This campground is one of the pleasant locations to camp here in the Park Range. Some of the things you can do here at Piney Crossing Campground are whitewater paddling, swimming, hiking, playing golf, and fishing, so you won’t run out of things to do.
Lots of sites along the road, as well as Red Sandstone Road. Great views all around, especially sunsets because you are facing west. The dirt road up is decently long, but can be done in most 2wd cars. High clearance vehicles preferred, but my friend took his Toyota Camry and it did (mostly) fine. We picked a dispersed spot on the side of the road.
So I am not sure if this is still a “campground” as of 2019. It is no longer marked on the forest service map for 2019. Regardless, there’s still primitive/dispersed camping in the area. I stayed at one of the primitive sites last fall and spent most of my time in Piney River Ranch. There was a wedding at the ranch when we were there, and we didn’t want to intrude on it so I don’t know much of what the ranch has to offer. I do know that there’s a restaurant and a store, as well as cabins. My guess is that there is a wedding there almost every weekend summer-fall, so that is something to take into account if you come here for the ranch.
You are allowed to hike in the ranch during weddings, so that is what we did. We hiked the trail to the left of Piney Lake. It is a great trail to do in the fall because it goes through numerous aspen groves. We took the trail all the way to a waterfall area, but the trail does continue further to Upper Piney Lake. The trail became hard to follow after the waterfall area though, so we turned back.
As for the drive up to the ranch and camping sites, it’s about 45 minutes on a dirt road from Vail. It is a beautiful drive, but it is slow. The road is also in pretty good condition - I’d say a 2wd car can do this drive if the road is dry.
The Piney Lake area of Vail is by far the most scenic spot anyone can drive to. The ranch at the lake is ever growing and offers a restaurant, canoe rentals, SUP, fly fishing lessons as well as cabin and yurts to rent for the night. If you are looking to spend your night closer to nature the campground is just located about a mile away from the lake.
This may get confusing as there are camp spots along the road that are forest service controlled and have fire rings and right next to that you will find many spots that are in the National Forest but are primitive. The "Camp Spots" that have fire rings are located on the final stretch to the lake. There are maybe 6 or 8 of them. Really the only difference in these spots compared to the primitive ones right next door are the fire rings and the fact that they are fenced in with a small wooden fence.
The upside to grabbing one of these spots is all of summer 2018 in the valley we were in a stage 1 fire ban, meaning you could only have a fire in a permanent fire ring, leaving these few spots the only legal camping in the area. The spots themselves are fairly large, we have put 4 cars and 5+ tents comfortably in one of them. There are no toilets or anywhere to get water unless you drive to the ranch (the ranch is privately owned and closes and opens at a certain time, the lake is public and can be accessed anytime) There is also no fee which is always a plus.
Bike hike fish hunt camp. Little something for everyone! Cell service in and out. Horse back riding near by.
This is a great place to camp. Lots of places to choose from with privacy. Four wheel drive recommended, though. Roads can get very muddy.
This became a favorite car camping spot of mine while living in Vail, Colorado. The lake is situated in White River National Forest and is accessible only for a few months during the summer via Red Sandstone Road. I have seen 2wd sedans drive up this road, however I would definitely recommend something with high clearance and 4wd if possible as the roads up there are not well maintained. There are plenty of first come, first serve USFS campsites near the lake, additionally there are quite a few service roads off of Red Sandstone Road that provide access to miles of additional dispersed campsites. It is hard to find a spot to camp without a breathtaking view of the Gore Range from Piney. In addition to camping, there are hiking trails near the lake and the privately owned Piney River Ranch offers horseback riding, boat rentals, fishing, a restaurant, and other lodging options. This area is also known for the moose that frequent the area, be sure to keep your distance if you are lucky enough to spot one! If you are interested in camping at Piney in the early summer or fall, you may first want to call the Minturn Ranger’s Station at 970-827-5715 to check on the closure status of Red Sandstone Road.