the dyrt
Anthony P.
vail, CO
Joined September 2018
I am an outdoor lover who enjoys fly fishing, hiking and of course camping! A night in the woods always beats a night in a house.
Exposed and Scenic

most reasons to head out to the kite lake area are to try and summit 4 fourteeners in one day. Mt. Democrat, Mt. Lincoln, Mt Cameron, and Mt. Bross. We were there to do just that, while we only were able to summit one due to the conditions we still had a great time.

The campsite itself is pretty modest, there are only a few designated spots but plenty of area for extra tents. We went in Late September and there were only 3 other people camping. The temps got way down into the low teens that night so it was a chilly one. The campsite sits at over 12,000 ft so right away the temps will be much colder than other places. Also if you are not from the area or visiting from out of state, remember that you are staying at 12,000 ft and the altitude will effect you much more. Each spot had a metal fire ring and a picnic table. 2 vault toilets were located in the parking lot area and we saw people there that night up keeping them (which is always nice to see)

There is a fee to use this campground, $12 per night or $3 per day use. Envelopes and a drop box are located near the information sign. The road to get out here was pretty rough, 5.5 miles of ruts and bumps. I would stick to a decently high clearance car, 4 wheel drive if the weather is bad.

Note- There is no drinking water out here, so if you are heading up to go for a big hike or just want to spend the night at 12,000 ft you must bring it all in. Oh yea and Kite Lake itself, incredibly scenic and there are tons of trout in there. Bring a rod and spend some time fishing.

Beautiful Lake Spot

Lake Constantine sits about 4 miles off of Tigiwon Rd outside of the town of Minturn. These camp spots are only accessible by hiking in. The lake can get fairly busy on weekends in the summer but the weekdays are usually quiet. We spent a night up there in early July and saw 1 other person on a Monday night. The hike to the lake was fairly easy, takes about 2 hours each way and climbs roughly 1300 ft. Upon leaving the parking lot you MUST fill out the overnight camping sheet and attach a tag to yourself. This is your permit for the night and it is free.

Spots are laid out along the edge of the lake on either side and are not numbered or marked. This is a first come, first served area. The spot we found was to the left side of the lake right off of the trail and had enough room for a couple tents. Coincidentally, this is the same spot where many of our friends have camped as well. I would say this is one of the better areas. There was a pre made rock fire ring that sat against a rock to reflect heat back (we went during Colorado's 2018 summer long fire ban), so we could not take advantage of this and had no fire this weekend.

The lake itself is very large and offers some amazing high alpine fishing. We caught many trout while fly fishing throughout the day and night.Dry flies worked very well at dusk. Because of the lake and the creek, the mosquitoes in this area are bad. BRING BUG SPRAY!

Remember, this area is only accessible by backpacking in and there are no camping amenities. Lake Constantine sits in US Forest Service land so you must obey all forest service rules and closures when in place. Overall, amazing spot. Great for a night getaway or for someones first backpacking trip.

Little Known Free Spot outside of Bryce NP

Upon entering Bryce National Park last year we discovered all of the campgrounds were full. We decided to ask a park ranger where else we could camp, he handed us a map (in the pictures) and sent us on our way. About 5-10 minutes outside of the park there is a series of dirt roads on the left hand side that offers free dispersed camping. Forest road 090 or 1173, the main road in the area is called The Great Western Trail.

The spots here are your typical dispersed camping, with no official marking for sites. No picnic tables or restrooms and there a no fire rings. We found a nice clearing with a rock fire ring already made. While driving down the dirt road we did see a few RV's and trailers, i would say you could comfortably take any vehicle down this way to spend a night camping. The road was fairly well maintained, a few bumps and holes along the way but nothing major. Id say all in all we drove about 10 or 15 minutes to find a camp spot.

The distance back to the National Park was about 10-15 minutes from our camp spot, well worth it to stay outside the park and save some money as well as have a nice quiet and private area. The directions we were given by the park ranger had us take an immediate left after the Bryce Canyon NP sign onto rd 090. We eventually found a spot about a mile or so down that area.

