High elevation campgrounds certainly are enticing when trying to escape from the extreme heat of summer. The crisp clean mountain air, bright sunshine and comfortably cool outdoor temperatures all add up to a great experience for individuals or an entire family. It is easy to see why these camping destinations are so popular, especially for northern people that genuinely despise triple digit heat. On the other hand, those who are accustomed to living in the scorching low desert will likely not look forward to packing winter gear for the icy cold mountain top nights. For this reason, the level of comfort at a high elevation campground is relative to where a visitor comes from. Some will relish the thought, while others will gladly decline the opportunity.
The Colorado Rocky Mountains offer plenty of high elevation camping opportunities, yet the highest percentage of visitors tend to flock to the local Rocky Mountain National Park, which is infamous for extreme overcrowding problems. In reality, this National Park only covers a small patch of land in this big mountain range, so there will be plenty of room to roam in the neighboring National Forests. Exploring the National Forest camping opportunities in Colorado definitely is the way to go, especially if escaping from the crowds is part of the vacation plan.
The Routt National Forest is just a short drive west of Rocky Mountain National Park and there is a famous touring route from Meeker to Yampa in this territory that offers several roadside camping opportunities. County Road 8 is basically a smooth dirt road highway during the summer season. Small RV campers and trailers can easily handle the grades on this touring route, but most of the campgrounds in this region were designed with seasonal hunters in mind, so the campsites tend to favor vehicle tent campers.
One of the best camping opportunities to keep an eye out for along CR 8 is the Vaughan Lake Campground, which is situated in a mountain meadow setting that is as picturesque as can be. There are only 6 campsites at Vaughn Lake, but each pad is nestled in an aspen forest, which is like a dream come true for those who plan on lazing the day away in a hammock. Basic facilities are offered, but there is no boat launch. Vaughn Lake is just a short walk downhill and the trout fishing is supreme in this big pond, so putting some fresh food on the table can be done. This is a dark sky night region that is perfect for star gazers and wildlife viewers will feel right at home too.
On the downside, this is a sheepherding and cattle ranching region, so the entire mountain meadow can have the low appeal of camping on a farm at times. The autumn season is when this campground becomes a hunter basecamp and these kinds of visitors are usually in no hurry to leave till the tags are filled. For this reason, campsite availability will be limited the closer the date is to winter, which means summer will present the best opportunity for casual campers. The shade of aspen trees next to a mountain meadow lake certainly is an appealing thought during the peak heat of summer, so be sure to keep the Vaughn Lake Campground in mind!
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