Four best Steamboat campgrounds for fishing, families or solitude

A family camps at Pearl Lake State Park, near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. (((one-time use for Joshua Berman's Around Colorado column for Travel on Aug. 2, 2015)))

Steamboat Springs has some of the most spectacular camping in Colorado

By Joshua Berman
Special to The Denver Post

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Summers here are well known for downhill mountain biking, a local Pro Rodeo series and a hot springs right downtown. But Steamboat is also a jumping-off spot to some of Colorado’s most spectacular tent camping. Here are four gems to add to your camping best-of list.

Cold Springs Campground: The Bear River Recreation Area is best known for trout fishing in the Stillwater, Bear Lake and Yamcolo reservoirs, plus its immediate hiking access to the Flat Tops Wilderness.  Cold Springs Campground, located at an elevation of 10,200 feet, toward the top of the valley, has only five first-come, first-served, campsites around a tiny loop. There are no hookups, only the basics: picnic tables, grills, fire rings, vault toilets and water. $10 per night.

Directions: From Yampa, take County Road 7/Forest Route 900 south for 16.6 miles. Turn right into the campground. If it’s full, there are dozens of beautiful dispersed camping sites along Forest Route 900 ($5 per night).

Trout Creek Dispersed Camping: There are 10 or so private, primitive, dispersed campsites along  Trout Creek as it climbs toward Sheriff Reservoir. True to the area’s name, which is in the Yampa District of Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests, there is excellent fishing in the lake, creeks and beaver ponds. The best sites are south of the bridge. Reservations are not accepted.

Directions: From Steamboat Springs, take Colorado 131 south to Phippsburg. Turn right on County Road 15. In 2.7 miles, turn right on County Road 132/North Fork Road. In 9.3 miles, turn left on County Road 95/Forest Route 959. The sites are on both sides of the creek up to the reservoir.

Dry Lake Campground: Only a few miles from downtown Steamboat Springs, the eight-site  Dry Lake Campground in the Hahns Peak District of Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests feels remote but offers campers access to two nearby hot springs,  Strawberry Park and  Old Town Hot Springs. There are also nearby hiking and mountain biking trails in the Park Range. If Dry Lake is full, which it is most weekends, continue east on Country Road 38 for a number of free dispersed campsites along the road, or chose one of two more Forest Service campgrounds (Summit Lake and Granite, but be warned: beyond Dry Lake, the road to Buffalo Pass is narrow and rutted). $10 per night.

Directions: From Steamboat Springs, go northeast on Third Street. Turn right on Fish Creek Falls Road. Turn left on Amethyst Drive/County Road 36. In 2.5 miles, turn right on County Road 38/Forest Route 600. The campground is on the left in 3.3 miles.

Pearl Lake State Park: Pearl Lake is an overlooked state park at the base of Farwell Mountain. Its nearby big sister, Steamboat Lake, attracts more crowds and boaters, while Pearl Lake’s 38 sites are great for families. The lower loop is next to the lake, but there is not a bad site in the park. Wakeless boating is allowed, and trout fishing is restricted to flies or lures. Make reservations at 800-678-2267 or coloradostateparks.reserveamerica.com. $16 per night for a tent site, plus $7 vehicle pass.

Directions: From Steamboat Springs, go north on County Road 129 for 22.8 miles. Turn right on County Road 209. Follow the signs for two miles to the park entrance. In 0.3 mile the road forks. Take the left fork to the campground or the right fork to the boat ramp.

Joshua Berman is the author of the upcoming 5th edition of Colorado Camping, which will be released in spring, 2016. He is currently traveling to as many campgrounds across the state as he can. Find him online at JoshuaBerman.net and twitter.com/tranquilotravel.

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This article originally appeared in The Denver Post on July 31, 2015.

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