The thing I love about this desert, is it's ability to be beautiful in any weather and situation. Whether is is down pouring or blazing hot, the desert displays it's true beauty in the form of wildflowers, Joshua Trees, amazing rock formations, and loads of secret wildlife.
We typically stay where is available in Jtree and for the most part, this camp tends to be completely full. I'm not sure if it is because it is the first site of of the enormous granite rock formations after driving through the last bit of the Colorado Desert, or because it is near the junction for the South and Eastern entrances of the park, but it is always full.
The hiking here is super fun, you feel like a real life spiderman. It is easy to get lost on the rocks so make sure you keep track of where in the area you are.
The toilets are pit toilets and there is no cell service. Most people trying to communicate with other people will post notes on the back of the entrance board.
While you are here, you should drive down and check out the Cholla garden at sunset. It is magnificent!
This is one of my all time favorite places to stay in the coastal redwoods! When we visited, it was quiet and peaceful. We were there during the week so we didn't get a lot of traffic. Felt like we had the place to ourselves.
The trees provided us with plenty of shade and protection for the tiny rainstorm that came over us.
The bathrooms were well cared for, the camp hosts were personable and very helpful with information on what to see. We ended up spending most of our time searching for serpentinite on agate beach.
We did a backpacking trip from Johnsondale Bridge down to Fairview Campground following the Rincon trail in May.
It was hot but the views and the quietness was beautiful! Be prepared with lots of water and food. The trail from the bridge to the campground is approximately 16 miles total but it is mostly exposed and with lots of chaparral and little water.
We ran a 5 day backpacking trip out of this meet up and around Jtree in March and it was one of the most exciting backpacks we have done. We saw tons of animals, it wasn't too hot, and the elevation gain and loss was neutral.
Be away that when you are out in the backcountry you need TONS of water caches beforehand. Make sure you put proper protection over them since the bees are searching for water and will attack your cache.
We were with a trained naturalist for the area so we were following the rules, but respect wildlife out in it's natural habitat!
We ended up here for a night with a bachelorette party (see costumes) and it was good for a stopping over point but if I was looking to spend quality nature time, this would not be the place.
The hosts were nice but the sites were right on top of one another and we almost didn't have room for our tent in the site itself, it was that small.
Then beach was right there so we spent most of our time there but it was a really tight fit at the campground.
We do a yearly camping trip out here with friends. The area we go to is hot and usually filled with garbage so we have to clean it up first before we set up camp.
It stays pretty quiet for the most part but there are LOTS of atv trails and no respect for timing or personal place on this public land. They will come by really early in the morning or late at night and will zoom right next to our camp.
Otherwise, the stars are great and this is an easy spot to set up if you aren't spending a ton of time here and really just need a spot for camp while you explore the park. No one really messes with your gear and you aren't far from town.
PACK IT IN AND PACK IT OUT! Please don't leave trash out here, it does hold water in the rainy season so be aware of flooding.
I travel here once a year with a large group of students so we always get the large group sites at the top of the campground. I prefer these sites over the normal campsites because they at least resemble a bit of privacy. The individual sites are pretty much right on top of one another, but that is okay when all you are really doing there is sleeping due to there being so much to do in town!
The large groups sites at the top have their own bathroom and showers. The showers are incredibly hot but run out of hot water after about 7 students shower back to back. The toilets are flushing toilets and have electrical outlets for charging phones or other electronics. You will need tokens (not quarters) for the showers. They implemented this a couple years ago.
The sites are quite large so you can fit a lot of people in them and still have some common open space.
Surrounding the camp are Eucalyptus trees. These are beautiful and smell lovely, but watch out! They tend to drop their branches in the wind and I have seen a tent or two smashed in the middle of the night. Try not to camp directly under loose branches and you will be okay.
It is a short walk down to the marina to rent a kayak, or over to the museum to watch the cute sea otter video.
Otherwise it is a nice bike ride or short car trip into town from here. The food in town is amazing.
There is cell phone signal throughout the camp as well. And you can head across the estuary to play on the sand dunes (watch out for scorpions) or up to Montana de Oro for tidepooling!
In October there is a migration of butterflies that stop at the trees in Morro Bay on their way down to Mexico. You can watch the trees "glitter"!
We stayed at this site after a day of rafting in Browns Canyon.
