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Old 11-16-2015, 08:49 PM   #1
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Colorado 2016: Boondocking the Highest Elevations

There are a few Colorado Airstream owners on the west side of Colorado. There may be several in Wyoming, but lately they have been quiet on the Forum. Any information as to "high elevation camp sites" would be appreciated.

Between the Front Range to the west of Denver, and to the east of Grand Junction are Colorado's finest 14,000'+ peaks. Among these 58 peaks are basins and canyons with rivers, being fed by the Spring snow melt among these tallest peaks of the "Lower 48".

Mount Elbert is the highest summit in Colorado at 14,440', near Leadville.

Mount Whitney is the highest in the Sierra Nevada at 14,505', not too far from Death Valley at 279' below sea level.

Leadville, Colorado is the highest town at 10,152 feet elevation. I suppose Denver, Colorado is the highest among the 5,200' elevation cities with marijuana. But leaving Leadville twice the elevation of Denver.

To the north of Colorado is Wyoming. Gannett Peak is 13,804' in the Wind River Range which will be seen on the 2016 Wyoming adventure. We will be camped at 8,053' at the Double Cabin site.

There are some beautiful mountain campsites in both Colorado and Wyoming above 8,500 feet. Campsites in the 6,000 to 8,500 feet are everywhere to be found. Once you begin to get to Tree Line, 11,000 to 12,000 feet you can find warm days and cool to cold evenings.

I have been to several tent camping at their bases to collect rocks and just fresh "thin air". I have pulled our 2006 23 foot to some of the near 8,000'+ sites along gravel river beds southeast of Ouray, Colorado. Just wonderful in the Summer. Just terribly wet and snowy in the Winter.

Are there any trailer owners interested in another true adventure? We would be locating by campsites, the highest convenient Off the Grid campsites in Colorado. Making it a Colorado High Country Adventure?

I have some flexible time in July 2016, before the 2016 Wyoming Adventure.

There are some caveats.

-The biggest hurdle is the elevation and you must get some adjusting at 6,000' to 6,500' and then work up to higher camp sites.
-You will lose horsepower at elevation. Your vehicle having a 5.2L pulling a 25 footer would be no problem at all. (Elevation x 0.03 x horsepower @ Sea Level divided by 1000. (Taken from Google How to Calculate the Horsepower Loss at Altitude.)

- A 4x4 is advised. Traction could be an issue, rather than horsepower. You can always go to Low Gear in automatic and do just fine.

Other caveats can be discussed over time. If no one but myself have an interest, this can slowly disappear among threads with no takers.

I can discuss how "I" find general areas to camp at elevation once on the road if needed. There are many ways to travel from Denver and west to get adjusted to elevation. You must spend time adjusting. You will know if you need a bit more time. The technique is you camp in the "Parks" and go up to the higher campsite and then back down camping at the next Park before climbing elevation.

Many people do this every year. Young and old. You should be in general good health and not have any issues with respiratory or heart. You get the idea. If this gets traction... I am looking at mid July 2016. AFTER the 4th of July holiday, for sure.

I am a healthy 66 year old. My wife Nancy, 63. We understand how elevation creeps up on you and how to "get down elevation". Been there and done that when driving from Kansas City, Missouri at 580 feet to 10,500 feet the next day. Not pleasant at all.

Anyone want to take this on? Right now it is an idea in the works. Next year it could be an Adventure few have had the opportunity to try it as a group.

Human Bean
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Old 11-17-2015, 05:07 AM   #2
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Kansas City, Missouri is about 1000+ feet elevation. Lee's Summit, Missouri where we lived was 980', not 580'. I did not want to take any "elevation" away from Jackson County, Missouri.

Camps would be primarily among the Parks and Mesas among the tallest of Colorado's mountains. No... I do not want to drive to the top of Mount Antero again, where the aquamarine crystals are being dug on television. But... you can.

The Sawatch Range has a number of 14ers with Parks to the east for camps in the 8,000' range. The elevations are high, but the Parks are moderate OtG accessible sites that are tame and accessible on decent roads.

