Erin S.

San Francisco, CA

Joined October 2018

Car, Backpack, Travel Trailer. My husband, daughter, and I like to to mix it up. A military/NPS family, we travel the US looking for adventure!

Tent campground with plenty of hiking trails

Pantoll is a pretty campground located adjacent to the entrance to Mount Tamalpais.  You can hike to, bike to, take the bus to, or even drive to this campground.  If you choose to drive, just know that it can be impossible to find a place to park on busy weekends (you'll need to drop your stuff off, find a place to park along the road, then come back to park in the evening when the parking lot clears).  We hiked in.  On a weekend night in March, only four of the 16 sites were taken so we had no problem nabbing a spot.  The campground is situated across a steep-ish hillside.  Water spigots are spread out among the sites, but all the bathrooms are located down the hill near the parking lot.  Each site has a fire pit, picnic table, and a flat spot to pitch a tent.  Sites are fairly close together in bunches (for example, 2, 3, and 5 were close, 6 and 7 were close, but there was a bit of space between the groups). Firewood is sold at the ranger kiosk but they have limited hours. Some spots are larger than others, and very few can accommodate a house-size tent (you know what I mean - and no judging, I have a house-size tent for car camping).  We had our 3 person backpacking tent with us and it would have fit in all the sites.  Sites up the hill require a bit of a hike-in but are farther from the road noise and busy parking lot.  There is one dishwashing station near the bottom.  

Pros: 

- Location.  You can hike anywhere from this campground.  Down to Muir Woods in less than 3 miles.  Up to Rock Springs, Bolinas Ridge, and Mount Tam.  Down to Stinson Beach.  I could spend a week here exploring all the trails.

- Amenties.  Dishwashing sink, many water spigots, food storage lockers, fire pits, toilets that flush.  And Wifi from the ranger kiosk (squee!!!) which we appreciated to check the weather and bus schedule (very poor Verizon signal).

Cons: 

- Noise from Panoramic Highway.

- Busy parking lot with lots of people potentially moving around the campground (especially the lower sites). 

- No reservations: FCFS only.

Overall I'm really happy I finally got to chance to camp here and would recommend.

A no-frills but pretty campground in Marin Headlands

A hike-in campground in Tennessee Valley, a short 20 minute drive from the Golden Gate Bridge and the hustle and bustle of the City.  My family of three stayed here for one night in mid March.  It was a Sunday night, and three out of the five sites were occupied.  

The tent pads (a flat sandy area surrounded by wood beams) were fairly small - maybe 10' x 10'.  Each site had a picnic table and a large metal food locker.   The sites were well spaced and did not feel cramped.  Two vault toilets, fairly clean. The campground was located at the end of a 0.5 mile dirt road, which was about a quarter of mile down an old paved road from the TV parking lot.  A few folks walked into the campground that weren't staying there, but they weren't a bother, just going for a walk. The campers we saw varied from families, a solo bike-packer, and a couple just starting out camping.  I was worried that being so close to the city and the parking lot, it would be party central with groups hauling in a bunch of alcohol, but it wasn't the case at all. Neither the parking lot nor the campground had running water, so come prepared unless you want to drive into town.  

Pros:

- Very quiet and peaceful.  The night had beautiful stars with no artificial light.  No road noise.

- Small number of sites with great spacing.

- Decent toilet facilities.

Cons:

- No water.  We backpacked in from the Golden Gate Bridge.  There was no place nearby to fill up on water, and had to be extremely conservative in our use.  No springs or creeks running nearby this time of year either.

- Would have been nice to have a fire.  

Overall, we had a pleasant camping experience and would recommend.

