the dyrt
Isabelle K.
Fort Collins, CO
Joined July 2017
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.

Ranger Review: Nature’s Coffee Kettle at Pumphouse Campground

Campground Review

I have been to the Pumphouse Recreation Site multiple times for day use purposes, as this is a common boat launch location on the Upper Colorado River. This past weekend was my first time actually using their campground and I was quite pleased. Although we arrived fairly late on a Saturday evening in the summer, there were still quite a few campsites available. We had no trouble finding a site with a level parking spot for our campervan on the night that we arrived. Camping here offers a great base camp for those looking to get out on the river for rafting and fishing or exploring hikes in the surrounding BLM land. Overall these are my thoughts on this campground-

Pros:

  • Clean
  • Easily accessible
  • Great location for nearby adventures and activities
  • All basic amenities in clean and working order (picnic table, fire pit, toilet, etc.)
  • Affordable fees ($10/night)

Cons:

  • Sites are quite close together so not much privacy
  • Minimal tree cover provides little shade
  • Things can get loud here quite early due to all of the commercial rafting tours that use this area as a boat launch site

Product Review

Nature’s Coffee Kettle has taken a unique approach to a camping essential: a great cup of coffee. As someone who loves coffee, I was particularly excited for the opportunity to review this product as a Ranger for the Dyrt. Luckily, I was able to try out the International 16 cup Pack which includes the trademark kettle itself and 4 flavors of their coffee refill packs; Colombian Arabica, Sumatra, French Roast and Guatemalan. Each refill pack allows you to make a brew a “pot” of approximately 4 cups of coffee. Each flavor was distinct and definitely made from top quality beans. My personal favorite was the Sumatra, although my usual choice of French Roast was a close runner up. The price of the product was quite fair and cheaper than what you would pay at a coffee shop if comparing cup for cup. The portable kettle system was quite light as well (1.2 oz) which I greatly appreciate as a backpacker who is always looking for ways to lighten my load without cutting out any essentials. There is however the issue of trash created from this product, as a good bit of packaging is involved, which should be taken into account for those looking to go ultra-light while using this product.

Making the coffee itself was pretty straightforward: boil water, pour it over the coffee pack at the top of the bag and then allow it to run through the filter compartment and fill the lower “kettle” portion of the bag. Following the manufacturer’s directions, this process must be repeated multiple times to properly brew a good tasting cup of coffee. This is due to the fact that the top filter compartment is quite small and holds a little less than a cup of boiling water. Due to the design of the bag itself, one must hold up the flimsy top of the bag while the boiling water is poured into the kettle and drains through or the bag will be too top heavy and tip over. As a result, one must hold the top of the bag with both hands while another person carefully pours boiling water into the top compartment. After making 4 separate full kettles of coffee, we were unable to come up with a system of brewing that did not result in burnt finger tips and require the need of two people throughout the process. After the initial excitement/burn of the boiling and brewing process, one must quickly enjoy their cup of joe because the kettle lacks any sort of insulation to retain heat. Even on a fairly warm summer morning, within 10 minutes the entire batch was less than lukewarm. Once the pouring began, our experience improved vastly. The design of the spout and handle holes on the bag makes the coffee very easy to pour. As previously mentioned, the coffee itself was very tasty and enjoyable. As with all things in the outdoors, things just seem to taste better when they take a bit more effort to make. With that being said, this product is certainly a unique system but still requires the use of a camp stove, fuel, pot or kettle, water, and a mug or cup to drink out of. In the end, we concluded that just using high quality instant coffee would have cut down significantly on the processing time, cost and packaging required to get our campsite java fix.

Ranger Review: Escape Campervan at San Luis State Park

Campground Review:

This campground was recommended to us due to its’ proximity to the Great Sand Dunes National Park that we were visiting. Not only did this campground have a convenient location (15 minutes west of the park), it was absolutely beautiful and so fun to explore! We woke up early and hiked along the wetlands nature trails, catching an amazing sunrise with panoramic views over the lake, Great Sand Dunes and surrounding mountains.

Luckily, I have a current Colorado annual dishing license which covered the camping fee. Otherwise, an annual access permit ($36), Colorado hunting or fishing license is required to camp here. Reservations are not accepted here so everything is first come, first serve. We were surprised to find so many sites available even on a beautiful summer weekend, we had the entire loop of camp sites to ourselves. There are 51 camp sites available spread across multiple loops. The first loops (A) we encountered was quite full, but the additional loops were almost entirely empty.

