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Old 03-25-2016, 06:35 AM
 
Location: Metro Atlanta
65 posts, read 314,616 times
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My wife and I are planning a road trip out West this summer and are looking to spend about a week in Colorado tent camping. I've got two main questions.

1) With only a week, what is the one must see area of the state that you would recommend to a couple of first time visitors? Keep in mind, we want to tent camp the entirety of our trip and most of our leisure activities would be outdoor oriented. Any recommended hiking spots would be appreciated as well.

2) How crowded will it be during the summer(specifically early to mid June) at the various campgrounds? Should we be concerned with making reservations ahead of time or can we reserve stuff the day of in person?

A little more background; we are driving from Georgia and are looking at 3 weeks total for the trip. I was wanting to spend some time in Arizona and Utah, but realistically we could dedicate more time in Colorado and save some of those other spots for another trip.

Thanks for the help!
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Old 03-25-2016, 09:02 AM
 
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A little more information would be helpful. I have taken several driving vacations to Co/northern New Mexico - some motel, some mostly camping. What would help is your camping intentions, ie camp 1-2 nights, drive, camp another couple of nights versus camp in one spot 3-4 nights and light driving to activities/attractions. Also you stated 3 weeks for entire trip, are you planning on camping from Ga to the Rockies ? Mostly I bit the bullet and did a couple of long driving days coming and going with motel to get to/from Memphis. When younger, up to 1000 miles, when older more like 750. During summer, camping may not be very pleasant until you get to the mountains, plus the other big issue is the time required to setup/break down camp can get old on a daily basis. Suggest you narrow down your destinations, reduce the time spent to and from the Rockies, and have more time to camp and enjoy mountain activities. My experience with tent camping was most government campgrounds are bare essential services, so consider a motel night every 3-4 days for bath/shower. Didn't find a lot of options for tent camping in commercial campgrounds. Suggest you concentrate on Co this first trip, particularly away from Denver/Rocky Mtn NP - they will be crowded. Southern CO, around Durango, Silverton, Salida, Gunnison, Crested Butte have a lot to offer.
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Old 03-25-2016, 09:19 AM
 
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agree with above outlook ... you need to narrow down your interests and activities.

IMO, your CO camping experience will be "better" if you'll focus on one or two locations, set up camp and enjoy the outdoors/scenery/activities of the area.

Much will depend upon your level of camping expertise; ie, are you just using a minimal tent for a shelter with some sleeping pads/bags, or do you have the full-tilt outfit? For example, I can car camp for extended stays with a 8' X 10' old Diamond brand canvas tent, where we can have a couple of cots, a full camping kitchen w/cooler, water supply, and a sunshower which can either deliver solar hot water or be filled with warm water as needed.

Early June will not be particularly crowded, but it may still be advisable to use the CO reservations system at some of the more popular campgrounds. Keep in mind that the overnight temps in the high country may still be near or below freezing temps and the facilities may not all be open/accessible. Some of the major CO state campgrounds have full support facilities; for example, Hayden has tent camping sites and a bath house with excellent showers (coin operated, use quarters). Mountain areas may still have wild swings in weather/temps/snowfall/rain, gusty winds, clear bright strong sunshine ... and any combination of the above in a day. Be prepared for a wide range of weather, some of very short duration such as a heavy rainfall for a few minutes.

If the point of your tent camping is to economize on overnight stays to provide access to other attractions, then it would be helpful to know what your interests are in Colorado ...
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Old 03-25-2016, 09:53 AM
 
Location: Ewa Beach, HI
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I didn't read the other posts, so some of this may have already been said.

With one week, I would try to camp at Pearl Lake State Park (near Steamboat Springs), Mueller State Park and Ridgway State Park. Golden Gate Canyon State Park has some really good hiking too. You could go from Pearl Lake to Golden Gate to Mueller to Ridgway, and you would be pretty close to AZ at that point. This is probably too much for a week, but you could probably make it work in eight days if you did two nights at each. It isn't a "one must see area", but you would get a decent view of a good portion of the state.