Close encounters of the elk kind

Stayed three nights over Thanksgiving weekend in a 29 foot travel trailer.  Due to the holiday the office was closed when we arrived so we picked up our paperwork at the front door.  To my dismay, our site was different than the one we reserved and it was the closest to the highway.  This is one of a couple black marks against this campground - I was moved and received no heads up and no avenue for recourse since I arrived on a holiday.  All in all, the site wasn't too bad.  It was large enough for our trailer and truck and decently spaced from our neighbors.  The road noise was there but not too bad.  The second black mark was the wifi.  Not sure if it was our site location, but the signal was poor - very rarely were we able to connect (also we had Verizon with barely any signal).  All the utilities were in decent shape and worked fine.  Bathroom was clean and there were plenty of toilet and shower stalls.  I never used the laundry but there were three washers and three dryers that looked fairly new.  The store had some basic grocery and supplies (a bit overpriced, but that's because there isn't much local competition).  There was an old one room schoolhouse on location that still had a lot of displays in it from when it was a museum (just ask at the office to be let in).  And the ELK!  

Let me tell you about the elk. Our first morning the herd came in the far side of the campground.  We kept an appropriate distance and watched as they grazed and roamed the meadow.  Then we didn't see them for a few days.  The morning we planned to leave, we got up before dawn to make an early get away.  That plan was foiled when we opened the door and realized we were surrounded by the herd - over 40 elk surrounded the trailer, some as close as 10 feet away.  We watched, and waited, and eventually they moved away, allowing us to go outside to break down.  

Overall, a nice campground.  It's very close to the local parks.  I would stay here again.

Backcountry campsite with a couple of amenities

Glen Aulin is one of a series of High Country camps in Yosemite National Park.  The concept behind these camps is that you can walk 6-10 miles each day with only a day pack, and spend the night in these supported camps where tents, water, and food are provided by concessionaires.  Really cool idea, but when we camped here in late September 2021, it was a ghost town (all the tents were taken down leaving just frames and slabs - I don't think they ever opened this season due to CV-19).  Regardless, the High Country camp was still a great base camp for our family for two nights.

With backcountry permit in hand, we hiked out 6 miles from Tuolumne Meadows and stayed in one of the 30 regular campsites at Glen Aulin.  Having not been backcountry camping in a while, we appreciated the remoteness of the location, but still having access to a vault toilet, bear boxes, and being around a few other campers.  With the camp shut down, there were no other amenities - for example, you had to filter your own water when normally there is piped water - but that just added to the experience.  The Tuolumne River was our water source, which is located adjacent to the camp.  In warmer weather, the pool formed at the base of Tuolumne Falls would make a great swimming hole, but for us in 60 degree weather, it was just a beautiful place to sit and listen to the sound of falling water.  A mile and a half day hike down river is California Falls.  Further down are LaConte and Waterwheel Falls.  

The 30 campsites are spaced out along Conness Creek.  The lower sites are shaded and closer to the toliet, the higher sites are more exposed and nestled among granite boulders, the views getting better the higher you go.  Most of sites are small, though a few can fit multiple small tents if you are traveling in a group.  Sites are not reserved - they are first come, first served. Each site had a small fire ring, though fires were banned when we went. The campers were all very friendly (about 10 sites were occupied both nights), with everyone down at sunset and up at sunrise.  It got cold - just above freezing at night.  We did see one bear in camp (at night), though he took off running as soon as we saw him.  

Camping here was amazing.  Highly recommend!

Unique, no-frills campground close to Monterey

I had my doubts trying this campground out.  Right next to a race track? No potable water?  But it turns out my doubts were unfounded.  My daughter and I had a great time here!  A short list of things we liked and things we didn't.

Pros:

- Beautiful views!  Not every site has them, but most do.  Either of the race track or the valleys and hills on the other side.

- Close to Monterey.  Only a 20 min drive to Fisherman's Wharf, Cannery Row, and the Aquarium.  Can't beat it for the price.

- Close to the hiking trails in the Laguna Seca Rec Area.

- Nice bathrooms and showers.

- A pretty decent playground.  My daughter spent most of her time here.

Cons:

- No potable water.  They mention this several times on their website but still people miss it.  Bring your own water.

- The sites are pretty small and close together.  This wasn't a problem for us, as our neighbors were kind and respectful.  But still, only a few feet away.  