The sites were decently spaced apart and each offered electrical hookups, sheltered picnic tables and fire pits with grills. The free electrical hook-ups were quite helpful for charging up our electronics. Thankfully we had a power converter and power strip provided with our Escape Campervan. The picnic tables at the sites each have unique shelters that provided a nice break from the hot sun and strong wind gusts we encountered during our stay. Unfortunately, during our visit we were unable to use the fire pit due to fire bans that were in effect in this area. Along with the rest of the campground, the restrooms were spotless and well-maintained. Thankfully the pull-through parking spaces at each site made it super easy to park the 17.7-foot long campervanwe were driving! The parking spots were also all quite flat and level, which was an added comfort bonus to the whole experience.

Due to the proximity to the San Luis lakes and wetland areas, bugs were plentiful this time of year. Our headlamps and lanterns drew some of the largest moths I have ever seen! I would definitely recommend bug spray for visitors to this campground during warm months.

Product Review:

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I occasionally have the opportunity to test and review products from outdoor companies. On this camping adventure, I was able to test out a Mavericks Campervan, which is the signature campervan model offered by Escape Campervans. This was a unique experience for me and my adventure partner, as we typically car camp or backpack into the backcountry for camping. Renting one of these campervans provides many potential benefits for both nature newcomers and the most seasoned campers. They have locationsall over the country making them available to most geographic regions, we picked ours up in Denver, which gave us access to all of the fantastic camping Colorado has to offer! A few of my favorite things about the Escape Campervans:

Convenience– This van provided more than a means of transportation…we also had a kitchen, living room, and bedroom all rolled into one well-appointed vehicle. This meant that everything we needed was readily available and easy to use with minimal set-up both on the road and when parked overnight. For instance, at one point, we start craving s’mores so we stopped at an 11,000-foot mountain pass overlook and simply opened up our kitchen stove and toasted some marshmallows in the parking lot! From a more practical stand-point, after a long day of hiking and driving, it was really great to be able to put our bed together in just a few minutes rather than going through the hassle of setting up a tent, sleeping pads, etc. plus the bed in the van was super comfy! The two-burner Coleman stove, sink, and fridge allowed us to cook pretty much anything without the usual compromises one must make while camping. Additionally, plenty of equipment is included in your rentalincluding; cookware, utensils, a space heater bed linens and even camp chairs. Additional accessoriescan be added on to your rental as well, so all of your needs are really covered. This was a huge added bonus and cut down on packing, which would be great for those coming from out of town or people that do not own much camping equipment.

Drivable– I was a bit intimidated to get behind the wheel of such a large vehicle, especially on Colorado’s curvy mountain roads. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the Maverick handled very well. We encountered some serious wind and rain on our journey and always felt quite safe behind the wheel of our trusty van. It was also not too bad on gas, especially compared to other larger campervan and RV options. Another perk of renting through Escape Campervans: they do not charge for additional drivers, so my friend and I were able to split up the burden of driving without being hindered by additional fees.

Design– The layout of these vans are definitely optimized for comfort and functionality. There was plenty of storage throughout the van which made it easy to organize all of our belongings in despite being in such a small space. It also easy to move around and reach everything while on the road and while parked. The pull out bed was very easy to use and took only a few minutes to transition from the table and seating to the super comfortable bed. The curtains in the van were also a nice touch and gave a great sense of privacy and also kept things quite dark for sleeping.

The #vanlife–Social media sites like Instagram are full of jealous- inducing travel photos of those that have converted their lifestyle to travel and live by campervan. I have always been plagued by wanderlust and this van camping experience totally let me live out that dream for a weekend! Furthermore, the fun paint job of our van (lovingly nicknamed the Fish-O) was certainly noticeable and we got tons of attention from other adventurers out on the road. We met quite a few fellow van campers that were excited to share tips and tricks and compare the set-ups of their campervans with ours. Being part of the #vanlife provided a unique sense of community that I can’t wait to join again!

A note about the Escape Campervans company as a whole – I cannot say enough good things about my experience with this fantastic company. Every interaction we had with them, from initial booking to van return, exemplified nothing short of outstanding customer service. The staff was very well-informed about their services and vans but also had tons of personalized recommendations to offer about the potential adventures along our road trip. It was very evident that their staff is made up of fellow outdoor enthusiasts who also value the importance of professionalism and quality customer service.

