, you can go to the top of the campground, and then turn around in the day use parking area to enter the B-loop camping area since it’s a tight turn over a cattle guard.

b loop bank campground
Follow the signs to the B loop for the larger RV campsites

We camped in site B19, which easily fit our 27-foot Airstream, our full-size truck, and our friend’s Sprinter campervan.

campsite at bank campground
Our campsite B19 easily fit out Airstream, truck, and friends’ Sprinter van

Most of the campsites at the beginning of the B-loop are designed for smaller rigs up to about 30 feet in size, but once you pass the bathroom, there are a few larger campsites.

A typical campsite looks like the photo below, for campsite B16.

campsite B16 at bank campground
Campsite B16 in the Bank Campground

These include four pull-through loop campsites, where you don’t have to worry about backing in your camper.

The four loop campsites are B28, B29, B30, and B32. These sites could easily accommodate fifth wheels and other larger rigs in these pull-through campsites.

loop campsite in bank campground
Larger loop pull-through campsite at the Bank Campground

Prickly cactus plants abound around the campsites, so ensure your pets, unfamiliar with such terrain, tread carefully!

Cactus in bank campground
Prickly cactus at the Bank Campground

The rear hatch of our Airstream opens, so we were able to take in the beautiful views while inside our trailer.

Airstream in bank campground
Our Airstream in the Bank Campground
open rear hatch on airstream in high desert in colorado
The view out the open rear hatch of our Airstream

Bank Campground Amenities

All of the campsites are gravel and include a picnic table and a fire ring.

You may also be interested in our post about the Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado.

It can get very hot here in the high desert, so we highly recommend bringing a portable sun canopy tent, if you have one.

Even though our Airstream has an awning, we used the canopy tent to shade at the picnic table. We definitely appreciated it in the hot sun.

covered picnic table in campground
We highly recommend bringing a canopy to protect you from the sun

This is dry camping, with no water hookups, no electricity, and no dump station available.

Be sure to bring all of the water you need, as this is the high desert, and you’ll need to drink plenty.

Simple vault toilets are available, but no sinks or water.

vault bathrooms in bank campground
One of several vault toilets at the Bank Campground

Bank Campground Campsite Cost

The Bank Campground has group campsites and individual campsites.

The individual campsites are $7 per night with a limit of two vehicles and eight people.

The group campsites are $14 per night, with a limit of four vehicles and 20 people.

bank campground rules sign
Bank Campground camping fees sign

Once you start to climb the hill, the self-pay station for the campsites is located on your left. You can pay by cash or by check.

bank campground pay station
Pay station at the Bank Campground

Once you pay, you put your envelope stub on your campsite post to show you’ve paid for the campsite.

This means you can pay and then leave the campsite and no one else can take it over.

It’s always a good idea to leave an inexpensive camping chair or other items as well to show the campsite is occupied.

campsite B28 in bank campground
Place your receipt on your campsite sign to indicate that it is reserved.

Reservations are not accepted. It’s first come, first served.

There’s also a campground host, if needed.

campground host sign
Campground host sign at the Bank Campground

Sand Gulch Campground

sand gulch campground sign
BLM Sand Gulch Campground sign at the entrance

The Sand Gulch Campground is located in a flatter area than the Bank Campground, so if you’re afraid of hauling your trailer or new RV up to the Bank Campground, it’s a great choice in the same area.

sand gulch campground entrance
Sand Gulch Campground signs

It is also a BLM campground without any hookups or water available, but is slightly smaller than the Bank Campground.

It has 14 individual campsites and one group campsite.

campers at sand gulch campground
Campers at Sand Gulch Campground

You will pass the Sand Gulch Campground on your left as you head up to the Bank Campground.

Climbing along Shelf Road

The limestone cliffs in the Shelf Road area are known as a sport climber’s mecca as there are so many different climbing routes available.

The climbing areas are a short walk from the Bank Campground, so the campground is very popular with climbers. You can see the climbing cliffs from the Bank Campground.

bank campground scenery
View of some of the Shelf Road climbing cliffs from the Bank Campground

The Bank Campground also offers overflow parking for climbers, making it a popular staging area due to the available vault toilets and ample parking at the road’s top.

The parking area is marked for day use parking.

bank campground day use parking
Day Use parking at the Bank Campground

Trails lead from the day use parking area at the Bank Campground to the climbing areas.

cactus cliff sign and darkside climb sign
Sign leading to the Darkside and Cactus Cliff climbing areas of Shelf Road

The short hikes to the climbing areas from the campground have beautiful views.

bank campground trail
Our dog taking in the scenery of the Shelf Road Recreation Area
shelf road climbing
Views of the Shelf Road limestone climbing cliffs

Posted maps also display the different climbing areas in relation to the Bank Campground and the Sand Gulch Campground.

shelf road climbing map
One of the maps posted in the area to show the climbing areas in relation to The Bank and the Sand Gulch campgrounds

Our friends who we went camping with did quite a bit of climbing while we were there so we got to see the area from a climber’s perspective too, well, at least from the ground up.

climber at shelf road
Climbing at Shelf Road Recreation Area

Well-marked trails lead back to the Bank Campground from the limestone cliffs.

the bank campground sign from climbing
Directional sign back to the Bank Campground from the Shelf Road climbing area

Enjoy Your Trip!

The area around Canon City and the Bank Campground is filled with activities to keep you entertained.

During this trip, we also went to the Museum of Colorado Prisons in Canon City, which provides an interesting history!

Just be sure to bring everything you need to the campground with you, as there are no amenities, including water.

Also be prepared for the intense sun in the high desert. It’s a beautiful area of Colorado definitely worth exploring.