Isabelle K.
Fort Collins, CO
Joined July 2017
Stunning spot by the river

This is a great camp site that provides easy access to Moab. A bit close to the road but still offers some of the best scenery you can ask for. We used this as our base for rock climbing and enjoying the river for a few days in October. Great climbing and bouldering all along the canyon!

One of Moab's best kept secrets...

I am hesitant to share this campground with the world because I was so excited to realized that it seems to be relatively undiscovered by the internet thus far…

This past weekend a large group of friends spent the weekend camping at this absolutely gorgeous campsite. It is up a canyon just off of the Gemini Bridges 4x4 road. Note that it would be very difficult to reach this campground without a high clearance 4x4 vehicle. The road to the campground has steep drop offs, deep sand and large rocks that must be navigated. Once you arrive though, this is some of the best camping I have found in Moab! Total solitude, gorgeous views, a bit of shade and no light pollution to take away from the amazing stars! What else could you ask for?

Can't beat this location!

Well maintained and simple campground right off Potash Road in Moab. Ideal location for the adventurer! Located just beyond the famous Wall Street climbing routes, this was a great use camp for our weekend of climbing. The Colorado River is just across the road which is ideal for an afternoon dip. There are also really cool Petroglyphs on the canyon wall just down the street! 

We only stayed here one night, got in late and left pretty early the next morning. Overall the location was the best part of this campsite. Had a nice fire pit with a grill, picnic table, flat place for our tent, and parking for our car so it met all of our basic needs! Also was super clean (no trash to be seen!) and you can't beat the views of the surrounding canyon and river. Would stay here again for sure.

Be sure to make reservations though! We got really lucky with finding our spot last minute, apparently the rest of the campground was reserved all weekend.

Great dispersed camping just outside of Moab!

Stayed here last weekend and had a great time with our large group! Plenty of camp sites along the main road and smaller connecting side roads. Some of the side roads definitely require 4x4 and high clearance to drive.

We found an amazing site overlooking Arches National Park in the distance. Plenty of spaces for campers, RVs, trailers and tents. Sites are simple and marked by fire rings. Not much shade so it would be pretty hot out here in the summer. Gorgeous views! 

It was super crowded this time of year but still very clean, no trash, bathrooms in great shape too!

Dispersed camping at Fifth Water Hot Springs Trailhead

We camped at this trailhead while attempting to hike to the Fifth Water Hot Springs. Due to fire activity, the original trailhead was closed so we camped at the "back way" trailhead. There were signs indicating that dispersed camping was allowed in areas designated by a fire ring. Found one near the trailhead parking. Not many flat places for a tent and there was cow manure all over the ground, so not many options for places to put our tent. The "fire-pit" was also filled in with rocks, thinking this may have been related to the nearby forest fires. May have better luck at the other trailhead in the future.

Dispersed camping at Ruth Lake

Camped here early last October and was surprised to end up having a very snowy adventure! The hike in is less then a mile and offers incredibly views. Makes for a very easy backpacking trip. Multiple dispersed campsites are easily identified by fire rings. High altitude means extreme weather is common so prepare accordingly!

Gorgeous riverside camping

Camped here last weekend while visiting Moab. I was really impressed by the cleanliness of these sites and how well laid out they were. Each site had plenty of parking, a good fire ring, and best of all, plenty of shade for tent spots! Really appreciated in the hot desert days. Access to the nearby river was so awesome, we had fun walking around on the sand flats. Would like to come back in the middle of summer and float this calm section of the river! 

Campground also had great proximity to the rock climbing at "Wall Street" and the popular Corona Arch trailhead, right across the street from the campground.

Spotlessly clean with unbeatable views

I can’t say enough great things about this campground! The views all around a tremendous, with the San Juan peaks high above you and waterfalls cascading in every direction. The place is kept spotless and the bathrooms were some of the cleanest I’ve seen in a Colorado campground. I really appreciated the fact that they could have probably squeezed quite a few more campsites in this popular campground, but they chose instead to keep the spots well spaced out and give each camper a private place to enjoy. With that being said, make reservations, this place fills up quick!

