For the holiday weekend we needed a spot away from 1-70! We also wanted to avoid overcrowded campgrounds.
From west Arvada we took hwy 72 through Coal Creek Canyon towards Nederland. You could also take 119 out of Boulder. In Nederland; stay on 72 out of town for about 7 miles. On your right you’ll see National Forrest Road 326. Turn down this road staying right. You will begin to see a few different directions to go and there are many sites back here. Because we were camping with my parents and a 5th wheel we needed an open spot with an easier road. If you just have a pop up or tent; there are many great spots further in. We went left on 328B and found a great spot for our large group!
Pros and Cons….
Pros: great views, can walk to the river and a creek, close to town, great for groups, lots of hiking trails and 4 wheel trials are nearby.
Cons: You will be camping with others nearby….you can’t necessarily see each other but it’s a fairly busy area. Bears. We had a pretty persistent bear one evening; he came back 3 times; clearly he was conditioned for camping food. He didn’t come into our site with 5 dogs but kept at the people up the hill from us. Be smart about your food.
We did not take any dispersed camping trips during the fire bans of Summer 2012. Call us wimpy–but the campfire is pretty important to us when you are in the middle of National Forest! I will do a posting of “alternative” mountain trips we did during June and July. Sooo, we were thrilled to be able to take off on a trip in August when the bans had been lifted and our state was receiving more moisture. We headed out on a 4 wheel drive trail to an area above Idaho Springs in Arapahoe National Forest. We now own a Dodge diesel truck and my brother has his Jeep. As a reminder…our pop up has a reversed axel and trailer tires. It sits higher. We often use a book published by Fun Treks to find 4 wheel drive trails and campsites. Check them out! We chose a blue trail to try out.
Getting There: 170 West to Exit 238–Fall River Road. When you exit the hwy you will take a right and head north on Fall River Road. This is a paved road for 6.5 miles. At the bottom of a switchback you will see a very nice gated home and an unmarked road to the left of the house. This is your turn. Here is the house…
You’ll start up the trail. It is rated green (out of green, blue and red). I’m saying it is a strong green and more of a blue as you head up. You’ll come to the fork where you’ll go to the left for Chinn’s Lake…to the right is Fall River Reservoir. The road gets progressively rougher—still rated a blue at this point–but it’s a strong blue! We were pulling our pop-up….so it was a bit of an adventure! Eventually you’ll come to the base of Chinn’s Lake. There is camping right at the entrance. We went around the lake and camped above. On one side of the site was Chinn’s Lake–the other side was Sherman Lake. This took about an hour from the hwy.
Here is the easiest spot (then I was hanging on!)
We needed a spot large enough for the pop-up, the truck, 2 tents and the Jeep. It was a bit more exposed than we would have liked (there was wind later) but it was a nice spot with great views. There were probably only 3 or 4 spots total that we saw that would accommodate a pop-up. As it turns out–we didn’t see any other pop-ups…just tents 🙂 There were far more people than we would have expected on a Thursday and up that road! On Friday, they cleared out and the new batch of people started up in the afternoon. There were a few partiers and a little hooting and hollering. Nothing too annoying though.
The lakes were very, very low. It was fun to explore what used to be under water…but we all agreed we’d like to see this area after a better winter. We did some fishing also. ATV’s, backpackers and hikers were also in the area.
We took this trip the first weekend of June 2012. Camping the first weekend of June?! Well, normally that’s a pretty chilly weekend but because of the dry winter and hot spring we gave it a go. Of course, we ended up happy we did it as soon after the fires began raging out of control and the statewide fire ban was put in place. It was a bit chilly at times and we had a few storms…but plenty of good weather to enjoy this gem of a spot!
Getting there: To get to Yampa from Denver we took 170 to Silverthorne and then hwy 40 to 134 and then 131. You may continue on 170 to the Steamboat exit as well…… From Yampa, go 4 miles west on county rd 17 then 6 miles west on county rd 15.
