During our recent trip to Ouray we finally found the luck in our favor with the Amphitheater Camp Ground. We've been to the area multiple times before and always manage to miss the reservation time frame for these site, so we end up camped in the nearby Portland "campsites" when we arrive ready to camp and the sites are full, or snag a hotel near 550 when we don't want to chance a night on a slope. After actually getting a site here, I'll be planning our future trips a bit further in advance to make sure we can get a site here.
The campground is located on a hill along the east side of the valley, giving you wonderful views of the adjacent peaks, as well as the historic town. The sites are well maintained, the bathrooms are cleaned and checked twice daily by the friendly hosts. They carry a supply of local, beetle-free firewood for the well established concrete and metal fire pits located at each site. The sites aren't the largest due to the size limitations of building a campground on a hillside, but still offer tons of privacy. In addition to the well shaded and intimate setting of the tents sites, each site has a picnic table and bear hook that are a reasonable distance from the tent pad, which is well leveled and stone/root free. Each site also has a driveway that should fit at least two vehicles easily, or a vehicle and small camper/trailer.
In addition to the great views and delightful sites, the campground has direct access to the Ouray Perimeter Trail, a short-ish (~4.2 miles to cover the entire loop around the outer edge of town) hike that follows the bluffs around the outskirts of the town proper and offers great views along narrow sections high above town, and is a short (
This campground is an excellent basecamp to explore the Jemez area, with excellent access to quality rock climbing for everyone from beginners to experts (5.5 sport routes to 5.12+ sport and trad, and mid-grade alpine routes are nearby at Los Conchas, Battleship Rock, and the Gilman Tunnels), wonderful day hikes near the Jemez River and it's tributaries, and is a short drive from the Valles Caldera National Preserve and Bandelier National Monument.
This campground is busy, and is immediately off NM highway 4, so you can't expect solitude and silence. Also, plan on arriving early if you want to get a good site, as reservations are not accepted and when we arrived in the early afternoon on a Friday, the grounds were already filling up. Despite this, the campground is beautiful, the spaces are large enough to easily accommodate two vehicles and multiple parties, likewise allows plenty of room for setting up goodies like slacklines and hammocks, and the size of the sites allows you plenty of room to set up away from adjacent sites if you want a bit more privacy. The sites are flat, but there are not designated pads, so you have options in tent placement, but might have to move some debris to get a comfortable set up. All sites have an enclosed fire pit and older-style large, concrete picnic tables. The campground is affordable at $10/night, and has serval different loops with group sites, trailer/RV comparable sites, and walk up primitive sites.
Overall, this is a great site for family and group camping as long as you don't mind a bit of noise. The only detractors keeping it from being a five-star site for me are the noise level that comes from such a popular campground, and the pit toilets did not appear to be cleaned regularly, and two of the restrooms on site seemed unsanitary.
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I'm fortunate enough to have the opportunity to test products now and then. On this trip, I tried out the Andre Shirt by Fayettechill, provided by the good folks at Roanline.
I'm not typically one to wear button ups while outdoors--mostly because I'm boring and just pack a few plain-jane tee shirts for a weekend outside--but with this shirt I'm a convert to more stylish and comfortable options. The lightweight fabric made this a wonderful choice for late spring southwest weather with temperatures in the upper-80s, and the wide sleeves provided enough dexterity for comfortable wear while climbing, even while reaching well above my head and making poor racking decisions that required reaching around to the opposite side of my harness while locked out.
Style-wise, this shirt fits well in my closet alongside the less functional and more expensive button ups that I'd normally wear for a night out. Similarly, I typically wear a size small, and am on the thin and tall end of the spectrum, and the shirt fits true to size. Similarly, I was concerned that the wide sleeves that provide a wide range of motion would look awkward on my frame, but they managed to fall well, even on my more narrow arms. Additionally, the shirt resisted bunching, even on a three mile approach with a pack carrying a full rack, a day's water, and a 60m rope.
So, while my days of throwing a couple beat up shirts in my bag might not be quite behind me, I'll definitely be poking around Roanline for other comfortable Fayettechill products and similar comfortable and stylish options that can hold up to time in the woods to replace my tee shirt dweebery.
I've spent quite a bit of time at various sites around this campground during annual vacations and using it as a base for geological field work nearby. The site is always well maintained, with clean leveled tent pads, friendly staff, excellent views, abandoned activities nearby and on site, and clean facilities.
