As we return today from our first RV camping vacation in the Colorado mountains, I struggle to put into words what it has meant to us. (Luckily, I had about seven hours to think about it during the drive back.) The kids thrived in the outdoors with so much freedom to explore and let loose. My husband Kenny and I didn’t have to entertain them, so it allowed us some time to reconnect and enjoy the scenery ourselves. Half of our trip was disconnected from wifi so it reminded us that we can live without technology. And I got to feed my creative soul by capturing the vacation on my GoPro8 (without lugging my real cameras along for the ride).
If you know me even a little, you know how much I love hiking and appreciate the outdoors…but the truth is I’ve never seen myself as much of a camper. I like my hot showers, warm bed, and stocked fridge, among all of the other comforts of mountain vacations in an airbnb. So as we planned this trip, we knew it had to be a little higher on the glamping meter to keep mama happy. Ask and my husband delivered.
Choosing our “perfect” vehicle
We started by renting an RV though outdoorsy.com that was light enough for our Buick Enclave to tow. It had bunk beds for the kids (with a rigged up black-out curtain to close up the bunks so Lily could sleep past 8am like she prefers), a kitchen with fridge, range, and sink, a bathroom with shower and toilet, a dinette, and a queen-width master bed (though at 6’2” tall, Kenny would have liked to take the window screen out for extra leg room if he could).
Even though this RV was barely two years old, a couple things broke while we were using it. My handy hubby was able to fix them with a quick trip to the store. Based on our research (and fair warning from our camper-savvy friends), that’s typical of using these vehicles. Some even say that it takes a couple years to work out the kinks before you’re in the clear.
Where to stay
Once we had the housing covered, we finished the plans for the campsites. We knew we wanted to stay near Ouray, known as the “Switzerland of America.” We weren’t ready for dispersed camping (also called boondocking) as our first trial run, so we looked for campsites and RV parks. That’s when we discovered Ridgway State Park, approximately 6 hours from Castle Rock (or longer if you’re towing more than a ton of weight with a v6 family SUV over several mountain passes).
Ridgway sits among massive ridges, a five-mile long reservoir, fishing ponds, and a river. Each semi-private campsite is situated around multiple loop formations and includes ample open space between sites.
So with fingers crossed that there’d be an opening on a holiday week, we found last minute availability by breaking it up into two parts!
Part 1: Pa-Co-Chu-Puk Campground at Ridgway State Park (Loop G)
This campground was situated above fishing ponds and the Uncompahgre River. Follow one of the paths down and you meet up with an easy hiking trail that loops through the forest and along the river. The kids loved exploring the campground on their bikes and they had so much freedom and open space to do so.
Part 2: Elk Ridge Campground at Ridgway State Park (Loop D)
On our fourth day at RSP, we moved to our next site situated on the ridge above the reservoir. This had sweeping views of both the Uncompahgre and San Juan Mountains that took my breath away (literally, my husband told me to stop gasping like something was wrong).
This campground does not offer a direct water hookup. With our camper’s fresh water tank and a water hydrant nearby to fill up our extra fresh water tank (the seven gallon blue jug on the table below), we limited showers and had enough for a few days.
In conclusion: This state park is must-stay for campers. If you can live without unlimited running water inside your RV but you still want electric, go for the Elk Ridge campground.
One of my fears of living in a camper for a week was that I would be anxious and stressed about us all being on top of each other. In reality, we spent hardly any time inside, and the kids entertained themselves for hours on end with nature and the few toys we brought from home. (Though perhaps that would be different if the weather hadn’t been in our favor.)
Along with playing at our campsite, we did several memorable hikes. So follow along with my next post for the highlight reel of our exploration out west!
**If you think your family is up for an adventure like this, join me on Outdoorsy, the #1 easiest way to rent a cool rv or campervan, and get $50 on your first rental. Tons of vans to choose from, tons of ways to get outside.** Sign up:
Photography by Alyssum is a studio and lifestyle family photographer located in Castle Rock, Colorado, serving surrounding areas in Denver, Littleton, Louviers, Sedalia, Sterling Ranch, Highlands Ranch, Castle Pines, Parker, Franktown, Larkspur, Centennial, Douglas County, and Jefferson County. I would love to help you schedule your baby’s portrait session or your family’s sunset golden hour session!