This is a small “campground.” No fees, reservations or host…but there was a vault toilet. 10 spots. It was fairly full when we pulled in Friday afternoon. We pulled up next to the lake and repaired a fire pit and had a great spot! This was a group camping trip for us so there were actually 2 very large spots side by side. We thought this was Crosho Lake…as it turns out you go a few feet from our campsite up a little bluff and there is the bigger lake. However, we loved camping right next to this littler lake. This area is beautiful and it was very quiet despite having people nearby. Great hiking trails as well. You are in Routt National Forest.
Here is a slideshow showing the area…including other views of the campground and both lakes.
We decided to head south for a trip to Buena Vista and the surrounding area. This was a camping trip…but more of a site seeing trip. We actually were leaving for the trip from La Junta, Colorado..rather than from Denver. Growing up; I always stayed in KOA campgrounds! Though we really enjoy dispersed camping for many reasons…we decided to do a KOA trip! We ended up staying at the Cotopaxi KOA along Hwy. 50. This is a great campground that has a really nice family that owns it. It has an outdoor pool, nice bathrooms, an evening hayride and even some craft nights. We really liked staying in one of their “deluxe” sites along the Arkansas River and had a nice flagstone patio with furniture. We are living it up now! We used this site as a base camp to visit Cottonwood Lake and Mt. Princeton Hot Springs. On the way home we headed to the great and weird Bishop’s Castle!
Cottonwood Lake: This lake was originally where we were going to camp before we decided to “resort” it 🙂 As you drive past the lake you will come upon some dispersed camping. However, this is a great day lake and has plenty of hidden picnic spots…it’s really quiet and stunning. We didn’t do well fishing…but we were mostly relaxing.
Mt. Princeton Hot Springs: Love this place! We went for the pools and the river. There is also a great resort and restaurant. This can be an inexpensive outing or a luxurious weekend! There are 2 outdoor pools along with the river…as well as a water slide up the hill. You buy one wrist band to enter all of the pools. It was raining when we were there most of the time..but it was still really nice to sit in the pools during the rain.
Bishop’s Castle: Well, until you go there and see it AND listen to the owner talk…you won’t really “get” it. He has hand built this castle for years and years. He is very anti-government and sometimes will “preach” it from the castle as he builds. Though, we found him mellow this trip. It’s free to get in..but donations help build the castle. There is a little gift shop as well. It’s worth it…atleast once in your life. I have been going my whole life and it was time to take the kids!
Follow the links embedded above for all the directions and websites to these locations. Let me know if any of them aren’t good links. Thanks! Below is a slideshow of our few days.
We returned to Rainbow Falls area for a second trip. After a stop in Woodland Park; the road to Rainbow Falls is nearby. This is a heavy traversed area for ATV’s. The first area we arrived at was a huge parking lot and bathrooms…as we continued down the road there are many spots where ATV’ers can camp and then use the road for play. If this is you…great! If this is not you…you need to head UP! There are a few roads that begin to go up above the main ATV area. This is where we went. The views are fabulous and the spots are large and plentiful. This is not an area with any water nearby…just basic wooded camping. For entertainment we continued to explore the roads and the views. There are 4 by 4 trails and walking trails. You are in Pike National Forrest.
From Woodland Park take Hwy 67 for 10.5 miles north
Rainbow Falls road will be on your right
This is a quick dispersed spot to get to from Hwy 7….on the way to Allenspark. Our kids go to camp every summer at Highlands Presbyterian Camp which is just around the corner. So, we decided to pick them up and have them live without showers another day or so! The Bunce School Trail Head is a popular 4 wheel drive area–it also connects to Camp Dick and can go through Peaceful Valley. We found this spot just past the historic Bunce School. It is a pretty busy area. There were lots of ATV trails as well and Saturday was a pretty heavy day for them to be whizzing past our campsite. We took out my brothers jeep on a few roads and there are great views. This really isn’t the site for peace and quiet, however. We were camping in a tent this particular weekend…but a pop-up could easily get into the area. This was a really quick trip for us and we didn’t really look for a long time for a spot. I do think this area provides many other spots–particularly through the Peaceful Valley and next to the Vrain river. Plan to explore this more at some point!
Bunce School Trailhead: Take Highway 7 from Lyons to Allenspark. After the turnoff for Highway 72, there is a brown sign for a “Point of Interest.” Follow the sign, and you’ll find yourself at the old Bunce School and the northern start of the Bunce School trail.
