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Family Camping Staycation in Colorado

Experience the great outdoors across the state with these family-friendly camping tips.

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Planning summer vacation during the safer-at-home phase of the COVID-19 pandemic has many families revisiting the idea of staycation. Popular during the Great Recession of the early 2010’s for its budget-friendly nature, vacationing close to home may also be one of the most responsible vacation options this year.

A staycation in Colorado is no sacrifice. Remember, our state is filled with stunning natural wonders and abundant hiking and biking trails, no matter what area you call home. With the gradual reopening of campgrounds, families have an added option to explore.

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Here’s a roundup of what you need to know to camp this summer, and some of the great places for families to park the RV or pitch a tent in Colorado. Some campgrounds have limited services and added restrictions this year to enforce social distancing. Be sure to follow the guidelines for not only the state, but also the county in which you will be camping. The information within this article was verified as of press time in mid-May, but with guidelines frequently changing, be sure to check directly with each location before you head out for your camping adventure.

Need to Know!

Getting There

In a May 11 press conference, Governor Polis shared that while camping itself is a safe activity—with appropriate social distancing—Coloradans should approach travel to and from the campgrounds with caution and respect for the residents of their destination. Gas up before you leave home, bring all of your food and supplies, and refrain from making stops along the way. Drive—recreate—return home.

Reserve Ahead

Campground occupancy rates may be cut in some areas to meet current guidelines, so availability may be limited. Make, and confirm, any campground reservations before you leave home. This is not the summer to be spontaneous in your search for accommodations. Be aware that state park campgrounds require families to have set reservations for any of their open campgrounds.

Expect Changes

If you regularly camp, arrive with the expectation that your favorite campgrounds may look different for at least part of the summer. Amenities, such as playgrounds and common spaces, on-site events, and even some basics like public toilets, may be temporarily closed. Do your research and plan accordingly. And do your part by abiding by posted social distancing and face-covering guidelines, which may be different at each campground.

Be Prepared

Many campgrounds are heightening their cleaning and disinfecting, and some are providing additional hand sanitizer stations. Camp stores will likely have limited hours, so in addition to your regular camping gear, bring all of your own supplies, including hand sanitizer and masks, and games or activities.

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Pack It Out

All good stewards of nature know the mantra, leave no trace; that is, if you pack it in, you need to pack it out. This is especially important now as many campgrounds may be functioning on a reduced maintenance staff. Plan to remove all trash or waste of any kind that you generate while camping.


Clark Wagon, Delores River
Photo: Delores River Campground.

7 Great Family Campgrounds

Here’s a list of seven of the top family campground options around the state (that are currently open), and how to reserve them.

1. James M. Robb Colorado River State Park, Fruita Section

Basecamp for the Grand Valley region
Find It: Fruita

The Fruita Section of James M. Robb’s network of state parks is tucked right up against the town of Fruita, the Colorado River, and Colorado National Monument. This unique campground offers simple camping choices for families with RV sites and walk-in tent sites.

Activities:
Biking, wildlife viewing, fishing, hiking, boating
Campground Open:
Reopened May 12
Reservations:
Online
Camping Experience Level:
Moderate

2. Lone Duck Campground

A mountain-feel without mountain driving
Find It: Cascade

At the base of Pikes Peak, and just 12 miles from I-25, Lone Duck is a fun way to enjoy the mountain scenery without a drive into the mountains. The tent sites are shaded, and the cabins can accommodate up to five people. Pike National Forest is just a short drive away. Lone Duck’s playground, pool area, and pancake breakfast remain closed until further notice.

Activities:
Fishing on-site, hiking and biking in nearby Garden of the Gods
Campground Open:
Open through end of September
Reservations:
Online
Camping Experience Level:
All

3. Dolores River Campground

Southwestern Colorado from a different perspective
Find It: Dolores

If you and the family don’t have a go-everywhere camping vehicle or tent (and even if you do), Dolores River Campground has several unique lodging options to keep you and the kids cozy. The choices run from basic to glamping, as well as tent and RV sites for the traditionalists. While traditional campground events are on hold and the playground and recreation hall are currently closed, check back when you make reservations.

