Camping: to live temporarily in a camp or outdoors. This is a broad term and means many things to many people. And these people usually feel strongly about their preference in their respective camps. Camps: Groups engaged in promoting or defending a theory, doctrine, position, or person.

There are backpakers, car campers, overlanders, glampers, dispersed site campers and campground campers. And then there are those family adventurers who sell all their personal belongings and travel the world in a van. So when someone asks me, “Where should my family go camping?” I have a lot questions.

Getting outdoors and sleeping in bags was a part of our lifestyle pre kids and it wasn’t something we were going to give up post kids. It just evolved and got a bit more complicated.

IMG_6526We love all types of camping. Each style comes with its unique set of pros and cons. With two young children we definitely prefer car camping whether it’s dispersed or at a designated campground.

No matter what kind of camping you’re accustomed to (or if it hasn’t really been your thing at all), the prospect of taking kids along can be overwhelming. Fortunately the lure of roasting s’mores around a campfire, passing on your love of nature and creating amazing family memories usually outweighs the fear.

If you fall into this camp and are unsure where to start your adventures with kids, my top pick for you is Mountain Park Campground for the following reasons:

Ambiance– Right off of Highway 14, Mountain Park is reached by crossing the Poudre River over a wooden bridge. 50 minutes up the canyon from Fort Collins, it’s far enough up to feel removed from town and immersed in the Roosevelt National Forest but close enough that, if need be, the camping trip can be aborted without too much drive time.

IMG_6180Amenities– For first timers or those wanting to ease into the camping scene, it’s nice to have the little conveniences. Each site has a fire pit and picnic table- totally expected for any campground- but it also boasts the only showers at a campground along the Poudre Canyon. If you cringe and have to start deep breathing at the thought of children covered in sticky marshmallow goo then immediately rolling around in the dirt, this is the place for you.

IMG_6062Activities– For newbies, it can be overwhelming to think about how the heck you will keep your kiddos entertained without their toys, tablets and other familiar distractions. The first time I took a toddler I totally overpacked the toys. My kids- and most kids I suspect- will surprise us. Rocks and sticks appear to be all they ever needed. But Mountain Park has a playground. A nice safety net in case you have the one kid who could care less about the rocks, sticks and bugs.

IMG_6519Accessibility– The Mt. McConnel Trail and Kreutzer Nature Trail  is on site and the dayuse fee is included in your site fee. The campground is right on the river, and, depending on the time of year and river level, there are fabulous little beaches. The paved roads that circle the different loops are paved, ideal for bikes and strollers.

Mountain Park is one of those great campgrounds that to me, still feels like we are immersed in nature yet has many conveniences that makes camping with kids a little easier.

What are your favorite kid-friendly campgrounds in Colorado?

The Details

Distance: 50 minutes from Fort Collins, 23 miles up the Poudre Canyon on highway 14

Amenities:  Onsite showers (accepts quarters), vaulted toilets, water, campground host typically has firewood for sale, picnic table and fire pit and playground.

Highlights: Nicely spaced sites, lots of shade from the ponderosa pines, right on the river

Lowlights: Very popular, reservations a must- I recommend  booking your site here six months ahead of time.

Cost: $20 single non-electric site; $25 single electric site; $40 double non-electric site; $50 double electric site (if booked online or by phone there is a processing fee as well)

Availability: 55 sites plus a huge group site (up to 100 guests!), offering both electric and non electric about half the sites are available as first come first serve- we’ve lucked out and struck out. Reservations must be made 4-180 days in advance.

Hiking: Access to the Mt. McConnel Trail and Kreutzer Nature Trail, the trailhead is in the campground

Open Season: Usually available from Memorial Day to Labor Day