The Colorado Rocky Mountains are a popular place for a summer vacations and depending on where a visitor goes in this region, the experience can be fulfilling or it can be more frustrating than standing in an eternal waiting line. For example, the Rocky Mountain National Park is subject to extreme overcrowding and campsite reservations need to be booked months ahead of time. On the other extreme, the lesser known destinations in the National Forests tend to see relatively few visitors and there are usually plenty of open camping options. As can be imagined, sticking with a mainstream National Park touring plan in the Rockies may result in wasting precious vacation time. Doing some in depth pre-trip research or using the zoom to seek finer details on a map is the means for finding the less crowded destinations in the Colorado Rockies. Shortly after discovering a few of these places, it becomes easy to realize that escaping from the big crowds is possible. Better still, after viewing a few pictures it becomes evident that the big National Parks are not the only attractive destinations in this region, so the experience will be equally as fulfilling.
Highway 50 has a notorious reputation of being "America's Loneliest Road" because modern tourists abandoned this old travel route shortly after the high speed Interstate Highway 70 was built. Destinations along Highway 50 now tend to be overlooked by the mainstream crowd, which actually is blessing as far as finding some breathing room is concerned. When going west, Highway 50 parallels the Arkansas River all the way to the town of Salida in the Rockies, which is where a large tract of the Arkansas River Headwaters Recreation Area can be found. By following the river road north of Salida toward the headwaters, even more recreation opportunities can be found, which include the Mount Antero Wilderness, Ruby Mountain and Browns Canyon National Monument. These are places that the mainstream midwestern tourists tend to overlook, so making the great escape happen certainly is possible in this region.
For those who seek a world of adventure, the Ruby Mountain section of the Arkansas River Recreation Area most definitely is the place to go! This is possibly the cleanest water in the entire Arkansas River and just by taking one deep breath, the long forgotten invigorating feelings of good health will return. The landscape is one of towering 14,000 foot tall mountain peaks, high desert pine forest covered foothills and gently roaring white water rapids that harbor freshwater trout. As can be imagined, the main activities in this end of the Arkansas River Headwaters are kayaking, white water rafting and nature viewing along the many hiking trails that run through the mountain canyons. Fly fishing by far is the mainstay activity and there is nothing better than cooking some fresh caught trout for dinner over a campfire after the end of a long adventurous day!
The Ruby Mountain Recreation Site signage is easy to spot along the paved road and there are about a half dozen riverside rafting businesses and fishing accesses to be found along the smooth dirt road on the way there. The Ruby Mountain Recreation Site is most famous for the riverside campground that goes by the same name. This developed campground offers fire rings, chargrills, picnic tables and tent pads right next to the river, so for fishermen and rafters, it does not get any more convenient than this! Another fun activity is garnet hunting on Ruby Mountain, which is something that children thoroughly enjoy.
The photo album for this article was captured in the month of July about 6 months before the Covid Pandemic began, so this actually was the peak tourism season. As can be seen, this end of the Arkansas River Headwaters Recreation Area is far from being overcrowded. There actually were several open riverside campsites in the Ruby Mountain Recreation Site, which is like a dream come true. This is all the evidence needed for a conviction, so be prepared to spend some quality time in captivity and with any luck, the penalty will be a life sentence turns out to be an endless summer full of fun in the sun!
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