Note on the map, if you follow road 087 down towards the reservoir, the Park Service recommends this as the best place to view wildlife before dusk. Next time you are down in the area, try out these spots. You will not be disappointed.

Favorite Spot

I will start with saying this is my favorite spot i have ever camped. In particular the spot in the pictures (I will not tell you the spot number, find it if you can) Besides camping, the sand flats recreation area offers an array of activities. Slick rock is a famous mountain biking trail that is inside of the recreation area as well as endless trails for 4x4 vehicles. Through out the night you can hear the roar of engines driving around the sand flats. My favorite part of this area is how right around every camp spot you will find slick rock hills and trails to hike around and take in the view. Watching sunset from up above the campgrounds is amazing.

There is a fee upon entering the Sand Flat Area, one for day use ($5 per vehicle) and one for camping use ($15 per vehicle). There are many campgrounds spread out around miles of road, all are first come first served. You will find walk in sites as well as RV and tent sites. Campgrounds are marked with a letter and in each campground there will be around 10 spots. 120 in total.Each spot has a picnic table and a metal fire ring. Vault toilets are available in each campground, some of them are open air. Just a fence surrounding the toilet with nature and sky up above.

Spot size depends on which campground you are in, they will vary significantly. We have had spots with 5+ tents with plenty of room and we had been to areas where 3 of us are on top of each other. Choose wisely but choose quickly, spots fill up very fast in Moab's busy season which runs from late April to Late October. Try to arrive early in the day to get spots as people leave. Remember, temperatures get very hot here, i would bring a canopy or tarp to set up a shelter in the day.

Quick Overnight Stay

We stayed at the Pa-Co-Chu-Puk Campground IN Ridgway SP in Late April as a spot to stop for the night on our way to Mesa Verde NP. The campground during this time was very empty, we saw a few other people there and they were all in RV's or Trailers. This made sense as the temperature got down to 6 degrees that night. I would say our time there was short, we showed up in the afternoon and left by 7 am.

The spot we stayed in was fairly large, as you can see by the picture, we had plenty of room for 3 tents. Picnic tables, fire rings and stand up charcoal grills were available at every spot as well. I would like to go back down that way and visit in the summer as the lake and surrounding area look like they could be a lot of fun and Black Canyon Np is only 40 minutes away. Maybe next summer i will be able to add to this review.

Great Views and a Great Lake

The Deep Lake area of Flat tops Wilderness offers a variety of scenic hikes and drives as well as 4x4 trails and great lake fishing. The drive up to this area is up a dirt road about 10 miles, the road can be a beat beat up in areas. I blew a tire on my truck on the way up. Other than that the drive up is very scenic, you will pass the deep creek overlook and can see Aspen, Beaver Creek, and Vail Ski Resorts all in the same view.

The campgrounds are very large and spaced out. We went with a large group, 5 cars and many tents and had plenty of room. Some site are able to accommodate an RV or trailers. Sites vary between open and exposed to set against the forest for shaded. Restrooms were located fairly close to our spot and i remember it being one of the cleanest vault toilets i have ever used! Each spot also has a metal fire pit with a grill over top.

Like i mentioned earlier the Deep Lake area is a great base camp to go out and explore. You will find many people driving off road vehicles around. The fishing in the lake is also very good, the Forest Service stocks the lake every year. Lastly the campground sits at 10.500 ft so it does gets chilly up there even in the middle of summer.

Close to the action

First off the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, i feel are underappreciated. It is amazing to see a desert that sits right behind the Rockies that still have snow on them. Anyway, the campground inside the park are the Pinyon Flats. This is a standard campsite for a park, most spots are of similar size and offer picnic tables and metal fire rings. There are a lot of spots, almost 100. Choose a spot wisely here as it can get very hot, some spots do not have tree cover. In the busy summer you should always try to reserve here as it attracts a lot of visitor.