There is so much to do in see in Colorado, that a week is really a pretty short trip. I realize we all have limits on our free time. I have lived here for 11 years, and there is a ton of stuff I haven't seen or done. I lived in AZ for five years too. I'm guessing that part of the reason you want to go to AZ is to see the Grand Canyon. Unless you are going to hike down in the canyon, I wouldn't spend more than a couple days there, maybe just one night. If I had three weeks to spend between AZ, UT and CO, I would probably spend two of the weeks in CO. My plan would be to enter CO on I70 or I80 and work my way down through the mountains to the Southwestern part of CO. Once there I would go back up through Grand Junction and take I70 over to Moab. From Moab I would go down through Monument Valley. Then I would go over to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. From there I would take I40 back to Georgia.

You will definitely want to book as much of your camping in advance as possible. It might be a little less of a big deal for tent sites, but our experience camping in state parks with a camper has been that you will get the worst spot in the park, or no spot at all if you don't book early. Go check online to see how far in advance you can book.
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Old 03-25-2016, 10:32 AM
 
Location: Colorado Springs
3,049 posts, read 2,077,790 times
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I'll jump on with the more info required on getting here, staying here, and passing through. Types and mixes of activities you might be leaning towards will help. Kinds of camping you want to do such as organized campgrounds, State Parks, BLM, or national forest. All have differing requirements and potential limitations. Ie, as dry as its been, we could have a fire ban in summer time which could impact cooking options.

June, IMO, is when things start getting crowded, but that is contingent. Most places with two hours of Ft Collins, Boulder, Denver, and Colorado Springs will be packed busy on weekends. Weekdays not so much. Beyond that, the crowds do thin out considerably, but again, popular places and things will always have a steady stream of people in the summer months. If you are camping in organized sites, I'd recommend reservations where ever possible.

Top things to see...wow, where to start. If you do something like Trip Advisors top ten list, you would be all over the state. Plus you would need to narrow that down further with nature attractions, park attractions, historical sites, museums, and so forth. You could spend weeks traversing the state seeing different things, so at least narrow it down to northern, central, or southern, then types of camping/camp grounds and we may be able to narrow down things to see and do.

A few web sites you might want to browse to help with this:
Colorado Parks and Wildlife Division Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Colorado State Parks Colorado State Parks | Colorado.com
Colo State Parks reservation system http://coloradostateparks.reserveamerica.com/
Bureau of Land Mgmt Colorado Bureau of Land Management: Colorado
US Forest Service lands in Colorado USDA Forest Service - Recreation, Heritage and Wilderness
Colorado Tourism and Visitors site Colorado Tourism - Official Colorado Vacation Guide | Colorado.com
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Old 03-25-2016, 05:01 PM
 
Location: We_tside PNW (Columbia Gorge) / CO / SA TX / Thailand
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With your objectives, I would do western and SW CO and UT near Moab. Try to fit in Bryce as well, it is spectacular.

Except for National Parks, I would try to avoid developed campgrounds, and find a county or forest service spot near a stream. (High ground if raining nearby!!!!), Not able to reserve these in advance. I have found the best campgrounds by hunting around an area that I am interested in. For cities, consider couchsurfing or guest homes... $ free to $ 10 / night.
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Old 03-28-2016, 01:30 PM
 
Location: Georgetown,TX
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We tent camp in CO every summer, most always on Forest Service or BLM land. No facilities (except nearby vault toilet). Can shower/refresh by using shower house at RV park or hostel, and also if you visit Ouray/Glenwood/Pagosa/..... hot springs. When there have been burn bans in the past, we were still allowed to use propane for cooking, just no campfire.

Our favorite area is the San Juan mountains. Should not be crowded mid June, but as others have stated, be prepared for diverse weather conditions--- part of the adventure! That early in the season, streams should be flowing high (from snow melt) and many hikes have stream crossings. Countless hiking spots, a couple to check out: Ice Lakes Basin, Oh-Be Joyful.
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Old 03-29-2016, 08:57 AM
 
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I suggest you stay at USFS campgrounds (usually vault toilets) or Colorado State Parks (often toilets and showers) campgrounds. They generally are more rugged than a developed campground so you get the dispersed camping (camping for free in the national forest) experience with out the risk of noise from nearby partying or the trouble of finding a free site. Here is a link to a site with options. Click on the map in Colorado and keep zooming in. You have to zoom in pretty far to get the individual campgrounds. This will be useful once you decide what sites you want to see and activities you want to do.
The Ultimate Public Campgrounds Project - Website Map

We almost never make reservations and have no problem finding a place. We do prefer dispersed camping. On weekends for a popular campground you may need reservations so if you have your heart set on something in particular on a weekend then do reserve. Most often on weekdays there is no problem getting in anywhere. Many have non-reservable sites so if you show up on a Thurs. for a popular spot you can easily stay through the weekend by choosing a non-reservable site.

