Hermit Park: Family Camping Spot and Kruger Rock Trail in Estes Park, CO

Hermit Park is a great family camping spot, close to town, and close to Rocky Mountain National Park without being in the park. Meaning, you can take your dog since dogs aren’t allowed in RMNP.

family camping spot
Little camping helper. Don’t worry he didn’t actually put it in the fire.

Hermit Park was the first place we took our camper, our youngest son’s first camping trip (at least outside my belly), and our first Mother’s Day as a family Hermit Park and Kruger Rock Trail in Estes Park, CO of four. Lots of special memories here.

Hermit Park Camping

It’s a pretty large camping area and even spots available to horse trailers. Here, you can hike, bike, horseback ride, and even rent out a large pavilion if you had a crowd. We stayed in the Kruger Campground and it was walking distance to the Kruger Rock Trail. The spots provide a good amount of privacy with lots of trees for shade.

You can expect:

  • fire rings
  • vaulted toilets
  • water
  • picnic tables
  • cabins, non-electric RV and tent sites

Kruger Rock Trail

We ventured to the Kruger Rock Trail with one kid in the Baby Bjorn and one throwing a gigantic tantrum. On the second attempt, we had a nice family hike. The trail is easy enough for young kids, and has plenty of little creatures to look at on the way. Out and back is four miles, and I’d say we made it about a mile.

On this trip we learned a few things to prepare us for more family trips:

  1. Always go with another family with kids to keep the kids entertained.
  2. One person has to set up, while the other has to stop the children from eating rocks.
  3. Things don’t always go as planned, hence the two hiking attempts.
  4. A buddy heater makes for a much more enjoyable camping experience.
  5. Do not ever forget the coffee maker. We made due by creating our own (I wrote about it here). But a french press is better.

All in all, this was a great family camping spot and we hope to return again…with a french press.

Curt Gowdy State Park in Laramie County, Wyoming

Curt Gowdy State Park
Curt Gowdy State Park. View from Federal Bay Groupsite.

On the one and a half hour drive to Curt Gowdy State Park, it looked a little rainy, but nothing too serious. Then it down poured and the sky turned an eerie shade of green. I pictured a Wyoming tornado whisking us away before we arrived at the campsite. We were so close to booking a hotel room in Cheyenne when the clouds parted.

Ah ahh ahhh (cue birds chirping).

The sun’s rays were shooting up behind the mountains and mule deer were frolicking in the fields. I think this is pretty symbolic of Wyoming-extreme weather and extreme beauty. I wish I got picture of our drive in, but I’m not sure my camera phone could have captured that moment.

How to Get Here

Directions (via Google Maps)-From Denver take I-25N. Take Exit 8B to merge onto I-80 W toward Laramie. Take exit 357 for WY-222 toward Roundtop Rd. Follow WY-210 W (aka Happy Jack Rd) to Granite Springs Rd.

Curt Gowdy State Park and Campground

Curt Gowdy State Park has everything camping families could want. First, it’s a huge park on roughly 3,500 acres, three reservoirs, and 159 campsites (90 reserve-able sites and 69 first come first serve).

The state park is known for hiking, biking and horse back riding on it’s extensive trail system; water activities; archery; and the Hynds Lodge historical site. You can even get married at the lodge and rent an amphitheater. Neat!

Perhaps it’s not as noteworthy, but my kids were particularly excited about the playgrounds. I spotted three.

Playground at Curt Gowdy State Park

I can’t tell you what the best site is, but I think we had a great one at the Federal Bay Groupsite. The groupsite allows three “camping units” and can be shared with friends. We could easily share meals with our friends and chat by the fire after the kids went to bed. The kids loved it too, because they could ride their bikes in countless circles around the open area.

Curt Gowdy State Park
Tiny biker

Other amenities include pay showers and flush toilets (only at the visitors center) which was so nice since we did four nights here. There is a pop up store with ice, firewood and other miscellaneous items like ice cream and condiments. We made a few trips here, because why not get ice cream? Additionally, our site had tables and fire rings and drinking water could be found nearby.

Biking

We mainly came here to mountain bike. The extensive trail system has coded all the trails green, blue, black and red. Our oldest even did some of the easier sections of the Shoreline Trail. I will admit the trail got a little hairy for him, and he had a melt down mid-trail. However, the meltdown was not because the trail was too hard, but because I made him turnaround.

Curt Gowdy State Park
Shoreline Trail at Curt Gowdy State Park

We did family bike rides and the ladies even got a some time away, just us! I haven’t ridden my mountain bike in 1.5 years, and I actually put my helmet on backwards. It had been that long that I can’t even put on a helmet properly.

We went with the Stone Temple trail, a blue, because we thought it would be challenging, but not too challenging. It’s a pretty moderate 3.8 mile loop with an easyish climb followed by a downhill.

There were optional technical sections or “play areas” for the dare devils. You can easily skip over those sections if you are following the signs. A few times we accidentally went over a rock or two and would shout, “abort!” to alert the person behind not to follow. Perhaps I will get more daring if I go more. Or perhaps I won’t. Either way, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, because we have similar skill sets with nothing to prove.

Picture taking was high on the priority list.

