Lessons Learned about RV Overnight Parking at a Brewery in Fort Collins: Colorado’s Craft Beer Capital
May 20, 2021
Originally posted November 2020; Revised and migrated May 2021
Travel date August 2020
Without much planning, we arrived in Fort Collins, Colorado. Fort Collins is a craft beer mecca and home to over 20 brewers. We were excited to check out a few. Local campgrounds were fully booked so we hoped to find free overnight RV parking at a Fort Collins brewery. We didn’t realize how challenging it would be.
After two months exploring southern Montana and Wyoming, we were heading south to spent autumn in Colorado. A few National Park blogs to check out if you are planning a similar trip:
Before leaving Wyoming we made a few pitstops to take care of housekeeping along the way. First, a truck wash to clean up Pippi. Our motorhome, Pippi, is old but she doesn’t look like an old girl. She is a 2000 American Tradition 37′ diesel pusher.
Kevin waxes her regularly and his hard work shows in her shine. Boondocking and RV parking overnight on public land can be really dusty so we wash her regularly. If given the opportunity, we handwash her ourselves. But if facilities aren’t available, we rely on a commercial truck wash that welcomes RVs, such as Blue Beacon.
Wyoming Welcome Center: Why We Love Visitor Centers
Secondly, we stopped at the Wyoming Welcome Center. They offer a free RV dump and we utilized it to empty our waste tanks and refill our freshwater before heading to more off-grid camping. Read about our solar setup for off-grid living here. Several Wyoming visitor centers offer free RV dumps and we use Campendium to find dump locations.
As an added bonus, the Wyoming Visitor Center also offers collector stickers. In my opinion, it is a great way to encourage tourists to stop. There are over 30 free collectible stickers with various WY themes including several city-specific designs and each visitor center offers different designs. Definitely stop at the local visitor centers because you may be surprised by what you find. Check out a few of the small towns we enjoyed on our Wyoming road trip here.
Mice in RVs: Prevention is Key
We met a local school teacher at the dump station who was cleaning his RV tanks so he could put the RV in storage and head back to work for the start of the school year. We talked about mice and he said he had caught over 30 mice in his trailer. I told Kevin that if we had a mouse problem of that proportion, we’d have to burn Pippi and start over.
The longer we travel full time in our RV, the more mice stories I hear from fellow RVers. It is a common problem and the best solution we have found is to prevent them from entering the RV. We have filled all of our openings with stainless steel wool specifically designed for rodent presentation and haven’t had any issues.
Where is Fort Collins?
Our first Colorado destination of the year was Fort Collins. Fort Collins is in the northern part of Colorado along the Wyoming border. It is located less than 40 miles from Cheyenne Wyoming.
Our original plan was to visit Rocky Mountain National Park but we had to alter the route due to wildfires. Several active wildfires were impacting the air quality and causing major road closures near RMNP. Being from the east coast, I am not familiar with wildfires. They are a natural and expected late summer occurrence in the western United States. Ideally, they are kept under control by firefighters to avoid loss of life or property.
Living in an RV full time requires us to be flexible. Instead of Rocky Mountain National Park, we stopped in Fort Collins for one night and then kept heading south hoping to get past the worst of the wildfire smoke. Fort Collins was not a great introduction to Colorado after the time we’d spent several weeks in RV-friendly Wyoming.
What is Fort Collins known for?
Fort Collins is best known for its beer. With over 20 craft brewers, all beer drinkers can find a favorite here. In addition to craft brewers, a few of the national brands that also call Fort Collins home are New Belgium and Anheuser Busch.
Overnight Brewery RV Parking in Fort Collins
Fort Collins is a craft beer mecca. We arrived in town with high hopes of parking Pippi at a local brewery for the night to enjoy some local brews. We love beer and definitely wanted to RV overnight at a brewery in Fort Collins. Previously, we have parked our RV overnight at several breweries around the country by just sending a polite email asking permission.
The uncertainty caused by wildfires had prevented me from sending requests to Fort Collins breweries before our arrival. I had done some Google Earth research and determined Odell’s had a large dirt lot behind the brewery. It would be perfect for our purpose.
Unfortunately, when we visited Odells in Fort Collins and asked permission, they refused to allow us to park our RV overnight in their brewery back lot. They said allowing us to sleep in their lot would jeopardize their alcohol license. We left our motorhome parked on the street in front of Odells and took our car around Fort Collins scouting for an overnight RV spot.
New Belgium’s tasting room was closed because their outdoor space was affected by the wildfire smoke. They were selling beers to go from a table on the curb but were otherwise closed. Their outdoor space is massive and we were disappointed to miss out. We did notice an older small Class C parked on the street beside the large New Belgium visitor lot. The area had a lot of homeless camps and we weren’t interested in squeezing Pippi in there.
Our RV Overnight Spot near a Fort Collins Brewery
Instead, we drove through the residential neighborhood streets between Odells and New Belgium. After carefully reading the street signs we decided to park Pippi in front of a large empty lot one block away from Odells on 3rd Street.
It appeared the neighborhood was primarily college-aged renters and we felt safe they wouldn’t contact the police. We saw another RV stealth parked on this street but it was a small van that can blend in much better than our 37-foot motorhome. We didn’t have any issues parking overnight on 3rd Street in Fort Collins and we could see the Odells Brewery from our spot. The whole process was quite frustrating.
