Are you allowed to park overnight at Colorado Rest Areas? Is sleeping in your vehicle permitted at a Colorado Rest Area? How long can you stay at a Colorado Rest Area? Is camping allowed at Colorado Rest Areas?
Colorado Rest Area Rules
The State of Colorado has not adopted any administrative rules or statutes concerning use of its rest areas.
“There is no overnight parking or camping allowed in Colorado’s rest areas.”
So Why Do Trucks and RVs Still Park Overnight?
This is true. Just about every rest area in Colorado is filled with trucks and RVs in the late night hours and remaining there until after sunrise. It’s because there is a gray area between parking overnight and simply trying to alleviate driver fatigue. The state wants you to get some rest, but they don’t want drivers staying there too long. It becomes more complicated because rest areas are open 24 hours a day, and many drivers come in during the night time hours. It’s also more complicated because the state has not defined a maximum length of stay.
The reason why so many trucks and RVs park overnight at Colorado rest areas is because law enforcement generally allows drivers to do so, preferring them to get the rest they need.
What the Colorado Department of Transportation Has Said
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has issued public statements that the purpose of its rest areas is to alleviate driver fatigue, and promote the overall safety of its highway system…
CDOT adopted rules relating to the State Highway Utility Accommodation Code (2 CCR 601-18), that defines what a rest area is…
126.96.36.199 REST AREA: A roadside area with parking facilities separated from the roadway provided for motorists to stop and rest for short periods. It may include drinking water, toilets, tables and benches, telephones, information and other facilities for travelers.
CDOT issued a memo in 2018 explaining the importance of having highway rest areas, which went on to explain their purpose…
Highway Safety-Rest Area facilities are essential safety features on the highway system. Driver fatigue is a major cause of serious traffic accidents that result in 1,500 fatalities and 71,000 injuries in the US each year. Attractive, strategically-placed Rest Areas help drivers recover from fatigue by providing a safe place to stop and rest before continuing their trips. Rest Areas also mitigate distracted driving by providing motorists with a safe place to talk or text on their cell phone.
Even though CDOT has posted signs that overnight parking and camping is not permitted, they are still advocating the use of their rest areas to alleviate driver fatigue.
Is Overnight Parking Allowed at Colorado Rest Areas?
Yes and no. Officially, overnight parking is not permitted at Colorado rest areas. But, taking a “rest for short periods” to alleviate driver fatigue is certainly allowed. Because the CDOT has not defined how long “short periods” are, and because rest areas are open 24 hours a day, you can certainly arrive there during the night time hours and park there.
It’s very likely that CDOT issued the ban against overnight parking and camping because they don’t want drivers remaining too long. Their rest areas have limited parking spaces for trucks, and trucks are a primary concern for CDOT. As long as you leave early in the morning, it’s a good bet you won’t hear from law enforcement.
Can You Sleep at a Colorado Rest Area?
Yes. CDOT has not issued any rules against sleeping in your vehicle. There are no signs prohibiting sleeping in a vehicle. In fact, as discussed above, the primary purpose of its rest areas is to alleviate driver fatigue and drowsy driving. And because rest areas are open 24 hours a day, you are permitted to arrive at a rest area during night time hours, and sleep there. Moreover, CDOT has not defined how long you are allowed to stay there.
Is Camping Permitted at Colorado Rest Areas?
No. Camping is not permitted at Colorado rest areas. It could be argued that camping goes above and beyond the basic purpose of alleviating driver fatigue.
Camping is generally considered a form of recreation. On the other hand, alleviating driver fatigue is more of a necessity to ensure highway safety. Rolling out your awning, setting up patio chairs, firing up your barbecue grill, could be construed as camping. When staying at a rest area, it’s best to just act like someone who is trying to get some rest.