Pearl Lake has views, camping

Photo special to the Sentinel taken by special to the sentinel; The Pearl Lake trail traverses around the lake and then into the Routt National Forest.  It ends at a Forest Service Road and can connect with the Coulton Creek Trail

Photo by Julie Norman Pearl Lake provides fly-fishing opportunities along with the option for other quiet water activities such as canoeing or paddleboarding

We recently took a few days off to head for cooler temperatures and higher ground in Steamboat Springs. Looking through our 100 Most Scenic Campgrounds in Colorado book, we discovered Pearl Lake campground, 23 miles north of Steamboat on Elk River Road. This little treasure of a campground has about 36 campsites with great views of the lake itself, Hahns Peak, and Grouse Mountain.

The lake offers non-motorized boating, fishing, canoeing, and paddleboarding. While swimming is not allowed here, it’s allowed a few miles up the road at Steamboat Lake State Park.

The day we arrived at the campground, we set up camp and decided to explore. We rode our bikes on a lovely trail around the lake itself and across the dam. Flowers and ferns taller than me surrounded us as we headed into deeper woods on the Pearl Lake Trail. Soon enough, we started to climb (or push) up several steep hills. The narrow singletrack was great, but definitely made climbing tough. Still, it was nice to just decide when we’d had enough, turn around, and bomb back down all that singletrack to the lake and our campsite where apres’ ride drinks awaited.

While we’d planned to do some lift-assisted downhill riding on Friday, the Steamboat resort gondola was shut down for renovations (it opened this week), so we headed over to Howelsen Hill to ride the Emerald Mountain trails. These “town trails” have better signage than they did a few years ago, and that combined with the Trail Forks app makes navigating here easy. We like to climb up Bluff and Lupine and determine a downhill route from there. Lupine is a twisty, well-built trail and it climbs great.

After riding, leave your car where it is and bike a few blocks down Yampa Avenue to Sunpies (735 Yampa Avenue), a great little cajun dive with excellent po boys, hush puppies, Abita beer, and close-up Yampa River views.

We saved our favorite Steamboat ride for Saturday. From Twenty Mile Road, follow the signs for the Emerald Mountain trails (this time you’ll be riding the back side of the trail system) onto Cow Camp Road. You’ll reach an obvious parking lot after a few miles. This is where your ride will end. Bike up the Jeep road a few more miles to the Beall Trail and start climbing.

This is actually a very fun trail to climb. It’s narrow and wild with plants. The switchbacks are well built and the climbs are interspersed with some fun downhills. After 
7 1/2 miles (including the Jeep road climb) you’ll reach a lovely viewpoint. There is often a breeze here, so it’s a great spot for a snack. After another mile you’ll reach the intersection with the Ridge Trail. Be prepared to enjoy 4.5 miles of narrow, fast, flowing downhill. Turn off on Rotary for an additional bit of mileage and more downhill features or stick to Ridge and enjoy the ride. Either way, you’ll end up back at your car grinning, tired and happy.

Take 13th street back into town and check out Mountain Tap Brewery. Their beers are great and so are their pizzas. If you’ve got a dog with you, they even have water bowls available.

We found staying at Pearl Lake to be a nice respite. While we did make trips back into town, the drive to and from the campground was beautiful and serene. The campground was peaceful and is a great option for both RVers (no electric, but large sites) and tent campers alike. They even have yurts, if that’s more your thing. You can make reservations online at

There are so many fun places to explore in Colorado and sometimes it feels like we’ve only just begun. There’s still plenty of time this summer and fall for you to GET OUT and enjoy all that our state has to offer.


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