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 made a fly fishing trip to Poage Lake. This land is part of the National Forest System and offers dispersed primitive camping.
The Poage Lake campsite consists of a large parking area, a short trail to the lake, and the lake itself. You can disperse camp next to the parking lot. There are no services nor amenities at this campsite, so Leave No Trace principles should be applied..
There is nothing special about the campsite area other than it is conveniently located next to the beautiful Poage Lake. The lake is secluded and pristine and surrounded by old growth forest. It is an excellent place for fly fishing for rainbow and cutthroat trout.
There are no towns nor stores near the campsite, so be sure to pick up any supplies you may need in the town of South Fork, CO. There are grocery stores, gas stations and outdoor gear and fly fishing stores in South Fork. Take any water that you may need or filter water from the lake.
If you like peace and quiet this site might be for you. If you like amenities, this site probably is not your style.
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!
Went through the camp on foot this week, looking for a picnic spot on our road trip. This was an awesome campsite and I would love to come back. Campground was closed this late in the season. Great picnic tables, fire rings, vault toilets, water available, and clear info signs. River running through campground which was awesome for the dogs!
Over the past three weeks, I have camped in 12 different campgrounds across the country and this one remains my most treasured camping experience.
I arrived to some doe casually munching on vegetation around my site. This site was very close to the river, which I enjoyed greatly, the sound of the river put me right to bed that night. I will note the temperature was colder and wetter in this site than I imagine it would in the others further from the river. Sites 1,2,3, had amazing views of the early morning sunrise between the mountains. I have a honda accord and it managed to make it down the 30-40 minute drive on an unpaved road.
They had the cleanest vault toilets I have had the pleasure of gracing. There was hand sanitizer, a rug, and posters hanging on the wall.
Great spot to stay outside Pagosa 10 minute drive to town and 3 minutes to forest service access. Wifi is ok for phones but not the greatest for streaming the further you get from the office the weaker it gets no cell service in the canyon for Verizon either. If you're looking to disconnect and can do with the lack of service get the riverside spots. Staff is very friendly and helpful, they have a food truck onsite which makes it easy if you dont want to cook for a night. The laundry and bathrooms are super clean and the upkeep of the park is nice as well. Some sites share a water shut off so make sure you dont cut off the next sites water while packing up.
Reserved a spot by the Rio Grande over Labor Day weekend. Stayed one night and fell asleep to the flowing river. Spot #7 was perfect as it has a picnic table and fire ring to the left of where you pull in and the campsite is to the right and gets you close to the river. There are other camp spots near but you can't hear anyone else over the roar of the river. Walking tour in the videos below.
Nice, clean privately owned campground with lots of amenities. Hot showers, bath house, ice and few supplies sold in the office. Campsites right along the river. Very friendly staff. Campsites are a little too close for our liking but worked out well for our stay. Close to lots of fishing and hiking in the area. Beautiful place to watch the sunset and the stars at night. Nice and quiet at night.
It’s a great campground. Easy to navigate. Reasonably priced. The sites are nice with plenty of different places to put your tent. Fire pits great for cooking, and each site gets a table.
ONLY bad thing is no showers. Wasn’t a big deal to me, I was there a couple days.
We haven't stayed here, but we regularly use their dump and fill station for RVs, it's $8.00 plus tax to dump and fill here. They have coin operated washers, dryers, and showers, $2.50 for laundry machines, 50 cents for a six minute shower. There is a bar and a natural hot spring here, but we have yet to venture in but here it's nice. The staff is always friendly, and there's even an outdoor dish washing station which comes in handy if you dry camp alot. They have several full service RV sites, tent sights, cabins, this place is basically a resort and it has beautiful views of Great Sand Dunes National Park, and Mt. Blanca. Even if you don't stay here you can come swim, use the laundry and showers for good prices.
Showed up on a Friday evening and there were still several spots to choose from alongside the river. Satellite toilets are nearby each campsite and theres plenty of trees in each site for putting up tarps. The campground is a hot spot for trout fishing with a continuous stream of people pulling in and going over the river to cast for some of the big browns and rainbows on this section of the Rio Grande.
Loved it so much the first time that we came back! For the best views, make sure to book in the lower loop. We stayed in site 11. Not the best views of the reservoir but decent. You can hear the waterfall. Campground sites at close to 10k feet in elevation. Keep that in mind. We enjoyed a great little hike around the reservoir plus amazing fly fishing the next morning. Can’t wait to get back!
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.
We and our camping partners snagged the last two reservable sites available on short notice at this quiet, no frills campground and loved the stay. Level campsites with tables and fire pits. We were located right across from the vaulted toilets which were clean, sanitary and odorless. The campground is adjacent to the Rio Grand River and several campsites back right up to the river. We enjoyed our short stay there and as a bonus, Creede, just up the road about 6 miles has a dump station with potable water for a donation fee! The dump station is located about 1/4 mile from the visitors center, same side of road, going back towards the campground down a gravel road about 400 yards. Next time I’m going fishing!
Campsite was nice and was easy to get to. We only stayed one night as we were just passing through to Rocky Mountian National Park. Next to the piedra river which was nice, didn’t have a Colorado fishing license at the time so not sure how the fishing was, water looked pretty high. We didn’t have any cell service in the area so if you need that be aware. We would return here, close to Durango and pagosa springs.
Arrived early evening (6-ish) after rejecting a disbursed campsite which wound through "Hills Have Eyes" terrain. Immediately accommodated by the nicest lady, and led to campsite on a grassy opening a stone's throw away from a bend in the Rio Grande. RV area was out of site/ out of mind. The 4 or 5 tent sites were secluded, beautiful grounds,clean restrooms and showers just built. Fire pit provided and a bbq grill offered if needed. Would recommend and will return again, hopefully for 2 nights. Watch a skyful of stars and then fall asleep to the sound of the river.
Super pretty little campground. Far enough out of the way that you can usually find a site even though there aren’t a lot to begin with. But that’s what makes this campground so great. It’s peaceful, not crowded, has hiking trails, fishing, half the sites are on the creek AND it’s FREE!!
Beautiful campground right on the Rio Grande River. Nice wooded sites. The campground has a nice large open meadow where you can throw a frisbee or stargaze. There are hiking trails that take off right from campground. A fox that had clearly received food came into our site and tried to take our garbage which was two feet from me. Do not leave food or garbage out. Sites are reservable. Camp host had firewood for sale. There’s a parking area for fishermen. We would definitely stay here again.
For the past 4 years now my two 8 year old boys and I meet up with my brother from Oregon to go whitewater rafting. My kids can play in the water and I can watch them from the table while they fish or play.
it's beautiful hearing the water sound while you sleep or just why you sit or why you eat.
We've always had a campground available for us. We've never seen it full.
I would rate it a five-star if it had showers
Very quiet, serene campground! We are anglers and we chose site #26, which is closest to the river. It’s a hike down but doable! The probablemente was that the water was too high to fish. We will come back when water levels are down. There were some flies and mosquitos but better when the breeze came thru. Very peaceful and nice campground in the middle of the forest.