We’ve enjoyed our stay at the Chatfield State Park despite Mother Nature’s wrath. Colorado’s front range received a ton of spring rain and now with the runoff from mountain snows melting, the Chatfield Reservoir is at record high levels. The flooding is so severe that the west side of the park is closed as are all the boat ramps. To top things off, ALL sewer services within the park have been shut off. That means, no RV sewer connections, no dump station, no restroom flush toilets, and no showers anywhere in the park. Restroom buildings have been locked and lovely construction porta-potties placed onsite in lieu. And I won’t begin to mention the power outages.
If there’s anything this RV life has taught us, it’s to expect the unexpected and learn to roll with the flow and adjust accordingly. And of course, a good sense of humor always helps. So although we endured a few inconveniences during our Chatfield State Park visit, we still enjoyed our stay immensely.
One afternoon during one of those power outages, fellow campers were out and about checking with one another…. “Do you have power?” During such an exchange, we ended up meeting some folks from Illinois.
As former Illinoisans, the conversation flowed freely. The young couple, camping in a small travel trailer, were on a two-week vacation and wanted to see and experience Colorado’s finest.
Al and I did our best to answer their list of questions. We offered recommendations on roads to avoid while pulling the trailer, keeping in mind this was their first visit to the Rocky Mountains. Roads that Al and I are comfortable pulling aren’t necessarily roads we’d recommend for those less seasoned when it comes to mountain driving.
One particular question that had hubby and I torn – “What is your all time favorite, must see, Colorado town?” (ah, a blog post(s) was born) Al and I agreed it was a toss-up between Crested Butte and Grand Lake. Both towns are beautiful in their own right and are very different from one another. They both share plenty of charm, character, and beautiful scenery.
When we moved to Colorado in the mid-nineties, Crested Butte was the first mountain town our family of four (plus doggie) visited. I think Crested Butte will always hold a special place in my heart due to the special family moments experienced here.
One memorable trip occurred three years ago when I had a crazy idea to go tent camping at Lake Irwin. I wanted to take the little truck (Tacoma) and explore some of the 4×4 back country roads north of Crested Butte. Thus, we left the comforts of the RV behind and packed up the camping gear.
Lake Irwin is located west of the town of Crested Butte near Kebler Pass and sits at an elevation of 10,000 feet. Somehow that elevation thing didn’t register properly in my mind when I set up this excursion.
Since this was in the middle of summer, I knew the temperatures would still drop substantially during the night, but I never imagined they would drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Thank goodness, hubby brought an extra sleeping bag to throw over us. Even poor Bear was shivering during the night until I covered him with my sweatshirt.
It was mid July and the Wildflower Festival was in full swing. No coincidence there. The trip was planned with the wildflowers in mind.
Crested Butte relishes the title of “Wildflower Capital of Colorado”. Although according to locals, the drought conditions of 2012 lead to a dismal display of wildflowers. No matter who we talked to (merchant, waitress, gas station attendant) everyone apologized for the pure showing of wildflowers and asked us to please come back next year. Regardless, the countryside was and is stunningly beautiful. The town of Crested Butte is filled with charm and character. Mount Crested Butte is a little further up the road and this is where the ski slopes are located. Even though the 1980’s architecture at Mt. Crested Butte is lacking in style and character when compared to downtown Crested Butte, it’s still worth a stroll around and there’s new updates yearly.
The back country north of Crested Butte is not to be missed, but strolling the town of Crested Butte can also be pleasurable. Of course, there was a little T-shirt shopping involved during our visit (a habit of mine). Not wanting to leave Bear in the vehicle, Bear shopped with us and was welcome in most stores.
To read more about Crested Butte, visit our 2012 excursion – click here and here. We revisited again in 2013 and I share a little more info here. I wonder, with all the moisture Colorado has received this year, if the wildflowers won’t be in abundance and offer a stunning show for this year’s wildflower festival. Who’s willing to check it out for me? I’d go, but I already have commitments 😦
Camping? With a tent, truck camper, or small trailer there’s a bunch of options to choose: from the Blue Mesa Reservoir to Crested Butte to National Forest back country. With a bigger RV the list quickly dwindles. With our modest 31 feet, we could fit into a few sites at Lake Irwin providing one such site was available.
There does seem to be some free boondocking off-road 730 (Ohio Pass) just south of road 12 (Kebler Pass) which we would consider, but it does require traveling gravel roads to get there. Washington Gulch Road also has some spots.
When we returned to the area in 2013 with the 5th wheel, we stayed at an RV Park off Highway 50 near the Blue Mesa Reservoir (west of the town of Gunnison). During that visit, we spent some time checking out more campgrounds. You can read about those camping options here.
For any first time Crested Butte RV visitor, I would highly recommend staying in a park off Highway 50 and exploring the Crested Butte area WITHOUT the RV first. We all develop our own level of comfort when it comes to roads and parking conditions. Al and I find the camping accommodations around Crested Butte to be a little more challenging than we’d like with the RV, but that’s not to say it wouldn’t work for you.
The stunning scenery in this part of Colorado should not be missed. Crested Butte is definitely at the top of the list when it comes to “must see” places in Colorado….. it’s a favorite. Up next, we’ll visit Grand Lake.