Great spot on the river

Camped here after a day floating along the Colorado River. Awesome views and really nice campsites. Only a few sites and each offers great seclusion right along the river. It was so nice to jump in the water in the morning! We were surprised to find most sites open even getting there on a Sunday afternoon. Will definitely come back and stay for a weekend next time. Super basecamp location for enjoying a weekend on the river.

Can’t beat the location

Super convenient location literally in downtown Telluride. I was a bit unsure staying here because I typically prefer staying in secluded camping locations. This place had a really fun and unique vibe, felt more like an outdoor hostel than a campground. Met lots of great people. Definitely would recommend making reservations prior to camping here!

Ranger Review: Zulu 65 Gregory Backpack at Mountain Park Campground

Campground Review 

I have parked next to this campsite a few times to hike the Mt. McConnel Trailhead, so this spot came to mind when I was looking for a quick escape up the Poudre Canyon. We arrived on a beautiful Saturday afternoon and did not have reservations, so we were pleased to find that there were still quite a few great sites available. This campground is really gorgeous and bigger than it looks at first glance. There are quite a few loops that offer a variety of sites, you can be right next to the river or surrounded by trees up along the hill. Each site offers nice picnic tables, fire pits with a grill, plenty of parking space and spots for a tent. The campground is located in a forest of Ponderosa Pines, which provide great shade and a natural barrier between sites. The sound of the river is lovely and there are tons of spots that allow you to camp right next to the water. We were sad to have forgotten our fishing poles but enjoyed watching the fly fisherman wading in the river. 

The location of this campground is also fantastic, it is about halfway up the Cache la Poudre canyon, making it an epicenter for outdoor recreation. I live at the bottom of the canyon so I have been fortunate enough to enjoy many of the great things it has to offer, white water rafting, hiking, rock climbing, fishing, and so much more. As I mentioned before, this campground shares a parking lot with the Mt. McConnel trailhead. This is one of my favorite trails along the Poudre, mostly because it is rarely crowded and offers beautiful views. If you are camping here and have a few hours to spare, I would highly recommend making the trek up to the top of Mt. McConnel, or checking out one of the many nearby trails. 

Product Review 

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I occasionally get the chance to review products that I use while camping! On this particular trip, I was excited to be testing out the Zulu 65 Backpack from Gregory Packs. 

Before I even packed this bag with all of my gear, I had to try it on and was immediately impressed by the ergonomic design. The back panel is super breathable and the straps are well padded, providing serious relief for my shoulders, neck and back. I have always struggled with back pain but love overnight backpacking trips, so I am really excited for the comfort that this bag’s design provides. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that this bag includes a raincover. My last backpack required me to spend a bunch of money to buy one separately, so this was a great deal to be included in my opinion! I can’t wait to take this pack out on some serious multi-day adventures this year, rain or shine! 

We decided to go ahead and pack this bag a few different ways at our campsite and take it on a day hike with a bunch of gear to put it to the test. This pack is quite large and fits everything a backpacker could need for a multi-day trip without a problem. The adjustable torso length and straps made it easy to fit both myself and my taller hiking partner. The large zippered compartment also allowed easy packing and access of my gear, compared to simple top loading packs that I have tried in the past. 

One of my favorite parts of this pack is the separate compartment accessed from the bottom, I suppose you could use this compartment for anything, but I think it is ideal for storing and accessing my sleeping bag. Sleeping bags often annoy me when packing for trips, because they take up so much space and make it difficult to access things in the main compartment of my pack. Having a designated spot for my sleeping bag makes it much more simple to pack and organize my bag. This was especially helpful as I recently lost my compression sack for my sleeping bag, but this compartment essentially replaced my need for the compression sack. 

The hip belt pockets are another one of my favorite features. I love having pockets like these for day and overnight hiking trips to easily access things like chapstick and my camera without needing to stop and take off my backpack. The only downfall I found on this pack is the lack of other small pockets, I’m a bit of an obsessive organizer, so I would prefer if there were additional small pockets on the exterior and interior of the pack to organize my smaller pieces of gear. 

