You will not find a more beautiful spot to camp than in the San Juan Mountains in SW Colorado. Bridge Campground is situated at an elevation of around 8,000 feet. The developed sites (no electric or water) all have access to Williams Creek waterfront.
The campground is a bit deceptive as you drive in as it is difficult to see just how big the sites are and how much privacy most of the sites provide.
The area has several of the NFS Campgrounds on the same road. Bridge is the first on the road up to Williams Reservoir heading north. The views are breathtaking. There is plenty of wildlife - as a matter of fact, a few marmots have entertained campers for years as they scamper up and down the rocks on the other side of the creek. In the spring, the trees take on an ornamented appearance as migrating birds show their full colors. There are eagle, hawks, and osprey that live and hunt along the waterway.
Many of the Bridge campers come to make use of the extensive trail system. Hiking trails are well maintained and the easier ones are very popular. You can connect up to the entire Continental Divide Trail which runs from Mexico to Canada. There are ample routes available for off-road vehicles such as ATVs and dirt bikes.
We love the Pagosa Springs and Durango area and highly recommend Bridge - or any of the other Forest Service campgrounds!
As we mentioned, we ended up camp hosting in a semi-remote National Forest, the San Juans in southern Colorado, this past summer. It was a ton of hard work, it was amazing in its beauty, and we got pretty good at the whole thing.
Well, I gotta tell you, it's hard to argue with spending the summer in southern Colorado! Even though we were far out of range of all of the internet, all of the television, all of the cell phone ranges (well, sometimes a bird would flyover....) we had a fine time. So here we are and Jaco's chillaxin right next to the Rio Grand. This is the lovely Riverside area of the Caballo Dam Campgrounds, part of Caballo Lake State Park. There was a Chilli Challenge going on so we were forced to boondock and it was quite nice!
The Lower Piedra Campground is just north of U.S. Highway 160 on the west side of the Piedra River, about 18 miles east of Bayfield and 25 miles west of Pagosa Springs. It is about a half mile up Forest Rd. 621 on the west side of the river (not to be confused with the First Fork Road [Forest Rd. 622] on the east side of the river). The campground offers 17 large, level sites with plenty of shade. Fishing opportunities are available.boundary).
This is one of the first campgrounds we hosted, along with Ute Camp. We remember our first ride down the forest service road leading to the campground. The one lane gravel road takes you up the side of the hill with the rushing Piedra River below. That view provided everything we thought Colorado would be - green forests, greener rivers, all surrounded by mountains. Wildflowers and birds are abundant as you travel toward the campground.
This is a small camp with five sites along the river and ten more sites in the loop. Each site has its own charm - one is in the midst of boulders at the foot of the mountain, another has a veil of spring flowering vines that make the site look like a wedding chapel. There are two large, clean vault toilets and a centrally located potable freshwater pump.
Lower Piedra is just a beautiful spot on earth with great diversity of plant and wildlife. Speaking of wildlife, you are likely to run across a rattlesnake or two in the grass. You may have a bear by the river. You may be treated to a rafter of turkeys marching their young slowly through the campground. Be one the lookout - for safety and for fun!
There is a mineral pond right behind the campground that is a favorite for swimming, paddle boarding, and practicing on the kayak. It's very shallow but has an odd soft clay bottom. There is no heat but the mineral content is high. The turquoise coloring makes it look like the waters off a Carribean Island.
The camping is a bit more close in to neighbors than in some of the other San Juan National Forest campgrounds but the beauty of the area, the Piedra River, the access to hiking and ATV trails, and its proximity to Chimney Rock make this an excellent choice in campgrounds!
Trinidad Lake is a wonderful place to escape the crowds and establish a basecamp from which to explore the great outdoors. Miles of trails winding through ancient and interesting local history, and spectacular scenery provide visitors and nature enthusiasts with great outdoor exploration opportunities.
Trinidad Lake holds a special place in our hearts. We had finally made it to Colorado and it was absolutely spectacular! Even the Walmart parking lot had a view of snow capped mountains - a breathtaking site for a couple of Midwesterners. The State Park is just a few miles outside the town so we were able to find groceries, gas, and yes, even a Chinese Buffet.
