Five Star Campingin Southwest Colorado
Site privacy: 4
Site spaciousness: 4
Make a transfer to the most attractive campground in the San Juan National Forest.
Transfer Park is steeped in history. The attractive, mountain-rimmed meadow was once a point where tools and supplies were transferred from horse-drawn wagons to mules for use beyond the rugged Florida River canyon in the late 1800s. Ore, mostly gold and silver, would be brought down in the wagons. These days, the 11-acre site is such a scenic campground that it just may prevent you from enjoying the hiking, fishing, rafting, train riding, and town touring that the area has to offer.
Drop into the upper meadow and come to the campground. Miller Mountain stands guard over Transfer Park. There are two camping loops. The right-hand loop has ten campsites and is set in a mature aspen grove mixed with some Ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, and small clearings. Smaller trees and brush form a fairly thick understory. The campsites are large and well separated from one another. Wooden posts delineate each site from one another. The forest closes near the meadow, then opens back up as the loop is completed. You can find just about any combination of sun and shade you desire. There is one vault toilet and one spigot in the center of the loop.
The left-hand loop is lower and closer to the Florida River. Drop down along Transfer Park and the 15 campsites begin. The forest here is more mixed conifers and thus is shadier. The thicker forest and rock outcrops make for a closed-in, intimate feeling on this loop. The gush of the Florida River can be heard loud and clear. About half the campsites are on the heavily wooded inside of the loop. A few campsites border the river gorge, but a wood fence prevents campers from falling into the river below. Two vault toilets and two water spigots serve this loop.
This campground used to be on a reservation basis, but was taken off because it didn't fill. Forest Service personnel say it is rarely over 50% capacity. It is an odd fact, but a good one, for tent campers who find their way to this gorgeous place.
Those who do make it here now have to choose among the array of nearby activities. You can trace the old mine trail up along the Florida River. It is primarily used now by fishermen who vie for native cutthroat trout and a few kokanee salmon, which make their way up from Lemon Reservoir. Hiking comes naturally, as the Burnt Timber Trail starts at the top of the campground. This path leads into the nearly 500,000-acre Weminuche Wilderness. A reasonable destination is the southern end of Lime Mesa.
Just up bumpy Forest Service Road 597, which starts by Florida Campground, are two short hikes into Lost Lake and Stump Lake. Lost Lake has no fish. A longer trek goes up Endlich Mesa to the City Reservoir area, which is more attractive than it sounds. Downstream from Transfer Park is Lemon Reservoir. It is a rainbow trout, kokanee salmon, and pike fishery. The popular angling areas are near the dam and at the Lemon Day Use Area.
The rest of the action is down Durango way. It is a historic western town that is cashing in on the tourism craze. The historic district is real, and you can find anything you desire to consume or own. However, if you want to move through some good natural scenery, try the narrow-gauge Silverton Train or a rafting trip on the Piedre or Animas Rivers.
The Durango and Silverton Railroad was constructed in the 1880s to haul gold and silver from the San Juan Mountains. The train trip is an easy way to see the Weminuche Wilderness. It is an all-day affair getting to and from Silverton, but it will be one of the more scenic trips of your life.
The rivers offer more rollicking action. The lower Animas goes through Durango and is a little on the tame side. But the Upper Animas offers Class IV-V rapids. The Piedre has Class III-IV rapids and a wild atmosphere. Contact one of the many outfitters listed at the Durango Chamber of Commerce.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication