Fruita, CO: Camping, Biking and Dinosaurs, Oh My!

camping and biking in fruita
View of the Colorado River in Fruita, CO

As the weather gets warmer and the quarantine goes on longer, I’m daydreaming about our past camping and biking trip to Fruita last fall. It makes me to so sad to think that camping, at least at popular campgrounds, might be closed this year. Although if that is the case, then I know the underlying reasons are to protect camp hosts, park rangers, and the community so I’m not complaining. For those of us with a yard, backyard camping will be all the rage.

Camping in Fruita: Bookcliff Campground

camping and biking in fruita
Bookcliff Campground at Highline Lake State Park

Fruita is known for its mountain biking trails, and camping is a popular lodging option with plenty of surrounding choices. We opted for camping in Highline Lake State Park at Bookcliff Campground (and technically in Loma, CO just outside of Fruita). We took this trip over our kids’ fall break in October. Normally, October camping in Colorado would be too cold for me, but the Western Slope’s desert environment stays warmer a little longer. This marked my first fall camping trip, and it was still pretty cold at night and in the early mornings with temperatures in the 30’s. The days were mostly perfect, sunny and in the 60’s making for opportune bike riding weather.

camping and biking in fruita
Fruita Camping Cocktail: Sangria! Get it?

We stayed in campsite 7, while our friends stayed in 9. Getting together for meals and games with kids was easily manageable between these two sites. The kids had the entire middle section in the picture to runaround and jump in the leaves. The older kids rode their bikes in a circle around the site without getting too lost.

camping and biking in fruita
Camp dog

The Bookcliff Campsite has more features than we are accustomed to which made the trip extra lovely. For example, they have flush toilets and coin operated showers – so luxurious! This site also has a laundry facility, picnic tables and fire pits. The lake access offers boating, fishing, swimming, etc. We might have to come back in the summer to take advantage of the water activities. However waking up to the crisp fall air with the colorful leaves falling, made for picturesque mornings. The only thing missing was a pumpkin spice latte.

Biking in Fruita: Rustler’s Loop at Kokopelli’s Trail System

camping and biking in fruita
Colorado River from Rustler’s Loop

Us ladies got out on a ride at the Kokopelli’s Trail System and rode Rustler’s Loop. This is marked as an intermediate trail, and 3.9 miles point-to-point. It was a quick ride and definitely an easy going, flowing loop for beginners. We saw a number of small children on the ride that made us wonder if we should have picked something more challenging. Nonetheless, we took in the view, had some time to catch up and took our mandatory bike pictures. We debated another loop, but decided to ride up the road to meet our ride for an extra workout.

Biking in Fruita: Kessel Run

camping and biking in fruita
Off 18 Road

For one day, we had a plan to post up in a parking lot on 18 Road, picnic, let the kids play and take turns riding bikes. While it did go something like that, it was cloudy and much colder than anticipated. I stayed back with our three year old to eat lunch and attempt a nap.

To get one ride in before warming up in town, I did Kessel Run. To get there, you take a quick incline up the road from the parking lot. Then the actual trail is just a two mile downhill with lots of quick turns and some bumps. Overall it’s a fun quick ride that you will want to do over and over.

Fruita, CO

The city of Fruita in October was like a ghost town. All along we planned to eat in town one night to relieve us of making dinner. Almost all stores and restaurants were closed. If you go during an off-season like we did, be prepared for that. Over the Edge Sports is one store that is always open in this biking town. It’s worth a stop in if you need anything bike related or if you just want a Fruita t-shirt.

camping and biking in fruita
Dinosaur Journey Museum

Also, if you have aspiring paleontologists like me, there is a dinosaur museum! We can’t come to this area without a visit to Dinosaur Journey. Apparently many dinosaurs inhabited this area, and there was even a native dinosaur to Fruita, appropriately named Fruitadens (I learned this fun fact from Dinosaur Train on PBS Kids). The museum displays fossils, life sized dinosaur replicas, an earthquake simulator and robotic dinosaurs. Be warned, you can’t exit without going through the gift shop. Inevitably we stocked up on a few dinosaur toys for the trek home.

