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Dulce, NEW MEXICO

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Good campground for lake access

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!

First to Review
Ranger Review: Outdoor Element Firebiner, Wombat Whistle and Tinder Quick a

Campground Review: 

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.

Product Review: 

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.

Great River Campsite

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.

Poage Lake Primitive Campsite + Lake + Fishing

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.

Great spot!!!

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!

Sweet camping spot

It’s a great place to camp. The scenery beautiful. Great place to hike, bike and ride atv’s. Bring water cause sometimes their isn’t any. Fishing is great but usually is a little windy only at lake.

Lake camping

Great small campground,  beautiful lake, clean,  good fishing, ATVing, biking.

Awesome riverside camping

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!

It’s okay

It’s not my favorite place to camp. I wouldn’t recommend staying by the water if you have kids, it’s right by a cliff. You have to walk into the spot which isn’t to bad. If you have a boat then this is a great place. The views and sunset are amazing though!!

Amazing!!

They camp host were amazing!! The bathrooms were the cleanest I have seen at a campground!! If you love to SUP this is an amazing place to go to. We are definitely coming back next summer!!

Will come back!

This site is amazing, great staff willing to help and friendly. The bathrooms are very well kept and the upkeep of the park is great. They have wifi hotspots throughout the park so it works on all corners. The sites are well spaced out with grass on each side and big enough for a 38' fifthwheen with plenty of space to park full hookups and shade trees in some sites. The lake view spots are amazing backed right up to their private lake. Plenty of walking trails and areas to run with the pups. This place is 20 from durango but bayfield has plenty to do in town. They are open year around and maintain the roads during a snow making access in and out easy.

Just far enough from town

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.

Shady Oasis in the Desert

Sits on the West side of the San Juan about 3 river miles below the dam and across from the Crusher Hole ramp. No pull out for your drift boat on the camp side. About 2/3rds of the sites are very well shaded, most have covered picnic tables and are a mix of asphalt and concrete pads. Bathrooms were very clean. It was Labor Day weekend but the evenings were quiet and the Campground never felt crowded. Easy access to the river from the campground and several hiking trails nearby including some neat ruins. There is about 2miles of dirt road to access but was well maintained. You are a short drive to gas, food and even a winery.

Breathtaking!

My family has been camping here since before I was born. I grew up here. My cousins and I built a rock damn across the river and I cought my first fish here. My children now get to enjoy this piece of majic. It is truly a wonderful place.

Beautiful and private

Very nice little campsites, a couple different lakes in the area. Only one outhouse by one of the lakes, the rest dont have any. Dirt roads on the way in, 4 wheel drive recommended but my kia made it without it. Roads do get bad when it rains so check the weather before! No water or trashcans but I did have cell service with t mobile. Overall a very secluded and quite site and a great little escape!

Shaded spots, right on the Conejos

Very nice campground. Lots of shade and lots of space between sites. Fishing along the river within the campground. Trash receptacles, water and bathrooms available. Nice little day use area right next to the river.

Lots of amenities

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.

Awesome sites!

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.

Highly recommend!

Solitude on the Rio Grande

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.

We went back!

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!

Walk to the river

Several sites with concrete pad, table, electric, fire ring, shade and water. Crowded but sites are tucked away. Can be a little loud at night with all the RVs running. River is a short walk from most sites and about 20 mins driving to the marina.

Get away from the crowds.

If you don't have a boat or fancy water toys.. Sims Mesa is where you should go. Much less crowded than the main marina. We camped at the Lakeshore Camping area. Several sites available right on the lake, just steps away from the water. Bathrooms available. Water and trash available just a short walk. Dogs are supposed to be leashed, but a lot of people don't seem to follow this rule. Not much shade on the Lakeshore, so make sure to bring something for the day time.

Well maintained

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.

Nice campsite, close to the road but but remote enough.

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.

Great for those wanting to do water sports

It’s a good campground. It’s just a little dated. We stayed at Tiffany Loop, 027. Some of the tent sites at that loop need some attention (the barrier fence was down and the site overgrown ). Our site was just fine for what it was. Nice sized parking spot that we backed into. Gravel pad with (uncovered) picnic table and fire pit. There was a grassy spot where we placed our tent. Lots of sticky prickly grass around so watch your little kids :) the water is down behind the camp sites , down a steep hillside. We were not able to explore the water as we had to leave early due to sick kids but there were lots of boaters, pontoons, and house boats out there and we were planning to rent something! At Tiffany Loop, there are flushing toilets, a sink, and coin showers that are all clean! At Rosa Loop (a short drive ), there are coin showers, flushing toilets, and coin laundry services. It is very hot and sunny during the day so I’d bring a shade tent too! There are cabins at Tiffany loop as well.

Unusually Quiet

I did a fair amount of research online regarding walk-in tent camping at Heron Lake, during the week. See the great maps and detail at https://newmexicostateparks.reserveamerica.com/camping/heron-lake/r/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode=NM&parkId=430012 . I called the visitor center to confirm that being a walk-in would not be a problem during the week. Once one arrives as a walk-in, look for the campsites with a green tag on them.

The Heron Lake camp sites shown at the above reserveamerica website all have a fair amount of trees for shade. What the reserveamerica site does not show is a few more Heron Lake campgrounds southwest along Highway 95 (beyond the dam). The southwesterly sites are way more exposed to the sun than the first four campgrounds. Otherwise, the southwesterly campgrounds have fine views of the lake.

I was at Island View campground, in a loop that was convoluted enough that I do not think a trailer (with its inevitable noisy generator) could get in. I guess that this is the point. As a result, all I heard from time to time were muffled voices and no generators. It's the first tent spring-summer-fall camping I have enjoyed in years that was generator-free. I had at least one empty campsite on either side of me as an additional buffer to noise.

I walked along the lakeshore. It did not seem that low. I saw large fish jumping in one cove. I hiked the Salmon Run Trail to the dam. The Salmon Run Trail is a beautiful hike, not all level but not too steep for this older person's knees and walking poles. On the lake side of the dam, walking along the highway to get a good look at the dam, I saw several schools of large fish.

The vault bathrooms and the flush-toilet bathrooms were fine. Not super clean and not super dirty. I did not try the shower but it looked like people were using it.

This time of year, bring some bug repellent or wear jeans and a light long sleeve shirt at night. New Mexico has had a lot of moisture this season, so I think the bug-giness is higher than usual. Still, I sat outside and read for an hour or so pretty comfortably.

The camp host was lovely.

Fishing Mecca

Great place for trout fishing. Not good for other activities. Want to stay out once there due to very rough access road. Despite this, I have traveled to the location four times from Georgia. Rate as 5 for fishing, 2 for all other.

Rushing River

Beautiful campground, with many streamside sites. Very popular. Make reservations.

Middle of the forest

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.

Beautiful site

Views of the reservoir are so beautiful! We stayed on site #8. Nice size, slight views of the water, it was nice! The fishing was great, the hiking was nice, the bathroom is impecable! Kudos to the hosts!!!! We will be back in August.