- You can't reserve a site; you can only make requests.  There are definitely sites that are better than others.  If you don't know, ask the host on the phone for a recommendation.

- Ok, I knew it was a racetrack when I made the reservation, but hours of loud cars kinda wears on you after a while.  They ran from 9-4 both days we were there.

- The bugs that crawled out from under my tent when putting things away gave me the creeps.  

- 16% grade on the way up.  Trailers and RVs, its doable but be aware!

Overall, I recommend!

Fun for kids and adults! Dry desert camping among the Jumbo Rocks!

We stayed at Jumbo Rocks for 4 nights in a tent in late February 2021. Weather was awesome - highs in the 70s in the day and lows in the 30s/40s at night. This was our second time staying here; first time was in a travel trailer in Oct 2018 (see Dyrt Review). We still love the campground, though again it was the inconsiderate nature of our neighbors that bring it from 5 stars down to 4. Here's a review of the pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Dynamic, interactive environment: This is a playground for adults and kids alike. Climb on the rocks, hike through the drainages, and explore to your hearts content. We didn't see any, but of course, watch out for rattlesnakes. The rock is extremely grippy and very good for climbing.
  • Beautiful sunsets and sunrises: The land turns gold during these times. There are no electric lights in the campground or anywhere nearby (car headlights and camp lanterns excluded). Absolutely beautiful.
  • Decently spaced vault toilets: no site is too far from a toliet, and there are enough of them that even with over 100 sites, you aren't going to wait long (if at all) to use one.
  • Nice concrete tables and low fire pits with grates. There is a standing grill too, but we didn't use it.
  • Recycling bins and an amphitheater Trails to lead to Skull and Split Rocks (highly recommend for kids!).

Neutral:

  • The size, level, and location of sites: Pick your sites wisely - do your research! Some sites have very little space - just enough for a small tent, while others are spacious. Some sites are secluded while others you are practically sitting on your neighbors. Some are flat and level while others there is no level space at all (suitable for RVs but not for tent camping). Some spaces will accommodate RVs and slide outs while others will not; do not rely on Recreation.gov telling you it will fit! Instead, look at satellite views. Go to Campgroundphotos.com. Read reviews. Site 31's description is below.

Cons:

  • Very little regulation paired with inconsiderate neighbors: Jumbo is not a well regulated campground. You don't check-in. You make a reservation online and just show up at your site, hoping it will be empty. There is a camp host that flips signs from reserved to open, allowing for walk-ins, but this doesn't stop people from squatting (we had 6 young men come in to have a fire and dinner at the campsite next to us before the folks who had reserved the site arrived late and kicked them out). We also had neighbors who set up a couch, smoked pot, and played EDM so loud you could hear it 100 yards away at all hours (they quieted it down a bit after a confrontation - they claimed to be 'enjoying nature' - but not by much). So you roll the dice and hopefully you have neighbors who are there for similar reasons as you.
  • Little protection from the elements: During the warmer months, your best bet is to find a spot next to boulder to the west/south of you, so you have some shade in the afternoon. During the winter months, look to have some protection from the north winds, which can be fierce (seriously, it will rip up your camp, it did ours).

Site 31 Description: Part of a cluster, meaning you park with others and the sites fan out from the parking area. 31 is a 100 foot walk from parking; we walked past other sites but no one had to walk past ours. It is up on a small rise - had a beautiful view but was more exposed to the wind and sun. Mostly flat and will fit several tents. Closest neighbor was 30 feet away and separated by scrub. Vault toilet and dumpsters adjacent to parking area. Not next to any big rocks, but they are only a short walk away. A coyote walked by us in the night and squirrels frequently raided our camp (keep your food and trash secure).

