Campground Guide: Saddlehorn Campground at Colorado National Monument

Saddlehorn helped us kick off our 2016 road trip around Colorado, and while the campground left a little to be desired (not a lot of privacy), the access to some of the most stunning scenery Colorado has to offer more than makes up for it (flushing toilets and running water didn’t hurt either).

Directions:

The Monument is super easy to get to from 70. If you drive nonstop from Denver, it’s about four hours to actually get to the campground. We stopped in Glenwood Springs for lunch, Palisade for some touristy things, and then Grand Junction for supplies at Walmart and the day was still very manageable.

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Campsites

There’s not a whole lot of privacy on the B loop, where we camped. We were basically right on top of the other tents, and the scrubby brush doesn’t provide much in the way of cover. If you stay on the far side of either loop, closest to the bathroom, you at least get some really good views in the morning.

If you’re there in the summer it’s very similar to camping on the surface of the sun. We arrived around 7 and by the time we actually got to setting up the campsite (after two trips to Fruita) it was 8 and we were STILL super hot. Our biggest takeaway from this trip was that western Colorado is a great place to go in any season except summer.

Camping at Colorado National Monument Saddlehorn Campground 3
Note the other tent directly behind Billy at the grill, and the picnic table directly behind our tent.

There are no tent pads and a not-insignificant amount of thorny things that lodge themselves in your tent, clothing, or bare skin. Ah, the desert.

Most importantly, you cannot use firewood in the Monument. The park ranger at the entrance casually mentioned that to us, and after looking at each other with a distinct “Well, F***” expression, we resigned to setting up our campsite before heading back to civilization (aka Fruita) to get charcoal. On a related note, Fruita is only about 25 minutes from the campsite and is a lifesaver if you forget charcoal. And batteries. And ice. And maybe have to make three separate trips as you realize you forgot each of these things throughout the evening.

Camping at Colorado National Monument Saddlehorn Campground 2
Not quite the quintessential camping experience

The nights are fairly warm, which is actually kind of nice since I’m used to bundling up at night for camping. It was not too hot, not too cold, and all you need is a light jacket.

Campground Fees and Reservations

Since Saddlehorn is located at a national monument, you have to pay to get into the park and to camp. Since we were planning on going to multiple national parks/monuments for this trip, we opted for the $80 annual pass. Otherwise, entrance to the park is $10 per car and the campsite reservation is $20.

We reserved ours here, but we got there late on a Friday night and there were plenty of first-come, first serve sites still available.

Toilet Situation

Off. The. Chain. That’s still a thing the youths say right? Regardless, this is one of the major redeeming qualities of Saddlehorn. Flushing toilets, running water, AND electricity all greet you at the (very clean) bathrooms.

Nearby Activities

Saddlehorn’s other saving grace? You’re a stone’s throw from the trails and the visitor’s center. This is especially important in the summer, since as I mentioned it’s hot as hell and you will want to start hiking early. We rolled out of bed around sunrise, were on the trail by 6:30, and were taking Instagram-worthy photos by 6:40. Read my beginner’s guide to hiking the Monument here.

Camping at Colorado National Monument Saddlehorn Campground 1
Ready to rock at 6:30…we know how to vacation

Other Intangibles

For some reason, I thought that being in the desert would mean no bugs. Instead, we were under siege by mosquitos immediately upon arriving. By 7:30 a.m., they were out in full force again. Another reason to make this campground just a stopover on your way to other sights and scenery!

If you forget anything, fortunately Fruita is only about 25 minutes from the campground. We made a trip for charcoal…and then a trip for batteries, so I can assure you it’s not a long drive. Plus, it worked out since the later we set up camp, the fewer bugs and the less oppressive the heat was.

Overall Impression

In case I haven’t made it clear by now, I highly recommend getting to the campground late, leaving early, and in general just using it as a base camp to get an early jump on hiking. Better yet, if you’re only going to the Grand Junction area and not continuing on a week-long road trip, just get an AirBnb! We LOVED ours the next night.

More Information
What do I pack to go camping?
How do I reserve a campsite online and make sure it’s the best one?
I’m going on a road trip, what should I pack for that?

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