Plenty of possible areas that could be broken into two or three years of casual camping. Just moving fifty miles one direction or another will offer all the scenery one could possibly absorb.

Why you ask? Because I might not be interested when I am 85.

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Old 11-17-2015, 07:54 AM   #3
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Doug and I spent several weeks the summer of 2013, traveling and camping in the cool temps of the Colorado Rockes....outside of the campgrounds and crowds of the Park.

Often, we had the entire campground to ourselves.

We stayed almost exclusively in NF campgrounds, sometimes with water available, always pit toilets, and often near or next to rushing, beautiful mountain rivers.....which we would call streams or creeks here in Illinois, home of the Illinois River and the Mighty Mississippi..

Lots of free firewood, trees cut into manageable lengths by the Rangers and left to be split by whoever wanted a fire.

It was a really great time.

I can vouch for this being a spectacularly beautiful area.

🏡 🚐 Cherish and appreciate those you love. This moment could be your last.🌹🐚❤️
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Old 11-17-2015, 08:32 AM   #4
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I'd love to do this. It sounds like a lot of fun. However, 2016 is already looking to be pretty well booked. Maybe 2017 or beyond.

On the way to Quemado last spring, we camped at an awesome dispersed site east of Ridgeway in the Uncompagrhe NF that was at over 10,000 ft elevation. Porsha lost her collar there. It was probably the most beautiful campsite I've ever had. I'd like to go back there....to look for the collar.
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Old 11-17-2015, 08:46 AM   #5
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I so wish I was retired so I could do this.
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The “Ohio Airstreamer -- Informal forum for weekend camping” thread.
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Old 11-17-2015, 10:58 AM   #6
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Colorado OtG Mountain Busting...

[QUOTE=Thalweg;1711532]I'd love to do this. It sounds like a lot of fun. However, 2016 is already looking to be pretty well booked. Maybe 2017 or beyond.
A 2016 Colorado would be a Mountain Busting adventure working along the tallest of the Rocky Mountains. We spend the least amount of camping in our home state... as it is right outside of our home's window to the west. We see 100 miles of Front Range from Palmer Divide to Rocky Mountain National Park. Now... that is a view, even finding yourself camped in our yard!

I get bored rather easily.

This year the camping season was disrupted with building a home in southern Nevada. Then moving enough extras from Colorado to at least have some home comforts. A Summer Home and a Winter Home is not as easy as someone could imagine, and I will try to suffer as much as possible in the process. But... it does open up opportunities for almost 12 months a year to be outdoors. I missed the extended OtG camping that I plan to overdo it in 2016.

This is why Nevada is among the short list of States to explore and maybe skirt the west edge of Utah for Trilobites and just beautiful scenery along the Nevada/Utah bordering Millard County, Utah. Maybe test some slot machines and if I can find a Craps Table for evening entertainment.

My Forest Service maps and DeLorme Atlas of Colorado will get some additional OtG campsites in 2016. The State is more difficult to explore with so much private property within National Forests that are accessible. So you have to research various areas for "public access lands". Most trailer traffic reserve spots for the season in the valleys or towns at RV Parks, which is always the last option for us.

Many areas around the Holidays have trailers parked to save spots in advance. That is why we avoid Holiday camping and do not move our site on Fridays or Saturdays. Many campers leave for home Sunday AM at more accessible spots from major Front Range towns and cities. There is a strategy needed, much like what Brent is working around in the Black Hills.

One OtG camp will be in the area of FairPlay, Colorado where one can pay a couple of dollars to pan fine gold in town. It is a lot of work moving boulders and screening sand to pan, but you will find gold. Enough to save and prove you did.

From first glance a route from I-70 to Leadville and south through North and Middle Park, ending up somewhere around Canon City, Colorado. Catching the Arkansas River for anyone wanting to fly fish, as well as being the main conduit for north to south highway travel.

For those making the 2016 Black Hills and/or 2016 Wyoming... survivors might be ready for a 2017 Colorado Adventure. The small mountain towns are always great places to stop and browse the mining camps and wander around like you are lost through town.

