Colorado’s campgrounds are as busy as ever. In more remote parts of the state or during shoulder seasons, campsites can still offer a private retreat in nature. But increasingly, you’ll find your campground crowded or full, especially on weekends and in the summer. In general, high elevation and mountain air make people friendlier in campgrounds. Especially when everyone knows the basic rules before heading up. Most violations of campsite courtesy can be categorized under noise, litter, and impact.
Noise: Always follow posted quiet hours, usually from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Late arrivals and super-early risers should also be as quiet as possible. Leave the fancy Bluetooth speaker at home. When in doubt, let nature’s sounds prevail.
Litter: Many campgrounds provide bear-proof dumpsters to dispose of the trash you create during your stay. Some don’t and you should be prepared to pack out trash when receptacles are not available. Well-meaning (or just lazy) campers leave garbage in the fire rings, but this can attract animals and may not burn. If in doubt, pack it out. Better yet, make a rule to leave the campsite cleaner than when you found it, and teach your children to do the same.
Impact: Traditionally, the seven LNT principles are: (1) planning ahead and preparing; (2) only hiking and camping on established trails and campsites—or on durable surfaces at least 200 feet from lakes and streams; (3) properly disposing of waste; (4) leaving everything as you found it, including natural, cultural, and historic objects; (5) minimize campfire impact and put your fire dead out; (6) respect wildlife—never approach, feed, harass, or touch wild animals; and (7) be considerate to others (and silence that cell phone).
Vandalism: Never carve your initials or name into trees, as it leaves them susceptible to disease. Graffiti on picnic tables and vault toilets—or bullet holes in signs—redirects limited funds away from needed campground improvements.
Pets: Bring your pets only if you can keep them on a leash (or tight voice control) at all times, never leave them unattended at the campground, and keep them from barking at or intimidating other campers or wildlife.
If you go
Grab a cheap flight to Denver. For gear, you can go shopping at REI downtown, or rent it. Here are some basic items you may need.
Camping Gear Checklist:
Camp stove and extra fuel
Two pots and no-stick (or cast-iron) pan
Water jug or plastic “cube,” minimum 2 gal.
Nontoxic dish soap and scrubbies
Set of steel plates, cups, bowls, utensils
Cooler, ice, drinks
Itemized food bins, separated by meals, plus a fourth bin for hot drinks and spices.
Kitchen knife, cutting board
One lighter for each camper
Dish towels and rags
Two or three plastic bins for washing dishes
Spatula and stir spoon
Pot grabber, potholder, can opener
Salt, pepper, spices
Matches, stored in resealable bags
General Camp Gear
Kitchen tarp and/or shade structure
Ax or hatchet, multi-tool
Rubber mallet for pounding tent stakes
Picnic table cover
Wood or charcoal
Fire-starter (treated bricks or just cardboard)
Flashlight and batteries
Nylon rope for food hang
Spade for digging cat hole
Toilet paper, baby wipes
Toothbrush and toothpaste