The Arapaho National Forest, comprised of 1,024,292 acres, is
located in northern Colorado, northwest of Denver. It is
administered jointly with the Roosevelt National Forest. Of the
total developed campgrounds, 17 meet the selection criteria.
The Arapaho National Forest calls itself "the quiet side of the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)". Perhaps, the names of Arapaho Basin and Winter Park are better known for their wintertime recreation opportunities but the Arapaho National Forest is more than a gateway to the RMNP or a wintertime playground. Summertime has miles and miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, numerous developed campground, robust fish population, ghost towns to explore, wildlife viewing, and scenic drives with lots of great national forest pictures waiting to be taken are just some of the recreational opportunities available in this National Forest in the middle of America.
The Peak to Peak Highway is one of the more popular scenic drives in the Arapaho National Forest. This Highway winds its way across the RMNP, over Berthoud Pass, and to the community of Black Hawk. The 52-mile route is loaded with breathtaking scenery, quaint little communities, and a number of pleasant National Forest camping locations. One, just south on the climb to Berthoud Pass (11,307), is little Mizpah campground. With a couple of tent camping sites but most campsites could accommodate any type of camper, this Forest Service campground is tucked into a dense stand of mature Englemann Spruce. Traffic on US Highway 40 can be faintly heard but not be seen, making this an good transient campground with the potential of dinner waiting in nearby stream.
North of Berthoud Pass is the resort town of Winter Park, CO. The Lyons Club of Winter Park managed four of the Arapaho's campgrounds. St. Louis
Creek, Idlewild, and Robbers Roost campgrounds have a pleasantly neat and rustic feel reminiscent of a Scout camp. In addition, St. Louis Creek and Idlewild feature unusually hiking/biking experiences. Idlewild's uniqueness is a paved 5-mile trail along the Fraser River into the downtown of Winter Park. Also found on this trail are rollerbladders and joggers. St. Louis Creek campground is in the center of nearly 600-miles of mountain biking trails winding in, out, and through the Fraser Experimental Forest. Overall, these four campgrounds for super locations of a family camping vacation.
The Arapaho National Recreation Area (ANRA), near Granby, was established in 1978. Focused on water-based recreation opportunities, the ANRA features several large lakes but also enjoys the many recreational opportunities found in the forested settings of the Indians Peaks Wilderness and RMNP. Besides offering such a wide variety of activities, the ANRA's campgrounds vary in their levels of development. Stillwater campground, on the shores of Lake Granby, features hot water showers, a dump station, and some electric hook-ups. With the RMNP near and the beautiful Lake Granby right there, Stillwater is not only a pleasant overnight stop but a good option for RMNP basecamp that includes fishing and boating. Nearby, Green Ridge campground also offers visitors a convenient overnight campsite, dump station, and the same water based activities but also has several hiking trails (including the Continental Divide Scenic Trail) and a wildlife viewing area. For those visitors to the ANRA wanting a more rustic forest experience and great car and tent camping, there is the delightfully seclude Arapaho Bay campground. Far from the maddening crowd, Arapaho Bay stretches out along Lake Granby in a mature forest of mixed conifers. With some of the nicest walk-in tent sites (one is nicknamed "Lovers Site") and long, level parking aprons ideal for recreational vehicles, Arapaho Bay campground is good campground for both tenters and RVers.
A couple of "must do" daytrips are a drive to the top of Mt. Evans and Guanella Pass. From the 14,264-foot summit of Mt. Evans see the entire Front Range. Visitors to the summit are likely to be observed by one of the resident Mountain goats relaxing among the boulders near to ruins of the Crest House, a former restaurant destroyed by a lightning strike years ago. Bighorn sheep, marmot, pika, and other wildlife are often seen. More than 100-miles of hiking trails offer the more adventurous another way to explore Mt. Evan. Summit Lake, the highest wheelchair accessible lake in the United States, and Lincoln Lake are two popular area destinations, as is the Goliath Natural Area.
For those who want to spend more than a day on Mt. Evans can stay at Arapaho National Forest's Echo Lake campground. Located at the beginning of the Mt. Evans Auto Route, Echo Lake campground is nestled in a grove of Englemann spruce. The tiny Echo Lake (5-acres) is a nice location for canoeing while the campground is well-suited for tent and small RV camping enthusiasts. Across the street is the Echo Lake Lodge which offers meals in its restaurant. This unique feature of Echo Lake campground may not be everyone's idea of "real" camping but, to others, no cooking and no dishes to wash sounds like a true vacation.
West of Mt. Evans is the Scenic and Historic Byway over Guanella Pass. An old wagon route linking mining communities of Georgetown and Grant, the Byway has everything – geology, tundra, wildlife viewing, fishing, hiking and historic mining towns. At about the midpoint is Guanella Pass campground. An excellent location from which to explore the area, Guanella Pass campground hugs the mountain beside a fast-flowing stream tucked under mature woods. And each site has a delightful, if not the best, vista of surrounding mountain peaks.
The former summer hunting range of the native people was established as the Arapaho National Forest on July 1, 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt. Much has changed in the region since then: the Rocky Mountain National Park has been established; reservoirs have been built; and, many former wagon tracks are now high-speed, paved roadways. While much has changed, much is the same. Elk, moose, and mule deer can still be seen nibbling on the sweet mountain meadow graze. Osprey, eagles, and red-tail hawks continue to soar above. And magnificent scenery surrounds the Arapaho National Forest visitor no matter what they do.
2150 Centre Ave.
Fort Collins, Colorado 80526
RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES
101 Chicago Creek
Idaho Springs, Colorado 80452
9 Ten Mile Dr.
Granby, Colorado 80446