Kelly Dahl Campground-Nederland, CO

Happy camper

Before our son was born, we talked about what we wanted for him. We knew we wanted him be compassionate, to think for himself, to have independence. We also talked about wanting him to have an appreciation for nature and the outdoors. To value experiences more than things.

Then after he was born, we were consumed with figuring out the whole parenting thing. I’m also a worrier by nature and having kids has only thrown that into overdrive. I felt like I wanted to keep him a bubble. I only watch kid movies anymore, but it made me think of this Finding Nemo quote:

MARLIN: No. I promised him I’d never let anything happen to him.

DORY: Huh. That’s a funny thing to promise.


DORY: Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.

Once we started sleeping through the night, we decided we would venture on our first family camping trip. At this point, our son was almost two. I worried about everything. Bears, mountain lions, the fire-pit, rain, cold nights. We knew we needed to just try it, if we wanted to create the types of experiences we hoped for our son.

 Kelly Dahl Campground

Photo: US Department of Agriculture Forest Service

We picked Kelly Dahl Campground outside of Nederland for our first family camping trip. This is a great spot for a first trip, because it is so close to town if you need to get to civilization. Nederland is just four miles away, which is just outside of Boulder.


From Denver, go north on Interstate 25 to US Highway 36 west to Boulder. Take Colorado Highway 119 (Canyon Boulevard) west for 22 miles to Nederland. Continue south for 4 miles to the campground.


It is located in the Arapho National Forest at 8,600 feet elevation. The scenery is peaceful hills overlooking ponderosa pines. There are 46 campsites for RV’s, trailers, and tents with 20 campsites available for walk-ups. However, I would recommend a reservation since it is a quite popular. Leased dogs are welcome.

Spoiler alert: the pack ‘n play was not used. A dog and a child ended up in my sleeping bag.

Be Aware

Pine beetles have infested much of the area, leaving little to shade. Bring a shade tent if you have one. There is no dump station and no hook-ups. Remember this is bear country. Do not leave your food or trash out overnight.

Good stuff

For families, this is a very easy campground. There are fire-pits, picnic tables, vault toilets, potable water faucets, and last but not least, a playground.

The playground and a Strider bike kept our son busy most of the time. The campsite has some dirt roads to explore for a quick hike, walk or run, but no formal trails. However, these trails are a quick drive away:

West Magnolia Loop

East Portal Trailhead

Devil’s Thumb Pass

All in all, our first camping trip as a family was a success. We didn’t see any bears or mountain lions. It only rained a little, and with good sleeping bags, we weren’t too cold. As a family, we feel more empowered to experience more adventures together.


The Helpful Hiker

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4 thoughts on “Kelly Dahl Campground-Nederland, CO

  1. This sounds like an awesome campground. It sounds like they cater really well for families. I love the quote from Finding Nemo too – I’ll definitely be stealing that at some point. Thanks for joining us on #adventurecalling. We’re back open in the morning for new posts.

  2. Sounds like a perfect family camp and those walking trails look good. We started camping with my son when he was four months old, although we don’t have bears or mountain lions or even extreme weather to contend with! It’s pretty tame in the UK by comparison.I hope you continue to have lots more adventures together. Thank you for sharing with us #AdventureCalling

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