Beginner Campground Guide: Chatfield Lake State Park

Chatfield Lake State Park is a great off-season escape for trailer or RV camping. It’s a particularly good place if you’re a trailer/RV newbie like my family! We chose Chatfield for our first outing because it was easily accessible from 470, had pull-through campsites, and was also close to civilization in case we needed to bail.

You can tent camp at Chatfield, but I wouldn’t recommend it since you’re in a sea of RVs and trailers. There also isn’t a *ton* of shade, so I think summer camping would be pretty toasty. All that sun was exactly what we wanted in March, but on a 90 degree day, it could be a little overwhelming.

Directions

Chatfield Lake State Park is west of Littleton and easy to find on Google Maps. If you come from 470/Wadsworth, you do have to drive all the way around the lake to get to the campground.

You’re right on the edge of the suburbs, so all the roads are well-maintained and easy to navigate. I also really appreciated how wide the roads are around the park since it’s a very popular cycling destination.

The campgrounds are a series of loops, so while they aren’t super well marked, you can’t *really* get lost.

Choosing a Campsite

In the off-season (aka not summer), most of the loops are closed so you don’t have a ton to pick from. If possible, you should try to get a campsite on the outer ring facing west so you have the best views of the lake and mountains.

We stayed in site 107 on the C Loop, which had fantastic views. Sites 108 and 109 would also be pretty. Anything on the outer loop has the added bonus of feeling more private since you only have other campers behind you.

If you don’t have kids with you, I’d steer clear of 117 – 119. They’re right next to a very popular playground. There also isn’t an obviously path to and from the playground, so kids are running through those campsites regularly.

Campsite Amenities

Every campsite has a nice big concrete pad with a picnic table and fire ring. You can also park your camper on a concrete pad, which made leveling really easy. The pad was very close to level already.

There are no bear boxes, so just to be safe you should keep all scented items (including food and toiletries) in your car. We camped there in March, when it didn’t seem like a big issue. Most of the time, a ranger is coming around reminding you repeatedly to not leave out food or scented items, but we didn’t see a ranger the two days we were there.

Spring is the best time to go, since there really is no shade and you’re quite exposed. It was perfect for the 50-degree day we were there, since we wanted the sun. In the summer, you’re cooking.

Toilet Situation

The drawback of being there in spring is that the bathrooms are mostly closed and there are no sewer hook-ups for RVs.

We got lucky that our campsite (107) was right by a trailhead, so there was an open bathroom there that was about 50 yards away. This bathroom has pretty gross vault toilets. There are doors and multiple stalls, but the toilets are just over a hole in the ground and clearly hadn’t been cleaned in a while.

If you’re toward the middle of the loop, you have to go the bath house on the other side of the campground. It was a little tedious to do the indirect, 10-minute walk to the bath house every time we had to go. But, the bathrooms are much cleaner, have running water (including showers!), and have electricity.

Bath house bathrooms (other bathrooms not pictured since it was pitch black inside and I forgot a headlamp)

Nearby Activities

Chatfield has TONS of activities. Fishing, hiking, swimming, bike paths, and trail rides are just some of the options. You don’t have access to the lake from the campground, but the marina is only a few minutes drive away.

We loved the bike path that goes all the way around the lake. It’s flat and paved, so it was perfect for our toddler to take out their Strider bike. We didn’t go very far, but having unlimited sidewalk for him was great! People were really courteous and careful on their bikes and with dogs, which was also really appreciated.

There are also a lot of road cyclists that bike along the road, so be extra careful while you’re driving in, particularly when you’re towing something!

I also really appreciated that you’re not far from town (thanks to new developments in Littleton). It was a 15-minute drive to Atlas Coffee, which had great drinks and breakfast. It’s also a bar that looked like a fun happy hour spot!

Campground Fees and Reservations

You need to pay for a state parks pass (day pass or annual pass) *and* your campsite. The annual parks pass is way more cost-effective if you go to the state parks more than five or so times a year. We got the hang tag ($120) instead of the adhesive ($80) so that we can move it around cars.

A full hook-up campsite, as of 2022, is $41 per night. Electric only campsites (your only option if it’s not summer) are slightly less expensive at $36. Reservations have to be made online ahead of time. As of 2022, all Colorado state parks require reservations for their campsites.

To use the dump station is an additional $28. If you live in the Golden area and need a dump station, I highly recommend Dakota Ridge RV Park off of Colfax and Highway 6. It’s $18 as of 2022, easy to navigate, and conveniently located. Since we camped in March, water and sewer hook-ups weren’t available so this wasn’t an issue for us. Since then, we’ve used Dakota Ridge repeatedly as a dump station and they are wonderful!

Other Intangibles

Like I said in the beginning, this really isn’t an ideal spot for tent camping. You have a lot of other options, so I would skip Chatfield and go elsewhere if you want to have a nice time in a tent.

There were tons of people with kids in March, which we didn’t mind since we also had a kid. If kids aren’t your thing, Chatfield may not be either.

This was our first foray into RV life, and we noticed a lot of people have a much more party-like set-up. People’s music didn’t carry too far, and it wasn’t disruptive. Everyone kept things family-friendly, and it was actually really nice to just see everyone’s kids running around in nature.

Overall Impression

Chatfield is the perfect place to take out your camper or RV for the first time. It’s close to civilization, an easy and manageable drive, and you’ve got plenty of things to do. It’s an easy spot to troubleshoot RV/trailer camping in a low-stakes and accessible way!

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