This is a mild to moderate OtG vision for 2016. The possible 2017 could test your skills developed from 2016... no sense saving the worst for the first attempt, is there?
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Old 11-17-2015, 11:21 AM   #7
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I spent a week this summer in Eureka, CO which is an abandoned mining town near Silverton. Great jumping off point for hiking and driving the jeep roads. Next summer is already booked but July 2017 is a definite possibility. Doug
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Old 11-17-2015, 11:23 AM   #8
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Here to grand junction ,Montrose, Uray, Silverton, Durango ,Mancos, wonderful trip,will do it again...
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Old 11-17-2015, 11:47 AM   #9
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High Country camping.

I guess I am spoiled, it is only about a 15 minute drive to the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mtn range from my house, I have to look at 4 14,000 ft peaks from my seat and the breakfast table each morning. I have several suggestions for High Elevation camping that are easy drives. We pull our 1965 Caravel to these often usually several times each year. For Starters Alvarado Camp Ground, a National Forest camp, is about 10 miles south west of Westcliffe, Co. Our favorite is Cascade Camp Ground above Mt. Princeton Hot Spring near Buena Vista, CO. Elevations of both of these are about 9,000 ft. from each you can hike or drive to much higher camp sites. We love to go to St. Elmo above Cascade, it is the most complete Ghost Town remaining in Colorado. If you wish additional info send me a request and I will try to guide you to some wonderful high camp sites.

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Old 11-17-2015, 12:07 PM   #10
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2016 looks pretty busy for us too, but some ideas, maybe for a different western slope trip.

Colorado NM has a campground on the west side that must be around 6,700'. I know the Monument is a little below us (we overlook part of it) and we are at 6,903' (little space for trailers at our house). This is a good starting point and supplies are readily available in Grand Jct. and Fruita. I could visit.

South of Telluride along Colo. 145 are several FS campgrounds. We have stopped and they look kind of small. Telluride is 8,750', and these must be well over 9,000'. I recall looking them up once and they may not have taken reservations, but things change (including my memory).

There are a number of campgrounds around Lake City (8,661'). One is fairly primitive and county owned—Wupperman CG. I think there are a few with hookups or maybe just water. Views are great, you are next to a lake and close to town.

Going further southeast, the highway (Colo. 149) goes over Slumgullion and Spring Creek Passes. Beautiful county and there may be some FS campgrounds. There is a large meadow near N. Clear Creek Falls where boondocking may be ok. This area should be well over 9,000'. This is on the Silver Thread Byway and more information regarding CG's should be available from researching that.

In Black Canyon NP, the North Rim CG is at 7,783', but is first come, first served. Last time I looked, it was pretty basic. Summer seems to be the best time to get a space. South Rim has 2 CG's and may take reservations.

Independence Pass is 12,095' And has a large parking area. We spent the night there many years ago in a Microbus. Travel with RV's is restricted to vehicles less than 35', so Interstates and Bambis may be it. But south of Leadville is Turquoise Lake where there are many CG's.

Some ideas, little research, and sounds like fun. As far as altitude issues, men adjust faster than women because at altitude you need more red blood cells to absorb oxygen. Men make 'em faster. Flying into the ski resorts from low elevation is one way to get altitude sickness because of an abrupt change, but driving to Colorado gives you more time. I have seen healthy people who exert themselves right away, then sleep for a day and do fine afterward. Most people do fine; it is very much an individual thing—even Denverites can have some issues when they go up thousands of feet, but most don't.

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Old 11-17-2015, 01:12 PM   #11
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Good to hear from Gene. I knew you moved from Crawford, CO a year or so ago. Will keep you posted.

The same goes for you, D. Bishop. It is wonderful that the two of you picked up on this Thread.

I found myself going from Aspen to Independence Pass several years ago. Once I saw the sign... there is no way to exit and was lucky I encountered no traffic that morning on the way to the top. Some decent State RV camping south of Aspen, as we camped there overnight at that time at Carbondale along the highway. Was worth the cost.

Keep in touch and I hope I can tap in with both of you for a 2017 Colorado Mountain Adventure!