Solitude by the river

We stumbled upon this campground by chance, and what a wonderful chance it was! After deciding to take a weekend rafting trip along the Wyoming/Colorado section of the Platte River, we planned to just find dispersed camping options within the surrounding National Forest area. We initially put our boats in at the Routt Access Trailhead which is where we were able to find this amazing group of campsites (see directions below). There are plenty of campsites designated by fire rings along the road that are well spread out and offer plenty of seclusion. We were surprised to not encounter any other campers despite it being a beautiful summer weekend. The campsite we used offered much appreciated shade from the June sun with plenty of big trees. The ground is relatively flat on top of the hill so we had quite a few options to spread out with our group pf 3 tents. Another huge plus of this area is how pristine it is, not a piece of trash to be found. If camping here, please continue that by following Leave No Trace principles.

Camping in this area is complimented by tons of nearby activities including hiking, backpacking, and horseback riding trails, class I-IV white water rafting opportunities, rock climbing, fishing and wildlife viewing. On our weekend adventure we went on a 4-hour boat trip from the Routt Access boat put-in to the Six-Mile Gap take-out point, the river felt like a private get away and we didn’t see any other people except for a few fly fishermen at the access points. The wildlife we encountered was the highlight of our trip, we saw moose, a golden eagle, foxes, pronghorns, and marmots.

To get there: The GPS coordinates entered on this page are for the Routt Access Trailhead. Following these directions from there is the easiest way to find the campsites. I have also included a screenshot of google maps in this review. When approaching the trailhead from the main road, just a few hundred yards before the trailhead/river access parking area, the road forks. To the right is the trailhead, and to the left is FS 939.1 (Mahogany Road). With a normal clearance vehicle and 2wd, you should be able to easily reach the first campsite along this road, marked by a well-appointed fire ring. For those with slightly higher clearance cars (my friends had a Subaru Forester and did just fine) I would highly recommend continuing along the road a bit higher and up the hill. 4wd is probably not necessary unless the road is muddy, but some large holes and rocks will be problematic for very low clearance vehicles. From up here, you will have amazing views of the grasslands, mountains and river.

A unique waterside camping experience with awe-inspiring scenery

Just beyond the Bullfrog marina, there are tons of little coves and canyons just waiting to be explored. Camping is allowed in most of these secluded spots off of the main channel of Lake Powell and offer quiet refuges from the main shores that can tend to get quite busy. We found a wonderful cove that was about a 40-minute boat ride from the marina and were totally secluded in our campsite, minus just a few fishermen that stopped in during the day. This area offers water sports and hiking galore and is ideal for camping with a large group or solo if looking for seclusion. Some drive up campsites exist, but those looking for more privacy and freedom, having a boat is crucial. We had a houseboat and a speed boat which allowed us to have a main home base and the ability to explore. Our group was quite large (20+) so some camped on the houseboat while others slept in tents on the shore. Camping just in sleeping bags and on pads directly on the rocks was a treat under the cloudless starry skies. With that being said, the weather can change quite rapidly at Powell so proper precautions and gear should be taken in preparation for large storms or cold winds. Also, I would recommend wearing some sort of water shoe or sandal, as the Zebra Mussels along the shore can really do some damage on bare feet!

Winter camping in State Forest State Park

For those looking for dramatic scenery and endless wildlife, State Forest State Park should be at the top of your list. This is one of my favorite places in Colorado for hiking, backpacking, backcountry skiing and of course, camping! The campgrounds in the park are wonderful and offer plenty of amenities, this review in particular though refers to my experiences with the dispersed campsites in the park and my winter camping adventure near Montgomery pass. According to their web site, there are over 60 dispersed camping sites throughout the park. Due to the winter season of our trip in particular, we were snowshoeing to our campsite and didn’t go too far into the park. We approached along Montgomery Pass and camped at approximately site #416. This is a high elevation site and there was plenty of snow, so there was no access to toilets that we could find. However, there were toilets at the trailhead which were still open during our trip. Overall, I cannot express enough how wonderful this park is and all of the campgrounds and dispersed sites are very well maintained. For those looking for well maintained and scenic campgrounds, there are 4 awesome campgrounds to choose from. Those looking for more of an adventure should check out any of the dispersed sites throughout the park. Note that camp fires are not allowed in the backcountry. Also, this park is home to a large population of moose, and visitors should educate themselves on safety precautions specific to these giant and beautiful animals!

Stay tuned for my reviews of their campgrounds which are coming soon as well.

Resort style amenities just outside of town!