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Activities:
Fishing, boating, hiking
Campground Open:
Open through October 26, 2020
Reservations:
Online or phone
Camping Experience Level:
All

4. Carbondale/Crystal River KOA

Aspen and Glenwood Springs are just down the road
Find It: Carbondale

Just 10 minutes outside of Carbondale, the Crystal River KOA has a beautiful setting along its namesake river and lots of shade. This campground is perfect for families planning to trek to the Crystal Mill in Marble. Lodging options at the campground upon reopening will include RV sites and deluxe cabins, however tent sites and on-site airstream remain closed until further notice.

Activities:
Hiking, fishing, biking
Campground Open:
Scheduled opening: May 27 (dependent on Pitkin County regulations)
Reservations:
Online or phone
Camping Experience Level:
All

5. Ridgway State Park

On-water fun and access to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Find It: Ridgway

The 1,000-acre reservoir at Ridgway State Park provides fishing and boating opportunities in the summer months, and campers also enjoy hiking and biking with a backdrop of mountain scenery. Showers, playgrounds, yurts, and park visitor centers are currently closed.

Activities:
Water recreation, hiking, wildlife viewing
Campground Open:
Reopened May 15
Reservations:
Online
Camping Experience Level:
Moderate

6. Arrowhead Point Campground

Perfect home base for adventure in the Arkansas River Headwaters area
Find It: Buena Vista

In a typical season, this campground has yurts, cabins, and tent and RV sites, as well as a number of on-site amenities, but it’s all about location, location, location. Water activities on the Arkansas River is one of the biggest draws to the valley. Check in with the campground for an update on access to outfitters who may offer activities this summer.

Activities:
Water sports, hiking, biking
Campground Open:
Opening in phases leading up to June 1. Yurts and cabins available, awaiting approval to open tent and RV sites as of press time.
Reservations:
Online or phone
Camping Experience Level:
All

7. State Forest State Park

Year-round camping and outdoor adventures
Find It: Never Summer Range, in North Park

With 71,000 acres, this state park is the largest in Colorado, and it’s full of high alpine lakes, jagged ridgelines, deep forests, and moose. Campgrounds and dispersed camping are spread throughout the park for tents and RVs. There is a mix of tent sites around North Michigan Reservoir.

Activities:
Hiking, biking, fishing, all-terrain vehicle riding, and moose-viewing
Campground Open:
Reopened May 22
Reservations:
Online
Camping Experience Level:
Moderate

Tent in backyard
Photo: Getty Images.

Camp at Home!

You don’t have to go far to enjoy the traditions that make camping so much fun.

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Set the Scene

To host a successful at-home camping trip, start by re-creating the environment that you would’ve had if you had ventured to the forest or mountains. Pick a spot to pitch a tent or two, whether it’s your living room or backyard, then make the space feel extra cozy by rolling out sleeping bags, adding throw blankets, and lighting the space with lanterns or flashlights.

Take the vibe to another level by setting up your tents near your fireplace or a fire pit that’s outside. If you don’t have either, the Plush Campfire Set ($69, crateandbarrel.com), which features rocks, logs, flames, and skewers, is the ideal toy for pretending to make s’mores.

Plan Your Meals

Before you venture off to your at-home campsite, consider packing an ice chest with all of the food and supplies you’ll need. By not going back and forth to your kitchen, it will feel more like an actual camping trip, and you’ll get a much-needed break from cooking anything elaborate. You can also keep meals simple by making your kids’ favorite sandwiches and snacks, and bringing along some breakfast cereals.

Make an Effort to Disconnect

Camping is the perfect time to get away from work and technology. Be mindful of taking this at-home adventure just as seriously as you would an actual camping trip. Leave your phone or laptop outside of your tent and take some time to focus on just being present. Play board games, put together a puzzle, color in coloring books, or tell spooky stories rather than watching a movie.


Tasty Twists on Classic S’mores

Forget the traditional way of making the campfire treat and opt for something that’s even more delectable.

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