Back to Collegiate Peaks

1 08 2011

This weekend we’re once again headed 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 – this primitive campground has about 60 sites situated along Middle Cottonwood Creek at 9800 feet.  The sites are organized along a main road and 4 outer loops.  Many of the sites are creek-side, and nearly all set in tall pines and willow trees.

Collegiate Peaks Music Festival 2011

This weekend is the Buena Vista Music Festival.  We’ve never been to this music fest, but might decide to check it out.

Arriving about 4:30, we hoped that at least one of the 16 first-come first-serve sites would be available.  We quickly found the campground host who we had met least year and found that unfortunately, all of the sites were already reserved or occupied.  He suggest we head back down the canyon toward Buena Vista and try to find a “dispersed” camping site.  These sites provide free camping in the National Forest, but don’t offer any amenities – no water, showers or even site markers.  These are basically four wheel drive paths that have been carved out between the main roadway and the creek.  Without site markers, there is no limit to the number of campers, tents or people who may end up in these areas.

Dispersed Camping along Cottonwood Creek

Dispersed Camping along Cottonwood Creek

Based on the knowledge that a site may become available at Collegiate Peaks, we decide to stay one night in the dispersed area.  We end up parking on a narrow driveway just a few yards off the highway.  Just as we make the decision to spend the night, the rain starts and soaks the tall grass, ground and encroaching trees along our driveway site.   By the time we find a somewhat level spot, relocated a rock fire ring that was in the middle of the path, set the truck jacks, and unpack a few items from the camper, we’re all soaked and questioning our decision to stay in this muddy “ditch”.

Collegiate Peaks Site #22

Collegiate Peaks Site #22

After a warm dinner, a few cold beers and a good nights sleep, our “ditch” looks much better in the warm sunlight of the next morning.  We’re planning to return to Collegiate Peaks around 10AM, based on the advice of the camp host.  Arriving at 9:59, we’re pleased to learn that a site will be available.  And, this isn’t just any site – its site #22!  Located along the main road, this site is beautiful.  Very private, deep and enclosed on two sides by creeks, this site was the #1 selection when we were here last year.  Score!  We quickly purchase the necessary camping tag, put our reserved sign on the post and head back to move out of the dispersed campsite “ditch”.

Collegiate Peaks Site #22

Collegiate Peaks Site #22Collegiate Peaks Site #22

Sunday we’re planning to head over Cottonwood Creek pass to see Taylor Park Resevoir and some of the several campsites in the area.  But before heading over the pass, we decide to take a detour into Buena Vista, check email and pick up a few more supplies.  With our luck of snagging this great site, we’re going to stay 1 night longer, so we’ll need a bit more food and firewood.

The east side of Cottonwood Creek pass is paved while the west side, down to Taylor Reservoir, is unpaved.  The traffic headed over the pass on this Sunday afternoon is heavy, making for a slow, dusty drive.  Arriving at the reservoir, we first headed north along the west shore on highway 742.  There are two campgrounds in this direction, Rivers End is the first and located relatively close to the lake  on a bluff where Taylor River enters the Reservoir. To the north and east of Rivers End campground, sagebrush and tall grass stretch toward the mountains while to the south and west is the blue of the lake. Campgrounds, such as Dinner Station and Dorchester, well away from Taylor Park Reservoir, are tucked into forests next to rivers feeding the reservoir with sites offering views of prairies and mountains.

Heading south along the Resevoir, we come to the largest campground, Lakeview. Located well-above the lake and close to the lake’s only marina, these sites offers panoramic vistas of the Taylor Park Reservoir and the surrounding mountain ranges.  Most of the sites are deep, level, spaced far enough apart for privacy with picnic tables and tent pads. 

Taylor Park Reservoir - Lakeview campground

Taylor Park Reservoir - Lakeview campground

Taylor Park Reservoir - Lakeview campground

Taylor Park Reservoir - Lakeview campground

Taylor Park Reservoir - Lakeview site #30

Taylor Park Reservoir - Lakeview site #30

 Returning over the pass, we enjoy a quiet evening at Collegiate Peaks before heading home mid-day Monday.

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