A spacious, peaceful campground

We stayed here for two nights in early November before the rains.  Most of the sites were occupied but the campground did not feel crowded by any means. The road was paved, which each site having a dirt parking space (ADA spaces were paved). Sites backed up to the beach were large while sites along the trees in the interior were tighter with more shade. A short walk takes you to the beach and  a paved walkway along the shore. Restrooms are centrally located and cleaned daily. Each site had a fire pit, picnic table, and food storage (raccoons and birds will steal your food otherwise). Fort Bragg is a 7 minute drive south with a nice selection of shops and restaurants. We loved hiking at Russian Gulch State Park and visiting the lighthouses nearby. Highly recommend this friendly campground!

Okay. Awesome creek but horrible stinging bugs.

Stayed in site 66F for two nights in late August. My 7 year old daughter, my husband, and I stayed in a large tent. Because of the slopes, rocks, and trees, we had to set up on the parking pad (still had plenty of room for the truck so no problems). Each loop was a little different; the ones near the creek were more on a slope with tighter sites while the other side was more open, less shade, and lots of sawed trees. Each loop had two bathrooms with flush toilets and sinks (no soap) and a spigot with non-potable water. BRING DRINKING WATER (though if you forget you can buy some at the camp store).

We could walk down to the creek from our site, which was nice. There were plenty of small pools for wading and swimming. Problem was there was no public access points nearby so everyone walked thru our campsite to get to the creek. My other gripe was that it was a location campground, by which I mean people would come and hang out at their sites all day, playing music and partying at night. So if quiet nature is what you are looking for, this is not the best match.

The other thing I have to mention - the yellow jackets. The hosts said it was quite unusual so I tried not to let it color the overall review, but damn! You would be sitting down trying to read and a few would fly around your head or land on your hands. As soon as the food came out, they would swarm. After having 10 land on the cutting board while cutting up cheese, I just finished as quick as possible and we dove into the tent to eat. It wasn’t just us, we watched all the neighbors do a similar dance. They would die down at night and early morning but any other time they were horrible. We bought a trap in town and easily caught over 50 in 24 hours. It was because of this we left a day early.

We enjoyed swimming in the creek, hiking Bald Mtn, and walking around Shaver Lake. Glad I went but probably will not go again.

A few other bits of info: Dumpsters on each loop. No cell service with Verizon. No hook-ups. Firewood for sale (8 pieces for $8 - don't bother and just gather). Showers for sale at store. Store has a deli and small selection of odds and ends (food and souvenirs).

Family friendly campground beneath the redwoods

I stayed here in late July for three nights with my 6 year old daughter and our 3 friends.  Site 13 was easily large enough for four tent set-ups in separate areas of the site, though none of them were completely level.  There are three kinds of sites in the campground - those backed against the woods or the fence separating the campground from the ranger houses, those in the middle, and those next to the Ave of the Giants.  The ones with the most room and privacy were backed up against the woods/fence, and we were in one of those sites. Each sites has a metal fire barrel (with half grate), a picnic table, and enough room to park two vehicles. Each site also has redwoods growing in them and often large stumps (many with steps cuts into them for climbing).  Water spigots are available about every other site. 

This was a very family friendly campground. My daughter and her friend loved playing among the trees and stumps, and riding her scooter around the loop.  Rangers frequently walked/drove around the campground and a camp host went around every morning to check sites and car tags.  Of the three nights we were here, only one was kinda loud with music and voices, but they went subdued around 11 pm. The only other bother were the three dogs in the adjacent camp that were….  well, dogs (they barked a lot). Road noise was present but not distracting. 

The location was great. You could stroll over to the visitor center (rangers set up on the outside over the weekend) or across the street to the nature trails.  A short drive takes you into Myers Flat or Founders Grove, and you are smack in the middle of the Ave of the Giants. I would have given this campground 5 stars, if it wasn't for the comfort stations (bathrooms).  They had a sewage backup/clog the day we arrived, so we didn;t have showers for the time of our stay. They brought in port-a-potties within hours of the restrooms being closed, but not sinks or soap.  With CV-19, I was not happy about not having a clean restroom facility.  

Despite this, however, I was glad I went.  The area was beautiful and peaceful. We went strolling around the redwoods and swimming in the Eel River (south fork). Would recommend.