The tent site was really odd, right on top of the other sites with a drop off into the creek on one side and the road within inches of the tent area. We were camping in what looked like an old animal pen or chicken coop. It was expensive to camp here. $45 per person. That fee includes soaking in the hot springs but still for that much it would be nice to not feel like you are in the middle of a party town after a relaxing soak.
The Hot springs however were beautiful. The pools varied in temps so you could go from one to another easily. They were large enough to fit a lot of people. There were even sun shades over them so you didn't roast in the Summer.
One of the pools had a beautiful Indigenous woman statue overlooking the pool. All the pools seemed to be hand designed.
There is a lodge and a women's dorm to stay in as well. I didn't get a chance to take a look at them inside but from the exterior, it looked a bit like they had been there a while. It truly is an original hot spring.
I would recommend going to a day soak and checking it out.
I chose this spot to scout for my Dyrt Ranger Mission because I had stayed at a similar place right near here last Summer (see Zapata Under the Stars review) and I was excited to get back out into dispersed wilderness again. The views and solitude of the desert did not disappoint.
After booking I realized I wanted to add an extra night and the hosts got back to me immediately saying it wasn't a problem. I also asked them about the dogs since I was bringing mine to camp with us. They said the dogs were very friendly and it shouldn't be a problem at all. They also let me know I could purchase wood at the site.
We ended up arriving after dark on Friday night and following the directions wasn't a problem. The directions from the hosts after booking are like a scavenger hunt of sorts. It was a bit hard to make out in the dark, but thankfully, we are pretty good with directions…and puzzles. The site is approximately 10 miles from the main road.
This is a dispersed style campground for the most part. There is one site that has a landing pad, grill barrel, and was near the PooLoo and the Woodstock but the others were marked by little orange flags (we noticed those in the morning). Since there weren't clearly marked sites so we did drive around a bit until we saw what looked like remnants of a former campsite and pulled in there. There weren't big spots to fit our tipi tent but we made it work. I think most of the sites are made for smaller 2 man tents.
We were immediately greeted by one very friendly Pyrenees dog named Kaylee who took an immediate liking to our dogs and began playing with our youngest pup. They seemed to really take to each other. Another one showed up named Deja and seemed to be the protector of the campground. Deja was not a fan of our playful puppy and Deja made it known that our dog was not to be around her. We kept a close eye when Deja and Kaylee came around since they looked so much alike, our puppy was confused as to which one would play and which one would growl and take him down.
That night Deja and Kaylee slept outside out tent the majority of the night while our pups were inside the tent. One of the outside dogs began barking nonstop in the middle of the night and wouldn't stop for a couple hours. This happened both nights. Thankfully I had my aftershokz headphones (with the ear plugs) so that was my saving grace in falling asleep through the barking.
Other than the random dog drama and barking, this site was fantastic! It was quiet and peaceful. Had great views of Mt. Blanca, the Sand Dunes, and easy access to town if needed.
Bathroom: The pooloo was hilarious (see video). The concept and view was fantastic! It was just a bit too close to the big site. If we were the only ones camping there it would have been perfect, but it was far from where we camped and since there were other people camping at the large site, it was a bit awkward to use when kids are running around that can see your face.
Water: We brought plenty of water so we didn't need to see the pump, but if you contact he host, they can operate the well water pump for you.
Firewood: Firewood is for sale on site. Unbundled but large stacks of wood. $6 per stack and it's on the honor system. So please make sure you are being good humans!
Local attractions: From the main road, you are about 30 mins to Sand Dunes National Park, 50 mins from Zapata Falls, 45 mins to Del Norte, and 30 mins from Alamosa. There is also an Alligator and Reptile Refuge about 20 mins North. There is also a large pool/hot spring in Hooper, Co near the refuge (this pool is alligator free).
As a Dyrt Ranger I get the opportunity to receive products to review and a month ago I got these for a biking trip that ended up being cancelled. I wasn't intentionally going to use these and review them on this trip but they ended up being needed for both nights so I figured it is the perfect time! The product is the Air Trekz by Aftershokz https://aftershokz.com/collections/wireless/products/trekz-air.
I was super curious when I received these headphones.I can't use normal headphones because they are either are super painful or fall out since my ear canals are very small.
These headphone ROCK! They are super comfortable and stylish. I found that I started using them for just about everything, driving on the phone, riding my bike, walking the dogs, hiking, and even sleeping when it's noisy. As my boyfriend put it "this is the end to people's tone deaf singing, since they can now hear what they sound like".
