the dyrt
Irene L.
Forty Five, TN
Joined May 2017
Southern girl at heart...traveling near and far in retirement...simple everyday adventures sprinkled with a few magnificent moments. Photo is OBX!
Way out on the Prairie

When you think Colorado you think endless mountains, but a good chunk of CO is prairie and grasslands. We enjoyed exploring this part of the state, complete with pronghorn antelopes, deer, birds, burrowing owls, sunsets, crazy thunderstorms, buttes, and rolling hills. Yes there are some windmills, oil rigs, cattle farms, etc. here, but the beauty of this landscape surpassed all of that development. Crow Valley campground is lushly wooded along a river with some pavilions and ball fields, plus short little hiking trails. We came out here to do the birding tour and enjoyed the camping just as much. It’s amazing how empty the prairie seems until you take a closer look.

Way out on the Prairie

When you think Colorado you think endless mountains, but a good chunk of CO is prairie and grasslands. We enjoyed exploring this part of the state, complete with pronghorn antelopes, deer, birds, burrowing owls, sunsets, crazy thunderstorms, buttes, and rolling hills. Yes there are some windmills, oil rigs, cattle farms, etc. here, but the beauty of this landscape surpassed all of that development. Crow Valley campground is lushly wooded along a river with some pavilions and ball fields, plus short little hiking trails. We came out here to do the birding tour and enjoyed the camping just as much. It’s amazing how empty the prairie seems until you take a closer look.

Zapata Falls

This is a tiny park just outside the surreal Great Sand Dunes National Park…it is about 20 minutes south of the National Park. Onsite the trails are short but very pretty, especially the waterfall itself. They have no water on site, not a ton of sites, outhouses, friendly to RVs and tents (but the road up can be a little bumpy if it’s raining). We loved staying here, we heard coyotes howling close by, owls hooting, dust devils out in the valley, infinite stars.

Southern Rocky Mountain National Park

This is the only campground you can get to without going through Estes Park, which is great to avoid the congestion in that touristy little mountain town. No reservations are taken here. Most of the people we saw were about to hike or had just hiked Longs Peak (the big flat top one you can see from Denver), or were doing backpacking, so there were fewer families and chaos than at a typical national park campground. It’s a pretty basic campground with a lot to see and enjoy right nearby. But it’s kind of far from the main part of the park.

Southern Rocky Mountain National Park

This is the only campground you can get to without going through Estes Park, which is great to avoid the congestion in that touristy little mountain town. No reservations are taken here. Most of the people we saw were about to hike or had just hiked Longs Peak (the big flat top one you can see from Denver), or were doing backpacking, so there were fewer families and chaos than at a typical national park campground. It’s a pretty basic campground with a lot to see and enjoy right nearby. But it’s kind of far from the main part of the park.

Touristy but right next to Petrified Forest National Park

The Petrified Forest National Park does not have its own car camping campground (there are only backcountry backpacking sites, requiring permits, gear, walking, skills, etc). This rather touristy campground is right outside the National Park. It is pretty basic and incredibly it is totally free. It does have electric hookups for a small fee, The sites are large and out in the open with no shade…dismal in the hot AZ sun! There’s a teepee village you can also use, would be a big hit for kids. The gift shop has some snacks and lots of interesting geological trinkets. At night it is beautifully dark.

Forested campground with Zuni Auto Tour

Free simple campground with just a vault toilet and some picnic tables. You need to bring your own water and/or treatment methods! We love this area within the Cibola National Forests. Nothing too fancy, but great shade and forests. There are a lot of hikes and some swimming holes with waterfalls. For those of us who were not in the mood for miles and miles of rugged hiking there is a road to drive along with incredible views. Dog friendly!

Wild Rivers and beautiful canyons

If you like canyon hikes (steeeeep trails) or whitewater, this is a great place for you to explore. There are a lot of outfitters in the area that will take you down the rivers, but we weren’t able to do it on our visit there…the others at the campground couldn’t say enough good things about it. Even if you don’t want to do a long hike there are some great places for views. The camping is extremely simple, very cheap, huge sites, with water, full in the summer. Can’t recommend this area enough!!

Pretty wooded lake near NM/CO border

Some of the camping areas and campsites have better views than others, but they are all very pretty and generously sized. There are three or four different areas! When you’re googling, be careful, some places with the same name are in totally different lakes and some are across the border. Campgrounds are simple like many of the state parks we’ve been to but we like it. Make sure you get a campsite with covered picnic tables for shade! You will probably want to have some kind of boat here to explore the water, but there are also some trails to enjoy. They do allow motorized boats and there is a marina but they weren’t obnoxious when we were there. We were there in the off season so we don’t know how busy it is come summertime…we’d like to visit in winter sometime!

National Forest

Densely wooded PRIMITIVE campground with trails and fishing but NO WATER. We only stayed there while driving from ABQ to the coast, which was perfect for us, but we will plan to return to explore the Cibola National Forest more. It was cool and shady in August so we quite enjoyed it as a stopover. In our little sedan we didn’t have trouble, but I think there are other forest service roads you’d want a jeep for?

