Jason L.

Ft Garland, CO

Joined August 2019

Retired disabled veteran turned Hippie/Gypsy blogger

Nice little place in cool city

This park has 21 full hook up RV sites, more of a parking lot area with full hook ups. Not much to look at really, but the people are nice, and Trinidad is a great little city. The Park and motel are 420 friendly for those interested. We have stayed at the motel, and it was a nice little room, nothing fancy. Would definitely stay here again.

4 wheel drive required

Medano Pass is the route it's believed that Pike took into the San Luis Valley, and is one of the only primitive roads accessing the valley. The road starts in the Great Sand Dunes National Park, and runs over the mountain and exits on RT 69, or if you want an easy up and hard way down the mountain start off RT 69 and go to the dunes. From 69 to the top of the pass takes about an hour, and you only need high clearance 4 wheel drive for the last two miles of the 12 mile journey to the top. That's not the route we took.

We started at Point of No Return in the Great Sand Dunes National Park, don't worry there are plenty of places to turn back if you get nervous. There's DEEP sand throughout the first six miles, I aired down to 50 from 65, LOL. I figured I'd make it on 35's 12.5" wide, but I can definitely see where as the Sand ets softer I would have gone down to the recommended 20psi. If your going over the mountain have an air compressor to fill your tires when you get to the rocks. There's air at the ampitheater parking lot at the National Park, but no air on RT 69 until you get to a gas station at least twenty miles away.

We made it no issues, buy squeezing a super crew cab, F 250 through was TIGHT! It was FUN though, and my God the place is breathtaking!

Campsites start about five miles in and are spread all the way to the top of Medano Pass. This is National Preserve land, and it is primitive camping. There are fire pits and bear boxes, use the bear boxes as bear encounters are frequent. The sites are clearly marked, and nice size. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO TAKE A TRAILER, if you do you won't make it, I promise you that.

The Park, Preserve, and Forrest boundaries are clearly marked. To camp along the Great Sand Dunes National Park and the Preserve area of the road you must have a permit, free at the visitor center. I suggest reservations. After the Preserve it is a National Forrest and its first come first serve primitive camping only. You can stay for up to 14 days, as with most National land.

The 12 mile trip up from the Park takes about 4 hours, yes it's that rough. AND you will stop alot to take in the amazing views.

Even if you don't camp, take the drive, it's worth it. You will need high clearance 4 wheel drive, all wheel drive will not cut it here.

Beautiful mountain lake

Only a few miles from Ft. Garland, Mountain Home Reservoir is another Colorado State Wildlife Area, but no signs saying an SWA permit is needed to camp there so not sure if you need one or not, we have it so we forgot to check. We have also bought land to build on three miles from the lake, we love this area.

There are two sides to camp on, one side has toilets, vault style, but it's more crowded on that side and less room to camp. The other side takes a little drive, but is much more open and has the mountains behind you and the lake in front of you. It gets busy on weekends, but weekdays are pretty quiet.

The water is cold, but you could swim in August if you really want to, not too cold at all. Boats are allowed, and there boat ramps on both sides of the lake from what we could see, didn't inspect the ramps, but know one works because there was a pontoon boat on the lake one day.

The weather changes by the minute it seems, and storms move over the area pretty quickly. If you don't like the weather wait five minutes, it'll change, and I'm not exaggerating. Still mostly nice weather, and normally sunny.

This is a beautiful camping area, again this is a no hook up area so pack in what you need and leave no trace. Try to camp near one of the already made fire pits, makes it easier on you and they discourage building new fire pits. If you don't want a fire then you can camp anywhere you aren't blocking a road.

Truly beautiful place to camp, you can stay 14 days in a 45 day period. RV dump and fill stations are nearby in Ft.Garland, and it's only about thirty minutes to Great Sand Dunes National Park, and Zapata Falls. Smith Reservoir is also nearby and that's another SWA we reviewed, check that one out.

Great NPS campground

This campground has three loops, the first two have sites for RVs, and the last loop is for tents only. There are hiking paths from the campgrounds out to the dunes, and it's only a three minutes drive to the dunes parking area. There are bear boxes and all trash containers are bear proof, they do see bear here so use the boxes properly. It's $20 a night, or $10 if you have an Access pass, and you can stay 14 nights every 30 days. You will need to make reservations if you want to stay the full 14 days, as the walk up sites are few and far between and you'll have to move every couple of days if you don't have reservations. The Point of no Return 4wheel only road is at the beginning of the campground and has camping down it, but that's another campground and another review. There are plenty of trails to hike, both up the surrounding mountains, and to the dunes. The weather I'm August is beautiful, it can get hot so pack plenty of water with you. There is a free RV dump and fill station right before you get into the campground, great even if you don't stay at the park. The camp store is rarely open and limited on items, so prepare before you head here. The visitor center is not far and that's where you get your permits for overnight backpacking, parking, camping in the park. This place is like being on another world, views are truly breathtaking. If you only stop one place in the San Luis Valley make it the Great Sand Dunes National Park, you won't regret it.