Ranger Review: Wenzel Grand Basin 10 tent at North Pines

North Pines is one of three campgrounds on the floor of Yosemite Valley. Across the Merced River from the other two campgrounds and adjacent to the horse stables, it is relatively isolated with no major roads running by it. Nevertheless, it is well connected to the rest of the valley amenities, with a quick walk to the bus station, a longer walk (1 mi) to the visitor center via the Valley Loop Trail, or a drive (if you don't mind braving traffic and searching for parking spaces). 

The sites are not well defined. You have a place to park and besides that, it is a little of a free-for-all with the adjacent sites as to where you set up your gear. Despite that, we had plenty of room to set up our large 10 person tent, without feeling crowded or that we were overspilling our space. We were there the last weekend it was open (Oct 26/27) and all sites were booked. There are no hook-ups, and the comfort stations only have toliets and sinks (no showers), a fresh water faucet, and a disposal "toliet" for dish water. All dishes must be washed at camp. The facilities were fairly clean, though the disposal toilet often backed up.  Being late October, I was expecting very cold conditions. But the weather was great! 70s during the day and 40s at night. Clear skies. Absolutely beautiful. 

Our site was located right next to the comfort station, and in hindsight I wish we had found a place a little farther away. But besides the proximity, our site was nice with a fire pit and picnic table. Quiet hours are from 1000-0600, and we had to remind our neighbor campers who came back drunk at midnight to shut it, but that seems to be more the normal than abnormal these days. There were mostly tents in the campground, with a few small RVs and trailers. Generators are allowed during limited hours, but the noise wasn't overwhelming, since they were few and far between.

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time. This weekend I got to test the Wenzel Great Basin 10 tent (https://wenzelco.com/great-basin-10/). Overall, my impression of this tent is that it is a solid and reliable tent. Yes, it has a few design items that could be improved for ease of use, but overall it served us well and I look forward to using it again. The tent is a domed center-opening design, with two side "rooms" that can be separated by zipped curtains, making three interior spaces total. My husband and I filled up on room with two large cots facing length wise (we had them oriented along center line and still had enough room to move along the sides). The other side has more than ample room for my daughter's small cot, which ran the width of the tent along the side window. Very comfortable for three people. 

Yes, this is a huge tent. Can it be set up by one person? Probably, if that person is patient and tenacious. Two people work much better. A few design items we found annoying were the pole connections, which would frequently catch on the tent pole sleeves and center strap. Also, the zipper flap on the tent's door would frequently get caught in the zipper, making it almost a necessity to use two hands to open and close the tent. Besides these two small inconveniences, the tent worked great. The rain fly fits snug against the tent roof. The construction felt sturdy and we liked the design of the three interior rooms. 

Overall, we had a fun two nights in Yosemite. We might make a tradition out of going for the closing weekend each year.

Parking lot for RVs in North Harbor

You are probably thinking "Parking lot? Why did you give it 4 stars?" Because of the location! We stayed here for three nights in our 34 foot travel trailer. We barely fit into the back in site, and had to park our truck in visitor parking a short walk away. Other, smaller trailers had enough room for their vehicle to fit in alongside. The facility has full-hookups and they functioned fine. The harbor itself has trails but no other facilities for campers. No wifi but Verizon had good signal. The weather is perfect and we loved walking to the beach, to get coffee in Seabright, and driving into downtown and the boardwalk.  It's fairly quiet at night, but you do have to watch your stuff. The first night we stayed here we got woken up at 5:30 in the morning by a rattling noise. Open the door and someone is walking away from our trailer. A look at our bike rack revealed that our ties had been cut. I guess the would-be thief didn't notice that the bikes were locked to the rack. Either way, you have to be careful, because this is Santa Cruz and there are a lot of weird folks about. So yes, there are some downsides. But we love Santa Cruz and it was great to be in such a central location.

