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Old 06-15-2010, 03:43 PM
 
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Early July I will be taking a pretty spur of the moment, unplanned roadtrip through New Mexico, Colorado and WY up to Yellowstone and back. I've never been to any of these states and my husband has not been since he was little. We are avid tent campers, hikers, backpackers, etc. and are experts when in Hawai'i and parts of Texas, but i'm really unfamiliar with these other states. Any suggestions on places to stay along the way and what it is like? Also, we usually are obsessive about reservations and stuff at State/National/County parks we want to stay at, but this trip is only happening if i get a new job, so we can't really make reservations in advance. Also, the roadtrip will be a little fly by night so i don't know exactly what days we'll be where.
I'm expecting camping at popular parks, like Yellowstone to be scarce or completely booked this time of summer, is that the case? is there anything you would suggest for just showing up and hoping to get a spot? also, if the actual park may be booked solid, do you have any suggestions for smaller businesses/parks that may offer tent camping. if it helps, we are very bare bones, we don't need electricity or anything like that; it is camping after all. any information would help! Thanks, Haylan
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Old 06-15-2010, 06:47 PM
 
Location: We_tside PNW (Columbia Gorge) / CO / SA TX / Thailand
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I have tented those states for many yrs. There are lots of forest service places that shouldn't be crowded, also some Bureau of Reclamation / DNR campgrounds.

I use this site Free Campgrounds for RVs
Many WY city parks allow camping, fairgrounds are another choice. (I like to camp in Powell and Lusk, WY). Bigger towns are less accommodating (and much less fun). Sometimes you can get spots in the NP, but best to be at the site ~ 11AM- noon for early check-in. Since I don't plan that well... I have ended up camping on back roads (usually Tetons, rather than Yellowstone). It is ez'r on a Motorcycle, and I do it after dark with lights off, and leave before dawn. (camo-net might help keep glare of moon off car). I have often camped (slept) in my car in a NP parking lot if campgrounds are full.

Try couchsurfing.com or a private guest home directory (~$10/night), you should find places that will let you camp for free / cheap.
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Old 06-15-2010, 08:52 PM
 
Location: Way on the outskirts of LA LA land.
3,040 posts, read 10,445,409 times
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I've traveled and camped extensively in the western U.S., but surprisingly, I've never camped in either NM or CO, though I've traveled a bit through both of them. UT, WY, and MT, on the other hand, I have camped in many times. Most of the times I've tent camped in any western state, I did not have a campground reservation, including in National Parks, though I've not tried camping in Yellowstone. I have camped in Grand Teton National Park, and did so without any prior reservation. Same goes for Glacier N.P. in Montana. It's best to ask at the entrance station to find out what camping is or might be available.

I've also camped in city parks in Wyoming, and agree with StealthRabbit's suggestion for doing so. My preference, though, is to camp in basic USFS campgrounds. They usually are inexpensive ($7-12/night), and offer most of the amenities I need, and some I don't. Other than fresh water, a place to pitch a tent, and a place to dispose of trash, I carry pretty much everything I need. Check the National Forest websites to find a campground listing, and look for places that meet your needs in the areas you'd like to camp. Other than holiday weekends, there is usually someplace nearby that isn't full. In some cases, this is even true on holiday weekends.
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Old 06-15-2010, 09:19 PM
 
Location: Cambridge, Nebraska
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Be aware that some campgrounds in Yellowstone do NOT allow tent camping... bears!

Throughout the west, public lands are the best camping spots to me. Besides state and federal parks, there are US Forest, BLM, and even some US Army Corp of Engineer campgrounds available. You mention being avid backpackers so I assume you are familiar with the term dispersed camping? If not, dispersed camping is defined as staying outside a developed campground, and it is permitted throughout national forests and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) managed lands. Learn the rules here... http://www.rv-camping.org/Boondocking.html.

I have not camped too much in New Mexico, but I'm a former resident of both Colorado and Wyoming so here are my perspectives...

The Colorado high country offers great camping, hiking, and other tourist opportunities. If you are looking to get away from it all, stay away from the national parks and bigger towns, get some forest service maps, and go find a place to camp. There are many great free places, and www.rv-camping.org/Colorado.html has links to federal, and state camping resources, as well as mapped free camping places that would be equally fine for RV or tent. While in Colorado, don't forget that most state wildlife refuges permit camping and there is almost nobody ever there! You need a wildlife stamp to stay in any and all refuges that allow camping, and there are over 200.

