Image above: The road along McClure Pass on Highway 133
Does your idea of road-tripping involve camping or RVing rather than a hotel stay? We totally get it. These are scenic byways, after all, so getting out into nature should be a part of the drive. For good places to pitch your tent or park your trailer, reserve a site in advance at one of these options.
Grand Mesa: On the north side, in the Mesa Lakes area, Jumbo Campground sits between two lakes and has electricity-equipped sites popular with RVers. On the south side, near the visitor center, Island Lake, Little Bear, and Ward Lake campgrounds all offer forested sites with direct access to Island and Ward lakes.
West Elk Loop: There are few places more exhilarating to pitch your tent than the North Rim Campground at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, located on a peninsula surrounded by 2,000-foot drops. (Just don’t sleepwalk!) Closer to Crested Butte, Lake Irwin Campground abuts an alpine lake beneath towering Ruby Peak.
Top of the Rockies/Collegiate Peaks: Midway between Nathrop and Salida, Hecla Junction Campground sits on the Arkansas River in the heart of Brown’s Canyon. For mountain camping, Mount Princeton, Chalk Lake, and Cascade campgrounds, along the road to St. Elmo, offer easy access to hiking, fishing at Chalk Lake, or just soaking in the views of the chalk cliffs looming to the north.
The Tent: Big Agnes Big House 4
A cinch to put up, this large, three-season tent has enough head room so that kids and many adults can stand up inside, plus two large doors with ventilation options. $300 at Ute Mountaineer