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
**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.
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-
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
I have camped here multiple times and always have a great time. There are a few primitive sites here with fire pits, plenty of firewood for gathering, flat spots for a tent and fairly accessible with a high clearance vehicle. This campground is an especially good option for those wanting to avoid the summer crowds of the close by and popular campgrounds of Red Feather Lakes and Lost Lake. I often use this as a home base for exploring some of the trails in those areas. There are also lots of fun boulders in the campground area to climb around on or tuck your tent next to if needing protection on a windy night.
Our group was approaching Goblin Valley State Park around 8 pm and stopped at a gas station in Hanksville, Utah. A worker at the station gave us the great advice to save a few dollars and enjoy a more desolate camping experience by utilizing the BLM land along UT-24. We took a 4x4 road (38.460945, 110.674291) and drove up for about 15 minutes to the top of a ridge line at dusk until we found a flat spot to pitch our tent and an existing fire ring. When we woke up we were astounded by the magnificent views. I would definitely recommend camping here if you are in the area and looking for a primitive spot to get away from civilization in the desert.
This is a beautifully maintained campground just outside of Escalante, Utah. The park rangers are extremely helpful and gave us great information about the park itself and things to do in the sorrounding area. There are many nature trails around the park that offer learning opportunities about the area's geological features and of course the amazing petrified forests of the region. It was an especially hot few days when we visited, so being right next to the Wide Hollow Reservoir was wonderful. We spent an afternoon laying in hammocks by the water, swimming around and even rented paddle boards for a few hours. There are standup paddle board, canoe and kayak rentals available by the dock (which is also a great place to go swimming and fishing!). The day use fee is $8 and camping is $20 per car. We had two tents at our site but they did not charge us a group fee. There are also RV camping options available. The bathrooms here are very clean and the showers were very refreshing after a hot day of hiking and swimming. There is even a camp kitchen area which were really helpful for scrubbing our cookware after many days of staying in more primitive campgrounds. All in all I would say that this is one of the best maintained state park campgrounds I have ever stayed in. It offers a bit of everything and is super family friendly as well!
We stopped here for a night on our way from Moab, Utah to Supai, Arizona. After a long evening of driving we decided to stop along highway 191 and found this easily accessible campground while looking on The Dyrt. We pulled in late at night but had no trouble finding a spot, it was actually quite empty considering it was a Friday night during the summer. The sites are large and well appointed, we had no trouble finding flat and shaded spots for our two tents. There was rain in the forecast so we chose a site that was a bit uphill, which served us well as a big storm hit and some of the lower sites did seem to get a bit muddy. The bathrooms here are very clean, and the campground as a whole was pretty spotless. We also got a discounted camping fee by using my annual national parks pass which was a nice surprise. I hope to come back again and explore the sorrounding areas, but I would also happily stay here again as a pit stop on a road trip.
When I arrived at the Port Angeles Ranger Station I had never step foot into Olympic National Park but I knew I wanted to get off the beaten path. I had a late start to my day so a long hike to a camping spot wasn't an option. The ranger on duty recommended that I hike to Lake PJ for an easier overnight backpacking trip. I was amazed by this hike and the picturesque campsite right by the lake shore. The hike itself is only about 0.9 miles each way and 1000 feet of elevation change. Hiking to the spot is the descent, so prepare yourself for a strenuous, but totally worth it, hike back up in the morning. The trail features gorgeous views, wildflowers and waterfalls. We were the only people on the trail and at the campsite and didn't see another person until our hike out the next day. The lake itself is breathtaking! Situated just below rocky peaks that still had snow in late July, there are multiple waterfalls cascading down into the lake from the cliffs above. The water is crystal clear and entirely tranquil. At the time of my stay, this area was designated a no burn zone, so despite seeing remnants of past campfires, we did not have a fire of our own. I would recommend double checking the designation at the time of your stay. We camped right at the water's edge where the ground was relatively flat. This spot is easily found right where the trail opens up at the lake after emerging from the forest. There are also a few logs situated here which are nice for sitting on while relaxing after your hike.
Be sure to get a wilderness camping permit and a bear canister for food storage at the Port Angeles Olympic National Park Visitor Center. The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center and viewpoints are just before the turn to the trailhead and certainly worth checking out as well.