We miss camping and biking Fruita, and we hope to be back.

Buffalo Creek Campground and Biking in Pike National Forest

Buffalo Creek Campground and biking
Buffalo Creek Campground is located near Pine, CO in Pike National Forest and is at 7,400 feet elevation.

Welcome to the Buffalo Creek Campground and biking review! Originally we had planned to camp at Turquoise Lake, but after calling the campsite, we learned that they still had plenty of snow on the ground, the lake was still covered with sheets of ice, and parts that weren’t covered in snow were extremely muddy. So we decided to look for options at lower elevation and closer to home. Before kids, we used to camp and bike at Buffalo Creek. We decided to risk it and look for dispersed camping sites and walk-up sites.

Walk-up Campsite

After driving through all the dispersed camping sites, we didn’t find anything. With the kids and pop-up in tow, we started to think we were going to have to turn around. But then, the Buffalo Creek Campground had spots available!

I wouldn’t recommend this method as it usually doesn’t work out, and it’s uncertain if you will get a spot or not. We would have been really disappointed if all that packing and prep was for nothing.

Buffalo Creek Campground Info

Buffalo Creek Campground and biking
Buffalo Creek Campground view

We felt really lucky to get our spot, and talked about how this is a campground we would have booked, because the spots offer enough distance and privacy, there are vaulted toilets available, and there is good biking nearby. It’s also always nice to be so close to the Denver area in case we need to bail on the trip altogether due to weather or sickness or any other unforeseen circumstance with the kids. Here is a little campsite info:

  • No electric hook-ups
  • No water-come prepared!
  • Vaulted toilets
  • Picnic tables
  • No dump station
  • Fire rings-make sure to check the fire regulations
  • Nearby trails for hiking and biking
  • Located about an hour and a half from Denver in Pine, CO. See directions here.
  • $22 per overnight site
  • 38 total sites with 24 reserve-able and 14 walk-ups
  • This is bear country. Lock up all your food in your car!

The campground has two loops, kind of like a figure 8. The kids spent most of their time riding their bikes around the circle of our site. We could see them the whole time which was nice. However, cars were constantly in and out presumably looking for open sites just like we did. When the kids weren’t riding their bikes they played in the hammock, played tag or played cards and board games.

Biking the Colorado and Green Mountain Trail

Buffalo Creek Campground and Biking
Green Mountain Trail at Buffalo Creek

The adults took turns with a guys’ bike ride and a ladies’ bike ride. Us ladies took the Buffalo Trailhead to the Green Mountain Trail. It’s a 3.5 mile trail shaped kind of like a horseshoe. Then it makes a loop by connecting on the Colorado Trail for a bit. So in total, I think we rode just under 7 miles. I won’t tell you how long we took, but I will say the guys had a plan to come searching for us. We like to stop and take pictures. Also, we are slower than most, and get to the side to let everyone pass us.

The trail is rated a blue as intermediate. Depending on which direction you go there is a pretty good portion of the ride as a climb followed by a decent and rolling hills. Pretty much all of Buffalo Creek has lots of exposed roots on the trail and some rocks to make it mildly technical.

Camping Cocktail

Buffalo Creek Campground and Biking
Camping cocktail: mudslide

Of course the ladies had a camping cocktail! We went with a mudslide since we were originally camping at a site that was going to be muddy. Then we just stuck with it, since it sounded good. Here’s the recipe we used:

You could use any variation of vodka, coffee liquor and Irish cream of course, but I highly recommend the Arrosta Coffee Liquor. This is a very sweet and very strong drink so you don’t need too much. It also makes a great dessert drink or nightcap.

Buffalo Creek Campground Highlights

To sum up, Buffalo Creek Campground makes a great camping spot for kids and adults. I like that it is lower elevation than Turquoise Lake for less intense weather and that is closer to town should we need to abort the trip. Additionally, any campground with a fire ring, picnic tables and bathrooms is ideal for camping with kids. A decent amount of space and privacy between sites is always a plus. I also loved that I could see my kids at all times as long as they stayed around the loop where our site was located. What do you look for in a campsite?

Happy camping!

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!