Colorado’s campgrounds are more than scenic places to spend the night.
“They really serve as base camps for all kinds of outdoor activities,” said Mary Arlington, executive director of the Colorado Campground & Lodging Owners Association (CCLOA), which hosts CampColorado.com, the statewide camping planning website.
While many campgrounds are close to trailheads and have frontage along creeks and rivers that entice fishing, kayaking and river rafting enthusiasts, they can also be used as base camps for a variety of other activities, from rodeos to regional food, wine and music festivals to one-of-a-kind events, such as Crawford Pioneer Days’ annual outhouse races.
Here are examples of things to see and do this summer in several different areas of Colorado along with examples of nearby campgrounds that make for a great summer base camps:
Outdoor adventure companies operating in this area offer everything from ropes courses to ziplines, as well as guided horseback and ATV rides and whitewater rafting tours. Historic Leadville is just 40 minutes up the road, too, offering scenic train rides, the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum and the Brown Canyon Adventure Park. Nearby campgrounds include:
— Arrowhead Point Campground & Cabins in Buena Vista: This campground complements its RV and tent sites with furnished cabins and yurts. Onsite activities include family bingo nights, flashlight candy hunts, and live music on holidays. The park also offers a free shuttle to the Arkansas River for rafting trips.
This is not only in a great location for visiting Mesa Verde National Park, but the Canyon of the Ancients, Hovenweep National Monument, Galloping Goose Train Museum as well as the Cortez Cultural Center. There’s hiking and mountain biking opportunities in many of these areas as well as fishing opportunities in the Dolores River as well as McPhee, Joe Moore and Ground Hog Reservoirs. Festivals are planned throughout summer, including the Dolores River Festival, June 1; the Cortez Rendezvous Hot Air Balloon Rally, Aug. 3-5; Escalante Days, Aug. 9-10 and the Harvest Beer Festival, Sept. 7. Nearby campgrounds include:
— Dolores River Campground in Dolores: This campground, which has frontage along the Dolores River, offers RV and tent sites as well as rental cabins, yurts, covered wagons and a 1953 Airstream travel trailer. This campground has a wood-fired pizza truck that prepares “made to order wood-fired pizza” every Wednesday night. Guests love to hang out and enjoy an outdoor dinner to live music, which is also provided by the campground. The campground also hosts an ice cream social every Saturday with a “make your own sundae” theme and a huge spread of toppings along with live music. A gyro food truck also comes to the campground ever Sunday. Special events over the summer include a barbecue potluck for July 4th with the campground providing burgers and hot dogs while guests are invited to bring side dishes and desserts. The campground has a pig roast and luau part over Labor Day weekend with Hawaiian music as well as a duck race down the Dolores River as a fundraiser for a local charity.
— The Views RV Park & Campground in Dolores: This campground has RV and tent sites as well as furnished glamping tents, including a safari tent with a toilet and kitchenette. Amenities include a pavilion with barbecue grills and stand up paddle boards for rent.
Located in the Animas River Valley, Durango is the headquarters of the historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, which offers daily round-trip train rides to the historic silver mining town of Silverton. Several local outfitters also offer river rafting, horseback riding and jeep tours in the area. Nearby campgrounds include:
— United Campground in Durango: This campground is located on the banks of the Animas River and offers RV sites as well as grassy tent sites. Amenities include a heated swimming pool, a game room and a transit trolley to Durango. The narrow gauge tracks run right through the middle of the park, creating an excellent photo op.
— Westerly RV Park in Durango: Amenities at this RV and tent trailer campground include an outdoor Olympic size swimming pool and discounts to the Trimble Spa & Natural Hot Springs, which is adjacent to the park and offers a variety of therapeutic spa services.
In addition to serving as a convenient base camp for trips into Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park has numerous attractions and special events in its own right, including an aerial tramway and the Open Air Adventure Park, which features 32 aerial challenges, including tight ropes, rope bridges and moving platforms. Special events include Jazz Fest Weekend, June 1-2; the Scandinavian Midsummer Festival, June 21-23, with live music, dancing, exhibits and crafts; the Rooftop Rodeo, July 8-13; and the Autumn Gold Festival, Sept. 21-22, which, according to its promoters, celebrates “Bands, Brats and Beer.” Area campgrounds include:
— Estes Park KOA in Estes Park: This campground offers RV and tent sites as well as rustic and fully furnished rental cabins. Park activities include ice cream socials, horseshoes, basketball, a train ride, and Friday night marshmallow roasts from Father’s Day through Labor Day.
— Jellystone Park in Estes Park: This campground offers RV and tent sites as well as rental cabins and a three-bedroom house for rent. Park amenities include a mining sluice and laser tag. The park also offers theme weekend activities with Yogi Bear. Theme weekends include 80’s, Mardi Gras and Carnival themed weekends with cookouts, dances and parades and a Chocolate Lover’s Weekend which features chocolate pudding slides. A Christmas in July weekend features campsite decorating contests, campsite caroling, and cookie and ornament making activities. The increasingly popular Halloween-themed weekends include costume and campsite decorating contests, trick-or-treating, and haunted hikes.