There is another intact mining town near Gunnison, CO called the Star Mine on Italian Mountain. The camping area is fit for 100 trailers, but when there, maybe three in the valley seemed to be the total camped. Great fly fishing, a restaurant around there somewhere and the drive to the Star Mine is on river boulders to the top. Once you are there above tree line the mining structures survived being disassembled and parted out. The young owners wanted to have the State improve the road to the mine for a Historical Site... but it is not exactly next to Aspen and difficult to get to. Aspen... is on the other side of this mountain! That would be one stop for a 2017 Colorado Adventure. I have an original geologist's report on the mine from the turn of the 20th century... if I can find it.

Colorado RV Parks can be pricey. Off the Grid campsites in some areas are narrow river valleys. Some are wide open "parks" surrounded by mountains and the paved/gravel road follows major fishing streams. Many are off the beaten path... and in Colorado, that is saying something.

July and August are the months of best times to camp. I say best, as it can snow and get below freezing if you get at elevation too early or late in the season. You can avoid the frosts, higher humidity in the mornings and the sun is high between the mountain ranges. Water is running lower in the rivers (OK, streams to those of you who know the difference).

There are also a number of areas where if you like to pick up Leaverite and Garnets and other shiny materials washing from the creek banks... bring a shovel, something to pan with and a screen for heavier minerals along the banks.

Colorado west of Denver is a totally different environment to witness outside of a civilized RV Park. Gene and D.B. are there. Many areas are considered Wilderness Areas. It is because there is no way to bust a road into the granites and upturned sedimentary rocks. We can get close to these areas, but what looks close in these areas can be miles.

Zep aka AgPnut was around the Forums in 2008. Ag= Silver, Pn= Platinum nut. Hmm. Maybe need my metal detector on this trip.
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Old 11-17-2015, 01:53 PM   #12
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Before I have to actually do something around the house... last comments.

Wikipedia search of Highest Major Summits of Colorado will give you an idea of what to expect.

Colorado has many National Forest maps available as well. Eventually I will have all of mine together and recommend which would serve you best on your trip or a group adventure of local interest. Searching the internet is the best "source of accurate maps" with "most" roads shown, although these roads might have two or three names to follow. Once you have set up camp, pull out the map and explore. The National Forest maps can be purchased from the United States Geological Survey at the Federal Center of Denver, Colorado. Probably found on the internet, as well. Or... at local Forest Service offices scattered in the general areas you find yourself. You ask by National Forest names. Some require two or three maps!

Since men are never lost, maybe their wives could use the help.

Any area camped within the mountains of Colorado...it is wise to have at least a compass. My wife wears a GPS watch on her wrist which has served us well. The GPS in your vehicle is good to know WHERE you really are located. An accurate MAP and an accurate compass works well for myself. Most of these maps show older established campsites, but at times the maps were drawn from one forty years old... so many other campsites are available, just not indicated on the map. I refer to them as "hunter's camps". Check the map's date and last survey, if the date is listed.

There are 115 Colorado summits from 8,725' to 14,440'. I have been to the top of THREE fourteeners. I drove up and down. Pikes Peak. Near Long's Peak at Rocky Mountain National Park. Mount Antero, which is not one I want to take a full sized pickup again. There must be others, but I leave the hiking to those who enjoy it.
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Old 11-17-2015, 01:57 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by DanB View Post
I so wish I was retired so I could do this.
I second that...
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Old 11-17-2015, 02:48 PM   #14
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Fairplay, CO is the county seat of Park County and is at about 9,500'. A few miles North of Fairplay off Colorado Highway 9 are several roads that lead up-stream into the Mesquito Range. Most of these roads follow creeks. There are some good NSF campsites and at least one campground run by the State of Colorado that always looked great. The roads require high clearance, but not 4x4. If you take it slow, you can pull a trailer in there. Elevation will be around 10,000 feet. The town of Alma, 6 miles north of Fairplay on Hwy 9, claims to be the highest incorporated town in North America at 10,573. The roads that lead to the campgrounds are between Alma and Fairplay and run west into the mountains.

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