Camping in Colorado is just more expensive than many other places. It is clearly worth it, however, it is a good idea to budget wisely. We purchased the Colorado State Park Pass that first year (2016) so that we didn't have to pay a daily per person fee of $7.00 on top of the camping fee. We received value as we returned again to the State Park later in the summer.
The lake itself is set deep in a ravine. Campers can hike down the rather steep rocky slope to fish the banks or head to the boat ramp and put in their fishing boat. The trails around the campground are excellent and you can find many trailheads from the park. There is an active bear community so the Ranger will check in with you on your site set up.
The staff was friendly and the sites were all in great condition. Most had shaded areas and many back right up to a view of the lake that will leave you fascinated. Fishers Peak looms over the small city of Trinidad. IN the distance you can see the Spanish Peaks. If you head West on Colorado 12 from the park, you can make a loop that will take you to other camps, historic sites, mines, and a scenic drive.
There is a ton of outdoor recreation to be had here in Trinidad and the surrounding area. It's just about 15 miles north of the New Mexico border through the Raton Pass. It's a bit of a climb. We learned a little bit about our first reactions to high altitude as well. Oh yeah - bring quarters for the showers! Experienced the terror of worrying about running out of quarters with fully lathered shampoo heads...
The Ute Campground is 17 miles west of Pagosa Springs on U.S. Highway 160 and campground is on north side of the highway. Ute Campground has 26 campsites on a gentle, south-facing slope. Ponderosa pines give shade, but the area gets very warm in summer.
The hillside above the campground offers excellent views of the pinnacles of Chimney Rock Archaeological Area.
When one pulls into Ute Campground for the first time, it might be easy to underestimate this lovely and unique campground and habitat. We had the pleasure of camp hosting here for a season, along with a neaby waterfront campground at Lower Piedra.
The camp is set on a gentle slope and has 26 campsites, four of which are tent only. The tent sites are a bit more secluded, and while they are under the amazing Ponderosas that cover the grounds with a green canopy, the sites border a gorgeous, flower-filled mountain meadow. From that meadow campers get night sky views that just don't quit. Just across the highway in the Southern Ute Nation, campers can see Chimney Rock framed against the vast Colorado skyline.
The sites are large, shaded, mostly level, and well spaced so campers can have privacy. There are two old school vault toilets on the grounds, garbage service, and potable water. The caveat here is that while you can drink the water, it does have a strong sulfer smell. We cautioned campers about putting the water into tanks and water jugs.
The wildlife was abundant here throughout the season. We saw our first Mountain Lion here - talk about developing some respect for our surroundings! In May, the grounds were covered in Mule Deer and Elk. Hummingbirds, Nuthatches (they sound like a tree full of squeaker toys), and Magpies fill the trees. A squirrel we had never seen before, the Aberts Squirrel, would chase along with the cart, little tufted ears making it the cutest thing. Much cuter than the baby rattlesnakes we say and heard. Yes, there are rattlesnakes. Nothing we could do about that except use an abundance of caution. We also had a bull snake, Benny, who lived in our host camp site and he was a friendly looking, very chill snake. We think he kept the nasty rattlesnake out of our area. As fall approached, the meadow filled with wild turkeys and skunks that gently marched through the flowers.
Ute Campground is a great launching ground for hiking, ATV/off-roading, river sports, Chimney Rock, hunting, and much more. Durango and Pagosa Springs are both beautiful San Juan Mountain towns with great food, beverages, historic downtowns, trains, hot springs, and shopping. Make sure you stop in at Ute Campground, even if it is just for a picnic - truly an amazing camping experience!
So many times we end up missing things we wouldn't have even thought about (golf cart) or realized how much of a part of daily life they had become. After camp hosting at camps located between Pagosa Springs and Durango, I admit to being addicted to KSUT our local public broadcasting station. I developed favorites among the on air personalities. We hadn't had radio in months, so this was pretty amazing. The station's programs and music were the perfect balance of local and national with a terrific focus on Colorado musicians.
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