North Canyon Campground is situated next to Vallecito Reservoir in southwestern Colorado. Visitors enjoy the area for its beautiful scenery and wide range of recreational activities, including boating, fishing and hiking.
Vallecito Reservoir is a very popular fishing lake, with anglers casting for German brown trout, cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, kokanee salmon and northern pike.
The lake offers great boating, water skiing and canoeing opportunities. Boat rentals and fishing licenses are available at various locations around the lake.
A variety of hiking and horseback riding trails are found in the area. The North Canyon Trail begins across the road from the campground and leads through ponderosa pine and aspen forests. A short side trail leads to a scenic overlook of the lake.
East Creek Trail begins a quarter-mile northeast of the campground, on Forest Road 852. It provides access to a lightly used, scenic drainage where fly-fisherman cast for brook trout. Both trails are popular with horseback riders, however, horses are not allowed in the campground.
The campground offers single-family sites, many of which have lake views. Sites are equipped with a picnic table and campfire ring. Vault toilets and drinking water are provided.
Vallecito, which is Spanish for "little valley," sits at an elevation of 7,900 feet. Scattered ponderosa pines tower over the open campground, offering limited shade. A thick understory provides privacy between sites, many of which have partial lake views. Thickets of willow separate the camping area from the lakeshore. High peaks of the San Juans are visible to the northwest of the campground.
ADA Access: N
We camped at Vallecito for a week in July of 2019. The water to the reservoir was pleasantly over capacity (a joy after a drought) but meant that the water line was well into the brush making swimming a challenge among the branches and driftwood that would tangle little feet. I saw signs that I assume were supposed to be at a beach, twenty feet out into the lake. I would imagine that this would be a great swimming hole when the lake was at a normal capacity.
The campground was typical for a forest service campground. There are vault toilets and the host comes around once per day. There is a dumpster. There is clean water.
The campground is almost entirely shaded by tall pines. There is a creek that trickles past some of the campsites (which makes for a pleasant sound when lying in the tent at night).
Noise travels over the water and through this area like it doesn't at many other campgrounds. While overall, I found the campground to be quiet and peaceful, neighbors arguing a few campgrounds down, or being rowdy by the fire, will keep the light sleeper awake at night.
There are many RV parks on the other side of the lake (about a 20-30 minute drive from North Canyon) where showers can be purchased for about $5. Call ahead. There is small store on the other side of the lake too, but it was closed when we went trough.There is a camp store in an RV park only a few miles away from North Canyon where a camper could likely purchases supplies. Bayfield has many amenities.
The campgrounds on the East side of Vallecito are all located on a very well maintained dirt road. If driving to the camp from Bayfield be sure to take a right before the dam. We camped in a large group of people, and most of them missed this turn. Trying to drive around the lake will create two problems. The first is the addition of an hour to your drive time. Secondly, a couple miles north of North Canyon Campground, the road ceases to be well maintained (this questionable area is not marked as a road on all maps and is likely seasonal). There is a dirt road that will connect the North to the East--however, but many vehicles and trailers are not recommended to pass through. To drive through it will look as though the traveller is going through at least two different, private campgrounds. They will pass a warning sign about the road conditions, and they will have to go up a steep grade and around a sharp corner. The dirt road is minimally maintained. Having said that, I arrived at Vallecito from the North after and 4 day wilderness trek in the Weminuche, so I wanted to investigate this stretch of dirt road. I was able to pass through with my minivan (nicknamed VanJeep). Needless to say, it would be better to take the right before the dam!
Heavy use and most sites very close to each other. Several people ran generators but I'm guessing not an issue during less peak weekends. Otherwise wonderful place close to lake shore when it's full. Could be a tricky walk if it's down. It was beautiful and cool temps.