Surreal park with easy backcountry camping

I won’t even say anything about the park, it’s something you need to experience and you’ll be convinced just by looking at any photos. This isn’t a campground but backcountry camping with a hike to the site of under a mile, so it’s perfect for backpacking trips for families. BUT walking on sand is a lot more tiring than you think it’ll be and water is heavier than you think it’s be!! You need to get a permit, which is very cheap, and forces you check in with the rangers about weather and whatever other issues there may be. Read up about leave no trace and specific rules for the sand dunes. …the weird thing is that there could be missles on the sand sometimes!! So if you see something weird stay away and tell the rangers asap!! This will be one of the best camping trips you’ll ever be on, no contest. ENJOY!

Lovely

A then-boyfriend’s family rented this place for a family reunion, it was very pretty with a lot to do. There are areas for groups and just 1 tent too. Very convenient next to the highway. This is a huge huge National Forest, but since it’s a National Forest and not a National Park the facilities for both camping and recreation are pretty simple, but there is a small general store. Great forests and shady campgrounds, really cheap, very clean, water provided, large campsites. Easy and difficult hiking trails, lots of fishing. Enjoy!

Great escape from Tucson in National Forest

Loved hiking in Madera Canyon, they have lots of options for difficulty and length with good wildlife and epic views. There were a LOT of people looking for rare birds in April or May (I forget what they were excited about!). This is a nice simple campground with water and toilets, but nothing else. Cheap and I don’t think it fills up often. Despite the name there aren’t bad bugs or wet ground, but lots of nice trees.

*NOT HORSESHOE BEND*

This campground is NOT what you see pictured here by Emily W. or on calendars!! It is FOUR HOURS south of the famous Horseshoe Bend and just outside of Phoenix. This Horseshoe Campground is on the Verde River, NOT the Colorado River. It is at the edge of a national forest. It is a pretty but simple campground with no reservations, no amenities, no toilets, no water. It has good shade but is still hot of course, and you can go fishing and explore the water, but no big trails that I know of in the area. Nice to have a campsite hangout for a night.

National Forest PRIMITIVE

Extremely basic site with no facilities…NO WATER…NO TOILETS…but it’s free and very pretty. You can drive up to your campsite and then enjoy trails, kayaks, swimming, fishing…but it’s all up to you to bring what you need and research what to do since there’s no info once you’re there. This is in the middle of nowhere, which is great if it’s what you’re after! We pretty much just hung out close to the campground enjoying the water, but there are trails galore around here. ENJOY

UT/AZ border by the lake

Nice place to stay on the way to/from so many parks in the area…or to spend a few days on the big Lake Powell. The lake is surrounded on the east side by pretty cliffs and since the campground is so flat and relatively treeless you have good views from pretty much everywhere. This is a very serious place for boating with lots of elaborate marina and huge boats/yachts. Campsites have everything you could want including shade…mostly RVs but lots of tents too. This is not a place to go for wilderness but it is very pretty and the sunrises and sunsets are spectacular.

Cool caves

Even if you don’t want to camp here the caves are worth the drive from Tucson for the tours and to hike around the grounds (gift shop is good too). The trails are not long but have some good views and give a good sense of cactus country without long grueling hikes. The campgrounds are a short distance to the caves and museum. The campsites have sparse shrubs and nice views, not huge sites but not awful, lots of water. Birding is great certains times of year.

On the water outside Sedona

This is pretty close to Sedona (10 minutes) and right along a river that’s fun to wade in (not sure if you can canoe it?), plus long hiking trails nearby. Cool cliffs and just really neat scenery and the campground only accept tents so you get to sleep next to the creek among shady trees. This was too full the first time we tried to visit so you will want to make reservations! I really like campsites without RV, no offense, and while it is kind of close to the highway you can’t tell at all. Try to get a site at the end that’s close to the creek.

On the water outside Sedona

This is pretty close to Sedona (10 minutes) and right along a river that’s fun to wade in (not sure if you can canoe it?), plus long hiking trails nearby. Cool cliffs and just really neat scenery and the campground only accept tents so you get to sleep next to the creek among shady trees. This was too full the first time we tried to visit so you will want to make reservations! I really like campsites without RV, no offense, and while it is kind of close to the highway you can’t tell at all. Try to get a site at the end that’s close to the creek.

Rainbow trout on Big Lake

Rainbow has lots of ecosystems, fun to hike and lots of boating fishing to enjoy too. The campground is very large and it’s quite wooded which is appreciated in AZ. Not much to say about the campground, it’s fairly basic but very pretty and there are hosts during most of the year to give you insider tips. The hosts told us that it’s an area known to have a lot of hummingbirds but unfortunately we didn’t see any (July visit). The trails aren’t too long but they are also pretty and lots of wildlife, and most of the people here were locals or RVs. This is kind of in the middle of nowhere but we were on our way and it was a very pleasant stopover.