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Old 01-12-2019, 10:02 AM   #1
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Camping near Denver Colorado

Followed a recent chat about camping near Grand Junction. In the Spring, we plan to head to eastern Colorado in our Forester 3011DS with a Jeep Wrangler toad. We plan to start our exploration near Rocky Mountain NP north of Denver. Some advice would be appreciated.

Is mid- to late-May too early? We hope to miss the crowds that seem to swell in early June as kids get out of school. Don't mind some cold weather as long as roads are passable. Went to Yellowstone a few years ago about the same time frame and did OK.

Looking for state parks or national parks (Corps preferred) near there. Don't need full HU's, just 30 amp and (hopefully, but not necessary) water with a dump station. Good (reasonable) private parks OK. Plan to hike some and generally just sight-see and do some photography.

We'll head to Colorado from Florida on I-10 and then north on I-25. Once we get to RMNP, we plan to work our way south in Colorado then toward western Arkansas/Ozarks to meet family early June. What are the conditions of I-70 and I-40 out there? Last time we did I-40 from Memphis to Arkansas we swore we'd never do it again. In fact we came back on back to Florida (our home base) on back roads until we crossed the Mississippi.

Any suggestions/advice would be appreciated.

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Old 01-12-2019, 10:36 AM   #2
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Mid-May is early for RMNP; The main road through the park (Trail Ridge Road) usually doesn't open until Memorial Day. Check Estes Park Campground at St Mary's lake for camping. They don't open until May 20, so you might want to push your dates back if possible. Personally we don't camp at RMNP until mid-June at the earliest!

When you go, it is beautiful!!
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Old 01-12-2019, 10:48 AM   #3
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Agree with the above. Mid-May is a little early for Rocky Mountain Natl Park. It is likely that Trail Ridge Road through the Park will not be open. However, there are other Colorado mountain options that are typically beautiful that time of year with hiking, fishing, mountain biking (rentals) if you're willing to change your route through the southern part of the state.

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Old 01-12-2019, 03:34 PM   #4
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RMNP is about 70 miles from Denver. So, I'm not sure what "near here" means. Is "here" the RMNP that is in your post or Denver that is in your thread title?

In Colorado, we get a ton of snow in March and April ... most places are much more likely to have a white St. Patrick's Day than a white Christmas. That makes May a complete gamble. In the mountains, there will still be quite a bit of that spring snow hanging around and roads will be closed, as mentioned above. Many campgrounds don't even open until Memorial Day weekend. Others don't open until June, due to snow.

Even as late as Memorial Day, I have camped with snow more often than not. It goes from 35 and snowy one day to 75 and sunny the next. Attached are two photos from Memorial Day 2017, consecutive days. One day we had snow, the next was shorts and t-shirt.

For the past 7 years, I have tried to camp in May before Memorial Day. I have never been successful. Sometimes because of work, but usually due to weather. May sucks. It's cold and just way too unpredictable for my family's enjoyment.

So just know that going in. You'll get every mix of weather we have to offer.

With that said, I'll give you a couple of public cg options. I don't do private cgs, so I cannot comment on them:

1) Estes Park Campground at Mary's Lake and at East Portal. I have not camped at either before. It's pretty expensive and I've heard that the sites are a bit cramped. For me, it approximates most private cgs I've seen. However, both of these cgs are convenient to RMNP and the Estes Park area.

There is power, water, and dump station.

2) St. Vrain State Park, Longmont, CO. This has power, water, and a dump station and is open year round. It's basically a commuter campground for full-timers. Sure, there are some fishing lakes/ponds there, but it's right on top of I-25. It's about half way between RMNP and Denver. I camped here one night during the trial run of my new trailer, since it's about 5 miles from my house.

3) Boyd Lake State Park, Loveland, CO. Also a state park with power, water, dump station. About an hour east of RMNP and an hour north of Denver. Has a nice swim beach, but I believe that is closed until Memorial Day. Met some friends there once for a day, but I haven't camped there. Not my style, but could be a good base-camp location.

4) Golden Gate Canyon State Park. It's about 50 miles south of Estes Park on your way to Golden, CO. It's on a road called the Peak to Peak Highway. Beautiful country and GGCSP is one of my favorites. Power and Dump Station. No full hookups available.

5) Chatfield and Cherry Creek are two state parks in the Denver metro area. These will be Denver camping and 1.5 hours or so from RMNP.

Those will be your best bets for public cgs with power and access to dump stations/water. You will have to check the availability dates. For example, I think GGCSP is only partially open until Mem Day and I don't know if the Dump Station would be open or if water will have been turned on before then.