There is a fee to camp in these spots as well as a fee to enter the park. If you enter the park after hours you can avoid that entry fee but will still need to pay the campsite. If not you will end up paying both fees which i think is crazy. We only ended up staying in these spots for one night and them moved on to the Zapata Falls campground which is outside the park (i will review that at another time)

The spots are located a stones throw from the dunes which makes exploring very easy an accessible. For a unique experience, head over to the nearby town of Alamosa to rent a sand board. Take a hike anywhere on the dunes and ride them down! Its a lot of fun. Overall this is a great spot, you cant go wrong.

Local Favorite

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.

Quiet Location on Turquoise Lake

We stayed here in Mid September, the last day the campground was open. Note about this spot compared to the other campgrounds around Turquoise Lake is that even after the campground closes for the summer they keep the gates open so you can still camp here.

The spots are large and set back against the forest with the lake at the end of the road. Each spot has a driveway big enough for a couple cars. There are some spots that offers areas big enough for a trailer. 2 bathrooms are located in the campground, one on either end. There is a campground host located in the middle of the grounds during open season, which runs from Memorial day to September 17th. All other campgrounds around the lake close on the Tuesday after Memorial Day.

Each site has a fire ring, picnic table and a standing charcoal grill. The spots had their numbers removed when we were there but we camped in the second spot on the left and we could have easily fit 5+ tents. The campground also allows dogs! the must be leashed up though. The opposite side of the campground is Butcher boy picnic area which offers grills and tables overlooking the lake for day use.

This side of Turquoise Lake is much less trafficked and quieter, but with less spots. Great camp spot for a night or a few. Leadville is at 10000+ ft so it gets chilly, dress warm.

OK Spots...better camping further up

We stayed in these spots entirely due to the fact that bear lake was still frozen and the road up there was impassable. They were not the worst spots but they are nothing special. There is a vault toilet further down the road but we were nowhere near that. Our spot was off the road, away from anyone else and backed right up to the forest. Some of the other spots available are much more exposed and you will be on top of your neighbors. To reserve on of these spots you must stop at the Forest Service sign towards the beginning of the road to grab a reservation slip, then find a spot and drive back to drop it off.

If you head to this area on a crowded weekend, these are OK, if you have the choice, camp further up past the reservoir, there are a few other campgrounds: Bear Lake & Cold Springs.

This area offers multiple lakes and creeks for great fishing as well as some amazing hikes like The Devils Causeway (not for people afraid of heights)

away from the Moab Crowds

I have been to this spot a few times. The best part is its outside of the crowds and sits right on the Colorado river. There are maybe 15-20 spots and 2 large group sites.The large group site is one of the most unique spots i have camped in. All of the other spots are fairly large, we had a bunch of tents and had plenty of room. The grounds offer a few vault toilets, fire grates and picnic tables in the area. This area also has a small boat launch for rafting on the Colorado.

Directly across the road is the famous Fischer towers that offers amazing hiking and great climbing. The river is nice to hang out in a maybe take a swim (if your a strong swimmer) the current was strong. The drive back into Moab is roughly 25 minutes or so.

Great spot outside of town

I love this area of crested butte. Gothic road is home to some 4x4 drives and of course great hiking and scenic spots. We spent a few nights here, the spots are spaced out and quiet. This is dispersed camping, I did not see any vault toilets close by but did see on further down the road. No fire rings or tables, but plenty of trees for cover or room to set up a canopy. Some spots for larger Trucks or RV's were available on a first come first served. Not far from the spots you will find the nature center that will offer restrooms as well and a few things to purchase if necessary.

I recommend a drive to emerald lake when your there. We did experience some crazy storms while we were there, apparently the lighting is worse there because of the amount of iron n the mountains.

Go to Spots

These are my go to spots to get away for a day or two. The area is surround by rivers to fish, many hiking trails, backpacking and some climbing. The spots are dispersed along home stake road which runs for about 10 miles and some spots are also along Missouri Creek. The best part about this area is that it is free. Don't get confused with the FS designated campground about 7 miles down the road (Gold Park, this is a paid spot with vault toilets, fire rings and tables)

Each spot is of course unique, some are small and some large enough for RV's and trailers, though i have not seen many RV's in the area and i would not recommend it based on road width and lack of turn arounds. These spots do not have fire rings or tables, they are primitive and you will find rock rings in most areas. I highly recommend this area, it does get very busy on the weekends as its a favorite local spot. At the end of the road, roughly 10 miles, you come to a large reservoir that is good for fishing and non motorized rafts.