Get lost in the desert dunes

Absolutely beautiful Sand dunes in the mountains, it actually smells like an ocean beach and makes you feel like your on another world. The Dunes are 30 square miles and you can camp anywhere in them with a free permit available at the visitor center, just have to hike in past the first ridge aka the day use area. It's tent camping only, and no pets are allowed in the back country dunes. You also need to pack everything you need in with you and leave no trace. The winds blow often and hard, moving enough Sand to cover you tracks in minutes. The views of the sky and stars are absolutely mesmerizing, one of the most beautiful Sand fields in the world. The creek that runs through the day use area can fluctuate in size daily, it wasn't high when we were there, but it was still flowing half way through the day use area. A must see destination if your in the San Luis Valley.

Boondocking in the sun

This is BLM land that's free to camp on for up to 14 days every 45 days. The camp sites are just off a dirt road that leads to the trailhead for hiking to Blanca Peak. The road gets pretty rough the further up you get, but there are plenty of large camp sites on the way up the mountain, some you'd have to home to if you decide to go to Blanca Peak. It's a fairly busy place as off-road vehicles and horse back riding are popular here. Beautiful views of the San Luis Valley, Great Sand Dunes National Park, and Mt. Blanca. Definitely worth checking out of you're in the area. No shade or amenities, so bring everything you need with you and as always, leave no trace.

Swimming near the dunes

We haven't stayed here, but we regularly use their dump and fill station for RVs, it's $8.00 plus tax to dump and fill here. They have coin operated washers, dryers, and showers, $2.50 for laundry machines, 50 cents for a six minute shower. There is a bar and a natural hot spring here, but we have yet to venture in but here it's nice. The staff is always friendly, and there's even an outdoor dish washing station which comes in handy if you dry camp alot. They have several full service RV sites, tent sights, cabins, this place is basically a resort and it has beautiful views of Great Sand Dunes National Park, and Mt. Blanca. Even if you don't stay here you can come swim, use the laundry and showers for good prices.

First to Review
Cool little place

Would give five stars, but right on the main road through the San Luis Valley so it's a little loud, and bright at night. That said, it's still peaceful, and the people are nice. Has shower and laundry for guests, and full hookups for RVs. It's $30 per night or $199 a week, we stayed two days, and would stay again. They allow pets, but have a strict "no pit bulls" dog policy. So unless your "pit bull" is a service dog, they can't stay. Unfortunately dog breeds and temperaments are still misunderstood, but that aside, good people, and nice little place to stay.

Amazing views

We stayed here for two weeks and every day there were new breathtaking views all around. You feel as if you are walking the top of the world when exploring the area, the entire San Luis Valley gives this feeling. The lake is beautiful and has a beautiful view of the Great Sand Dunes National Park to the north and Mt. Blanca to the east. Camping is by permit, so stop anywhere you can get a Colorado hunting or fishing license and get a State wildlife area permit, they're $43 per person, but if you're age 18-64 you're required to have an SWA permit to camp in Colorado State wildlife areas. The permit is good from April 1st through March 31st of each year, and yes they are yearly permits, so try to get them in April. The campground has electric hookups, but no water. So pack in your water, vault toilets on loops B and C, RV dump station, and dumpster at exit of campground areas. You can stay 14 days every 45 days. Zapata falls nearby is a MUST visit and there is a pay to camp campground there. Cell service is spotty for Verizon, not sure about other carriers.

First to Review
Smith Reservoir SWA

Beautiful small lake with great views of mountains in every direction, minutes from Ft Garland. Stayed three nights, this is a Colorado State wildlife area, so again a permit is required for those age 18-64. We saw other people, mostly locals fishing, during the day. In the evening the place gets quieter and quieter as everyone leaves, we had the place to ourselves every night. The night sky is amazing from the lakeside, will definitely stay here again.

Great little place

Stayed two nights, staff and guests were very friendly. Would stay again, although it is a little pricey it was worth it.