The RMNP Campgrounds don't open until May 23. Otherwise, you could stay in there. No power or dump station, though.

Good luck.
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Old 01-13-2019, 01:16 PM   #5
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Estes Park

I read this review.... and I want to go


Manor RV Park In Estes Park, Colorado - Winter RVing, Rocky Mountains
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Old 01-13-2019, 01:33 PM   #6
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Camping is Estes Park

A couple of years ago we stayed 4 days in the Estes Park KOA in June. The road over the mountains were clear and the scenery is awesome. We did not like the KOA. It was very crowded, the RV sites are too close together, and hardy any room to park my tow without worry of getting side-swiped. Stay somewhere else.
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Old 01-13-2019, 02:09 PM   #7
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We have stayed at St Vrain and cherry creek, bother we’re great. Cherry creek is our favorite. We also stayed in Golden, at Dakota ridge. Was also nice. Jerry
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Old 01-13-2019, 02:13 PM   #8
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I stayed there (Manor) four years ago...

Very nice park, although the sites are close together.

I got lucky and had a riverside spot!

I would book that site ASAP.

Estes Park is solidly booked all summer, no matter which park it is!

Took the elk shot from my site as he was walking just across the river.
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Old 01-13-2019, 02:39 PM   #9
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We have stayed at St Vrain and cherry creek, bother we’re great. Cherry creek is our favorite. We also stayed in Golden, at Dakota ridge. Was also nice. Jerry
I've stayed at all three.

St. Vrain, despite not having any shade in the full hookup section, was my go to as it was close to my house and easy to get to and get a site without a whole lot of advance planning.

St. Vrain will be the closest to RMNP.

Cherry Creek is awesome with shade and very roomy sites...but if you are not already booked there...forget about it.

That place books up 10 minutes after the online reservations open after the first of the year (which is probably right about now).

Dakota Ridge is a nice privately owned RV park, but sites are very small and tight and since it is Golden...overpriced!

They do have a pool and hot tub, however.

I wanted to spend four nights there, but would have had to stay in three different sites to make up the four nights, so only stayed for the first two nights in the same spot then moved on.

The metro Denver area has a big shortage of campsites, which is why I suggest booking now!

One place to stay away from...South Park RV Park!

It is a very nice +55 park mostly made up for mobile homes, but they do have a few RV sites.

They are tiny and cramped and the staff there is so rude that I'd rather stay in a Walmart parking lot then ever go back to that place again.

On the plus site for them...a very nice pool and a good laundry room...but they close both at 8 pm...long before the sun goes down that time of year.

Read my review about that place at RV Park Reviews (third one down, but don't stop there...read on):

South Park Mobile Home Park (55+ park) - Englewood, CO - RV Park Reviews
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Old 01-13-2019, 03:32 PM   #10
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Getting back to your original query, Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora is adjacent to South Denver and is open year round. It has everything you're looking for except proximity to Rocky.
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Old 01-13-2019, 03:46 PM   #11
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Getting back to your original query, Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora is adjacent to South Denver and is open year round. It has everything you're looking for except proximity to Rocky.
It is open year around, but like I said above, the summer months typically book out within minutes of being available online.
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Old 01-13-2019, 03:53 PM   #12
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We stayed at St. Vrain in September. Level sites, FHU. Right next to lake. Nice walking area around lake. Close to I25 but noise was not a factor for us. Enjoyed our stay and would come back.
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Old 01-13-2019, 04:30 PM   #13
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We stayed at St. Vrain in September. Level sites, FHU. Right next to lake. Nice walking area around lake. Close to I25 but noise was not a factor for us. Enjoyed our stay and would come back.
St. Vrain has some very nice shady spots, but I believe they are water only...maybe electric.

I've never stayed on that side of the park as I was interested in full hookups, although hiked and rode bikes through that side of the park many times.
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Old 01-13-2019, 05:10 PM   #14
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Camping near Denver