Overall I would highly recommend this pack for any adventurer looking for a high quality backpack.

Ranger Review: The ICEMULE Pro Large Cooler at Turtle Rock Campground

Campground Review 

I initially found this campground while searching on The Dyrt for a place to camp near Buena Vista for a weekend. I camped here in May with a group of friends as we spent the weekend rafting near Buena Vista on the Arkansas River. 

The road leading up to the campground isn’t paved but doesn’t require any technical or 4x4 driving. However, if you pass the campground and continue down the road (as we initially did) the road gets much rougher and requires high clearance and 4x4. We also saw some sweet dispersed camping sites along the road past the Turtle Rock Campground which could be useful if the campground itself is ever filled up. 

Overall, I was quite impressed with this campground. It is simple but well maintained and met all of our needs. Each site has a fire pit and ample space for group camping. Our group consisted of 4 tents and 4 vehicles, our site had plenty of space for parking and for all of tents to be quite well spaced out. Most of the sites also offer trees for shade which will be nice in the warmer months. The views from this campground are incredible, seriously some of the best in the state. We climbed up Turtle Rock itself (a bit of scramble so use caution!) for the sunset one night and the views were top notch. I will definitely stay here again whenever I am in the area. 

Product Review 

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I sometimes have the opportunity to review products that I use while camping. On this trip I got to test out an ICEMULE Cooler, specifically the ICEMULE Pro Large (23L). This trip seemed like a great opportunity to test a cooler because Colorado was finally warming up enough for us to want some cold beer while camping and rafting! By the end of the trip, everyone from our group was jealous of my awesome cooler and wanted to buy their own! 

This backpack cooler is seriously awesome, it has a massive capacity and easily held enough a day’s worth of food and drinks for 6 people on the river. With all of that weight, I was a bit skeptical about the comfort level when using it as a backpack. I was really impressed about how ergonomically the straps and breathable back panel felt. This is such an efficient way to carry your cold goods while out on an adventure. We were also able to just strap it right onto our raft and had no worries about a heavy cooler flying out on the rapids. Furthermore, I had no fear of the cooler getting destroyed while being tossed around the boat or scraping on the rocky ground because the material is really durable. It really seems like a product that is going to last a lifetime.  

So with any cooler, the real question is, will it keep my drinks cold? Heck. Yeah. After two days, I still had ice in the cooler and not a single warm beer was consumed on our trip. For being so lightweight, I was shocked with how well insulated this cooler is. There is also a really cool (no pun intended) valve which allows you to add air into the insulation layer to increase the insulating power! Then when finished using the cooler, you can open the valve to release all of the air and roll up the bag into a super compact size. This is one of my favorite features, because the cooler really takes up no space or weight for efficient storage. I’m excited to pack it along on some backpacking trips this summer as well! 

In the end, I think this is one of my favorite new pieces of gear. Since getting the cooler I have used it at least once a week; I’ve used it for camping, rafting, skiing, tailgating and even carried it while riding horses on a trail ride! I don’t think I will ever go back to a standard hard-shelled cooler after getting my ICEMULE. You really can’t beat the durability, carrying comfort, insulation and compact storage design.

Ranger Review: Mountain House Apple Crisp at Wolcott Campground

Campground Review

Have you ever had such a desire to camp that you end up pitching a tent in your backyard just to enjoy the great outdoors? That is essentially what brought us to Wolcott Campground, just a few minutes down the road from home, on the first warm spring weekend in Colorado. I have driven past this little campground a zillion times along I-70 but never thought to camp here until the convenience beckoned. 

