My family moved to Colorado from my dad’s Ranch in my native New Mexico when I was 3 years old. We moved to the mountains of South Central Colorado and my love of Colorado was immediate.
We seem to prefer the National Forest Campgrounds. They are economical, clean, and close to our favorite amenities. To reserve your camp site visit www.recreation.gov
the web site is self explanatory. You can reserve sites all over the US from this site. The fees run around $24.00 per night and there is a service fee for on-line reservations. There are also many sites in Colorado where there are no fees, these usually do not have as many amenities but are well worth exploring.Our all time favorite is Cascade Campground
about 5 miles west of Nathrop, Colorado just above Mt. Princeton Hot Springs. (We love soaking in the numerous Hot Springs of Colorado and Mt. Princeton is only about 75 miles from our home so it has become one of our favorites). This picture is just across the road from Cascade Falls on Chalk Creek also our unit #2240 in site #15.
From this camp ground we can go downstream to the Hot Springs or up stream to the Town of St. Elmo which is one of the most complete Colorado Ghost towns. A little farther up the road you can see the Alpine Tunnel, where the narrow gage railroad passed through the Continental Divide during the Gold Rush days, or take the jeep road west from St. Elmo over Tincup Pass or for the less adventurous go over Cottonwood Pass, (also see Cottonwood Hot Springs on the Cottonwood Pass road) to Taylor Reservoir near Gunnison. You can easily spend a week exploring this area. To Get here take Highway 24 west out of Colorado Springs or 285 from Denver toward Buena Vista or Salida to Nathrop then west on CR 162.Another favorite is Turquoise Lake
near Leadville, CO. Campsites are abundant, Fishing is fantastic and boating or canoeing on Turquoise is
superb.There is a hiking/ biking trail surrounding the lake.
Visit Historic Leadville with all its mining history and wonderful historic buildings including the Tabor Grand Opera House, with many neat places to eat and museums to explore. It is only 4 miles east of the lake.
If you like bicycling, try the 12 mile paved hiking and biking trail which circles the town of Leadville and traverses through the entire mining district. Be prepared for a workout. The trail climbs approximately 2,000 ft. in the first 6 miles and remember you are starting at 10,000 ft. Bring lots of water, you will dehydrate rapidly. Leadville is the highest incorporated city in the continental US. If you are a pilot and like to fly, lifting off of the 2 mile long runway is very exciting. If you are a flat land pilot, study your density altitude charts before attempting it. Getting here take I-70 west from Denver to Copper Mountain Ski area, there take Hwy. 91 south to Leadville then 4 miles west to Turquoise Lake. Again you can spend a week exploring the area. Mt. Elbert, the highest peak in Colorado is just a few miles south of Turquoise if you have high desires to climb.Finally, my home county, Custer
and the adjoining Huerfano County of southern Colorado. These counties have both National Forest Campgrounds and no fee state camp grounds, that I mentioned at the beginning of the article.
One of the no fee areas we spend many short trips to is on the banks of the Huerfano River, there are nice concrete Outhouses at these slightly improved camp facilities. This spot is just below Mt. Blanca which is one of the 14,000 plus ft. peaks in the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range. There are many really nice hiking trails traversing the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness Area leading from these camp sites along the river. If you like to back pack consider hiking to Lily Lake, elevation 12,600 ft Lily is on the north shoulder of Mt. Blanca. The picture is of the trail to Lily Lake.
There are several wonderful campgrounds in and around Westcliffe with full hookups or the National Forest Campground called Alvarado Camp. Alvarado has just been completely upgraded and reopened in 2007. It features new outhouses, easy access to the Rainbow Trail which traverses the Sangre de Cristo range from Medano Pass on the south end to Poncha Pass on the north. This trail is approximately 50 miles long and access the Colorado Trail on Poncha Pass. There are cross trails leading from the Rainbow up most of the canyons leading into the Wet Mountain Valley. Most of the cross trails lead to high glacial lakes, (52 by count), again the fishing is great and the views breathtaking. The Rainbow Trail is an easy hike with very modest climbs and descents and is well maintained for Spring, Summer and Fall use. There are several summer events
to keep you occupied in Westcliffe, Visit www.custercountyco.com
and or www.jonestheater.com
to check the schedules.
* The Shakespeare Festival
* Live Theater
* Blue Grass Festival
* Westcliffe Western Days
* Custer County Fair and Rodeo As always in Colorado bring lots of water
, jackets and be prepared for very rapid weather changes. Showers occur most afternoons. If you are coming to
Colorado from low altitudes drink all the water you can hold for 2 to 3 days prior to arriving this will help you ward off altitude sickness. This picture is of the outdoor theater for the Shakespeare Festival in Westcliffe. My directions all originate from either Denver or Colorado Springs because you can all locate those towns and change the directions for where you are located.
Please come and enjoy.