This campground is at high elevation (~10,000'), so use caution if you aren't used to elevations or have come in from sea level, and the weather changes rapidly and violently most places in the San Juans during the summer and winter, but the views of several 14,000' peaks in the nearby Weminuche can't be beat. Sites are available for everything from walk up sites to RV sized, and reservations can be made online. Use caution car camping in some of the lakeside drive up sites though--I've had one issue ending up in a lake side site during monsoon season that took some creativity to keep my tent from flooding.
This campground serves as a wonderful basecamp for exploring the nearby wilderness if you aren't into the backcountry experience, are traveling with kids, or just want to stay somewhere with showers and toilets for a few nights. There is a small store onsite that not only carries the usual camp amenities, but sells fishing gear and rents SUPs and kayaks. Additionally, the Colorado Trail passes through the campground and connects with a trail system that brings you to a beautiful waterfall, and can allow access to the Durango-Silverton train tracks and the Animas River, but the hike can be strenuous due to significant elevation change. Driving access to Silverton, Durango (and Ouray if you're up for a bit more car time), rock climbing, longer hiking, and some peak bagging is simple from here due to the location immediately off US 550, but ultimately the views alone are worth a stay.
We made our way up to GSDNP on a whim during the first week that the campsites were open. During this time of the year (April-May) all sites other than group sites are first come-first serve. We arrived around 3pm and got the second to last site available, so, as with all National Parks, arrive early or make a reservation if you can! We stayed on loop 2, which is the upper-most of the non-group sites, requiring a bit further of a walk to the dunes. Out site was well leveled, clean, and well kept, with a bear bin, table, and fire ring. The site host was very friendly and helpful, and the site store is a short walk away--it carries the typical assortment of goodies and firewood, as well as sunscreen and the like if you forget an essential. We had excellent views of the dunes as well as the neighboring Sangre de Cristo mountains. The campground was a short walk from the visitor center along a beautiful trail that offers access into the wilderness area that shares a boundary with the park. The sites are also a
We used this campground as a starting point for a research trip sampling Precambrian rocks of the Zuni Mountains. I hadn't spent much time in this part of New Mexico, and assumed that the trip was going to be hot and sun-bleached, similar to the desert exposed in nearby Gallup, NM. I was surprised to drive into a beautiful forest just a few minutes off I40.
The campsite includes basic forest service amenities: pit toilets, picnic tables, and metal-rimmed fire pit/grill sites. What set this apart from other non-hosted campsites for me was the condition of the grounds. The tent camping sites had well maintained, leveled tent pads, maintained gravel roads, and clean facilities. The Sites offered a reasonable degree of privacy, although some of the sites near the middle of the loop road place you in close proximity to your neighbor. The area is moderately wooded with pine and aspen, providing shade throughout the day and easy access to the dirt road that transects the Zuni Mountains, letting you out near the Bandera volcano and ice cave, which is a wonderful drive if you have a high clearance/4x4 and time to drive through.
We saw abundant wildlife while working in the Zunis, including several brown bears, deer, and elk. While we didn't have any run ins with these guy in camp, be aware that large animals are present in the area and be sure to take necessary bear-proofing precautions.
Camp fees were $5/night, which is quite the bargain given the well-kept grounds and wonderful scenery. If you're looking for a less-traveled escape from Albuquerque, or just want the chance to explore the under-valued Zuni mountains and western New Mexico landscape (and some pretty interesting geologic features such as orbicular granite), this campground is an excellent place to spend some time on the cheap.
Photos included are from the Zunis south of the campsite, as I didn't think to take any photos while we were at camp.
My wife and I have stayed at Hopewell Lake twice now. The first time we stayed here, we stumbled upon this little gem of a site while driving from Durango, CO to Taos, NM. It was enchanting enough that we made sure to make it back for an opportunity to take in the scenery and relax during a long weekend. The only issue we ran into was an abundance of mosquitos, but this should be expected during the late Spring/early Summer in northern New Mexico and can be easily addressed with a citronella candle and a bit of bug spray. Our most recent stay was on one of those rare nights where you can pull off the rain fly and not worry about a midnight downpour, which left us with a wonderful view of the stars, and the sites are private enough that, as long as you don't set up next to the table, it's comfortable with an open tent and away from prying eyes.
The campground is nice, very well maintained, and the site host is friendly and helpful. The grounds are a