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Old 06-04-2016, 06:41 PM
 
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Buena Vista. Meets every one of your criteria.
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Old 06-04-2016, 07:46 PM
 
Location: East Central Phoenix
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I appreciate all the response, and there are some good recommendations. This summer, I am really wanting to stay away from crowds and high prices when I go on vacation, which is why I'm avoiding southern CA. Also, I'm looking for something with high elevation, lots of forests, and cool temperatures, but not necessarily a far reaching isolated location. Some of the high elevation mountainous areas of Arizona fit this description, but I've been to those areas so many times that it's getting a little monotonous.

As far as elevation, I'm pretty acclimated to it because I easily adapt to locations that are over 8,000 feet in Arizona's White Mountains. Leadville seems to be highly recommended ... however, I looked at some photos from that area, and didn't see too many lush pine forests. I'm thinking it might be because its 10K+ elevation is at the timberline, so that would be a little too high and treeless for me.

The more I look at what Woodland Park has to offer, the more I'm liking it. I didn't mention this before, but I prefer an area that isn't too dry, and receives more than 10 inches of precipitation a year. I'm rather impressed over Woodland Park's 19 inch average annual precipitation, and the fact that each of the summer months receives at least 2 or 3 inches of rainfall on average. I really enjoy high elevation summer thundershowers. The scenery around Woodland Park seems to be exactly what I'm looking for, and the town itself seems to be just the right size. I never realized how close to Colorado Springs this is!

My only question about Woodland Park is: are there lakes nearby that would be accessible for non 4X4 type of vehicles? I'm planning on driving from Phoenix into Colorado, but not looking to do much of anything "off road". The reason I mentioned lake access is I enjoy fishing, but this isn't high on my list. I'm mostly looking for a cool mountain getaway to escape the city life and the blast furnace heat. I've been to Colorado before, but mainly along the I25 corridor (Pueblo, Colorado Springs, and Denver) ... I haven't ventured much into the back country or the highlands.
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Old 06-04-2016, 08:13 PM
 
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Woodland Park is near Rampart Reservoir. Buena Vista is also near lots of reservoirs like Eleven Mile (which is also not terribly far from Woodland Park). Woodland Park is very close to Colorado Springs. Buena Vista would get you a little more into the mountains and away from some of the city traffic.
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Old 06-04-2016, 08:27 PM
 
Location: Betwixt and Between
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Pagosa Springs. Nice and sleepy, gorgeous, and an easy day's drive from Phoenix. Great hot springs for soaking, hiking, fishing, etc,etc. Check out Williams Creek reservoir if you go.

Pagosa Springs Colorado | Discover Pagosa Springs, Facts, History, Maps, Directions, Weather
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Old 06-04-2016, 09:02 PM
 
Location: Denver, CO
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Besides the great suggestions already mentioned in Colorado, another place for consideration, probably about equal distance driving from Phoenix is Mammoth Lakes, CA-- on Hwy 395 on the east slope of the Sierras. It has more of a forested landscape with some small natural lakes as opposed to the Colorado high country's more barren landscape. The type of pine tree prevalent in that region (Jeffrey Pine) is really cool and is different than the Ponderosa pines you're used to seeing in northern Arizona. I think that town and the surrounding area has exactly what you are looking for. It's definitely a tourist destination, but it's nothing like Colorado's tourist towns and Mammoth isn't really all that crowded in the summer.
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Old 06-04-2016, 10:43 PM
 
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Forested high altitude lakes in CO nontouristy areas, all at least 8000' elevation:

Twin Lakes, Leadville
Turquoise Lake, Leadville
Curecanti National Recreation Area's Blue Mesa Reservoir system, west of Gunnison
Gross Reservoir, past Coal Creek Canyon northwest of Golden
Eleven Mile Reservoir

If you can tolerate some touristiness, Granby Reservoir, northwest of the Front Range.

I have kayaked at all of the above and they are beautiful. If you camp, bring adequate sleeping bag and clothing for cold nights.
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Old 06-05-2016, 01:10 AM
 
Location: We_tside PNW (Columbia Gorge) / CO / SA TX / Thailand
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No need for 4x4 in summer (and most of winter) on paved roads in Colorado.
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Old 06-05-2016, 01:20 AM
 
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Ridgway. 7,000 feet, several good restaurants, the state park/reservoir five miles north on 550. (Ridgway is some 50 miles north of Telluride and a world o' difference, and Ouray is right down the road).
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Old 06-05-2016, 05:58 AM
 
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There are a lot of good suggestions already mentioned, but I'll add the area around Steamboat Springs State Park and Pearl Lake State Park. It has lakes, pines, hiking, and quick access to Steamboat Springs.
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Old 06-05-2016, 06:58 AM
 
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Your are quite correct about Leadville proper. I suspect many of us were actually thinking of Twin Lakes when we mentioned Leadville. We sort of associate the two together. Likewise, when I speak of Woodland Park as a vacation destination I think of Divide, Meuller State Park, and even Florissant as being associated together.

Lakes (actually reservoirs) near Woodland Park: Rampart Range, North Catamount, South Catamount, Manitou Park (small), Cheeseman Lake (only 25 miles or so, but takes an hour to get there), Lake George (small), Eleven Mile, Spinney Mountain. There is also the lovely Chrystal Peak Reservoir on the Pikes Peak toll road. Note that Antero Lake between Harsel and Buena Vista is currently drained for repairs to the dam.
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