This campground is small and simple but offers great accessibility to all sorts of adventures. The greatest part of this campground is by far, the location. As I mentioned, it is just off of I-70, which makes it incredibly easy to get to in any sort of vehicle. However, this also results in some noise from the highway and limits your sense of “getting away from it all”. This spot makes a great stopping point if road tripping from Denver towards Moab, or if heading up towards Steamboat Springs. Wolcott itself appears to be a town on the map, but don’t be fooled, it is really just an exit with a post office. If you need gas or supplies, you will need to stop at an earlier exit going either direction on I-70 (east at Edwards or west at Eagle). So, back to the wonderful location, this campground is situated right along the Colorado River and offers many sweet camp sites right next to the river. I wish it was warmer when we visited, because the water looked so inviting for a swim. While we were there we also saw a few people using this as a put in spot for rafting and fly fishers wading in the river. We will definitely be back in the summer to enjoy the river! 

The river has carved the canyon in which the campground sits, so you are surrounded by gorgeous red cliffs and mountain views in all directions. This has resulted in another unique perk of this campground, the bouldering and climbing opportunities all around! This campground therefore makes a wonderful basecamp for those looking to spend a few days climbing. Within the campground itself there are multiple impressive boulders that we played around on while camping. Across the river you there are a bunch of climbing routes, we tried a few and you can read more about them here: https://www.mountainproject.com/area/105807153/wolcott-crags-and-boulders

The amenities of this campground are fairly basic but well-kept. The sites are close together so there isn’t much in terms of privacy, but plenty of opportunities to meet new people! Each site has ample parking, space for a few tents and a picnic table. Most sites also have a grill and/or fire pit combo, some of these were actually some of the nicest I have seen. Amenities are very basic, there are a couple of bathrooms and it appeared a few sites have electric hook ups as well. 

Overall, this campground isn’t going to wow you with natural ambiance and seclusion, but it certainly makes up for that with the great location and numerous outdoor recreation activities just outside of your tent. 

Product Review 

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I have the opportunity to test products from time to time. On this trip, I was very excited to test a product from a brand that I already know and love, Mountain House! This is an awesome company that makes delicious freeze-dried meals. I have relied on them for years to provide me with light-weight, nutritious and delicious food while out on adventures. During this camping trip, I had the pleasure of trying the Mountain House Apple Crisp

First of all, making this meal (as with all Mountain House meals) is super easy. I removed the freshness packet and the bag of granola, boiled a cup of water on my camp stove, poured the hot water into the pouch, stirred and sealed the pouch and then set it aside for about 7 minutes to work its magic. Overall, the prep and cooking only takes like 10 minutes and all you really have to do is set up your stove, pour some water, and stir. I love how simple this is because I often am too exhausted from a day of hiking and climbing to spend time worrying about preparing a complex meal. In this case, I just was able to sit back and enjoy the morning with my friends while my meal cooked itself in the pouch! Yes, I said morning…technically this meal is listed as a dessert on their website, but I let my sweet tooth take charge and happily enjoyed this as a breakfast! 

The dish itself is so delicious. I don’t know how they manage to do it, but they really nailed the different textures and flavors of a freshly baked apple crisp. Pouring in the granola last ensured that there was an authentic crunchy bite to compliment the warm apples. This meal was also super filling! My boyfriend and I shared it for breakfast and were both totally full for hours. I would 100% order this meal again to enjoy at any time of the day. 

Overall, I was super pleased with this product. It is lightweight and easy to pack with my gear, which is something I really value in the backcountry. Cooking it was simple and quick. It was such a treat to finish my meal without needing to clean up a bunch of pots, pans or dishes. This also makes the whole process more water and time efficient. Not only was the meal absolutely delicious, it was filling and gave me plenty of energy to fuel my day in nature.

Ranger Review of RoM Pack at Buckingham Campground

Campground Review 

I came upon this campground in an effort to squeeze in one last big fall hike before the Colorado winter (aka snow) settled across the Front Range Mountains. My research led me to the Fourth of July Trailhead and adjacent Buckingham Campground, just west of Boulder, Colorado. Our plan was to car camp at the campground the night before hiking to ensure that we would get a good parking spot at the trailhead and an early start on the hike. We arrived after nightfall and were very surprised to find that we were the only people there, despite many online reviews describing how crowded this area got on the weekends. The lack of other cars and light made it quite difficult for us to differentiate between the campground and the trailhead parking, so we drove around for a bit and finally settled on a nice flat spot that was relatively free of snow. While driving around looking for a spot, a giant mother moose and her baby crossed the parking lot which was such a cool (but slightly terrifying) surprise! We were sure to find parking far away from the direction that they were wandering towards. 