A fairly secluded and windy desert campground

We stayed here for 4 nights in late November/early December. It is a bit of a drive to get out to the campground from the highway, as you have to circle around the dam the get to the campground. The campground loops are situated up on a hill overlooking the countryside. There is a nice playground underneath a shade cover next to the central bathhouse, which is large and clean. There are trails that go down to the lake boat ramp and a trail that goes between the visitor center/entry booth. This campground was our basecamp to Carlsbad Caverns, which was about an hour drive, if I remember correctly. We enjoyed our stay here, but the wind made us a little worried. There were two days where during the day the wind blew consistently over 25 mph and gusted to 40. Shook the trailer enough that our stabilizer blocks blew away and flagpoles broke. I would stay here again during the winter but I would watch the wind forecast.

Military campground in adjacent to a county park

My family and I stayed here in a 34’ travel trailer for one night in late July. To get to the campground, travel thru the county park and follow the signs to Luke AFB recreation area. The campground is part of a larger complex that includes a lodge, cabins, and yurts. All amenities are shared so we had access to a large playground, basketball and volleyball courts, the store, and the bathhouse. The county park itself has playgrounds, an amphitheater, bike trails, and an awesome disc golf course. At each site is a picnic table and a fire pit, with hookups for electric and water. Our site was huge, but others can be a bit tight. Adjacent to the campground is the fairgrounds, which is bordered by an unattractive chain fence. The pump-out station was backed up and unusable while we were there. I’d say the best aspects are the price and the convenience to Flagstaff which is only three miles away. We would stay again.

Not bad considering you are in the Mohave

I was pleasantly surprised by this campground. We just stayed one night in a 34 ft travel trailer, needing electric to run the AC in the 104-degree desert heat. The campground is organized in a loop, with the clubhouse(showers, laundry, lounge) in the center. The sites are paired back to back with hookups in the middle. Smaller sizes are near the entrance while larger sites are in the back. No reservations so sites are first-come, first-serve, and paid for at the rec center(or via the dropbox after hours). Hook-ups were in good condition. The landscape needs some love, even by desert standards, but it's not horrible. The campground is located next to the base family pool and is a short walk/drive to the commissary/exchange. We were grateful for this rest stop while traveling and would stay again.

First to Review
Army Corps of Engineers campground on a lake

Note: The average daytime temperature while I was here was 101 degrees(high 104), and this will no doubt color my review. 

I stayed here three nights in a 34 foot travel trailer in site 1 in late July. Sites vary in length, there were only a few that would have fit our rig. Some are only parking spaces that lead to tent platforms. Very few sites are level and some so steep that leveling is not possible. All sites have water and electric hookups, and these were very reliable. Our site also had sewage because we were in a host site(yay us!). Speaking of the hosts, they were awesome.  The bathrooms and showers were clean. 

The lake is pretty, but it was so high that boat ramps were closed and the picnic area (including the pit toliets) were completely underwater- so no swimming for us. Despite all this, the place was packed on the weekends. I would give it another chance, but not in late July. :)

Rustic resort on the doorstep of Mesa Verde National Park

My family and I stayed here for 3 nights in late July in a 34-foot travel trailer. We made reservations over the phone and found the customer service to be exemplary (I called at the last minute to both cancel and then later to re-instate my reservation when we had car trouble on the way). When we arrived the check-in process was straight forward and easy. The roads are gravel but well-graded and the majority of the sites are pull-thru. We had no trouble getting into ours, however, we found rather quickly that sites are extremely close together. Our back-side neighbors had to move their picnic table back in order to accommodate our driver-side slide (the distance between our extended slide and their trailer is about 8 feet. But… we all made it work. There is a 10 pm lights-out policy to cut down on light pollution and see the stars. And the people who camped next to us were considerate. 

