Vacationland: State Parks
AN HOUR OR SO AWAY FROM THE GRAND VALLEY
When it comes to Colorado’s abundant scenery and open space, you can thank Colorado Parks and Wildlife for providing all manner of outdoor recreation and access through 42 state parks.
Many of those parks are within or not far from the Grand Valley, meaning visitors can spend less time sitting in the car and more time camping, fishing, boating, water skiing, picnicking and hiking.
Information on all Colorado State Parks can be found at cpw.state.co.us.
Here are some of the highlights:
IN THE GRAND VALLEY
. James M. Robb-Colorado River State Park — This state park is divided into five sections of local lakes and wildlife areas in the Grand Valley: Island Acres, Corn Lake, the Colorado River Wildlife Area, Connected Lakes and the Fruita section.
Camping and swimming beaches are available at Island Acres and at the Fruita section.
The other areas provide fishing, walking and wildlife observation. Most have shaded picnic areas with outdoor grills.
Access to the Colorado River is available at Corn Lake, Connected Lakes and Fruita.
Highline Lake State Park — With its lush green lawns, sandy swimming beach, clean water and boat launch, Highline Lake State Park is one of the most popular summer retreats in the valley.
The lake is an easy drive through Loma via Colorado Highway 139 to 11.8 Road.
There are 31 grassy campsites that accommodate tents and recreational vehicles. The campground fills quickly during the summer and advanced camping reservations are highly recommended.
A number of hiking and biking trails surround the lake, including the relatively new Engle Loop, which added nearly a mile to the 18 Hour Trail that circles the park. The trail is named for the popular 18 Hour Race held there each spring.
Other trail options are the Highline Lake Trail, East Bluffs Loop, Greasewood Flats Loop, Mack Mesa Loop and Blue Herons Pond Loop.
These trails also are popular with bird watchers as the lake is designated by the National Audubon Society as an important birding area. More than 200 species of birds use the lake as a migration and nesting area. There are two watchable wildlife kiosks on either side of Highline Lake, complete with viewing scopes.
Vega State Park — Some escape the summer heat by retreating to Vega State Park, located on the western edge of the Grand Mesa National Forest.
At an elevation of 8,000 feet, this high-mountain lake offers a serene location for boating, hiking, fishing and camping.
There are 109 camping spots available for both RVs with hookups and primitive tent camping. Cabins also are available to rent. All overnight spaces have a fire pit and picnic table.
The group picnic area is a popular venue for weddings, family reunions and other large gatherings. Reservations are strongly recommended in the summer months.
Vega State Park is open year-round and hosts a variety of annual events including Color Weekend in September.
Sweitzer Lake State Park — A lake built primarily for water recreation, avid water lovers haul their summer toys to Sweitzer Lake State Park near Delta to water ski, windsurf and jet ski.
It’s a good place to take children to fish; however, the fish contain selenium and are not edible.
Hunting, horseback riding and volleyball are other popular activities at this park.
.Crawford State Park — Jet skiing, motor boating and water skiing are very popular action-oriented activities at peak times like summer weekends. The park is quiet and restful during the week and lower peak times.
A nice retreat for outdoor recreation, groups are welcome to gather and enjoy the group picnic facility. Crawford is great place to take a break and enjoy great recreation and stunning scenery.
Colorado State Parks, in cooperation with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, recently refurbished and added modern campground amenities to the park.
Ridgway State Park — There’s something for everyone at this scenic, fivemile- long reservoir just north of the town of Ridgway: Viewing of more than 140 bird species, boating, fishing, sailboarding, water skiing, 14 miles of hiking trails and tons of camping spots — even for those who want something fancier than a tent. Ridgway offers three yurts that sleep up to six and feature amenities including heat, electricity, a microwave and a refrigerator.