Overall, the campground didn’t offer much. We visited quite late in the season and there was a lot of snow on the ground, so it was really hard to tell where the actual designated camp sites were. I am guessing that it is better maintained during the summer. While there was a bathroom, as my photos show it was unfortunately quite dirty and full of trash. The location totally made up for any downsides of the campground though! When we woke up the next morning we were shocked by the beautiful views seen from every direction. The parking lot began to fill at dawn and there were only a few spots remaining when we started hiking around 8 am. We hiked two of the trails from the campground, Arapaho Pass and Diamond Lake, both were absolutely amazing and some of the most beautiful hiking I have done in Colorado. I would highly recommend hiking, backpacking, and/or camping around this area to anyone visiting the Colorado Front Range! 

A word of caution-The road to this campground can be fairly rough in some spots and was made more difficult by the snow on the ground when we visited (mid-October). A high-clearance vehicle is definitely needed and something with 4WD would be necessary if there is any snow or mud on the road. Check trail conditions and road closures prior to setting out to this beautiful destination!

Product Review 

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, sometimes I have the opportunity to test some great products! At this campground, I tested the RoM Pack. This unique backpack comes with quite a cool origin storyfrom its’ inventors, so I was very excited for the opportunity to test out something so innovative. When the pack arrived, I certainly was not disappointed. Unfortunately, quite a few early snow season storms delayed my attempts to get out in the field to test it although once I finally got the opportunity, it was totally worth the wait! 

This pack is nothing short of versatile. It not only serves as a backpack with optional removable outer pockets, but can also be used as a blanket and a wearable poncho!! Seriously, this thing is so cool. I could probably go on all day about the reasons I was impressed by this product, but for the sake of those reading, I decided to narrow down my top 3 favorite features of this backpack:

1) The material. The designers of this product clearly have been in the woods a time or two. The pack is made out of a water resistant and super durable material on the outside but the other side is a thin polar fleece. This feature was really important as we went camping in the snow with it. 

  • As a backpack-this means everything inside your pack is protected from the dirt and the elements.  I had no fear of my gear getting wet when I set my pack down directly in the snow.
  • As a poncho-the inside is warm and soft while the outer material keeps you dry.
  • As a blanket-although this product is lightweight, it is surprisingly thick and well insulated. We had to camp directly on the snow one night, so I laid down the blanket on the floor of my tent to use as an extra layer of insulation below my sleeping pad. It really added some much appreciated warmth! 

2) Did I mention all of the pockets?! I am a bit of an organization freak when it comes to camping, so I really appreciated how many places there were in this backpack to store and then easily access all of my things. 

3) The versatility. To me, this seems to be one of the major selling points of this incredibly innovative product and for good reason. Not only is it a high quality backpack, but it can also serve to provide two essential things while adventuring in the outdoors-warmth and protection. You can leave your extra layers and picnic blankets at home when you have this backpack to cut down on weight and gear. Additionally, switching between the uses is really quite easy and well explained in this videofor first time users. 

Overall, I was really impressed by the RoM pack. I will definitely be following this brand in the future and can’t wait to see what other novel products come from the genius behind RoM Outdoors!

Dispersed Camping at American Lakes

This is one of my all-time favorite places to hike and camp in Colorado. I have not yet stayed in any of the campgrounds but have backpacked to the top of the American Lakes Trail. Not only is this hike fantasticly beautiful and full of wildlife (tons of moose especially) but there is great dispersed camping along the trails. You simply cannot find more scenic and free camping in Colorado. I would highly recommended camping anywhere in State Forest State Park!

Also, there are quite a few huts, cabins and yurts that can be rented year round in SFSP!

Backpacking to Cathedral Lake

For those looking for an amazing backpacking experience in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, this one is not to be missed! 

