“I’ve been star-ing at the edge of the water, as long as I can remember…”
If you have a young girl you’re probably familiar with this lyric from Disney’s Moana. L sings it inside, outside, in the car and even on stage at her school’s talent show. But my favorite rendition may be on the rocky beach of Turquoise Lake. We haven’t made a family trip to the ocean yet, but we will eventually. In the meantime, we’ll visit the sandy shores of our mountain lakes, watch the waves roll in and listen to the girls sing How Far I’ll Go.
In an attempt to explore more of Colorado we upped our game this year making reservations for a couple trips six months in advance, including this trip to the San Isabel National Forest. And as we crossed over the Arkansas River that flowed through a green meadow with snow capped mountains in the background, we knew we’d found a special place.
Baby Doe Campground
Eight campgrounds surround Turquoise Lake for a total of 300 campsites all of which fill up fast. We stayed on the eastern shore at Baby Doe Campground. Our site was a short walk to the beach and although it is much too cold to get in the water, it’s the perfect place to end the evening, watching the sun sink below the Rockies.
We chose the Leadville area for a long weekend adventure as it’s a three hour drive from Fort Collins. Arriving on a Thursday allowed us to enjoy the campground before the weekend crowds filtered in.
Lodgepole Pines tower over the campgrounds providing plenty of shade and of course that glorious smell. It was refreshing to see this area was not as affected by the recent beetle kill epidemic that ravaged portions of the Poudre Canyon.
Vaulted toilets are rarely worth writing home about (or blogging about) but I had never had the pleasure of using a brand new one. It was quite luxurious. Solar lights that automatically turned on when you visited at night, they smelled like fresh laundry and they were oh so clean. I mean, there’s still no plumbing or anything but as far as pit toilets go, these were pretty awesome.
At just about 10,000 feet elevation, I was a little nervous camping here in early June, but the weather was perfect- 70’s during the day, 40’s at night and not a drop of rain. Perfect weather to sit and relax at our campsite while the girls played/fought, go for a nature hike or explore one of many dirt roads.
I was still recovering from a sore neck due to maybe a little too much bouldering with a two year old on my back at Forsythe Canyon, so we didn’t even bring the kid carrier.
Instead of a hike we explored the Turquoise Nature Trail and took in amazing views of the lake. Although we didn’t participate in water activities this trip, there are two boat ramps and the lake was speckled with paddleboats paddle boards and kayaks and plenty of fishermen and women along the shore.
After the nature trail we piled in the truck and headed towards Hagerman Pass until a patch of snow covered the width of the dirt road. The road to Hagerman Pass intersects with the Continental Divide Trail and I thought it might be fun to hike just a little portion of it with the kids but it was far too steep and snowy so we continued on.
We found another road to climb and stopped at a primitive campsite, a perfect spot for lunch, building a snowman and teaching C how to pee in the woods.
Leadville is literally a 10 minute drive from the campground. We didn’t feel a need to explore the mountain community on this trip but we did make too many trips to the Safeway. When civilization is so accessible it’s hard not to swing by and grab a few things we forgot. Ibuprofen, the tea Court likes, junk food for our Hagerman pass excursion, you know, essentials.
Signs around the campground alerted us to bear activity in the area but we saw no bear and no other wildlife, except your your typical ground squirrels, camp-robber birds and two little wild ones- climbing driftwood, throwing rocks while singing Moana tunes.
Distance: Approx. 3 hours from Fort Collins
Amenities: Vaulted toilets, trash bins and water spigots
Highlights: Mountain lake sunsets, beach access, dense lodgepole pines providing plenty of shade, new restrooms, access to day activities
Lowlights: Very popular, sites are somewhat close together
Cost: $20 per night
Availability: Most sites are reservable 4-180 days in advance (these sites fill up fast! If you want to stay here, I recommend reserving the site the full 180 days in advance, especially for weekends)
Elevation: Approx 10,000 feet, bring layers!
Open Season: Usually open from early June – early Sept, always check website each season for details