They are a bit big for my head so the back strap falls down a bit but they never fall off. They come with a set of ear plugs so you can focus on the sound if preferred too.
They come with a really sturdy case that stands up on its own. The base is wider so they don’t get smashed or broken when put in a bag.
The sound quality if pretty good considering you are hearing it from your cheek bones instead of your ear drums. podcasts are clear, music is fluid, and even instrumental music is clear. The only genre that gets a bit wonky is music with heavy bass. The sound just can't compare to professional headphones when it comes to bass.
For the purpose of using these for our trip, I used them on a hike and while sleeping when the dogs outside the tent started barking late night. I was able to fall asleep on the side of my head without worrying about painful ears. They worked like a charm.
Granted it was cold when we were out there so take this as a "non-busy" season but we loved the solitude of the weekend.
We had a beautiful view of the reservoir and were all alone at the site. There was one other RV in the area but they were quiet.
No bathrooms up near our site, there are bathrooms down by the lake. We weren't sure if we were in dispersed or the campground itself.
Great location for fishing, biking, hiking, and relaxing with beautiful views.
Bonus: The small general store in town (at the main road) makes pretty great breakfast burritos and fudge as well!
We have camped here for years as large groups. There are plenty of places to camp for just 1 or 2 people but group camping is a bit tougher up there. There is a big wind shielded area that fits about 30-40 people easily. We have camped there in snow, Spring, Summer, and Fall. It's easy to get to and close to Nederland.
This place was magical. It was the perfect way to celebrate our anniversary! Only an hour from the Sand Dunes, 45 min from Creede, and close to Three Barrel Brewing Co!
The cabin was perfect, full bathroom, half kitchen, and plenty of sweetness that makes you feel cozy!
We got this spot once our backpacking permits were denied due to fire. We were there for 5 days and got to experience the site well. Due to the beauty of Glacier, we didn't actually spend a lot of time in the site, just for main meals and sleeping. The water was a 1 min stroll from the site so we took advantage of that fully!
The camp hosts were right next to us and they were super sweet! We even pulled up ant three baby deer were occupying our site. They told us how they would pop in every few days and feed on the fresh grass.
The bathrooms were easy to get to and the shower house was fully equipped. Apgar village is a 7 min ride away so it was easy to ride bikes there or drive over and spend the day.
We stayed in cabin #3 and it was an awesome experience! We had room enough for 4 people and 3 dogs and didn't feel like we were on top of each other. The gas stove kept us nice and toasty all night long!
There are 4 cabins. Ours seemed to be the smallest sleeping 5. The largest cabin can easily hold 30 people.
The bathroom was a pit toilet, which was up the hill and farthest from our cabin so it was a chilly bathroom run in the middle of the night.
We spent a lot of time sledding and snowshoeing and we were basically the only ones out there. There was another large group in the bigger cabin but we barely saw them until they left on Sunday.
The beds were plastic coated so it was easy to throw a sheet over them and sleep. The Couch was a bit gross, not sure if the cover gets washed much. There were shelves to hold food and an outdoor picnic table in the room to cook on.
Allen Ranch offers RV, Tipi, Canvas, and basic tent sites located under shade along the river. Pull-thru sites are also available. All RV sites have water and electricity, with a dump station available on site. I only took a star away because of the loud road next to it. I didn't mind but some of my family mentioned it once or twice so I thought it needed to be scored.
Allen himself stopped by on our first day to say hi. And he is a really nice guy! He is a former Park Service Law Enforcement Officer and Fire Ranger. He bought this land a long time ago and didn't want to leave it to work at other parks. He knows everyone in town and can recommend some great spots to visit. He started this campground and has been maintaining it with his family for a long time. It's on a beautiful strip of land right on the Fall River. The Fall River is fed by hot springs so the water stays nice and just slightly chilled. Almost feels like getting into a heated pool, like where you step in say "ahh that's nice" instead of cringe with chills. Since we were the only tent campers there we offered to mow the grass or help set up the tipis but Allen wanted us to just relax since he had his family helping him. So that is what we did. I did offer him a nice cold beer out of my Icemule cooler though. He was shocked to see "such a neat contraption!"
There are 12 RV sites, 6 tent sites, 1 group site, and 3 tipis. I saw one canvas tent that was set up. You can call ahead and reserve sites but we found that we could just drive up and put our names on a site as put the money in an envelope at the shower house. On a busy weekend I would call ahead.