Many people take on the Cathedral Lake trail as a day hike, with the most adventurous (and in shape) pushing on towards Electric Pass. However, following a recommendation I read online, I decided to make this trail into a weekend backpacking trip. This was our general itinerary:

On Friday afternoon we hiked in the ~3 miles to Cathedral Lake. We set up camp just off the trail, about a 1/2 mile before the lake, below the tree line (see more below about the camping sites). On Saturday morning we intended to make the hike to Electric Pass but woke up to a rainstorm that lasted until about noon. We spent the afternoon hanging out by the lake and fishing where we caught some rather impressive trout! We were delighted when all of the lingering rain clouds began to clear out in the late afternoon and decided to make an evening attempt at the Electric Pass hike (~6 miles RT from the lake) where we were rewarded by amazing sunset views. We then returned to camp and spent another night. We left mid-morning on Sunday and had a much easier (all downhill) hike back to the trailhead. 

About the camping at Cathedral Lake: 

If you plan to make this a backpacking trip, you will really be able to enjoy the area far more than the day hikers who only spend a bit of time at the lake and have to turn around. I would highly recommend staying a night or two and attempting to summit the Electric Pass as we did. Be sure to fill out a permit (no cost) at the trailhead, per wilderness regulations. There is plenty of water available near the lake and in the surrounding creeks, but a water filtration device should be used for safety of course. Following wilderness regulations, campsites cannot be within a certain distance of the lake, which is no issue as there are plenty of sites just off the trail after the grueling last set of switchbacks. You’ll know when you have finished the switchbacks I am referencing because they are quite strenuous, especially with a heavy backpack on! The primitive sites are marked by previously built stone ring fire pits, many of which have well placed logs and stumps to sit on. The sites are all far enough apart that you cannot see your neighbors and have plenty of seclusion to enjoy the woods. Dense forest surrounds the camping area which adds to the privacy and provides protection from the sun and storms that often roll through this area. A note on the storms-due to the high altitude and mountainous location, this area is frequented by strong thunderstorms and caution should be taken to avoid lightning strikes, especially on Electric Pass which was named for just this reason! Even on the sunniest day, I would not set out on this trail without proper rain gear and lots of layers in my pack. It also gets quite cold up here! We stayed in early August and it definitely felt like the air temperature was below freezing at night. Bear canisters are required for camping here and the proper precautions should be kept in mind to avoid any potentially dangerous encounters with the amazing wildlife in this area. Please also follow all of the additional wilderness regulations and leave no trace principles to keep this beautiful place in pristine condition! 

Overall, I would recommend the Cathedral Lake and Electric Pass hikes to anyone visiting the Aspen area…but for those willing and able to turn this into a backpacking trip, you will be rewarded with an even more amazing backcountry camping adventure! 

For more info:

https://www.outdoorproject.com/adventures/colorado/hikes/cathedral-lake-trail

https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5186764.pdf

Fall camping by the lake

This is a beautiful campground located along hwy 14 near Fort Collins. I brought my family here for some car camping last fall and was not disappointed by the campground itself, and the nearby dispersed camping along Hohnholz Lakes Road. We checked out the campground and were impressed by it’s cleanliness, well-appointed campsites and general amenities. This is especially nice to see in campground that has such a limited opening season, as we somewhat expected it to be somewhat neglected as we were visiting at a time so close to when they close for the season. 

Although the campground was nice, we actually opted to camp alone the Hohnholz Lakes Road just outside of the campground, which offers beautiful dispersed camp sites above the lake. We did this because we had 2 large dogs with us and figured having more space would be appreciated by the other campers and the dogs! The sites up here were even more scenic than within the boundaries of the campground, but still offered plenty of well cleared areas to set up tents, ample parking, and well-made stone fire pits.

I would highly recommend both the campground itself and the surrounding dispersed sites when the road conditions allow (summer and early fall).

Radium State Wildlife Area- O.C. Murage Campground

I have stayed at this campground many times over the last few times due to its’ close proximity to access points along the Upper Colorado River and one of Colorado’s best kept secrets, Radium Hot Springs. Often times, I will “backpack” into the dispersed backcountry sites located next to the hot spring itself. I say backpack lightly, as it is only about a 20-minute hike in from the main parking/O.C. Murage Campground. On my most recent stay though, I opted for car camping at the campground itself, although I still managed to hike over to the hot spring for an amazing moonlight soak. 

