By Debra Gibson Isaacs –
Additional information provided by Colorado Country Life –
Do you think food tastes better when cooked over a campfire? Is a star-filled sky your perfect night light? Maybe the twitter of birds sounds like a concert to you. That is because the great outdoors beckons you, as it does many of us.
If you want the tranquility of a solitary hike through the forest followed by a night around the fire or the thrill of a raft splashing through the rapids of a Colorado river before pitching your tent along the riverbank, now is the time to start planning those summer adventures.
Dust off your outdoor gear, air out the sleeping bags and reserve your summer camping spots now. Get ready to hike, fish, camp, canoe, raft, bike, rock climb and have fun.
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
Some 45.5 million people went camping in North America in the spring of 2016, according to statista.com. But, it’s a little more difficult to quantify their favorite way to camp or where their favorite camping spots are.
For Colorado, everyone seems to have a different list of favorite places. TravelChannel.com lists Jellystone Park™ Larkspur as one of the top 10 best family-friendly campgrounds where you can park your RV, pitch your tent or rent a teepee, yurt, cabin, lodge or cottage. The Yogi Bear™ focused park offers themed weekends throughout the year including Mother’s Day Weekend, PJ Party Weekend and Christmas in July Weekends.
UncoverColorado.com, an online travel guide that offers suggestions for things to do in Colorado, created a top 10 list of the best places to camp in the Centennial State. That list includes Twin Lakes (next to Mount Elbert and Mount Massive between Leadville and Buena Vista), Cottonwood Pass (near Buena Vista) and Silver Thread Scenic Byway (near Gunnison). Campers can enjoy activities such as fishing, boating, horseback riding, biking and all-terrain vehicle recreational activities at all three of these spots.
Few could argue with any of these choices, but perhaps you want to find “your” spot — a place that uniquely suits your needs, desires and interests. Where do you turn? Karen Brost, avid camper and frequent blogger for GoCampingAmerica.com, says that while it’s good to get recommendations from others, she encourages people to develop their own lists of favorite campgrounds, because we all have different needs and interests.
“Some campers want to have easy access to great hiking trails while others may want to participate in water-based activities, such as canoeing, kayaking and rafting,” Brost says. “On the other hand, families with young children may be interested in campgrounds that offer organized activities for kids or amenities like a pool or splash pad. Or they might want to search for a campground that is conveniently located near a theme park or other attraction.”
Want to get away from it all but want the prospect to get back to it at a moment’s notice? Many Colorado campgrounds are just outside of towns with modern amenities. Maroon Bells, for example, is located near downtown Aspen where you can grab a bite to eat and do a little shopping. If the weather turns or you simply miss the comforts of home, you can be well taken care of.
“Once people start searching for a campground, they might be surprised by the diversity that they’ll find,” Brost adds. For example, the Starlite Classic Campground outside of Cañon City bills itself as a classic campground complete with beautifully restored vintage campers. You can choose to stay in one of these (or a cozy cabin) or bring your own camper and join one of the vintage trailer rallies held during the camping season.
Another unique Colorado campground is the UFO Watch Tower campground near Hooper in the heart of the San Luis Valley. The campground includes an observation platform, dark night skies and lots of stories of local unexplained occurrences.
There are also campgrounds, such as Jacks Gulch northwest of Fort Collins, that offer equestrian sites complete with horse stalls or Mancos State Park in southwestern Colorado, which welcomes horses. Looking for extreme adventures with your camping? Kent Mountain Adventure Center in Estes Park now offers cliff camping. You and your guide will set up a wall camp using a “portaledge” on a sheer rock face hundreds of feet off the ground.
Looking for comfort rather than adrenaline? Try ‘glamping’ where camping is combined with resort-like amenities. You can experience the great outdoors and then settle in to a plush home away from home with a soft bed and lots of extras. Rocky Mountain Lodge & Cabins in Cascade offers such niceties and also comes with cable television, fully-equipped kitchens and stunning mountain views.
FIND IT ONLINE
The one commonality in all of these options and others is that they can be found using online resources. “Searchable online directories enable campers to really tailor their searches based on the geographic location, amenities and services that are most important to them and their families,” Brost says.
GoCampingAmerica.com offers one of the largest online databases of privately-owned campgrounds. Campers can pinpoint their exact needs or compare parks along their route by searching in broader terms. The National Park Service has a variety of locations available for camping, with many of those in Colorado’s national parks and monuments. Go to www.nps.gov/subjects/camping. Or, reserve a spot in a Colorado state park at cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/Pages/camping.aspx. Another Colorado resource is The Colorado Vacation Directory at coloradodirectory.com. Find even more options by searching the internet for other camping databases.
FULFILL YOUR CAMPING NEEDS
Before beginning your search, Brost says it can help to take a few minutes to define what’s really important to you. Ask yourself these questions:
• Is there a certain geographic area you’re interested in?
• Do you want to be in the mountains, by a river, or near a reservoir, historic site or another attraction?
• What type of site, hookups and services will you need?
• Are you looking for a kid-friendly campground or one that caters more to adults?
• Will you need a campground that’s pet friendly?
• Are you interested in organized activities or recreational perks, such as pools, water parks, canoeing, kayaking or fishing?
If you are new to camping, you may want to “test drive” the camping experience before investing in a lot of equipment.
“One option is to consider renting an RV,” Brost says. “Many campgrounds also offer furnished accommodations, such as cabins or park models. Some even rent yurts, teepees, vintage Airstream trailers and covered wagons!”
Do some exploring, find a campground or RV park that matches what you are looking for and go have an adventure this summer.
Debra Gibson Isaacs is based in Lexington, Kentucky, where she is an avid adventurer.