Glenwood Springs offers a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities, including two scenic bike trails, the 42-mile Rio Grande Trail and the 16.3-mile Glenwood Canyon Bike Path, as well as scenic and historic trails, including a trail that leads to the grave of Doc Holliday, the dentist-turned-gunslinger who gained fame for his friendship with Wyatt Earp in Tombstone, Ariz. Other attractions include Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, which offers a variety of thrill rides, including the Haunted Mine Drop, the world’s first underground drop ride. Area campgrounds include:
— Glenwood Canyon Resort in Glenwood Springs: This campground complements its RV and tent sites with a variety of cabins, cottages and suites as well as glamping tents with king size beds, French doors and wooden floors. An onsite activity center offers whitewater rafting, zip-lining, a high ropes course and kayaking.
Located in western Colorado, Grand Junction is not only a convenient base camp for rock climbing adventure trips at Colorado National Monument and Grand Mesa National Forest, but an excellent place to enjoy food and music, agritourism and other points of interest. Area attractions include SunCrest Orchard Alpacas in Palisade, which specializes in raising alpacas and producing yarn from alpaca wool; and the Rimrock Rodeo in Fruita, which offers bull riding, roping and barrel racing shows at 4:30 p.m. every Tuesday from June through August; and the Dinosaur Journey Museum in Fruita, whose “quarry site” gives kids the opportunity to uncover actual dinosaur bones. Special events include Country Jam, a four-day country music festival from June 13-16; the Lavender Festival, June 28-30 in Palisade; the world-renowned Palisade Peach Festival, Aug. 15-18, which features peach orchard tours, a peach eating contest, live music, 1K, 5K and 10K runs; the Colorado Pork and Hops Challenge, Sept. 6-7, with professional and amateur barbecue competitions; and the Colorado Mountain Winefest, Sept. 21, with food and wine pairings, chocolate and wine pairings, as well as a grape stomp, live music and chef demonstrations. Area campgrounds include:
— Junction West RV Park in Grand Junction: This park complements with RV and tent sites with tiny house rentals. Amenities include a splash pad for children and a playground with swings, spotless restrooms, two dog runs, and a convenience store.
— Monument RV Resort in Fruita: This park complements its RV and tent sites with rustic cabins. Amenities include a swimming pool and hot tub, a dog run, an exercise room and a grocery store with RV supplies.
— Palisade Basecamp RV Resort in Palisade: This campground with frontage along the Colorado River complements its RV and tent sites with rental cabins and cottages as well as two country home suites. This campground also has a swimming pool and a peach orchard.
Montrose is a convenient base camp for visiting Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, which features some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rocks and craggiest spires in North America. Activities within the canyon include hiking, trout fishing, kayaking, rock climbing and wildlife viewing. It’s also conveniently located for day trips to Ouray, which
markets itself as the Switzerland of America, with scores of aspen trees that turn bright yellow and gold in September and October. Ouray’s Bachelor-Syracuse Mine Tour is open May to October. Montrose itself is home to the Museum of the Mountain West, which features artifacts as well as reconstructed Western storefronts and offices inside a 10,000 square foot building, plus 21 historical buildings outside. Nearby campgrounds include:
— The Black Canyon Jellystone Park in Montrose: This campground complements its RV and tent sites with rental cabins. Amenities include a swimming pool, disc golf, Gaga ball, hay rides and organized activities with Yogi Bear.
— Cedar Creek RV Park in Montrose: This park offers a mix of RV and tent sites as well as a safari glamping tent that’s set up on a wooden platform and retro-style trailers for rent. Amenities include an 18 hole miniature golf course and a gift shop.
Other High County Base Camps
— Blue Mesa Outpost in Gunnison: This campground overlooks Blue Mesa Reservoir and features RV and tent sites as well as cabin rentals that are available on a nightly, weekly and monthly basis.
— Kebler Corner in Somerset: Situated along Anthracite Creek and the North Fork of the Gunnison River, this 6,000-foot elevation campground offers RV and tent sites as well as cabins of various sizes, plus hotel style rooms. The campground can serve as a base camp for hiking and fishing enthusiasts. It’s also a short drive from Crawford, whose famous Pioneer Days activities include outhouse and hay bale races, and Paonia, whose annual Mountain Harvest Festival takes place the last weekend of September and includes live entertainment as well as tours of farms and wineries.
The Colorado Campground and Lodging Owners Association (CCLOA) hosts CampColorado.com, which shows nearly all of Colorado camping facilities. CCLOA works closely with the Colorado Tourism Office, which hosts colorado.com, where you can find out about attractions and events all across the state. These two statewide travel planning websites will jumpstart your travel planning!