This was my first time staying at a KOA campground and I was blown away by the amenities offered here. Upon first pulling up to the campground, I was met by a security checkpoint and was directed to the main office to register and obtain a car pass. The attention to detail and security measures were another surprise to me, as I have always been more accustomed to primitive campgrounds. As previously mentioned, I was astounded by the variety of amenities offered to guests including wifi, a pool, mini golf, a massive playground, arcade, volleyball and basketball courts, horseshoe pits and more. This all in addition to the usual premium campground amenities such as showers, laundry facilities, RV dump station, camp sinks, an office store with basic goods and snacks, etc.

This campground is super family friendly and seems to be much more focused on offering RV sites and cabin type lodging. As I am a tent camper, my review will be focused on what is offered for those at a tent site. There are 5 tent sites, which are only available from May 1stto September 30th. The sites are rather close together but in a lovely location right along the lake. The sites cost $45/night on week days and $50/night on weekends for one or two people with a single vehicle, additional guests cost $10/night, additional car $5/night and fire ring rentals are $5/night. Tent sites include a parking spot, a raised and level tent platform, picnic table and grill. Open fires, hammocks and clotheslines are not allowed even at the tent sites.

Overall, this campground provides a very family oriented environment with luxurious amenities. This campground would be a great option for those wanting a camping experience without having to “rough it” whatsoever. The RV sites and cabin lodging also provide unique options for those not wanting to sleep in a tent. The price for tent camping seemed a bit steep for me, but made sense considering all of the facilities offered. The location just outside of Fort Collins provides easy access to town while still allowing for a more rural experience.

Off-season solitude

This campground offers basic and clean tent sites with ample space for parking. The sites are well spaced out and provide a great sense of solitude to enjoy the beautiful nature. The location of this campground provides a great base camp for adventures in the surrounding areas including Cameron Pass, State Forest State Park, and the Poudre Canyon. We camped here in late September, just outside of the operating season, so there were no fees and the area was quite desolate. The fire pits and grates were quite nice to have for cooking, although our campsite was lacking a picnic table (likely due to our time of visit). This is a great campground for those looking to get away from it all without the need for many amenities. I will definitely be back again soon!

Some things to keep in mind:

-The road getting to the further spots is quite rugged so a high clearance vehicle would be a good idea

-This campground is located at a relatively high elevation and gets quite cold at night outside of the summer months, we even got some snow during our September visit!

First to Review
Gorgeous camping by the river!

We camped here on a Sunday night on our way back to Fort Collins after a multi-day backpacking trip. We were one of only two groups of campers at the campground. Not only is this campground incredibly beautiful, but it is very clean and well appointed. The sites have plenty of parking space for a car or two each, fire pits with grates to cook on, wooden picnic tables and flat gravel tent sites as well. The restrooms are very clean at this campground and there is a cool old water pump on the north end of the campground. As the name suggests, the campground is sorrounded by Aspen trees which provide amazing fall foliage scenery. There are multiple sites right by the rivers edge, which was quite nice to listen to at night. There are plenty of hiking, fishing, backpacking, and outdoor opportunities galore nearby! We were even lucky enough to spot a group of mountain goats from our campspot in the early evening.

Car camping options galore

This became a favorite car camping spot of mine while living in Vail, Colorado. The lake is situated in White River National Forest and is accessible only for a few months during the summer via Red Sandstone Road. I have seen 2wd sedans drive up this road, however I would definitely recommend something with high clearance and 4wd if possible as the roads up there are not well maintained. There are plenty of first come, first serve USFS campsites near the lake, additionally there are quite a few service roads off of Red Sandstone Road that provide access to miles of additional dispersed campsites. It is hard to find a spot to camp without a breathtaking view of the Gore Range from Piney. In addition to camping, there are hiking trails near the lake and the privately owned Piney River Ranch offers horseback riding, boat rentals, fishing, a restaurant, and other lodging options. This area is also known for the moose that frequent the area, be sure to keep your distance if you are lucky enough to spot one! If you are interested in camping at Piney in the early summer or fall, you may first want to call the Minturn Ranger’s Station at 970-827-5715 to check on the closure status of Red Sandstone Road.