The campground itself is basic, but suits the needs of most backpackers. It is essentially just a large clearing near the river, with a stream running along the far side. There is plenty of parking in the dirt/gravel clearing and “campsites” are designated by stoned-lined fire pits along the perimeter of the campground. The sites are quite flat and most offer significant shade which is quite nice in the summer. Pit toilet bathrooms are located near the entrance, for both male and female. The bathrooms offer toilet paper, but definitely could use a good cleaning. The bathrooms also had a few funny signs regarding the rules (see photos). 

In general, this campground is easily accessible by most cars year-round. The road to the campground is gravel but well maintained. This area has been gaining popularity over the last few years, so if camping on the summer weekends, be sure to get there early in order to get a spot. I haven’t camped at the campground itself on the weekends, but it can get rather busy so privacy is likely limited. We camped on a Thursday and there were only two other groups camping at that time. 

The hot spring is definitely the highlight of this campground and a major draw for me. It is a beautiful natural hot spring located at the bottom of a cliff along the banks of the Colorado River.  Some call this a warm spring, as it stays around 80-90 degrees. I have heard that this can fluctuate based on the river levels, and it can become washed out in the spring when water levels are quite high. As a warning, the hot spring can get crowded and rowdy with partiers on the summer weekends…some of whom may opt for nudity after dark. My favorite time to visit the hot spring is late at night during the week, when you are most likely to have the pool to yourself and enjoy the scenery and starry nights in seclusion :)

Amazing backpacking campsite in Rocky Mountain National Park!

I had the fortune of being invited along on a backpacking trip this past weekend in Rocky Mountain National Park. I say fortune in particular because obtaining Wilderness Permits for popular backpacking destinations can be difficult during the high season of tourism at RMNP. Thankfully, my friend had reserved this permit months in advanced so we were all set for our adventure! 

To get to this campsite, backpackers typically park at the Lawn Lake Trail Head and hike the beautiful Ypsilon Lake trail. The site is located 4.2 miles from the trailhead just past Chipmunk Lake. The hike is moderately strenuous in my opinion, and is made more difficult with a full backpack of course. The approach to the site is all uphill (2100 feet of elevation gain) but that makes the hike out quite easy as your tired legs will be going downhill the entire way! From the campsite, the hike to Ypsilon Lake isn’t far and makes for a great additional day hike once you’ve set up camp. We also pushed on to the higher Spectacle Lakes, which is a very strenuous hike which requires some scrambling and route finding but 100% worth it. From the top there are amazing views of Long’s Peak, Estes Park and the Spectacle Lakes themselves which have the most magnificently glacial blue water. 

About the campsites-

There are two designated sites, we stay at the one on the right. At the site there is a designated space for tents which is relatively flat and free of rocks. There is plenty of shade from the dense surrounding pines. No fires are allowed at this site so a camp stove is necessary for cooking. Bear canisters are required and leave no trace ethics should be strictly followed. I was surprised to find that this site also had access to a privy. The privy itself was decently clean and signs indicated that no toilet paper should be thrown into it, although this rule was clearly not being followed as there was a good bit of trash in the toilet. Overall, the site itself was spotless and free of any trash. The views from the site were limited by the trees, but the nearby scenic lakes offer plenty of panoramic views. This is a great backcountry camp site and a fun backpacking trip overall. I would highly recommend this trip for anyone that enjoys the solitude of backpacking and has the time to obtain the necessary permits! 