Homestake road is usually a easy drive and most cars will be fine on it. Like most areas in the White River National Forest, the roads will open and close based on weather. Usually this is open Mid June to Mid October.

Great base camp

Halfmoon campground is about 30 minutes from the town of Minturn, up Tigiwon Road, and a great jump off spot to many hikes; Notch Mountain, Mount of the Holy Cross, Tuhare and Lake Constantine as well as a few others. All of those spots offer great fishing, hiking and backpacking areas.

The campground itself is basic, 7 spots and two vault toilets.The spots are fairly spaced out and can fit a few tents in each. The areas to park are fairly small, one or maybe two cars but this is definitely not an area you want to bring a big RV or trailer. Most people staying here are there for a night and will be setting out on a hike the next day. This is a NFS run campsite so there is a fee and rules are enforced such as no camping within 100 feet of a source of water. That bring me to my next point, Notch Mountain Creek runs straight though the grounds and is a mosquito haven, Bring bug spray!!

The road up can be a bit beat up, most times any car can make it but be weary if you have a low clearance car. Rain and snow melt always play a part in how well the roads are. The road and campground usually open late June and close late to early September. Overall this is a great spot to use as a base camp for hiking.

Book ahead of time!

This is by far on of my favorite National Parks. The campground is fairly large (100 + spots) but very hard to secure a spot, make sure to book ahead of time! Zion has some rules about booking ahead so check the website to know when to make a booking. We managed to get a spot last minute but it was a walk in spot. These are a problem if you have a lot of stuff but you can avoid some crowds with them. The views right from the campground are incredible and the rest of the park is overwhelmingly fun.

The campground has plenty of vault toilets, picnic tables, water and trash bins. There are other campgrounds in the park as well as outside if this is full. Caution that the grounds outside the park can be pricey and are nothing special.

quiet and scenic

This is one of my favorite, lesser known camp spots and areas to explore. Valley of the Gods sits in southern Utah near Mexican Hat. The area is somewhat of a small Monument Valley. The views surrounding the campsites are of spires, towers and red rock cliffs. The best part? There are usually not many people here.

The valley and camp spots can be reached via Valley of the Gods Rd which connects highway 163 and 261. The roads can be hard to find as you will probably drive right past them. Valley of the Gods Rd is all dirt and is about 17 miles long. The drive itself is very scenic, be aware during rainy season the road can get very flooded and low clearance cars will have a hard time.

Camp spots are anywhere you want, most of them will be right off the road. Flat spots, pull offs and rock fire rings will tell you if someone has camped there before. The valley is overseen by BLM so there are no fees to camp, on the flip side of that, that means there are no toilets or any kinds of services. Some people prefer camp spots this way.

I have seen small 2 wheel drive cars to large RV's and Trailers on this road ,but like i mentioned earlier, there are big dips here and there and the rains can flood them. Use caution upon entering the Valley. Overall, amazing spots with equal scenery.

Crowded but worth it

This hike is on most peoples bucket list and for good reason. The falls and surrounding areas are incredible. The big thing to note about Havasu falls and the campground are they do not ever accept walk ins. You must book ahead of time! Reservations open on February 1st and sell out that same day. New this year, you can use their online booking site to secure a spot. It is both stressful and exciting. Once you have a spot secured you can begin dreaming about the blue waters.

The hike into the campground is 10 miles each way. Not so much difficult but hot and crowded. I would recommended leaving very early in the morning. The hike to the village is 9 miles where you will check in and then continue an extra mile to the campground. Once to the spots, the campground itself spans about 1 mile. Selecting a good spot is key, there are shaded spots as well as spots that are entirely in the sun (Temps get into the 100's in the summer). There are no designated spots but you will see open areas with picnic tables, that will let you know. You will end up camping on top of people in most spots as well. They allow 300 permits per day down there. *Note there are no fires allowed ever in this campground.

