Flickr album link: Buckeye Recreation Area & Pioneer Campground
The Manti La Sal National Forest covers several strands of high elevation pine forests in east central Utah. The boundaries of this national forest extend into the La Sal Mountains next to Moab, Utah and across the border into Colorado. The highest percentage of Moab visitors only plan on experiencing the many natural wonders to be found in the high desert red rock terrain and most are content with just looking at the La Sal Mountains in the distant background. Relatively few Moab adventurists head uphill into the neighboring mountains, yet this is where cooler temperatures can be found during the scorching hot summer months. The La Sal Mountains also offer an opportunity to escape from the big crowds, so destinations in this region are well worth checking out.
First of all, the fuel stations are few and far between outside of Moab, so topping off the tank is best to do before heading up into the La Sal Mountains. Naturita or Nucla are two Colorado towns that offer modern amenities east of the La Sal Mountains. This is a good spot to fuel up, especially for those who are traveling west on the Rimrocker Jeep Trail to Moab from Montrose, Colorado. The Rimrocker is a 160 mile trail that is rated as easy to moderate difficulty and it literally runs straight through the Buckeye Recreation Area up in the La Sal Mountains. Nucla is the last place to fuel up before going up and over the mountains to Moab, while the Pioneer Campground is the perfect spot for doing an overnighter about halfway through the journey.
A heavy duty high ground clearance 4x4 utility vehicle is best for the long Rimrocker Trail ride, but there are other options to get to the Buckeye Recreation Area with a lighter duty vehicle. County Road 0371 begins in Paradox, Colorado next to the Las Sal Mountains and this smooth dirt road goes all the way to the Pioneer Campground up in the high elevations. There are a few overlooks along the way that offer fantastic views of the Paradox Valley, which truly is a sight for sore eyes. Soon the deep pine forest surrounds everything until arriving at the Buckeye Recreation Area meadows and reservoir lake.
The Buckeye Recreation Area receives light to moderate traffic even on busy weekends, so plenty peace and quiet can be found here. Wildlife abounds in the grassy meadows early and late in the day, while birding along the edge of the forest is fun to do anytime. The reservoir lake does dry up late in the summer season, so there are no fishing guarantees. As a plus, the towering pines provide plenty of shade and all it takes is a little breeze to create music for the ears, which is like a dream come true for those who relish the though of lazing the day away in a hammock.
Dispersed camping is allowed around the reservoir, while the Pioneer Campground offers 30 developed sites and some of the pads can accommodate large RV campers or trailers. Most of the campsites with small pads are better suited for car and tent campers. The Pioneer Campground features basic facilities, picnic tables and fire rings. Bear safe food storage is required and it is best to be aware of mountain lions for the sake of small children or pets. On the downside, the high elevation meadows in the national forests tend to be summer season cattle grazing areas and cattle certainly have overrun the reservoir. A rail fence keeps most of the cattle out of the campground, but there are times when the experience compares to camping next a stinky cow field, so the Buckeye Recreation Area may not be ideal for everybody. For Rimrocker Trail riders, it does not get much better than this and a cozy spot to bed down certainly is appealing after the long bumpy ride!
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