If you have not camped in Colorado, be aware that thunderstorms are common in the afternoons, and flash floods happen in the mountains now and then. Nights can be cold... I've been snowed on more than once on the 4th of July!. Drink lots of water. The air is very dry and dehydration is a very real problem for many visitors. High altitude sickness is common to those not acclimated to the high altitude.

Wyoming... well, depending on where you go, it sucks or is one of most beautiful places on earth. Much of the state is BLM managed land, and you will quickly see that much of the state has little vegitation other than sagebrush. The wind blows often, and it's a long way between towns! Again, check www.rv-camping.org/Wyoming.html for some suggestions for free campsites with maps. On the east side of Jackson Hole just outside Teton National Park is national forest land available for tent and RV's. Here is a picture of the view, and there is a map to this location on the above site too.



The more remote you get in Wyoming, the more you need to be aware of bears. Bears are common just outside the town of Jackson, and Grand Teton has a large population of black and browns. The good news is that I've never seen a rattlesnake at elevation in either Colorado or Wyoming.
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Old 06-15-2010, 10:10 PM
 
Location: Wyoming
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I don't think you'd have too much trouble finding a spot for tent camping in the National Forest campgrounds near the parks as long as you get to them by 4 p.m. or so. If you can't find one, take a logging road and find a nice spot where you can boondock.

Even inside Yellowstone's borders, I've often gone without prior reservations and have always found a spot for my RV. *knock on wood* Sometimes I wasn't sure if I would. (I've probably been there a couple dozen times.)

When tent camping you'll have access to a few campgrounds that many RVers won't. One of my favorites in Yellowstone is Indian Creek Campground. It's small, and it usually has a few spots into mid-afternoon. (For most Park campgrounds, check-in time is 11 a.m., so plan to be there then.)
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Old 06-15-2010, 11:16 PM
 
Location: Way on the outskirts of LA LA land.
3,040 posts, read 10,445,409 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Off Pavement View Post
The good news is that I've never seen a rattlesnake at elevation in either Colorado or Wyoming.
I have property in eastern Wyoming, at about 5200' elevation. I have seen rattlesnakes there (my daughter and my neice almost stepped on one while on a walk). Though this is lower than much of the state, there is still the possibility of encounters with rattlesnakes in Wyoming. I've camped quite a few times on my property there, and haven't had any rattlesnake trouble (other than the encounter mentioned above) in the times I've done so.

The primary concern (as stated by others earlier) in many parts of the west, is bears. It's true that some of Yellowstone's campgrounds don't allow tents, or for that matter, tent trailers or other soft-sided accommodations, because of the bears. As long as you take appropriate precautions, even bears shouldn't be a problem. Check with the local authorities to find out about local bear activity and proper precautions to be taken.
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Old 07-04-2010, 03:40 PM
 
Location: Colorado
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Rattlesnakes are in Colorado, we're at 6300+ feet and there are rattlers in Garden of the Gods.
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Old 07-04-2010, 03:43 PM
 
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There are rattlesnakes in NM also.

I read this suggestion one time in a NM source, that if you're out camping and a rattlesnake crawls into your sleeping bag during the night, just to be aware that all it is looking for is warmth and the best thing to do is lay perfectly still until the sun comes up and starts warming up the morning air, then the snake will crawl out. It's only when you move and disturb the snake that it will attack.
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Old 07-08-2010, 04:39 PM
 
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Some places I'd recommend seeing / staying:

New Mexico

White Sands National Monument (south-central part of state)
Gila or Apache National Forest (west-central, low to no crowds)
Sante Fe (I'd stay up in the cool shade of Hyde Memorial State Park NE of town)
Canjillion Lake (north-central, east of Cebolla very pretty)

Colorado

Forest service camps above Durango (SW corner)
Lake City (SW)
Grand Mesa (west-central, tons of little lakes)
maybe Dionsaur National Monument

Wyoming

One of the Wind River lakes near Pinedale (west-central)
Grand Teton (if you show up at like 9-10 am there is a first come-first served tent site section I've gotten into several times)
Beartooth Mountains (outside NE corner of Yellowstone) very pretty and quieter than developed park sites
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