Tents, RVs fill up campgrounds for holiday

Campers set up at the Fruita section of the James M. Robb—Colorado River State Park.

If your holiday plans call for spending the weekend sleeping out at a state park, you’d better hurry to make sure there’s a spot for you.

Memorial Day is known for attracting weekend campers, and the high-energy winds of the last week or so have done little to deter hopeful tenters and RVers at Colorado’s state parks.

“You might find something available but it’s probably very few,” said Ridgway State Park receptionist Janice Steel on Monday. “This weekend fills up quickly.”

Many of the most popular and close-in state parks have been booked for weeks, so trips to Highline Lake, Fruita and Rifle Gap, with its 88 campsites, will be day trips only.

However, a quick glance through the state parks’ reservation website, coloradostateparks.reserveamerica.com, revealed a few openings still available at Ridgway, Vega and Steamboat Lake state parks.

Vega was listing a “handful” of campsites open Monday but they probably will fill up by the weekend, said park ranger Kedrick Robinson.

“We’ll be full with drive-up customers by the time it’s over,” Robinson said.

He also reminded would-be campers that reservations cannot be made less than three days prior to arrival, which means Tuesday was the last day to guarantee a spot for Friday night at any state park.

You can always take a chance on finding something open when you arrive, but those chances might be slim.

“And after (today), everything for Saturday night is first-come, first-served,” said George Visnic of the Colorado State Parks’ central reservation office. “Sites are starting to go fast.”

Robinson said last-minute campers should call first.

“We hope they would call us before driving all the way up here,” Robinson said.

The weather might delay some campers.

Robinson said Vega had a couple inches of new snow Monday plus the same wind that whipped the Grand Valley all weekend.

“It wasn’t very warm early this morning,” he said.

To check what campsites are open and where, go online to the state parks reservation page, click on “Reserve Now” and fill in your arrival date, length of stay and click “search campgrounds.”

There are plenty of openings for campsites across the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests, but not on Grand Mesa itself.

“There’s not one open on the mesa because it’s still so snowy,” said Kathy Moore, recreation program manager for the GMUG. “But we have a whole lot in other parts of the forest.”

Moore said Amphitheater campground near Ouray is open as are the Matterhorn and Sunshine campgrounds near Lizard Head Pass south of Telluride.

Other campsites are available near Gunnison, including those along the Taylor River and in high-elevation Taylor Park.

“I’m surprised Taylor Park is open already, but it’s been such an odd winter,” Moore said. “Erickson Springs (near Paonia) also is open.”

Moore said about 40 percent of the sites are first-come basis, so the chances are good of finding something at the last minute.

“This is true of almost all our campgrounds,” she said. “There are a lot of set-asides that aren’t reserved sites.”

Camping information on the three forests is available at http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/gmug. Click on “recreation,” then click on “camping.”

“This time of year and in the fall we like to keep these updated on a daily basis,” Moore said.

The forest also offers six back-country cabins for rent but these usually aren’t open until June, Moore said.

The road across Kebler Pass between Paonia and Crested Butte still is closed.


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