Campground descriptions usually read like a foreign language to the beginner camper, so without further ado here’s what you need to know before you go to Green Ridge Campground near Grand Lake, Colorado.
Green Ridge Campground sits on Shadow Mountain Reservoir, about 2.5 hours northwest of Denver, making it an easy drive for an overnight trip or for the entire weekend. The drive takes you through Winter Park, which is a perfect stopping point for food, gas, etc. You will go over Berthoud Pass, meaning a big hill to go up and over.
Berthoud Pass can be a little intimidating if you haven’t driven in the mountains a lot, but it’s totally doable for anyone. Coming home was a little bit much for me, but I just pulled over and let everyone else go so I could go as slow as I wanted to down the mountain. If you want to get yourself acclimated to driving around the mountains, this is a great route to start.
Green Ridge Campground is a recognized location on Google, so just type that into your phone and you’re good to go. Stop at Elevation Pizza just outside of Winter Park if you get hungry on your way there – it’s one of my favorite pizza places in Colorado!
All of the campsites have nice big tent pads (they measure 11′ x 12’8″). A tent pad is a slightly elevated surface that makes for a more comfortable sleeping experience since you’re not directly on the ground. Don’t let the word “pad” fool you…it’s not actually cushion-ey in any way, it’s just a flat place to put your tent that won’t harm the plant life. Each campsite only has one pad, so if you are camping with friends you’ll have to get two sites.
The lake and surrounding areas are beautiful, but the campsite loop where we stayed is a bit exposed. From what we could see of the other sites, they all seemed a little lacking on shade. Although there is a very steep embankment up to the reservoir, it was still quite windy which made for some interesting tent set-up! Plus, it is VERY warm in the tent once the sun comes up.
Every campsite has a picnic table and a fire pit, complete with a grate that fully covers the entire pit. It flips open pretty easily (even for someone with as little upper body strength as me!) and is handy if you’re cooking for a group. The campground host has a large supply of firewood that’s reasonably priced, just make sure you have cash to pay for it!
Each site also has a nice big bear locker, which is awesome because you don’t have to run back and forth to your car constantly (not that it’s very far away…but still). This place is busy enough that I highly doubt you will ever see any bears, but the lockers are a precaution that also make cooking and storing food much more convenient! Usually you have to keep EVERYTHING in your car.
In addition to your reservation fee of $19 per night, you also have to pay a use fee for the Arapaho National Recreation Area (ANRA). This fee is $5 per day.
Longer term passes can also be purchased if you think you’ll be coming back a lot, or if you’re staying for several days in a row. The machine that you can purchase the ANRA pass from is not in the same place as the campground – it is on the same road, though. Turn left at the boat launching entrance prior to reaching the campground entrance and you will find the machine in the upper left hand corner of the parking lot. You can pay with cash or a credit card.
If you would prefer to set up camp and then get the pass, or if you forget to stop, you can also get there quickly through the campground loop to get to the boat launching area.
We camped at Green Ridge at the end of June, and made reservations in advance since we were going with friends and wanted to be reasonably close to each other. That being said, we arrived around noon on a Saturday and there were still several campsites available that were actually closer together than the ones we reserved.
There’s no cost difference in first-come, first-serve campsites vs ones you reserve, so if you prefer to live on the edge and take your chances, don’t bother with making a reservation. You CAN pay with a credit card if you reserve in advance, which is nice.
To reserve a campsite, go here.
The nice thing about this campground is that it has REAL bathrooms!! I have a higher tolerance for more rustic accommodations since I have been around horses all my life, and the bathroom situation at barns and horse shows is usually pretty tragic.
Gross barn memories aside, Green Ridge Campground has REAL bathrooms AND sinks. They did run out of hand soap mid-way through our first day there, though, so I would suggest you bring your own hand sanitizer.
While we’re talking about bathrooms, please note that they do not have showers. If you’re looking for a campground with showers, you’re probably not going to find one that’s not in a national park. Half the fun of camping is that you can be totally gross and no one cares! Unless you don’t wash your hands. That’s just unacceptable.
The Green Ridge Campground is right on Shadow Mountain Reservoir, and like every mountain lake, it provides some stunning scenery.
There is a ton of hiking immediately surrounding the campground, including a hike that takes you into Rocky Mountain National Park. You can also simply walk around the reservoir. It seemed to be mostly flat and also on a nice wide gravel path.
You can also travel north past the dam and follow the river to cross into RMNP. If you’re not feeling that adventurous, you should still go this way to spot some awesome wildlife. There is an observation spot (complete with telescopes!) that points straight at an osprey nest, and on the sunny afternoon we were out and about, the ospreys were really active.
I highly recommend driving into Rocky Mountain National Park, which is just down the road outside of the town of Grand Lake. Turn right out of the campground, then go left at the fork by the welcome sign to Grand Lake and you’ll drive right in.
This is a dog-friendly campground, which is great if you’re also dog-friendly. If you’re not dog-friendly, you may want to reconsider. Normally I would tell you to rearrange your life priorities if you don’t like dogs, but I understand that people go camping for solitude and that usually does not go hand-in-hand with other people’s canine friends. However, our friends had a dog with them, and there were also a ton of other people with dogs, and we didn’t hear a peep from them in the early morning or late evening hours.
The dogs really enjoyed playing in the lake, so if you have a water-inclined pooch this could be a good spot, especially because it is one of the few dog-friendly campgrounds within reasonable driving distance to Denver.
Keep in mind that you can NOT go hiking with your dog in RMNP, so unfortunately your doggie pal does limit your hiking options greatly.
While the campsites are a bit exposed (no shade = cooking alive in your tent once the sun comes up over the ridge), being so close to RMNP, the great scenery, and the easy drive from Denver makes it worth it. The bathroom amenities also make it a great place to try out camping for the first time, even if the wind (which could have been a fluke) makes setting up your tent a little challenging.