Top Ten Camps in North America
Flat Tops is a blissful 80 miles away from anything resembling Summit County sprawl. The site sits high atop the glacier-formed plateaus of a set of strikingly atypical Rocky Mountains, in a pond-dotted expanse of tundra and meadows, with pockets of 60-foot spruce firs. Above you looms the basalt summit of 12,000-foot Trappers Peak; down the trail lies the concave-faced Amphitheater, Trappers Lake, Scotts Lake, and four campgrounds crowded with recreators who can't manage the four-hour hike in.
Since 235,230-acre Flat Tops is designated wilderness, low-tech pursuits reign, namely fishing, hiking, and napping. Skip Trappers Lake's regulated cutthroat fishery in favor of Wall Lake or several smaller lakes grouped a half-mile north of your camp. Or try the White River's south fork, a half-mile south. You can keep up to six trout and grill them, since fires are allowed. Before you hike in, stop at Trappers Lake Lodge (970-878-3336) to buy a five-day fishing permit ($18). For a great hike from the site (and expansive views of the jagged Gore Range), follow Trail 1842 for 3.5 miles to the Island Lakes, perched at the plateau's edge.
Trappers Notch is 150 miles northeast of Grand Junction. Drive east on I-70, and then north on Colorado 13. Two miles past the town of Meeker, turn east on Rio Blanco County Road 8 and follow it for 39 miles to Forest Road 205. Drive ten miles on FR 205, and park at the Wall Lake trailhead. You'll hike 5.5 miles and gain 1,300 feet in elevation before reaching the lake. Continue another half-mile to pitch your tent near the ponds beside Trappers Peak. For more information, call the White River National Forest's Blanco Ranger District at 970-878-4039.
Next Time Try
Lake Ann, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington
A mile below the summit of 9,127-foot Mount Shuksan, thickets of mountain hemlock and Pacific silver fir encircle Lake Ann's six frigid acres. Dip your toe and pitch your tent at the west end.
Location: 130 miles northeast of Seattle
Details: five sites; $5 parking permit required
Prime Time: June to September
Davis Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine
The 12.8-mile trek to Davis is so arduous that rangers insist you overnight midway. Your terminus, however, is worth it: a glacial-cirque pond with hundred-foot waterfalls.
Location: 80 miles north of Bangor
Details: one Adirondack shelter; pit toilet; $12 park entrance fee; permit required, $8 per person per night
Prime Time: late September
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication