Despite the fact that our air mattress pump broke and we slept on the ground, Blue Mountain near Lake George is near and dear to my heart because it’s where I came up with the idea to start Outdoor Beginner. Plus, you can find a campsite easily on a summer weekend, even if you randomly decide after work on Friday that you feel like camping (guilty).
Blue Mountain is a two-hour drive from Denver, just outside of Lake George, Colorado. The drive is fairly straightforward except for part of 64 that isn’t paved. It’s not for the faint of heart and definitely requires a 4WD vehicle, but you can avoid it by taking 25 down to Colorado Springs. If narrow roads, steep inclines and declines, and no guard rails aren’t your cup of tea (why are there so many treacherous roads with no guardrails here?!), I would recommend just taking 25. You’ll actually save time, we just were sick of driving on 25 (who isn’t?) so we opted for the ~scenic~ route.
All the sites are fairly private, and they all have fire pits/grates and a picnic table. There aren’t tent pads, but it’s easy enough to find a level space for your tent. That’s honestly the only difference I can see between sites with and without pads – don’t be fooled into thinking this actually involves padding (I may or may not have thought this when I was booking my first campsite).
The sites are nice and sheltered too, so you won’t be blinded by the sun/wake up in a pool of sweat at 5:30 a.m. or whatever ungodly time the sun comes up in the summer. You’re in a big pine forest, so not only does it smell like Christmas trees but there’s plenty of shade at every site.
We didn’t see the campground host at any point, but he did have firewood for sale so we just left cash in the door of his RV. Seemed less than legit, but it worked out okay. When you see what looks like the last gas station, feel free to pick up wood there instead. Once you’ve hit Florissant, that’s it for civilization.
One last thing – pack extra layers. You’re at 8,000 feet and the nights are chilly, even after a few campfire beers.
Campground Fees and Reservations
Camping at Blue Mountain will set you back $15. The campground is in the Pike National Forest, so you can reserve online here if you don’t want to take your chances on first-come, first-serve. We left late on a Friday and still found a spot while the surrounding campgrounds were full. Blue Mountain seems to be a bit of a hidden gem!
While there’s a water pump on the campground, that’s the closest you get to running water. Vault toilets get the job done, but you will definitely need a headlamp or other source of light to find the bathroom at night without eating it. And also to see anything in the bathroom and not pee on yourself by accident. Don’t try to be a hero, just bring a light. Also, don’t look down into the vault toilet by accident because there are things you can’t unsee down there.
If not being able to wash your hands gives you hives, make sure to bring your own hand sanitizer or some sort of wipes. While we’re on the subject, if you need help making a packing list find my super simple first-time camper list here.
The Hard Rock Trail leaves right from the campground, near the restroom. Please note that the trail is, in fact, a 1.5-mile out and back, not 15-mile. The sign’s a little faded, and I may or may not have been 100% convinced we were going on a 30-mile trek despite our limited snacks (so stupid, don’t be like me). The trail is definitely beginner-friendly and perfect for a quick morning hike – you’ll be back in plenty of time to pack up and head out before your designated check-out time.
Let’s say you didn’t check the batteries of your air mattress pump before you left civilization, and you just spent the entire night sleeping on the cold, hard ground. You may need a coffee and some extra sustenance in the morning (in addition to ibuprofen and medical attention).
There’s an amazing breakfast place back in town that I highly recommend, Costello Street Coffee House. It’s perfect for my fellow car campers that haven’t quite mastered anything past oatmeal bars for breakfast and already struggle to make coffee with a Keurig, much less attempt it in the woods.
This is a perfect campground to get a taste of “roughing it” without really being out in the wilderness (see: aforementioned emergency trip to Costello Street). The campsites are nice, there’s beginner-friendly hiking right from the campground with awesome views, and the campground is enough of a hidden gem that procrastinators can easily find an available site without booking ahead.