Seeking relief from the summertime heat up in the San Juan Mountains is always a good idea. In the mile high elevations the daytime outdoor temperatures drop to a comfortable level and the nights are guaranteed to be cool. The tall pine forests provide plenty of shade, so the fun in the sun will not end up being a blistering sunburn session. In the mountain forests there is plenty of Mother Nature to see and there is always a surprise around every corner. Camping in the mountains also allows visitors to get in touch with the natural earth rhythm, which helps to divine problems that cause stress back home in the modern world. These are all good positive wave makers, but it really is the hiking, picnicking and just plain old goofing off is that makes a summer camping trip in the mountains well worthwhile!
Camping definitely is a viable accommodation option in the San Juan National Forest region and there actually are campgrounds located near metropolitan areas, so stocking up on supplies during an extended stay can be easy to do. In fact, camping is really the way to go when visiting the San Juan Mountains because the environmental conditions are usually ideal and the local tourism industry focuses on outdoor adventure. During busy holiday weekends, camping may end up being the only accommodation option, because the motels in towns like Durango can easily be at full capacity. There are many National Forest camping areas around Durango and the Junction Creek Campground is one of the most convenient in this neck of the woods.
RV camping is popular in the San Juan National Forest, especially in the lower elevations. In Durango there are several privately owned RV parks, but these places do charge hefty fees. The commercial campgrounds usually have showers, laundry, playgrounds and a general store, so the level of comfort is quite appealing for those who seek convenience. Most of the local National Forest campsites near Durango are RV camper friendly, but they do lack items of convenience, like a power connection or a dump station, so primitive self reliant RV camping is most often the mode.
For those who prefer a more down to earth approach to venturing into the great outdoors, the San Juan National Forest Campgrounds are the way to go, but there is a hitch. Most of the National Forest campgrounds can only be accessed by dirt road. Some of the dirt roads are smooth enough for regular passenger cars and some of the dirt roads are so rough that is takes a 4×4 to get through. The rule of thumb to follow is the National Forest campgrounds that are located closest to the city will usually have the smoothest dirt roads and this holds true for the Junction Creek Campground site. Both RV campers and regular passengers can easily access this campground on any given day in the summer season.
The San Juan National Forest surrounds Durango and the Junction Creek Campground is located just west of the historic downtown area. All it takes is following a few side roads to find this place that sits high above the city in the neighboring mountains. Many trails run through this area and this is a mountain biker’s paradise. The Junction Creek Campground is also where the Durango access to the Colorado Trail can also be found. The Colorado Trail is part of the Continental Divide Trail system, so long distance thru hikers often can be seen hoofing it along the side of the road to resupply downtown. Because of the downtown proximity and the key trailhead being onsite, one can imagine that the Junction Creek Campground is a busy little place. This is not necessarily true, because most tourists prefer to camp further uphill in the mountains. For whatever the unknown reason, the Junction Creek Campground never seems crowded when I have passed by, so this spot could be considered to be a hidden gem.
The Junction Creek Campground does have facilities. There are picnic tables and chargrill pits on site, so visitors will have all the comforts of home out in the woods. When visiting the San Juan National Forest campgrounds it is important to understand the posted rules. Wildfires are an ever present danger, so the fire prevention rules must be strictly adhered to, even if it means eating cold meals on high fire danger days. The other main rule has to do with not feeding the wildlife and secure bear proof food storage, which is pretty easy to understand.
During weekends, especially three day holiday weekends, the campgrounds can fill up quick, so it is best to make reservations ahead of time. National Forest campsites in Colorado are usually managed by a caretaker, so reservations for large group events can easily be done. Just like at the National Parks, the most popular National Forest campgrounds have an internet website reservation system, so campsite reservations can be made with ease.
Planning a trip to the San Juan Mountains during the summer season is a great way to have some fun in the sun while beating the extreme heat! For those who prefer to not stare at four walls while on vacation, opting for campground accommodations is the way to go. For those who prefer some convenience while roughing it, selecting a campground near a gateway town is the best choice. The Junction Creek Campground certainly fits this bill of fare, so be sure to keep this little gem in mind!
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