The campground has lots of amenities. A log cabin (rec center) with pool, video games, TV with DVD library, books, and board games. Laundry with decent pricing. Mini-golf ($3 per person). A nice pool and hot tub. A dog park with agility obstacles. Nice playground. Wifi signal is strong with decent bandwidth (they discourage streaming). Next door is a horseriding stables ($40 an hour, $25 for a half hour); the horses come up to the fence and love to be petted. The store in the office is small but has the basic amenities. Groceries can be purchased in Cortez, a 15-minute drive away. And, of course, Mesa Verde National Park is right across the road, less than 5 minutes to the visitor center.  The only downside (besides the tightness of the spaces) is that dumpster was very full and near to overflowing. 

Overall we enjoyed our stay here, and thought the location to the park and local area was perfect. Would recommend and definitely stay here again.

A simple National Park campground a short walk from the Dunes

Note: In July, expect to battle plentiful and aggressive mosquitos. I cannot understate this. Walking back from the dunes I could not swing my arms without hitting several out of the swarm of 20+ around me. They are the worst the couple hours following sunrise and the hour before and after sunset. 

Ok, now that I got that out of the way, I can focus on the rest of the campground.

Staying in a national park is always a special experience that is hard to find in a commercial facility. Being close to the hiking trails and visitor center, watching nightly programs at the amphitheater, and just the general ambiance that people are there to enjoy the outdoors, is wonderful. If you stayed at Jumbo Rocks campground in Joshua Tree, the layout of the campground is similar. Sites are a mix of back-in and parallel and widely vary in length and width (be sure to check the reservation site closely to be sure you will fit). There are no hook-ups and the comfort stations do not have showers. They do have running water and dishwashing stations, however, which is nice. If you need to wash the sweat and sand off, stop by the dunes parking lot and go for a dip in the Medosa creek (or use the rinsing off showers they have there) but be warned, the water is cold! Quiet hours are 10 pm to 6 am, generation hours were from 8 am to 8 pm, and both are enforced by active camp hosts. 

There is a camp store in between the 1st and 2nd loops, but it was never open when we were there. For basics, you can visit the Oasis store just outside the park. Beyond that, you need to drive into Alamosa, which is about 30-40 minutes away. 

Things to do: Drive the primitive road to Medosa Pass or take the dirt road to hike Zapata Falls (be warned, you will want 4 wheel drive for these). Hike the dunes (give yourself a good hour to make it to the top of the first ridge. It is only 600 feet elevation gain but for every step up you slide back a half a step; it is tiring.) Play in the creek (besides the dunes, this is the main attraction. Note that you have to cross the creek to reach the dunes, there is no bridge). 

I would love to come back again but I will not be doing so in July. This is the height of the mosquito season.

Ranger Review: Gregory Avos 15 pack at Peregrine Pines military campground

Campground Review

Note: This is a military campground only, on the grounds of the US Air Force Academy just north of Colorado Springs, CO. 

My family and I stayed here a week in a 34' travel trailer.  This is a large facility with over 100 campsites. Sites are gravel and fairly level, spaced decently with little undergrowth among the pine trees. Full hook-ups are of good quality and worked with no problems. Cable is not provided and we did not check to see if our antennae picked up any local TV stations. WiFi is restricted to the office and bathhouses, and do not extend into the campground. You have the option of purchasing a MiFi transmitter for $5 a day or $25 a week, but we did not choose this option. A short walk from our campsite is a very nice playground next to the picnic pavilions. Each site comes with a grill and aluminum picnic table. Ground fires are not allowed, but fire pits can be rented for an additional fee. The laundry facility is affordable and the machines are in good condition. Now for a little bit about the area outside the campground. The Academy grounds are huge. It is a good 10-minute drive to the commissary/exchange, a 10-minute drive to the visitor center, and about 30 minutes to downtown Colorado Springs or Garden of the Gods. If you are here for football, the stadium is right down the street (I would say it is within walking distance).  There is a lot to do around here and this is a good base camp. I wish we could have stayed longer than a week. 

Oh, and just a heads up, if you are staying here in the summer expect thunderstorms to roll by every day.  The wind and lightning can be rather intense. 