Tent sites: $25 to book and $5 for each additional person.
RV site: $40 for 2 people and $5 for each additional person.
Group site: $8 per person for groups 10+
Tipi: $70 (plus $5 per additional person) for basic (you furnish), $130 per couple for everything included (including breakfast)
Glamping tent: $130 per couple (min 2) and $25 for each add person for everything included (including breakfast)
RV sites: Sites are within walking distance to the shower building with hot water and restrooms. They are right when you pull into the campground so you don't get the generators bugging you at night. They are far enough away from the tent sites to create good space.
Tent sites: There is a large group site across from the shower house. There isn't much shade for the group site but it is large enough for a good sized group.
The other tent sites are right next to each other so when it is busy, it would be packed. We got lucky and we were the only ones there so we got our pick of the sites. We chose sites 2 and 3 since they were perfect for our sized group and had the best flow section of the river right at the site. We were able to walk right into the water and hang out on tubes without feeling like we were sucked into cattails or "rapids".
The sites hadn't been mowed, so the grass was a little tall, but we came at the end of a very rainy and snowy week and Allen hadn't had a chance to mow since were there the first day it stopped snowing/raining.
Other than being right next to the main road, the sound of the creek and the cottonwood trees blowing in the wind was lovely. The road wasn't too noisy and the sound went way down at night.
There are tables at each site with 3-4 wooden round seats. The seats weren't super sturdy but the tables were great for keeping our food off the ground and away from our dogs.
The tent sites are pretty far away from the bathroom and there isn't a place to properly go to the bathroom near the site without being seen from the main road. So that is the only big downfall.
There is a port-o-potty up by the tipis and the canvas tent.
The showers are free and hot. They aren't the most up to date facilities but they are functional and easy to use.
There is a grill on site but it wasn't open when we were there, I think it is mostly open for Summer. They also offer catering for large groups, reunions, weddings and celebrations of any kind. As Allen says: "Come join us for a fun filled , relaxing camping experience near Hot Springs located in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota Mountain hiking, Interpretive talks and warm water river tubing down gentle Fall River, which runs through the entire campground."
Inner tubes are provided FREE for the guests too. They are located right next to the playground.
There is also a big stage on site where i'm guessing bands or events can play or take place.
As a ranger we sometimes get the opportunity to review products that would benefit the camping experience. On this trip, I decided that floating down a river with family was the perfect time to review the IceMule Jaunt Cooler from https://icemulecoolers.com/.
I chose the Jaunt because I wanted something that was easy to carry just a few beers instead of my whole fridge in a bag. Icemule does a great job of creating lots of options for cooler sizes and the Jaunt seemed to be the perfect fit for my lifestyle. Plus, I LOVED the colors!
It says that it can hold a six pack or 3 bottles of wine. At first It seems like it can hold a lot more than that based on it's height, but I quickly learned that it won't properly keep chilled or stay leakproof if it is filled too much. OOPS! Once I learned to fill it properly, it worked like a charm. Even floats when you need to pass it between people on the water.
There is a front pocket on the bag that is supposed to be waterproof but the zipper is lined along the outside with no real way to close it fully so I wouldn't trust it to keep things inside perfectly dry. It is also hard to zip with one hand (see video) which is something that would make it easier to use.
Other than that, it was a great addition to our basecamping and day trip gear. It sites comfortably on my back and isn't too heavy being filled with liquid. It is WAY easier to carry than a cooler and way more more enticing to drink cold beer that wasn't just shook up in a warm backpack while out snowshoeing.
If you are looking for a great way to get away from the city but aren't quite able to make it to the mountains…this is the spot for you! Fishing, biking, hiking, and even a dog park! We came to town for Cotopaxi's Questival and we were not disappointed in this site as our home base! It was close enough to everything we needed but wasn't overwhelming with generators or kids.
Notice: As of today, the Western and Eastern portions of the park are not connected. The bridge connecting the road is out so you need to go into the Western side in order to reach the campground.
When we arrived, the kiosk was closed but there was ample lighting at the self pay station. You will need to pay the $9 day fee in addition to the camping fee. From the pay station, the signs direct you easily to the loops. There are 4 general loops and one group camping loop. We were in loop C. When we got there on Thursday night, it was a bit chilly so we were basically the only people out there tent camping. There were a few RV's already in the loop but the majority of the sites filled up Saturday.
