Even the meteorologists and their false cries of ‘Blizzard!’ can’t keep spring away. The birds are singing, tulips are emerging, and watering restrictions are already being announced. For many Fort Collins families, springtime also means tents, sleeping bags, nights under the stars, and s’mores. Camping season is approaching, and lucky for us, we’re getting the scoop in today’s guest post. Lauren, a Fort Collins mom and writer for Toddlerado, is sharing a few of her family’s favorite places to camp!
Every family has their own ideal camping situation, so ‘favorite spots’ is relative to what kind of camping you’re looking for… some prefer a trailer or RV with power, hot water, and television while others prefer to ‘Bear Grylls it,’ completely alone, building a fire by rubbing sticks together and drinking their own urine. We fall somewhere in-between those extremes. We sleep on the ground in a tent, but like having a toilet with a door, even if it’s not much more than a hole in a ground. My husband and I were raised on outdoor adventures and the abundance of amazing camping options is one of the main reasons we moved to Colorado. We’ve explored a bit, but we mostly camp up Poudre Canyon due to its proximity and the fact we usually only have a day or two off work. And, believe it or not, now that we have a two year old? Camping is even more fun- despite the set of new challenges and extra gear. We gladly share our love for the outdoors with our little one as our parents did for us and we remind ourselves constantly how lucky we are to live so close to such breathtaking destinations. So without further ado, here are our top 5…
Favorite Close Site
Mountain Park (50ish minutes, approximately 40 miles up Poudre canyon, Late May – Late Sept)
This treesy spot along the Poudre River is right off the highway but the sound of the river drowns out any traffic noise. It’s great if you can only get away for one night, but need to get your camping fix. (Why we live in Fort Collins, right?) It’s also a much lower elevation so it doesn’t get as cold at night and is perfect for early or late season camping if you aren’t interested in camping with a little snow on the ground. For more information and reservations visit www.recreation.gov.
Favorite Relatively Close Site
Chambers Lake (2 hours, approximately 60 miles up the Poudre Canyon, open late June – late Sept)
This is a beautiful area also up highway 14. Here you have the option to camp at the established campground or on the other side of the lake where there are a number of primitive sites. The campground is popular and fills up quick but it does take reservations if you are able to plan in advance. If you want to camp here during the more popular times (July 4th week for example, plan on making reservations in January.) Chambers Lake has great trout fishing, frequent moose and elk visitors and a boat ramp- we don’t have a boat, but it’s the perfect spot for star gazing and possible UFO sightings. It’s also where my husband has been camping every year with his family since he was a kiddo so there is of course the nostalgic factor as well. For more information and reservations visit www.recreation.gov.
Favorite Southern Colorado Site
South Mineral Campground (7 hours, three miles west of Silverton, Colorado)
Our mountains are gorgeous in Northern Colorado but after nine years of the same background, I’m afraid it is possible to become accustomed to the grand vistas of Rocky Mountain National Park. Last year we braved the long drive with a toddler and explored the San Juans and it was a-mazing. The variation of rock color, the green valleys, the mining structures made the hours in the car singing Old McDonald, coloring, stickering and the last resort- Oreo cookie bribery- all worth it. South Mineral Campground is now my very favorite campground of all time- it‘s not only beautiful, tucked in the San Juans along a creek, but we had the best camping experience too. From the best campground hosts, to the fantastic weather- it will be hard to beat. It is first come first serve, so plan on arriving on a week day, late morning, early afternoon for the best chance of snagging a spot. Visit usda.gov for more information.
Favorite Hidden Site
Hint- Long Draw Road
That’s all I’m going to say. If I haven’t camped at this spot yet because it is always full when we go, I’m not going to make it even harder on myself by advertising it. The ‘views’ here are ‘grand.’
Favorite ‘Off the Grid’ Site
Pingree Park Access Road (25 miles up Poudre Canyon and then however far you want to go towards Pingree Park)
From time to time we decide to go for primitive camping. Not a soul in sight, no site fees, just us, maybe a fire ring and a shovel instead of a toilet. Some of the best spots are off of highway 14 towards Pingree Park. The hubby gets to 4-wheel drive it up the mountain and the views are spectacular. You have to go prepared for these adventures, especially with a kiddo. Water and LOTS of layers are key. It is a great place to camp when we have great weather before May. Last year we camped here in March, there was snow, and it was cold, but totally worth it.
As we explore more campgrounds and different areas of the state and maybe even the country, this list could definitely change, but for now these are the top 5, a site for all the different time constraints and moods we find ourselves in. But once the tent is up and fire started, it doesn’t really matter where you are, you are with your loved ones, under the stars- and making memories, and those will always be the top spots.
What are your favorite camping destinations in Colorado?
Lauren, in her free time, blogs about life in Colorado with a two-year-old in tow. These are one family’s adventures (big and small), documenting and embracing their time together outside of work and daycare, in search of as many ‘perfect days’ as possible. To read more, visit her blog, Toddlerado!