If you decide to stay at the end of the grounds you will be close to Mooney falls but will have to walk an extra 2 miles a day to get to Havasu falls and back plus add an extra mile to your hike out. The upside to staying at the ends of the grounds are less people so it is quieter. There is a natural water spring where you can collect water (some filter this, we did not and felt great!), it is located towards the beginning of the campground. Restrooms are are the beginning and the end, so think about that when picking a spot. Close is easy to access but you may smell it sometime. Also they run out of TP often, bring some.

Overall, amazing area and hike. The crowds never seemed to crazy. If you really need you can take a helicopter out from the village to the parking lot and also have pack mules bring your bags out (The latter is not recommended as the mules seem exhausted and overworked, they haul bags all day everyday)

great spot for many activities

Slyvan Lake State Park is located outside of the Town of Eagle, CO. It takes about 20 minutes to drive from town to the park. Upon entering, there is a multitude of activities you can partake in. Besides camping, which i will get to in a second, Sylvan lake offers excellent fishing for trout, Stand up Paddle Boarding and Canoeing; Both which can be rented there. The surrounding area offers hiking and scenic drives.

As for the camping, there are a couple campgrounds in the Sylvan Lake area as well as cabins and yurts that can be rented. Camp grounds are standard forest service spots. The each feature a picnic table and metal fire rings. As always, spots range from small to large, some having ample tree coverage and some are very exposed. There are vault toilets in the are as well.

There is a fee to use these spots which can be paid via self service area. This is a great spot for a family or anyone looking to get away and stay active. The area can get very busy in the summer so try to avoid weekends. This summer (2018) there was a lot of construction in the park and in turn it closed down some area that were normally open for camping and activities.

Long hike to the perfect backcountry spa

We loved this hike in, the beginning is fairly easy and the ending can be a bit of a challenge. There were a handful of people day hiking this but i prefer to spend the night there. in the past this area was open to anyone without the need of a permit and became very overcrowded. Now that the campsite is on a permit system the area is much cleaner and way less crowded. We only saw about 25 people there on a Monday night in July.

The springs are amazing as well as the views. one large spring sits close to spots 1-7, all of there other spots will require a walk to get to the main hot spring. The campground is very spread out, some sites are almost a mile away from the hot springs and it makes for great privacy and quiet. The spots that are further away are more designated for horses but we did not see any on this trip. I would stick to spots 1-7 to get a closer spot.

This area does require a bear canister to store your food at all times and we did see the forest service out there checking permits and for proper food storage. Sites are primitive and do not have any fire rings. You will find rock rings in areas.

Hidden Gem to escape the crowds

Great campground about 10 minutes from Vail. Close to I-70 but you can faintly hear the cars so its not very noisy. The grounds have about 25 sites, ranging from small to large and some are walk in only. The majority of them have a large enough drive ways to fit a couple cars or a longer RV. There are fire rings and Picnic tables are at every spot. The campground host hangout in an RV upon entering the campgrounds, you can pay & reserve spots with them, as well as purchase bundles of wood. Vault toilets are located in a few spots around the campgrounds.

In the immediate area there is great hiking on the Gore Creek Trail and Deluge Lake Trail. Both ending at high alpine lakes but can be difficult hikes. The Gore Creek Trail is relatively easy until it turns towards the lake, making this a great trail to take a short hike. The Deluge Lake Trail is one of the hardest trails in the Vail Area.

The Vail Pass bike path runs next to the campgrounds and is the most popular and difficult road biking path in the Valley. This can also be used as a spot to take a walk or a run, be careful of up and down hill bikers. Gore Creek, which runs though the campgrounds and up into West Vail is home to gold medal waters and some of the best small creek Fly Fishing in Colorado.

These sites do not fill up quickly but advanced reservations can be made and should be during Vail's High season (June - August). Overall this is a great spot if you are passing through or are looking for a quick getaway.