Product review

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time. This week I tested the Gregory Avos 15 pack. Although designed as a mtn biking pack, I used it for day hiking and road cycling and found it to be a great and versatile pack.  See the video and pictures for more details, but here's a quick review of the pros:

  • The numerous storage spaces, crash pad for a phone/glasses, and a separate bag for repair tools that can be clipped inside the pocket.
  • The feel of the fit and adjustability of straps and back length.
  • The size of the hydration bladder.
  • The convenience of the bite valve. 

After hiking 6 miles and riding 10 miles, I have very few negatives, and these are just me being picky:

  • The magnetic connection for the chest strap is challenging to remove with one hand. 
  • The length of the hydration hose could be a little longer so I could loosen the chest strap without it pulling on the hose (I have wide shoulders). 
  • The hydration bladder itself is difficult to drain completely when trying to dry it out. 

Overall, I would give this pack a 5-star review and recommend it to others who want a comfortable, well-designed, and versatile pack when playing outdoors.

RV campground between Estes Park and RMNP

Let me preface this review by stating that is it weren’t for some regrettable encounters with one deplorable staff member(manager) this would have been a 4 star review. More on that later…. 

This campground is ideally located in my opinion, situated between Estes Park and Rocky Mtn NP, right next to a river, short walk to a grocery store (with shuttle to downtown) and alongside a road you can use to bypass the nasty summer traffic, I can’t think of a better place to be. My family and I stayed here for a week in a 34 ft travel trailer. The campground has a pool, hot tub, office with some supplies, full hookups, spacious sites, playground, fishing pond, laundromat, and a modest mini golf course. I was really impressed with the site width(in a busy destination such as Estes Park you would expect to be crammed in). Each site is bordered by log fencing to add to the feel of a large space. Sites are level and graveled. The pool is decently sized and the hot tub is fairly new. Mini golf is fun(clubs and balls and borrowed from the office) but is a little run down. 

So with all this good stuff, what are the cons? Well, the laundry machines are old and expensive. The activities center was never open, even on the 4th of July. No campfires at the sites and the community campfire is uninviting. The wifi is almost non-existent except at the pool/office. The game room is locked and empty. And the manager drives around the campground flying pirate flags and curses out his staff for insufficient reasons, in front of children. When my husband confronted him about this, he huffed off and never apologized, even though he walked by our site frequently. I am told that this is being brought to the attention of the owners, but since no action has been taken as of the time of this post, it is being included in this review. The other staff have been friendly. 

Overall, I would stay here again but would make sure the situation with the manager has been rectified.

A typical KOA campground near the interstate 35 miles from Denver

My family and I stayed here for one night in a 34' travel trailer as a reward from crossing Kansas. :) We knew what we were getting into - a tight family campground, so we weren't disappointed in that regard. It's actually a little hard to write this review because there's such a mix of pros and cons. I think listing them out will be the best strategy.

Cons

- VERY close to the interstate. Take a look at a satellite map view so you will come prepared. The road noise is ever present, and if you can tune it out you will be a much happier camper. We were able to sleep ok with it, but it was a constant in our experience.

- Proximity to your neighbor. This is the way it is with KOAs, but it did feel strange hooking up utilities within arm's reach of your neighbors having dinner.

- Wifi. They advertise it, but it was so slow that not once was I able to successfully load a single webpage. Verizon is also not strong here.

- Cable. They had hook-ups but quality was too poor to watch.

- The hot tub was closed with no indication when it will open. 

Pros:

-The playground was pretty awesome, large and with multiple things to climb on for kiddies.

- They had a pool and kiddie pool. Both are small, though.

- The game room is really nice! (see pics)

- Pizza and ice cream on site.

- Affordable laundry. $2.50 for wash and 50 cents for 8 minutes for the dryer.

- Clean and tastefully decorated bathrooms and showers.

Other:

- Pancake and sausage breakfast on the weekends for $6.50.

- A BBQ restaurant run by the campground.

- 40 minutes to Denver. 

- Dog park.

Overall, not a bad experience, just not spectacular.