Greetings from Collegiate Peaks Campground

28 08 2010
Collegiate Peaks Campground

Collegiate Peaks Campground

In a rather spontaneous departure, we decided we wanted to get away for the weekend, loaded up the camper and were on the road by 5:30 on Friday.  We headed south on 285, up over Kenosha Pass, past Jefferson Lake, through Fairplay and into Buena Vista.  We’re headed for a Federal campsite about 10 miles outside of Buena Vista.  The Collegiate Peaks Wilderness area encompasses 168,000 acres in central Colorado, between Buena Vista, Leadville and Aspen.  Collegiate Peaks campground is about half way up Cottonwood Creek Canyon, situated between the creek and County road 206.  About 1/3 of the 40 sites have direct creek side access.  All of the sites are rustic, no paved roads or site pads here – several water taps (without threaded attachments) and convenient, clean vault toilets.

Mt Princeton

Mt Princeton

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness is locally known as the home of the 14’ers, with 5 peaks topping out at over 14,000 feet named for famous universities and colleges:  Mt. Harvard, Mt. Oxford, Mt. Yale, Mt. Princeton and Mt. Columbia.  This area is also the headwaters for 3 important rivers in the western US, the Arkansas, a major Mississippi River tributary; the Gunnison and the Roaring Fork, both tributaries of the Colorado River.  The Gunnison River flows toward Gunnison forming the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, the longest, narrowest and deepest gorge in the world.  (and the location of a future camping adventure).  For hiking, Collegiate Peaks Wilderness area is crossed by both the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide Trail.

Site 5

Site 5

Arriving around 7:30, night was falling and we choose site #5, very close to the campground entrance  and site host.  The host was a friendly retired gentleman, who when asked “where’s home”, answered “home’s wherever my rig is parked”.  He’s been hosting at Collegiate Peaks for the last 5 years, and has been a “full-time RV’er” for 13 years.  Arriving from Arizona via Lake Powell or Lake Mead, he spends the summer at nearly 10,000 feet in these beautiful Colorado mountains.  But, with a self-professed “allergy to snow”, he’s anxious to head south on September 13th when the campground closes.

Site 21

Site 21

Nearly all sites are back-in, with pit fire rings and newly painted picnic tables.  Site #5 was set back in the trees with easy access to two of the vault toilets.  However, after 1 night here we decided there was too much main-road traffic and opted to make a move on Saturday morning to site #21.  Originally, based on the online reserveramerica.com map, we had selected site 22 or 31 for creek side access.  However both sites were occupied when we arrived and didn’t become free when we were looking to relocated on Saturday morning.  Sites #20 and #22 have some of the best creek access, deep, heavily wooded sites have great flat spaces right next to rushing Cottonwood Creek.

Buena Vista City Park

Buena Vista City Park

Collegiate Peaks campground is well outside of cell coverage that comes from Buena Vista, so after selecting a new site on Saturday morning, we took the short drive down the hill into Buena Vista to do a quick email check and make some phone calls.  In Buena Vista we parked in a beautiful city park with a small Lake, several picnic tables and public restrooms.  The cell coverage was exceptional, so we fired up the Verizon broadband connection for email and some web surfing.  After a quick stop at the local grocery store, we made our way back up Cottonwood creek canyon.

Cottonwood Pass Summit

Cottonwood Pass Summit

About 10 miles beyond the campground was the summit of Cottonwood Pass at 12,125 feet.  The paved road ends at the summit of the pass where a well maintained dirt road continues down the western slope to Taylor River and reservoir in Gunnison County. There appear to many great campgrounds along the Taylor River that beg for exploration – next year.

Views from the Continental Divide

Views from the Continental Divide

Taylor Park Dam and Reservoir are part of the Uncompahgre Water Project that provides water to over 76,000 acres of land between Montrose and Delta.  The project includes Taylor Reservoir, the Gunnison Tunnel, 7 diversion dams and over 500 miles of canals.  The project is within the Colorado River basin.

Views from the Continental Divide

Views from the Continental Divide

Back at Collegiate Peaks, we spent a quiet afternoon relaxing, walking around to meet a few fellow campers and enjoyed a dinner of grilled brats and corn on the cob.  Not long after dinner the clouds rolled in and drizzled on our campfire until we decided to give up the fire and go to bed.

Sunday morning brought another sunny, beautiful day when we had a leisurely breakfast, packed up and headed back home.  Collegiate Peaks campground is defiantly a campsite we’ll keep in our list of favorites for next year.

Site notes: #22 deep near creek, slightly unlevel; #21 close to vault toilet, good site in combination with #20 or #22; #36 upper loop, close to bathroom, high (up stairs) firepit and table; #5 too close to main entrance road, dusty, noisy; #20 long area to creek, level, lots of tent space.

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28 08 2011
Back to Collegiate Peaks « Small Home – Big Yard

[…] to Buena Vista and the Collegiate Peaks campground along Cottonwood Creek.  We first camped at Collegiate Peaks last September, just a few weekends before it closed.  Located about 14 miles west of Buena Vista, CO – […]

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