Chatfield is popular for fishing and boating. So many people come out for the weekend so they can get up early with the fish.
In each loop there is a few bathroom options but our closest one was closed until Memorial Day. Thankfully, the large bathroom and shower house was close to our site. The bathrooms were in excellent condition. There are hot showers (that take quarters), running water, and even a laundry room. The shower house itself was heated, which was appreciated in the middle of the 30 degree night.
I'm sure during the Summer it is way busier, but we didn't have to wait in line once for either the showers or the toilet.
Our site had some great boundaries created by trees and it was easily fitting our two tents. The site parking spot could hold all 4 of our cars, but we only left 2 there since that is the limit.
The only critters we saw around were Magpies. They were "worming" their way through the grounds and had breakfast with us each morning.
As a ranger, we get the opportunity to test out gear that is either brand new to the company or something that is going to change the way you camp! And I was lucky enough to be able to test out the Primus Omnifuel Backpacking Stove. https://primus.us/
After using it for 3 days I feel in love with it! Not only is it super easy to use but it can be used with basically any fuel source!
Here are some of the awesome facts about this stove:
1. It comes in a super sturdy pouch that has a zipper pocket on the outside to hold your tools and lighter! The pouch also has instructions for how to use the stove printed on the inside of the bag!
2. It is incredibly simple to put together and use! The pieces are self explanatory in terms of connection pieces, but in case you get confused, all the connectors are different sizes so there is no way to connect it together the wrong way!
3. It burns even. With some stoves it takes multiple pumping times or making sure all the connectors are turned on just right in order for it to work, but for this stove, it's a smooth start and end to the cooking.
4. It packs down small. It's nice that you can contain in in a side pocket or smaller pocket in your pack. it's not clunky.
For additional information on how to use the stove, see the instructional video I posted along with the review!
We needed a spot not too high in elevation (there was still snow) and right off the road so we could just pack up in the AM and get going.
It was easy to set up and was far enough off the road where we didn't hear the loud trucks passing by. Easy to get to Cedar Breaks from there. Just up the road you can see the overlook of Zion, which was super cool!
I wouldn't camp here in the rain, it seems easy to flash flood through this canyon.
We were actually surprised when we found a quiet spot out here. We tried to turn into a lot of the turn offs and there were bullet casings all over the ground. There are signs everywhere that say "DO NOT SHOOT THE TREES" and we laughed at it but then we kept going and noticed that the reason why those signs were there were because there were clear cuts of trees just shot down and the casings were left on the ground.
We spent a good hour cleaning up our site before setting up camp. We carried out a large trash bag of bullet casings.
It was a beautiful view of Pikes Peak and it is a great easy place to get away from the hustle of the city. We found a safe spot for us to go shooting clays the next day and we had a blast just releasing some energy. We did clean up all of our trash as we went. Leave no trace!
Thanksgiving in Moab is heaven! We pulled up here on Weds evening for the holiday and we got our own space with plenty of personal space between us and other campers. It was cold at night (-2) but we stayed nice and warm with extra blankets and with all the slick rock and trail riding we did during the day we were so work out we didn't even notice.
You can see Arches NP from this road so it was a great way to wake up every morning with the sunrise creeping up over the Red Rock.
It is dispersed camping so there are occasionally port-o-potties but no trash pick up. We did our part cleaning up other people's trash that was left out as well as other campers wandering around cleaning up the place. Because of this, it was a beautiful spot to spend the extended weekend.
We luckily got the last spot in the campground on a hot day in May. The goal was originally to spend the day on the lake and then end the day hiking the Fire Wave so it wasn't super hot. Well, we woke up at 7:30 and it was already getting hot and busy so we decided to head up to the Fire Wave to start the day. We finished the short 1 mile round trip hike before 9 am and it was already 90+ degrees. By that time of day there were hundreds of people hiking all around out campsite so we headed out for the day.
I think coming here when it isn't a break or the weekend would be ideal. We just happened to pass through during the busy weekend when the Vegas vacationers came out for a day trip.
I drive through here during the week in March and it was silent and desolate. Absolutely beautiful to be out there solo. Water is scarce so be prepared for that. Also, swim beaches are not near Valley of Fire so be prepared to drive through the beauty of Lake Mead Recreational Area to get to a place where you can jump in. This place is amazing! The igneous rock takes your breathe away.