The toddling two year olds climbing in and out of a hammock, or a canoe or a bear-box more resembled playful cubs than human children. As cute and equally mischievous as can be. Reinforcing the known truth that nothing entertains kids more than other kids.
Lucky for us L made friends at daycare with kiddos whose families also love to camp and for the third year in a row we’ve gotten together for a weekend full of marshmallows, stories and lots of girl giggles.
At just 45 minutes from Fort Collins, Red Feather Lakes is an easy, accessible option for Northern Colorado campers, no matter your camping style. Last year we dispersed camped down Deadman Road, this year we visited an established campground but if solid walls and plumbing is your thing there are a plethora of cabins to rent in the area as well.
This year we planned ahead, making our Dowdy Lake Campground reservations six months in advance at a spacious double site to accommodate our six adults and six girls under age six as well as a fifth wheel, pop-up camper and tent. Ponderosa pines provide plenty of shade for the 62 sites and our site was close to the lake but not too close, giving our “bear cubs” a decent range to toddle. Although the campground was full, the sites are far enough apart we did not notice other campers during our stay.
Dowdy Lake Campground fills up fast as do other Red Feather sites so be sure to make reservations in advance.
There are around eight lakes that comprise the area, four of which are open to the public (Dowdy, West, Parvin and Lake Bellaire). These are popular local fishing destinations, stocked mostly with cutthroat and lake trout. The day use areas also fill up fast on the weekends.
We hauled the canoe on this trip and took C out for her first ride on the water. It was beautiful and relaxing and a great way to see the crazy rocks up close and personal. Rocks my mother-in-law lovingly calls “zoo rocks” which describes them perfectly. We waited until dusk when the water was calm and watched the sun set as Court paddled along. We saw mostly kayaks and canoes, but motorized boats are allowed with an enforced 10mph limit.
Red Feather Village is small but bustling on a summer weekend. We stopped at the general store briefly for a couple cold drinks while driving around ensuring C got a nap. (A campground full of kids, although endless entertainment, not conducive for napping.) While checking out I was not surprised to hear the clerk giving very complicated directions to a lost couple. This area is a maze of roads! Another reminder to make sure you have maps that do not require wi-fi. Otherwise we did not spend time in town, but there are a few stores and restaurants.
On your way back….
I’m pretty sure nothing is better than a big o’ hamburger after a few nights of camping. If you agree, be sure to check out The Forks on the way back to town. I had the jalapeño burger. Yum. In addition to the upstairs restaurant/bar (closed Mondays) they have a delicatessen and ice cream shop downstairs.
Distance: Approx. 45 minutes from Fort Collins
Amenities: Vault toilets, water spigots, campsites have fire pits, picnic tables, tent pads, five minute drive to Red Feather Village
Highlights: Lake views, lake access, larger, nicely spaced sites
Lowlights: Very popular, often windy
Cost: $29 for a single site, $58 for a double
Elevation: 8,200 ft
Hiking: There are TONS of trails in the area, we did not hike this trip but have hiked a portion of Killpecker Trail in the past, a nice hike with kids despite a decent incline at the very start.
Open Season: Most sites are available from late May to early September with 30 sites open all year long. A great, close option for off season camping!