Every Fort Collins brewery is missing a target market by not offering free RV overnight parking. We have supported several wineries in our travels solely because they offered RV parking to Harvest Host members. Harvest Host is a great membership that allows us to visit and sleep at farms, museums, wineries, and breweries throughout the US and Canada. Our referral link will get 15% off your annual membership. We’ll also get a small referral reward from Harvest Hosts for referring you.
Fort Collins Brewery
After parking Pippi, we walked to Odells for a beer. They had created a COVID safe operating procedure which including one-way traffic into the brewery, well-spaced outdoor seating, online app ordering for any additional drinks, and virtual tab closings. It was startlingly strict after the more relaxing Wyoming COVID response.
Odells is the oldest brewery in Fort Collins but has grown into a national brand. We had purchased several varieties of Odells from our local liquor store while living in Texas so we knew we enjoyed their brews. Kevin prefers their flagship, the 90 Shilling Amber Ale, while I lean towards their fruited sour, Sippin’ Pretty. Odells has a large landscaped, natural stone outdoor patio that provides mountain views. They are dog friendly and we enjoyed watching all of the cute pups around us.
The COVID ordering process was slightly inconvenient but well thought out and fairly efficient. Honestly, we were still a little bitter we weren’t allowed to park our RV overnight here so we decided to try another Fort Collins brewery.
After leaving Odells, we attempted to walk to two nearby breweries, Snowbank and Red Truck, but both were closed due to COVID. If they were open, our overnight RV parking spot would be ideal to walk to several Fort Collins breweries. Instead, we had to hop into our car to find a few that were open. We visited both the Gilded Goat and Prost.
The Gilded Goat had limited beer choices and the available options were primarily IPAs. It was not our favorite Fort Collins brewery based solely on our preferred styles of beers. Due to this, we politely had one small pour before moving to our next stop.
Gilded Goat is located in a strip mall near a large shopping area and doesn’t have the great outdoor patios of the larger Fort Collins breweries. The taproom is decorated with unique goat-themed art which made up for the uninspiring exterior.
Our final Fort Collins brewery stop was Prost. They make German-style beers and an outdoor beer garden complete with solid wood picnic tables. We really enjoyed their beers. Their small outdoor beer garden in downtown Fort Collins was busy the evening we visited. Prost Brewing also has a Denver location.
Downtown Fort Collins
During our short time in town, we didn’t get to explore the downtown area enough. It was busy the evening we visited. I have since learned downtown Fort Collins was Walt Disney’s inspiration for Main Street Disney.
Brews Cruise: Fort Collins Bike & Brewery Tour
During non-COVID times, there are also bike and beer tours that allow you to explore the downtown breweries. They have several options available if that interests you. I was happy with our non-bike-driven tour of a few Fort Collins breweries.
Eating Out in Fort Collins: Maza Kabob
For dinner, we had Maza Kabob based on a random drive-by sighting. After a beer or two, kabobs sounded good. Prost Brewery allowed us to enjoy our dinner in their beer garden. We were not disappointed with Maza Kabob. The eggplant dish was spectacular and we’d definitely go back the next time we visit Fort Collins.
Other Non-Brewery Things to do in Fort Collins
After a previous day full of breweries, we decided to check out a few non-beer attractions before leaving Fort Collins. So the following morning we moved Pippi to the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. They have a small dirt lot behind the museum designated for school buses visiting the museum. Due to COVID, there were no school buses visiting. We fit in there perfectly but I would call if visiting when school is in session. The museum is adjacent to a local park and we enjoyed a wooded stroll along the river.
Fort Collins Museum of Discovery
We visited the Museum of Discovery for free using our reciprocal ASTC membership. Our membership at an accredited science and technology museum provides free entrance to facilities around the country. If traveling with children or adults who enjoy museums and zoos, a membership at an AZA and ASTC organization is a great budget-saving option. We donate less than $60 annually to the Western North Carolina Nature Center and get free and discounted admission to facilities all over the United States.
The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery is a fairly small science museum with a focus on music. We enjoyed the hands on exhibit with instruments and interactive video tutorials. I attempted to learn a Nirvana song on guitar but unfortunately, my rendition sounded nothing like the original. Kevin enjoyed the drum set.
The views of Fort Collins from the roof were nice but the photos I took were lost in the transition to my new cell phone.
Colorado State University Perennial Garden
Before leaving Fort Collins, we visited the Colorado State University Perennial Garden. The garden is a testing ground for the horticulture department. It is open to the public. They grow a variety of plant species to test their ability to thrive in the region. The hibiscus was in full bloom and was worth the shortstop. The garden is located on a street corner on the campus perimeter. Abundant free residential street parking is available steps away.
Our Introduction to Colorado in an RV: Fort Collins Overnight
Fort Collins wasn’t a great welcome to Colorado. The wildfire smoke combined with COVID closures negatively affected our experience. In my opinion, the lack of free overnight RV parking options in a town full of breweries is a missed opportunity by the city of Fort Collins. However, I understand the negative stigma associated with RVs outside of campgrounds.
Thankfully our parking challenges in Fort Collins didn’t continue during the two months we spent in Colorado. We did finding overnight RV parking more challenging in Colorado cities, like Fort Collins, than in Wyoming cities, like Laramie and Cheyenne. Wyoming is less populated and hasn’t established the same overnight RV parking restrictions as Colorado.
Summary Fort Collins Brewery Tour
In summary, despite very limited options for free overnight RV parking at Fort Collins breweries, it is worth a stop for beer lovers. After some frustration and scouting, we parked on 3rd street in a residential neighborhood. We left Fort Collins headed into the mountains towards Nederland hoping for better luck finding free camping.