As a local of the nearby town of Salida, I've seen a lot of campgrounds in Chaffee County and the San Isabel National Forest, but this one stands out for its beautiful scenery and prime location to nearby towns and the Colorado Trail.
We chose the site because it's free of charge, a good mid point between the next day's destinations, and close to where our friend would be heading out from for her week long Colorado Trail mountain sufferfest.
After a long day of driving shuttle to pickup a good friend in Durango, we drove back from Southern Colorado to spend the night at this lovely mountain spot halfway up Monarch Pass just down the road from the CT. When we arrived at night---close to midnight---we were easily able to make our way into the solo spot, find flat areas to set up three tents, and settle in for the night. While you could probably fit two groups at this site, it's definitely best as a single site. Despite the rain clouds, we could still see a smattering of stars and enjoy a night in the trees protected from the breezes.
In the morning, my roommate and I took our dogs for a short walk up the nearby county road and enjoyed sweeping views of the Collegiate Peaks, as well as some tracks from a curious bear that had wandered nearby during the night. Up the road there were a number of pull offs for other dispersed camping areas.
Once back at camp, we started to dry out our camp from the night's rain and helped our friend unload her gear for her Colorado Trail mountain biking trip for the next week. As it was drizzling most of the morning, my roommate and I opted to see our friend off for her CT ride and head to the town of Salida for breakfast, which was only about 20 minutes away down Highway 50.
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get to test products from unique brands from time to time. At this campground and in the following weeks, I got to test out the INNO Aero Light 2 bike rack. This is the first hitch rack I've ever used on my Outback, and was immediately an improvement on the cheaper trunk mount models I've used before (and definitely easier to coordinate compared to loading the bikes into the back of the Subaru itself).
Like most hitch racks I've help installed, however, the hardest part of using it was initially attaching it to the hitch mount. But after 10 minutes or so of wiggling and adjusting the mount, I was able to get the pin secured and the rest of the assembly was a breeze.
The rack, which features a secured lock over the pin at the hitch as well as a cable lock for the bikes themselves, felt super sturdy and easily fit my roommate and my gravel grinder road bikes on the drive down from northern Colorado. The quality rubber straps were easy to pull over the top and seat tubes to secure the bikes and the cable lock was a great extra security step for when we left the car to grab coffee and beer during the trip.
When it came time to swap bikes, it was easy to fit both my All City gravel bike's frame and the modern women's mountain bike frame of my friend's bike on the rack at the same time. The only downside we noticed was that after hours of windy mountain passes back, the mount points had shifted the bikes closer together. However, they still remained very secure.
The next morning, the rack's easy lowering feature allowed us to get into the back gate of the Subaru to remove our other gear, even with the bikes on it.
In the weeks after our trip, I also tested the rack with street cruisers and was able to fit two full beach cruiser size bikes on the rack, too!
After months testing this rack for trip and daily use, I'm in love. It fits every frame type I have from classic cruiser to modern mountain bike, and the ability to lower the arms and the rack itself for rear gate access means I can leave the rack on even when making lumber trips to Home Depot. If you're looking for a bike rack that supports every two-wheeled adventure on your list (short of a penny-farthing one), the INNO Aero Light 2 is the way to go.
As a Salida local, the sites at the base of Shavano were always some of my favorite for a quick and accesible trip. The drive up access roads from the east is easy with a truck or all wheel drive after snow melt and it's not long before you're up in the gorgeous meadows with great views. Super fun to just drive around the access roads and take in the views if you have some spare time.
While it's easy in the Chaffee County and Arkansas River area to get your dosage of mountain beauty and river time, Twin Lake gives you the opportunity to combine STELLAR mountain views and the calm of some lovely lakes. Tends to be less crowded than northern camp grounds. Get in early, go for a float on the lake and check out the upper reservoir North the of entrance highway.