This is actually a great spot for a family photo—Christmas cards or whatever!
Kelsey thinks so too 🙂 She always is willing to pose for us!
This camping trip was 8 years ago! However, before I posted, I made sure that the place was still in existence. Ute Lodge is outside of Meeker, Colorado. What a great find! They have cabins, rv camping, tent camping and even a yurt! Just above the campground they also have a private stocked lake. AND horseback riding. When we were there you could even stay in a tent that they provided–no setting up and taking down. Our kids–pretty little then–really enjoyed exploring this property. We found it to be quiet at the time and had a feel of “privately owned.” I remember most that the walk to the small lake above the property was really beautiful and made you feel like you had your own piece of paradise. As we have said, we mostly like to dispersed camp. However, Ute Lodge was very laid back and didn’t have that tourist campground feel to it. Would be anxious to know if it is still like this…..
Trappers Lake is nearby and they do have a little chunk of white river that is private for fishing. This is the gateway to Flat Tops Wilderness and White River National Forest is nearby. Beautiful!!
Here is the link to the resort: Ute Lodge Directions and a map
This is Trappers Lake…
This is the stocked lake and a view of the property below……
We chose Jackson Lake for it’s proximity to Denver and because it had a group camping area with RV hookups. This was a church weekend that included a wide age range as well as many different camping methods. This site also had a nice covered pavilion for our group meal. There were pros and cons to this location. Nice large area for camping with hookups and lots of privacy was certainly a “pro”. It also had a nice bathroom facility, a great group fire pit and easy access to the lake. Plains camping is very different from a mountain lake, however! It was really warm and then we ended up with a pretty strong string of storms. The lake had a nice little beach area near our site…..but it was realllllly green!! The kids didn’t mind much. Speaking of green, there were the toads! Lots and lots of toads at night….like covering the ground in a moving carpet! Nonetheless, it is an option for a group that worked out pretty well. I prefer the mountains, but not opposed to exploring the outdoors of the whole state! This is a Colorado State Park…..which there are 42 of BTW. Perhaps we will make a point of visiting them all!
Getting there from Denver: East on I-76. Take the second Wiggins’ exit (Exit 66). Turn left (north) on CO 39/CO 52. Drive approximately 9 miles. Drive ½ mile past Goodrich to T-intersection. Turn left onto County Road Y.5. Stay on County Road Y.5 (It will turn north after a couple of miles.) This will take you past the south side and into the main park area on the west.
Jackson Lake State Park
Last summer we went to Steamboat Springs for a wedding. The wedding was held at Steamboat Lake Outfitters and we did a little half day excursion to Pearl Lake. The resort was a great little place! There are multiple cabins, a store, a restaurant and many opportunities for recreation. The cabins are different sizes and the prices are very reasonable. Horses are on site. You’ll note that they are also a hunting outfit when you go to the website link below.
This area is north of Steamboat Springs and seems to be pretty quiet. I haven’t been to Steamboat Lake, but perhaps this is a less populated choice. Pearl Lake is one of Colorado’s State Parks. We headed over to the lake for a half day of fishing and hanging out. Gorgeous lake. There is a campground at Pearl Lake as well–and based on others recommendations, I can say that it is a great find!
Getting there: From Steamboat Springs, go west two miles on US 40 to county road 129, then turn right. Go north 23 miles to Pearl Lake Road, turn east and drive two miles to the park.
Steamboat Lake Outfitters Resort
Pearl Lake Colorado State Park
This is the view from the front of the resort.
We had a storm just before the wedding ceremony and then it cleared up to be beautiful! (I think this was a really great place to have a wedding!)
This was a group camping trip in the Woodland Park area. We went to an area called Rainbow Falls. There are lots of dispersed camping throughout the area. This is also a popular ATV area. It connects to Rampart Range and that’s where you find the camping that is set up for ATV type vehicles. This, of course, causes for noise concern. But, where we ended up it was pretty quiet–aside from the occasional bouts of shooting. Remember that national forest camping often means shooting.
From Woodland Park take Hwy 67 for 10.5 miles north
Rainbow Falls road will be on your right