Curt Gowdy State Park
View from Stone Temple Trail

The ladies also rode the Shoreline Trail in full. The Shoreline Trail is an easy green single-track with rolling hills. Again, picture taking was a key element to the ride.

Curt Gowdy State Park
Bike Pic

Given that it was fourth of July weekend, some of the trails were crowded. Our friends went to Hidden Falls, and recommended skipping it since there too many people. Naturally, I was a little bummed I missed the trail with a waterfall. We will just have to make a point to see this on the next trip.

Water sports

Camping, biking and hiking is fun and all, but anything on the water feeds my soul. I don’t know if it was growing up in Florida or spending time at Lake of the Ozarks as a kid, but I could spend all day, everyday on the water.

I kept saying the only thing I want to do is go paddle-boarding. A small storm came in, and I was sure it wasn’t going to happen this trip. But again the clouds parted and paddle boarding we went. Mountain SUP rents paddle boards and kayaks and sells shirts. See this place really has everything.

We did a one hour rental. I had a SUP with our 22 month old, and my husband with our 4 year old. Wyatt who is going through a crying phase, was pretty happy on the paddle board. I think he likes the water like me.

Somehow the kids ended up on my board and the four year old pushed us off. Thankfully, everyone had life jackets, and all was fine.

SUP Curt Gowdy State Park
Tiny SUPer

Our friends brought this kayak for impromptu family and solo kayaking.

I also saw people boating, jet skiing, water skiing, and fishing. Time on the water with my family makes me a happy person.

This place has plenty of variety and adventure for everyone. We will be back!




Turquoise Lake in Leadville, CO

Turquoise Lake
Turquoise Lake

I like fun facts. Do you? Here’s a couple:

  1. Leadville is the highest incorporated town in the United States at 10,152 feet.
  2. I thought Turquoise Lake got it’s name from the blue sparkling water, but it was actually named after the mineral, turquoise, which was found nearby in Leadville’s mining days. Cool, right?

I hope really hope one of these is a question on trivia night.

Baby Doe Campsite

Baby Doe Campground
Baby Doe Campground Photo: Recreation.gov

This was our second time camping at Turquoise Lake and our first camping trip of this summer. For both trips, we camped at the Baby Doe Campground. It’s nestled away from the shoreline in the thick pine trees. The campground is made up of two loops like a figure eight. For the first time, we let our older son ride his bike around one of the loops with the “big” kids. Naturally this was his favorite campsite and favorite trip of the summer.

On every camping trip, we like to scope out the best sites for future trips. Our first time here, we camped at site 14, and our second time we were in site 43. From my perspective, site 14 is the best spot. It’s a large area and nestled back into the tress for additional privacy. You are also a little closer the water and can see the lake from your site. Site 43 was just fine, but we weren’t as thrilled with it.

Turquoise Lake
Sparkly water

The adults love this spot too. I kept taking pictures of the water and remarking how the picture does not do it justice, and I think it is a pretty good picture. Looking at the sparkling water, you can’t help but feel happy here. Unless you are an 18 month old. Then you cry. About EVERYTHING. If anyone is reading this and went camping when we were there, I am truly sorry. Our youngest son is having a crying phase. We aren’t exactly sure when it started or when it will stop, but if he isn’t on my hip, he cries. Sometimes, I have to do things like go to the bathroom, eat, get dressed, LIVE. If I do any of these things, he cries. At one point my husband was making dinner and asked if I could cut up apples for the kids. Sure if you don’t mind the wailing while I am cutting up the apple, or can it wait?

Amenities

Anywho, back to the Baby Doe campground. Here are the amenities:

  • Firewood for sale on site
  • Walk-up sites available
  • Drinking water
  • Vault toilets
  • Self pay station
  • Tables
  • Campfire rings

Turquoise Lake Nature Trail

The one time Wyatt wasn’t crying AND I wasn’t holding him was when he was in the hiking backpack. We did this short hike on the Turquoise Lake Nature Trail which is a 1.2 mile out and back trail along the shoreline. This is an easy, kid-friendly route through the lodgepole pines with views of the lake the whole way. If you are looking for a longer more challenging route, this trail connects to the Turquoise Lake Trail for an additional 6.4 miles. Family hike, check!

Turquoise Lake

Lodgepole pines
Lodgepole pines at Turquoise Lake

The dense trees by the campsite guards against the wind. We were blissfully unaware how much cooler and windier it was when we got to the lake. I’m not sure if it’s always that windy or if it was just a windy weekend. I did see some people braving the choppy water on paddle boards, kayaks and canoes, but we stuck to hiking for this trip. There is a boat ramp available and you can even water ski here. I’d recommend wearing a wet suit. We were perfectly happy just taking in the view. In different weather, the water activities would have been a great addition.

Despite all the crying, we are still happy we went. Are we crazy? Maybe. The thing is, our son would have been crying at home anyways. I get it though. It’s not for everyone. It is challenging and not always the most fun. Our oldest son has energy to burn so we can’t just sit around waiting for the crying phase to pass. We also enjoy the time together away from the usual distractions of life. I really hope we will look back at this phase and remember the happy moments and the memories we made.