This article first appeared in The Denver Post Summer Getaways issue in June, 2020.
Durango-based Shannon Hahn and Jason Bushey, both 33, met when friends introduced them after a mountain bike ride; they began hiking, biking, and skiing together as a couple. Jason proposed marriage at a remote alpine lake in the Weminuche Wilderness, during a backpacking trip, and they have decided to hold their wedding outdoors as well. The couple is planning to tie the knot this summer at Chris Park Campground, a Forest Service group site near Haviland Lake, 18 miles north of Durango.
“We wanted to throw a laid-back and fun wedding,” said Hahn. “We wanted most of our budget to be spent on food, drinks and entertainment, and not the venue.”
They’ve reserved all three group sites at the campground, which can accommodate up to 150 campers, though their event will be smaller than that. Some of Shannon and Jason’s guests will camp, others will book a room at nearby Purgatory Resort. When asked what her biggest piece of advice would be for someone planning a campground wedding, Hahn said, “You need to plan far ahead. The reservations go fast. Planning your wedding in a campground is a do-it-yourself endeavor, but we think it’s the best value.”
Oh, and their honeymoon? “We’re going to explore the Canadian Rocky Mountains— mountain biking in Kananaskis, Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise, Golden and Revelstoke.”
For anyone else thinking of holding their wedding at a campground, here are a few options in Colorado:
- Chris Park Group Campground, north of Durango: this Forest Service group facility is in a sheltered hollow of ponderosa pines. Its three sites have large gravel lots for RVs and dispersed tent camping in the woods. You can take a dip in Haviland Lake, accessible via the short Wagon Road Historic Trail. There are no mountain views from the campground, but the lake is very scenic. Some sites and all facilities are wheelchair-accessible. There are picnic tables, grills, and fire rings; vault toilets, drinking water, an event pavilion, horseshoe pits, and a volleyball court. Reservations are required at 877/444-6777 and www.recreation.gov. The fee is $100-220 depending on group size. Contact: San Juan National Forest, Columbine District, 970/884-2512, www.fs.usda.gov/sanjuan.
- Windy Point Group, south of Frisco. This group campground on the southeast shore of Dillon Reservoir has incredible panoramic views and two large sites for tent camping that hold up to 100 people each. The lake site has a covered pavilion for 95 people. The other site is more rustic. RVs can park in the parking lot and there are picnic tables, grills, fire rings, vault toilets, and a picnic pavilion. The facilities are wheelchair-accessible. Make reservations at 877/444-6777 and www.recreation.gov. The fee is $215-265 per night. Contact: White River National Forest, Dillon District, 970/468-5400, www.fs.usda.gov/whiteriver.
- Bogan Flats, south of Carbondale. On the banks of the Crystal River, between the Maroon Bells-Snowmass and Raggeds Wilderness areas Bogan Flats is in a fly-fishing haven, five miles from the historic town of Marble. The group site is upstream of the main campground and is very private. Reservations are accepted at 877/444-6777 and www.recreation.gov. The group site costs $135 per night, for up to 50 people. Contact: White River National Forest, Sopris District, 970/963-2266, www.fs.usda.gov/whiteriver.
- Arapaho Valley Ranch, outside Granby. This off-grid “mountain resort” on the South Fork of the Colorado River is ideal for events like weddings and reunions; its accommodations include camping sites, glamping tents, cabins, a historic Lodge and Dance Hall, and access to “Colorado’s smallest bar,” the Red Dog Saloon. Wedding parties get exclusive use of the entire property for a 3-night weekend. There’s excellent fishing, including a trout pond for kids. Contact: 720/550-0684, https://arapahovalleyranch.com
- Top of the Pines, outside Ridgway. This is a smaller option, with a handful of campsites, but it has a heated indoor pavilion with electricity and flush toilets, plus space to set up a large outdoor event tent. For your outdoor ceremony, there is a lovely meadow with views of the Sneffels range. The deck has stunning views, and the bonfire area is a nice touch for after the reception. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, https://www.topofthepines.org.