Three years ago I joined the ranks of the Monday through Friday, 8-5 crowd. I was giddy at the prospect of having summer weekends off- all the camping, all the hiking, all the family time. And it has been wonderful.
But there is a dark side…
Having the same days off as the majority of the population means lines at the grocery store, taking time off work for doctor appointments and driving up the canyon after work on a Friday and only finding “Campground Full” signs.
It is both frustrating and heart warming that we love our local campgrounds this much.
Here are options when dealing with the campground full blues:
- Arrive on Wednesday: Campground hosts are suggesting arriving on Wednesdays to find a spot. Unfortunately most of us can’t take off two days every week we want to go camping.
- Gamble: Last year we had plans to go camping with a group and we sent one volunteer to snag a spot first thing Friday morning and she got the PERFECT spot at Mountain Park Campground. We tried the same thing this year and our poor volunteer went up and down the canyon twice before settling for a tiny site at Big Bend Campground.
- Dispersed Camping: There are many, many places to explore in Poudre Canyon beyond the established campgrounds. You just have to be prepared to be without toilets, water, and trash bins and fires are often restricted in dispersed camp sites when fire danger is high. Unfortunately these sites are often littered with cigarette butts, broken glass and the occasional shotgun shell. Not ideal for tiny explorers. (Note: even the more popular dispersed camping sites are filling up fast on Fridays.)
- Reservations: Nearly every January for decades my mother in law has taken time to book her favorite site at Chambers Lake on recreation.gov. And evidently everyone else does as well. So if you have a favorite campground and you are planning on heading up at the end of the week and you want the amenities established campgrounds provide, the safest bet is to plan what weekends you want to camp ahead of time and make reservations. Reservations must be made 4-180 days in advance.
Poudre Canyon Campgrounds Quick Guide- Reservation vs. First Come First Serve
Ansel Watrous – all 16 sites reservable
Dutch George- all 20 sites, first come first serve
The Narrows – Upper and Lower, 8 sites and 7 tent only sites respectively, all reservable
Stove Prairie- 9 sites, 4 tent only all reservable
Mountain Park– 55 sites, all reservable 1 group site that accomadates 100 guests!
Kelly Flats- 19 sites, 10 tent only, all first come first serve
Big Bend- 6 sites, all first come first serve
Sleeping Elephant- 15 sites, all first come first serve
Aspen Glen – 9 sites, all first come first serve
Big South– 4 sites, all first come first serve
Chambers Lake– 44 sites reservable , 7 walk-in tent sites, six of which are first come first serve
Tunnel- 49 sites, all first come first serve
Long Draw- 24 sites, all first come first serve
Grand View- 9 sites, all first come first serve (tents only!)
USDA Forest Service website for more info
How do you overcome the “campground full” blues?