I love camping here in Colorado, and I’m excited to share some information with you.
However, I must first issue a disclaimer that I am not an expert. This is still something that is somewhat new for our family, but we learn a little more with each trip. After half a dozen camping trips, I feel like we are streamlining our systems. More importantly, we are having so much FUN! We are tent campers, and we use typical campsites with picnic tables, fire pits, and tent pads.
We may one day blaze into the true wild with nothing but our backpacks, but we’ve found campgrounds adventurous enough with three kids, for now.
Finding & Reserving a Campsite
We have really enjoyed camping at our beautiful state parks. If you plan to camp at the state parks, I highly recommend getting an annual park pass for $70. State parks charge $7 per day on top of the campsite fee, so it will pay for itself very quickly. The state parks’ website is FULL of great information including park activities, amenities, current conditions, etc. that’s updated pretty regularly for each individual park. Once you determine the park you want to stay at, check out the campground maps. I like to be near enough to the bathroom to walk to it but not close enough to smell it. I like a private spot set away from other campers, and I like a good view.
Campsite Photos is a website that shows actual user photos of individual campsites as well as facilities. I love this to help me determine the real scenery, the size of the campsite, and the general flow.
Reserve America is the website I use to reserve our campsites. While I feel like it’s secure and easy to use, it doesn’t have near enough info to make a selection just using it as a reference. The maps are quite generic looking. This is why I do lots of research on the state park website and such before I head to reserve my spot. Most of our reservations have been $26 per night, but that can vary a bit from place to place. Reserve America handles reservations for all sorts of campgrounds besides the state parks, so be sure you know what you’re looking for before you book as there may be other day use or access fees.
Planning For Your Trip
There are some great camping checklists on Pinterest to help you with the basics, but I want to address the differences in Colorado camping.
A good tent is worth every penny. Fast-moving afternoon thunderstorms are common in Colorado, so having a tent that can withstand a little rain and wind is important. We bought a new tent this year and it made a world of difference.
You will need more clothing than you think. Layers are key, as they say. Many parts of our state enjoy a 40 degree temperature swing from dawn to mid-afternoon. We dress in comfy shorts and a short-sleeve shirt, then add sweatpants/windpants and a pullover. When it warms up, the outer layers come off. When it cools down at dusk, the outer layers come back.
Bring as much water as you can. Between the elevation, the sunshine, the dry air, and the physical activity-you cannot consume enough water. Besides what you will drink, you’ll use water for all sorts of other things around camp like dousing your fire, cooking, brushing your teeth, rinsing your hands, etc.
If you’re planning to fish, you’ll need a license.
I don’t recommend bringing firewood with you. It is better to use the local firewood to eliminate cross-contamination from pests. It’s also about the same price wherever we go, so we’d rather not take up space in the car.
When shopping for gear, make sure you check out some of our local thrift stores. Because we live in such an outdoor paradise and a military community, I’ve discovered that people donate their perfectly good equipment when they upgrade or move. We found a $100 Coleman camp stove for about $8 and a $100 Thermarest sleeping pad for about $6; along with several other things. They’re in perfect condition!
Do some research on nearby towns. It’s inevitable that you’ll want to grab an ice cream cone or need something from a store, so plan ahead on where those things are.
Bring the Fun
What I love about taking my kids camping is that I revert back to being a kid myself! I’m more likely to stop to smell the flowers and notice the rolly pollies.
Frisbee is always fun and super easy to pack. We brought a volleyball last time because the park had courts.
It’s fun to give the kids a turn behind the camera and see what they see.
Also, we bring some card games, mad libs, glow sticks, and treats like smores and jiffy-pop popcorn to cook over the fire.
When You Arrive
Stop by the visitor’s center first. There are usually activities for the kids including education on local wildlife. The people working there can tell you about any park alerts, animal sightings, and planned activities. I also pick up the park map and a trail guide, if available.
If you get a chance to talk to a Park Ranger, ask questions. We got some great fishing recommendations last time that really paid off!
We take a drive through the park before we settle in our spot to get our bearings on where the bathroom is located, where the camp hosts are, and where any other amenities like playgrounds and water spouts are located.
Finally, we set up camp. The kids love to help out, so we put them to work. We also lay out the ground rules and the boundaries of exploration.
Camping is simply the most frugal way to explore our beautiful state and the memories you make with your family are priceless!
What are your best camping tips for Coloradans?