Where to Camp in Colorado?
Ok, so you have set yourself aside some cash, tents etc. to go camping. Then you ask yourself where do I go?
It depends how long you are staying. In most cases you will have to drive to the camping spots which takes chunk of time. If you have a week, I suggest you pick 1 spot to stay. There is so much in one area to explore of Colorado with its vast variety of landscape. If you go from campsite to campsite, you waste precious time to explore what is right in front of you. I call this gypsy camping. If you are staying for an extended period of time say 2-3 weeks, campsite jumping isn’t as bad. A basic rule of thumb is: the shorter your vacation is the more beautiful your camping experience should be.
Ok, on to the places to camp! Here are my camping spots. In my younger days these were the spots that impacted me the most.
I will add them to the list as my schedule permits. Here are some teasers to get you started.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
This place is just plain awesome. It is located in south central Colorado due northeast of Alamosa. What it is, is a large collection of sand dunes trapped in between the southerly winds and mountain range behind it. The Campground sits in between the base of the mountains and the tallest dune, the Star dune. There are various activities, like the junior ranger program, visitor’s center and the nightly amphitheater shows. You can even set out on your own adventure to the top of the Star dune that sits at 750 feet. The campsite provides 2 loops for camping each with a bathroom with flushing toilets. There are also electric sites for trailers provided which is a huge plus. All in All this place is great for children. The best time to go is between May and early July, due to medano creek that run just below the sand dune line away from the campground. This creek is fed by the snow melt from the nearby mountains in the spring and dries up in late summer.
2. Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde is located in far southwestern Colorado. It is the home to a group cave dwellings that date back to the 13th century. These dwellings belonged to a group of Indians called Anasazi who carved the dwellings into the sides of cliffs. The campground sits on a mesa with a road leading access to the various dwelling exhibits. Make sure you have a full day for this site as touring the place will surprisingly take up some time. Again this place is good for children. There is a trail that runs just off the campground onto the edge of the mountain it sits on. The view there is spectacular. It is as if I was looking at a map.
3. Monarch Pass
If you are looking for the ultimate camping experience, monarch pass is the place. The pass itself sits on the continental divide and can be accessed on highway 50, in western Colorado. At the top of pass, there sits a lodge where many campers can refuel and get supplies. There are several camping spots in this area. The one I camped at was down west of the summit off of highway 50. This campsite is beautiful. It is nestled in a valley between highway 50 and the mountains. This spot often attracts fisherman as it is pock marked with ponds connected by a network of streams. The camping is quiet and calm. If you choose to stay here, you may find yourself wanting to stay awhile. If you want to keep dry the best time to stay is in June. Various hiking trails like Brown Creek trail and Fooses Creek Trail are good adventures for a day. Also, the view from the bottom of the valley to the sides of the mountains is breathtaking in the morning. All and all, come here if you are looking for peace, quiet and fun.
4. Ridgeway State Park by Ouray
North of Ouray in west central CO , Ridgeway State Park is has a large lake as its main attraction. You may choose to stay closer to the lake down below, or on the bluff that looks over the lake above. It is one of the more luxurious campsites in CO as it has fully heated, showers, a laundry facility and flushing toilets. There are a plethora number of campsites that allow for a less crowded camping environment. If you like to boat it this is the place for you; for the water is clean and clear.
Ridgeways close proximity to Ouray will also make your trip worthwhile. Ouray is loaded with tourist attractions including its own outside hot springs swimming pool. Rock-climbing is also a prevalent activity. The main strip is lined with shops that will interest many. One of my favorite shops was the rock shop there, where I learned how to gold pan. You can find all sorts of jewelry at this store and various rocks that most places don’t even carry. Just above Ouray is a valley called Yankee Boy Basin. It is a basin tucked into the mountains, that is covered in beautiful flowers and has numerous waterfalls running through the middle of the basin. You will be amazed at the beauty of this area in Colorado!