For more info, check out this site specific informational PDF: https://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/upload/019-Upper-Chipmunk-2017-2.pdf

Ranger Review: Matador DL16 Packable Backpack at Shrine Pass

Campground Review: 

As an adventurer in Colorado, I often find myself driving down I-70 and over the Vail Pass. If anyone has ever traveled this route they may have found themselves, like me, wondering about all of the cars, dirt bikes, ATVs and snowmobiles parked zooming around near the rest stop just before Vail Pass (exit 190). Well, this past weekend I finally decided to investigate and was not disappointed in what I found! This exit brings you to two fantastic recreation areas: Ten Mile Canyon and Shrine Pass. I did not explore Ten Mile Canyon very much but I know there is another campground, awesome bike path, multiple reservoirs and fantastic views of the Rocky Mountains. I did however, take the Shrine Pass Road which connects the I-70 corridor to the adorable mining town of Redcliff, Colorado. 

Shrine Pass is a 11.2-mile road that is easily drivable in most cars during the summer and is popular with snowmobilers in the winter. Along the road there are a great number of turn offs that lead to dispersed campsites. We decided to travel along the majority of the road and enjoy the scenery before choosing a lovely wooded campsite. These sites are primitive for sure, but all that we saw had designated fire pits in rock circles, logs around the pits for sitting, multiple flat spots for tents and ample parking. We were pleasantly surprised by how well this entire area is maintained, considering how much of the year it spends under significant levels of snow!                                               

There is also plenty to do in the area including hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking and wildlife viewing. We saw tons of birds and a few mule deer. While we didn’t see any black bear on this trip, I have seen them in this area in the past, so using proper food storage techniques is a must. A highlight of our camping trip at Shrine Pass was walking along the short nature trail to the Mount of the Holy Cross overlook at “Julia’s Deck”. This desk not only offers wonderful views, but is totally wheelchair accessible, which was really great to find so deep in the wilderness. 

All in all, I would definitely recommend this camping area for those that want to experience dispersed car camping, great scenery, and a sense of privacy that isn’t difficult to access. If going on the weekend, try to scope out your campsite fairly early to get the best spots. For those looking for more of a glamping experience, we also noticed that there are huts and cabins at the top of Shrine Pass which are part of the 10thMountain Division Hut Association. We are hoping to reserve one of these huts at the pass for a winter camping adventure! 

Product Review: 

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I occasionally have the opportunity to review gear. On this trip I was very excited to be testing a 16-liter backpack from an awesome brand called Matador. This brand has an awesome approach to designing products with convenience in mind. This backpack was no exception and was just what I was looking for in a travel day pack: durable, waterproof and most of all- easily packable! I often like to go backpacking on over-night trips and am often frustrated by my need to bring an extra backpack for day trips from my base camp. This packable backpack is truly the answer to that issue. It literally folds up into the size of my palm and is ultra-light weight (just 4.1 oz). I think this backpack will also be awesome for urban adventures and city exploring, so it will not be forgotten when packing for my future international travels. This pack also currently comes in two stylish colors; I went with the indigo but would have been happy with either. It is rare to find such a functional product that is also so low-profile and could even be considered quite hip and fashionable! These product designers definitely know what they are doing in combining form and function. 

I tested this pack out on two hikes during my stay at Shrine Pass and was very pleased with how comfortable it was. I was surprised how breathable the material was, even on a fairly hot day. When we got caught in an afternoon rainstorm, the waterproof material and water resistant sealed zippers really held up against the downpour and kept my camera gear safe and dry. In addition to my camera equipment, this 16-liter pack easily held a few layers, my first-aid kit, two water bottles and my packed lunch. I really appreciated the additional pockets which make it easy to organize and access all of my gear while out on the trail or back at the campsite. The only con of this backpack is that it is not compatible with my water reservoir which I like to have for longer hikes. This isn’t much of an issue though, because the pack has plenty of space for water bottles. 

The price of this product was also quite a shock to me! At only $49.99 this backpack is truly a bargain considering the high quality material and design used. Most other day packs of this caliber cost well over $100 and are not nearly as convenient as this packable backpack.  

Overall, I would highly recommend the Matador DL16 backpack to anyone. Not only is this a quality piece of gear for the avid camper and hiker, it has a multitude of other uses; from carrying around school books and laptops on campus, to holding souvenirs and passports while exploring a new country. This backpack is truly a great investment and is something that I look forward to using on a variety of future adventures.