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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!
Northeast of historic Downtown Durango, CO towers a mountain wilderness with an alpine lake whose breadth and width defy its altitude above the clouds, Emerald Lake. From the bounty of Emerald lake streams ramble, which cascade into waterfalls, and form into large rivers that overflow the reservoirs downstream. The first day of our out-and-back trek, we followed the Pinos River along the fairly level Pinos River Trail for about 6 miles before setting up camp. There is ample camping space along this part of the trail with small fields opening from under the cover of the trees, which is never far from the roaring Pinos River. In the morning, we packed up to turn from the Pinos River Trail and made a 4-mile ascent up to Emerald Lake via Lake Creek Trail. The trail upwards was dramatic, taking us through forest and field, past a tumbling river with many falls, through heavy vegetation, through a hail storm, and into rocky terrain. Many switchbacks later and we spotted the jewel of the mountains, little Emerald. Little Emerald forms from the runoff of Emerald proper. In its own right, little Emerald is larger than any alpine lake that I’ve hiked to or camped at previously. It is near little Emerald that we set up camp.
Finding a campsite at Emerald lake can be like playing a game of hide-and-seek. A strict camping set back from the water pushes campers out into a boulder-filled moraine where a level patch of ground is not so easy to find. There is no camping directly alongside Big Emerald Lake, whereas the entire canyon makes up the watershed. However, there is a small side canyon towards the northside of the lake where the adventurer can find some great campsites with a little more elbow room. And venturing another half mile beyond the northside of the lake will yield more camping space. The northside will afford the camper more solitude, but it will come at the cost of a longer walk to the water to replenish supplies. We were happy to find our place among the boulders of the moraine above Little Emerald, where we camped for two glorious nights.
With camp set up, we sat still and quite by the moraine and watched our curious marmot and shy, silky pika neighbors pop in and out of their boulder-made mansions. Mule deer silently wandered in and out of camp, foraging on the abundant plants throughout the forest. Exploring little Emerald, we found Lake Creek, peaceful and playful, large for the name of "creek", here in the Southwest. Hiking alongside Emerald Lake proper carried us through lush vegetation, overflowing with wildflowers. The lake surpasses all expectations, surrounded by snowy peaks that stand like sentinels. From a distance we could gaze at a waterfall freefalling off the cliffs high above us. In the evenings we sat by the campfire and watched the sky turn to fire and the peaks glow purple, reflecting their brilliance on the water. Despite the fact that Emerald Lake is a popular destination, we found peace and restoration by the shores of Emerald.
Trail to Emerald Lake begins at Pine River Campground and is approximately 20.5 miles round trip.
As a backpacking enthusiast, I weigh out every ounce of my gear before setting it in my pack. Anything that I bring into the backcountry must carry more than its weight in value, while having almost no physical weight. This is what makes the products designed by Outdoor Element so brilliant. Outdoor Element makes survival gear for the adventurer that is based upon the essentials that we already carry in our pack. Their gear helps me to be more prepared, while carrying less. On this trip I carried Outdoor Element’s Firebiner and Wombat Whistle stuffed with their Tinder Quick(https://www.outdoorelement.com/product/firebiner-carabiner/). . )
The Wombat Whistle is emergency gear that no hiker/backpacker should travel without. While I had the great fortune of not having a misfortune to require the use of the emergency whistle, my sons and I played with it before setting out on our adventure. The shrill, sharp notes of the whistle are sure to grab the attention of any would be rescuer. It is lightweight and clips easily onto the outside of my pack, where I can grab it in any emergency situation. The Wombat whistle doubles as a waterproof vial to keep the Outdoor Element Tinder Quick dry and ready for use. The Wombat Whistle boasts a screwdriver tool for the Firebiner that doubles as a reflector. While the screwdriver works nicely with the Firebiner, the reflector is so small that it would take a lot of skill to direct any noticeable amount of light into the eye of a passerby; so I'm not counting on that feature.
Outdoor Element’s Firebiner delivers on every promise. It primarily served my needs as a lightweight carabiner. I always clip a carabiner on my pack; their uses are many. I used this one to clip on some camp shoes for the weekend. The utility blade is handy. It doesn’t get caught on the assortment of straps, and gadgets that may swing from my pack, and instantly helps to cut through athletic tape, food bags, or anything too tough to rip or shred.
The key to the Firebiner’s namesake and emergency preparedness is the Ever Spark Fire Wheel. We placed a Firebiner on every pack in our household and my son was the first to test the Ever Spark Fire Wheel. The wheel itself operates perfectly, tossing sparks in a predictable arc, which made aiming the sparks easy. Smaller and lighter than the traditional flint and steel, we love knowing that we are ready to make a fire when our matches and lighters give us grief. We gathered the fire materials to progressively build a safe, small, but roaring campfire. Spinning the Ever Spark Fire Wheel, we gingerly directed the sparks onto the Tinder Quick, kept snug and dry in the Wombat Whistle. The very first spark landed on the Tinder Quick which immediately lit, and tenderly encouraged flame among our awaiting materials, until we could rest beside the warm glow of fire. Outdoor Element has provided us security in time of an emergency without requirement me the need to carry an extra ounce.
Fine Print: The lighting wasn’t favorable for photos during the outdoor adventure, so I took a few in my backyard with just enough material to demonstrate.
This is a NFS site along State highway 160 near South Fork Colorado. They have basic camps with fire rings, picnic tables, and pit toilets. The also have food lockers to protect from bears. The wooden site is beautiful in the Fall surrounded by the golden leaves of aspen trees and ponderosa pines. The highlight is the river side location and the beautiful views of the mountains. The site has a fairly high elevation which can provide cool summer temps and early frost even in September. Surprisingly, the site was half full in September. I would stay here again.
The site is a high elevation site along the highway 160 between Durango and Del Monte in South Central Colorado. The site is like many NFS sites with basic facilities. They have about 10 sites located along the small river equipped with picnic tables, fire rings and and bear lockers. The highlight here is camping in a wooden site along a beautiful mountain stream. We camped here in October before the closure and had the place to ourselves. I would highly recommend if you are in the Wolf Creek area and traveling across Colorado.
My friend and I stayed at the South Fork Campground for a fly fishing trip.
The campground seems to be primarily a RV campground with 50 sites, but they do allow tent camping with 6 sites. There is an office at the entrance and the staff were friendly. Next to the office is a community room and laundry room.
The RV sites have water and electric hookup. The tent sites do not - at least ours did not. There are restrooms with sinks, toilets and showers nearby the campsites.
The campground itself sits on the Rio Grande River which is a world class fly fishing river. When we were visiting the river was flowing fast and deep, so it was not a very productive time. We choose to fish in the mountain lakes and streams instead.
Overall the South Fork Campground is a nice place to stay for a few days or longer. The campsites were a little close in proximity for me, but I'm one that is accustomed to backcountry camping where there are few people around. The campground is a short drive to the town of South Fork where there are grocery stores, gas stations and outdoor gear and fly fishing stores.
Great site! It's about 12 miles down usfs22. Takes about 35-40 minutes to get back there. Road is very well maintained. Follow signs for parking once to get to end of road. There is a bathroom and multiple sites right on the river! Heard some coyotes in the distance! And hunters will frequent there!
See my other Review for Dakota Ridge. Another 5 stars with all amenities and screaming Verizon Wifi