Try Riverview in Loveland sits right next to the big Thompson river you go right past it to go to I-25 from Rocky National park if you take Big Thompson Canyon out of the mountains very nice park lived in Denver for 50years use to go there at least 2 or 3 times a month
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Old 01-13-2019, 05:39 PM   #15
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I would not come up I-25 and then go to RMNP. I would stay off I-25 and use Hwy 285 from Santa Fe, NM. The campgrounds along I-25 are crowded and close together and Cherry Creek is 2 hrs from RMNP. I would time it so you hit RMNP right after Memorial Day and then head south on the peak to peak hwy (Hwy7 to Hwy 72) from RMNP to Central City. I-25 has a lot of traffic and it is always slow....I avoid it like the plague! CO is a beautiful state and the best views of the state are not from I-25!
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Old 01-13-2019, 05:46 PM   #16
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I would not come up I-25 and then go to RMNP. I would stay off I-25 and use Hwy 285 from Santa Fe, NM. The campgrounds along I-25 are crowded and close together and Cherry Creek is 2 hrs from RMNP. I would time it so you hit RMNP right after Memorial Day and then head south on the peak to peak hwy (Hwy7 to Hwy 72) from RMNP to Central City. I-25 has a lot of traffic and it is always slow....I avoid it like the plague! CO is a beautiful state and the best views of the state are not from I-25!
285 is a lot of out of the way unless staying up in the mountains.

Although, there is a nice campground in Grand Lake right near the RMNP west entrance called Winding River Campground...and driving from that side of RMNP to Estes is awesome, then taking Fall River Road (dirt) back up to the top on the way back is a great drive.

As long as you make the drive on I-25 through Denver to Ft. Collins between 10 am and 3:30 pm on weekdays, you'll miss the rush hour and get through there pretty quick.

Weekends...no problems unless a Broncos game is just getting out.
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Old 01-13-2019, 05:54 PM   #17
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I live in Loveland so I might be able to give a little insight or at least offer an opinion. If I were coming out here to spend a couple weeks I think I would park my rig at Riverside, Carter Lake or Boyd lake State Park or one of the other RV parks and then take day trips to see the sights and explore RMNP. I also agree that you would be better off waiting until Memorial Day weekend. Trail Ridge Road is usually opened just before that weekend and then you can drive from Estes Park to Grand Lake on the western side of RMNP. The crowds and traffic in Estes Park can be a little tough but you wouldn't be towing your trailer up the Big Thompson Canyon into Estes. There are a lot of things to see and do in the area and many of them can can be done as day trips. By the way, the western side of the park is really cool. You may even see a moose or two on that side!
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Old 01-13-2019, 06:25 PM   #18
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Cool Wow!

Thank you all for the great information. I'm sure it will be extremely helpful. Based on your responses, we will delay our trip somewhat, arriving in Colorado on or about Memorial Day (RMNP web site says most roads open my the end of May, WEATHER PERMITTING!). As native Floridians, we want to get out there early. Just like many of you come to Florida to see the beaches, we want to see some snow! As I said in my earlier post, we've done this before, starting in Yellowstone the third week of May without too many problems, but I'm sure we might not be so lucky next time! Being retired, we can hunker down if needed, and we are pulling a Jeep Wrangler 4X4 as our toad.

Anyway, thanks again for all of your help!
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Old 01-13-2019, 06:29 PM   #19
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Thank you all for the great information. I'm sure it will be extremely helpful. Based on your responses, we will delay our trip somewhat, arriving in Colorado on or about Memorial Day (RMNP web site says most roads open my the end of May, WEATHER PERMITTING!). As native Floridians, we want to get out there early. Just like many of you come to Florida to see the beaches, we want to see some snow! As I said in my earlier post, we've done this before, starting in Yellowstone the third week of May without too many problems, but I'm sure we might not be so lucky next time! Being retired, we can hunker down if needed, and we are pulling a Jeep Wrangler 4X4 as our toad.

Anyway, thanks again for all of your help!
Awesome! You won't have any problem seeing snow. And if you really want to get the full Colorado experience, head to Arapahoe Basin (A-Basin) ski area, which is often open through 4th-of-July weekend. ;-)
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Old 01-13-2019, 07:43 PM   #20
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We have stayed in Chatfield SP south of Denver to do the Denver stuff plus our son and his family live in Centennial so that was really convenient for us and it was very nice with a lot of stuff to do. Bike trails, fly fishing and hiking. We are planning of staying again this fall. Even if your are not Catholic do make a day trip to the Cathedral Basilica of the Emasculate Conception and the Denver State Capitol, both are architectural marvels you should to see.

Then we went to up to Fort Collins and stayed at KOA Lakeside and used it as a base camp to go to Estes Park (about 1 hour drive) that is the gateway to the RMNP and to Cheyenne, Wy (about 45 min drive). We happened to hit it at the biggest Rodeo in the US so that being our first, we had a ball.

We elected not to camp in Estes Park due to not crowding and I think it was a good decision. We did not limit ourselves just to Estes Park, but I must say Estes Park is a great place to stay but it is crowded. We have spent time there over the Christmas season a few years ago and totally enjoyed it. If you like to fly fish, the Big Thompson offers some great trout fishing.
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