Mid to early June could be really cold. Make sure you have winter gear (winter sleeping bag, parka, hat, gloves etc). You will likely see snow on the ground. We often use our winter coats and RV furnace in July as well as take pictures in the snow at higher altitudes. Pay attention to the altitude of the campgrounds you are selecting. Unless you know you are good a high altitude try to choose ones that are lower as you will be more comfortable. Often it is just a matter of driving a little ways down the road.
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Old 03-29-2016, 10:57 AM
 
Location: Metro Atlanta
65 posts, read 314,616 times
Reputation: 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by mic111 View Post
I suggest you stay at USFS campgrounds (usually vault toilets) or Colorado State Parks (often toilets and showers) campgrounds. They generally are more rugged than a developed campground so you get the dispersed camping (camping for free in the national forest) experience with out the risk of noise from nearby partying or the trouble of finding a free site. Here is a link to a site with options. Click on the map in Colorado and keep zooming in. You have to zoom in pretty far to get the individual campgrounds. This will be useful once you decide what sites you want to see and activities you want to do.
The Ultimate Public Campgrounds Project - Website Map
Thank you for pointing out that website, very useful.

And thank you to everyone else for the advice so far.

After talking it over with my wife we may actually try to take 4 weeks instead of the originally planned 3 for our trip. Also, after the comments here and a little of my own research I think we may try to focus more on the southwest corner of the state. This part of the state seems to have the highest concentration of outdoor activities that would interest us as well as makes the excursion into southern Utah afterwards easier.

We will definitely be camping the entire time. I've been camping for most of my life and after I introduced it to my wife, she loves it as well. We did a trip up the east coast from Atlanta to Nova Scotia last summer and had a great time camping along the way. We did a couple of one-nighters while camping which wasn't the worst thing, but setting up camp and staying for a couple of nights is definitely preferable. Ideally we would be able to pinpoint 2 or 3 spots in SW Colorado to set up "base camp" and make our daily excursions and hikes from there.

So, all that being said; if anybody has any suggestions for places that could serve as a good base camp in SW Colorado that would be awesome.

Also, is there a high probability that there will be a burn ban in June? I know that's hard to predict but the only reason I ask is because I don't own a butane stove and have always just cooked over an open fire. Burn bans aren't something I am very familiar with camping here in the Eastern US.
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Old 03-29-2016, 01:07 PM
 
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I would count on their being a burn ban. If there isn't your in luck but remember to really drown that fire after your done. Don't just throw some dirt on it. I can't tell you the number of times we have come across smoldering campfires while boondocking in the national forest. Luckily in our RV we have the water to drown them out.

In terms of places to stay if you come in through the SE corner of the state look at both Zapata Falls and the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Both campgrounds are excellent.
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attracti..._Colorado.html
Bring sturdy river sandals or don't care tennis shoes as there is no path back to the falls. You have to walk in the river bed. The campground is right at the base of the not too challenging path back to the place you enter the river to get to the falls.

Great Sand Dunes has some very nice hikes from it or you can just hike the dunes. If you go on a weekend you will need reservations. During the week you can probably find something. I would suggest only doing it during weekdays and staying somewhere more remote on a weekend because it is so popular.
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attracti..._Colorado.html

Mesa Verde has a very nice campground. But I think the real value is in the tours that leave from the campground store.
Morefield Campground - Camping Accommodations - Mesa Verde National Park
Everyone visiting the sites kept trying to hang out with our tour group (which was only 4 people) because of the narrative of the guide. It departed from the campground store. There are others for climbing around the ruins that were more popular. I don't know why the ones from the store were such a hidden secret. But they were excellent value.

Edit: Don't forget to get your Colorado Search and Rescue card in case someone needs to come bail you out. They are very inexpensive.
https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/dol...ue-corsar-card
"The CORSAR card is available for $3 for a one-year and $12 for five-year card and can be purchased at over 300 retailers in the state. You may also purchase a card on-line."
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