Everything we imagined and more

The pictures truly do not do it justice and the daunting task of obtaining a permit is 100% worth it. I finally was able to check Havasu off my bucket list this past summer, and I will be trying to get back there every summer in the future. Our group of four were only able to obtain permits to camp for one night in August. We spent a night camping at the hilltop (essentially the trailhead) and set out around 3 am for our hike down to Havasu. Considering the dangers of Arizona heat in August, we decided to try and complete the majority of our hike before sunrise. Our timing worked out perfectly and we got to the Supai reservations office just as it was opening. By 8 am we were at our campsite, right alongside the awe inspiring turquoise waters and we spent the entirety of the day relaxing in the water. Despite the campground being quite large and well-known, it never felt crowded during our stay. In fact, we had the entire Havasu Falls pool to ourselves for the first few hours we were there. In the late afternoon, rangers came down to warn us that a flash flood would soon be coming through the area and the water would be turning brown. Surprisingly, we did not have to evacuate the campground because we chose a site on fairly high ground. Many other campers, however, were asked to move their sites to avoid the oncoming flooding. Even the changing of the water color was impressive, and made the visit that much more remarkable. We had a group member who injured her knee on the hike down so we decided to take the helicopter from the Supai village back to the hilltop the next day. Although the hike out would have been a fun adventure, the helicopter ended up being a treat! For $85, a strenuous hike turned into a sightseeing tour above the Grand Canyon with ourselves and our bags zipped up to our car in a matter of minutes. We were even able to enjoy a morning of swimming at Navajo Falls that would have otherwise been spent hiking had we not taken the helicopter.

We were disappointed to see that the large group leaving a nearby campsite as we arrived left tons of trash which we ended up cleaning for them. Please be respectful of this beautiful place so it does not become degraded and remains accessible for future visitors!

A few tips for your trip to Havasu:

-Do your research ahead of time and plan accordingly! This is a strenuous hike and preparations should not be taken lightly.

-Bring more water than you think you will need, and then some. The same advice goes for sunscreen!

-The squirrels will dig, chew and scratch through all of your belongings to scavenge for food the moment you turn your back. We brought a heavy duty dry bag and hung it on a clothesline between two trees which worked wonderfully!

-Check the weather and trail reports ahead of time, especially during monsoon season, as flash flooding occurs quite frequently.

-Choose a campground on high ground if possible, especially if there is any chance of rain in the area during your stay.

-Bring a pair of water shoes such as Chacos in addition to your hiking boots. They will be very useful for exploring the rocky terrain of the waterfalls, and your feet will be happy for a break after the hike!

14er Basecamp

We spent a night here prior to hiking Mount Massive via the N. Halfmoon Creek Trailhead approach. The sites are in overall great condition and offer standard campground amenities. We arrived fairly late on a Friday night during the summer and there were still plenty of sites available. Staying here prior to hiking one of the two highest mountains in Colorado, Elbert and Massive, is a great option as you can get an early start to your hike without a long drive to the trailhead and it allows your body to acclimate to the high altitude a bit. We ended up staying the night after hiking as well and left our tent and some belongings set up, nobody seemed to mind at all and it was great to come back to our base after a strenuous hike. The only downside of this campground is the traffic. Due to the proximity to popular 14er trailheads and the road leading to them, there are cars driving up and down the road at all hours of the night and morning. This didn’t bother me whatsoever, however light sleepers may want to bring some ear plugs and/or a sleeping mask for the passing headlights and noise.

One of Colorado's best kept secrets...

The hike to Native Lake is one of my favorites in Colorado. While all of the beauty of this hike can be enjoyed in a day, turning it into an overnight trip is the best way to appreciate the area without any rush. The shoreline of this alpine lake offers multiple dispersed campsites, each marked by a pre-established fire ring and plenty of space for multiple tents. The sites are well spaced apart and feel completely private even when other campers are sharing the lake. The views of Mount Massive from here are incredible!

Things can get a bit soggy down by the lake, so gathering firewood may require a bit of a stroll up the trail to higher (and drier) ground if there has been recent rain. On our last trip up to Native Lake the mosquitos were pretty ruthless, so bug spray is highly recommended around dusk and dawn.

Dispersed Camping at Blue Lake

A few miles past Wolcott is the Castle Peak Wilderness Study Area which holds quite a few little known idyllic camping spots. Blue Lake is by far one of the most serene glacial lakes in the area and offers multiple primitive camp sites designated by fire rings. The lake is accessible by hiking trails and by 4x4 roads, if driving I would highly recommend a high clearance vehicle as many of the ruts on the road are very deep. I have camped here many times, in the summer you are likely to be sharing the lake with another group or two but it is never crowded. I have spent a few weekends here throughout the fall and had the place all to myself. The water is crystal clear and lovely for a dip (if you can handle the cold!). A few kind souls have even left their row boats in the woods next to the lake, to my knowledge they still leave these here for others to enjoy, just please remember to put the boats and paddles back where you find them! There are also quite a few nice hiking trails around the area which are well marked with signs.