Five Star Campingin Southwest Colorado

Ridgway State Park
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Ridgway State Park location in Southwest Colorado
Ridgway State Park Practicalities
Ridgway State Park
28555 Highway 550
Ridgway, CO 81432

Operated by: Colorado State Parks
Information: (970) 626-5822 or send email.
Open: Whole campground mid-April through mid-November; Pa-Co-Chu-Puk Loop year-round
Individual sites: 25 walk-in tent-only sites, 258 other
Each site has: Tent-only has tent pad, fire grate, grill, picnic table; others also have water and electricity
Site assignment: By advance reservation or pick an available site on arrival
Registration: By phone (call (800) 678-CAMP)
Facilities: Hot showers, flush toilets, laundry, phone, vending machines
Parking: At campsites or walk-in tent campers' parking area
Fee: $4 Parks Pass plus $10 per night walk-in tent site, $14.16 others
Elevation: 7,000 feet Elk Ridge, 6,600 feet Pa-co-chu-puk

Restrictions:
Pets—On leash only
Fires—In fire rings only
Alcoholic beverages—3.2% beer only
Vehicles—On paved roads only
Other—14-day stay limit

To get there: From Ridgway, drive north on U.S. 550 for 5 miles to the Dutch Charlie entrance of the park, which will be on your left.

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Beauty: 5
Site privacy: 3
Site spaciousness: 4
Quiet: 4
Security: 5
Cleanliness/upkeep: 5

This is one of the finest state parks in Colorado, if not the country.

One of the newest Colorado state parks, Ridgway is centered around a 1,000-surface-acre reservoir developed by the Bureau of Reclamation and run by the state of Colorado. This excellently designed recreational area integrates the best in human-made park facilities with the natural features of the land. Two separate walk-in tent camper areas and three other quality campgrounds make this a must-stop for campers of all stripes.

The Dutch Charlie area features two campgrounds. The Dakota Terraces Campground is on lower, open terrain by the lake and has electrical hookups—this means RVs. The Elk Ridge Campground is high above the lake in a pinyon-juniper forest. The views from Elk Ridge of the San Juan and Cimarron mountain ranges will blow your mind. There are two separate loops, both of which have electricity and a surprisingly high number of tent campers. But off Loop E is a set of 10 walk-in tent campsites that will appeal to nearly every tent camper.

Walk the paved path that begins the tent camper loop. The first campsite is handicapped accessible. Beyond that, the gravel path goes beneath some gnarled old pinyons, with separate short paths leading to each well-separated site. Three of the sites are near the edge of a precipice over the lake. The mountain view is like a postcard landscape.

All the sites have adequate shade trees, though high noon may present a heat problem. Large, level tent pads make for sound sleeping. Water spigots are located at the tenter parking area. A modern restroom is nearby, though the showers and laundry are in the campers services building 100 or so yards distant.

The Pa-Co-Chu-Puk Campground, 3.5 miles north of the Dutch Charlie area, has two loops that have water, sewer, and electricity, but they are out in the open and full of RVs. However, it also has a 15-site walk-in tent camping loop that is across the Uncompahgre River from the rest of the park. This loop offers a rustic experience, yet is adjacent to the high-quality facilities that Ridgway offers. This loop is set in a ponderosa pine wood, complemented with Gambel oak and pinyon pine, that gently rises up the slope of Log Hill Mesa.

Load your gear on a complimentary cart and bridge the river to the tenters' area. Campsites are snuggled here and there among the trees. The river is clearly audible. At each site, the picnic table and tent pads have been tastefully leveled, making your experience more comfortable, but still part of nature. Most of the sites are on the outside of the loop and far from one another, making for a private and uncrowded experience. The water spigot is near the parking area and the showers are a good distance away, by the RV loops.No matter where you are in this park, the first-rate facilities will make you wish all state parks had $22 million to spend on development. Recreating around here is first rate, too. Ridgway Reservoir offers fishing for trout and kokanee salmon. Waterskiing, parasailing, and riding wave runners are popular. No boat? No problem! The full-service marina will rent you anything from a canoe to a pontoon barge. A swimming beach and playground are ideal for family campers.

The Uncompahgre River flows below the reservoir. You can catch and release fish on the river or keep the fish caught on nearby ponds. Hikers have 15 miles of trails that course through the park to tramp. Four miles of trails are paved for inline skaters and bikers. Ranger-led hikes and programs inform campers about the natural resources of Ridgway. Make sure to check out the Visitor Center, too. The Dallas Creek Recreation Site is at the south end of the park. Here, you can hike and fish along the reservoir and also head up Dallas Creek over the pedestrian bridge.

You would think such a fantastic state park would be constantly full. Not so. However, it does get busy around the major holidays and later in the summer. But I have it on the park manager's word that September is the time to visit Ridgway. Be sure to put this gem of a state park on your to-do list.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 30 Sep 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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