Travel File: Twin Lakes, Colorado

It started with a discussion. “Let’s find a place in Colorado where we haven’t been.  Where can we go where we are in the mountains and it’s not more than an 8 hour drive?”  When you live in Amarillo, that can be answered with Twin Lakes, Colorado.

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It took about 8 hours or so with stops.  Or maybe a bit longer, since part of that drive was directly in the path of wildfires.

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We weren’t even positive we could get through on the route we planned.  After stopping to snap a few photos and conversing with a local woman who dropped her kids off at summer camp just 12 miles from the fire (!!!), we decided to keep driving up the road.  I have to admit, it was alarming to drive through a billowing cloud of smoke!  We drove directly past the mountains, edged in flames along its ridge, then north, north, north; finally up to more clear skies.

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The drive was beautiful; some of the loveliest Colorado country I’ve seen.  There were cute little towns, like Salida & Buena Vista along the way.  Maybe a bit tourist-y, but cute all the same, with little shops, cafès and the Arkansas river running through downtown.

salida-colorado

The Arkansas river originates in the Rocky Mountains in Lake County, Colorado, near Leadville (just North of where we camped) and is a major tributary of the Mississippi River.  This area is a well-known rafting spot.

We arrived at our destination in the early evening hours and chose a campground.

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These two photos were taken from dispersed camping, where we ultimately decided NOT to camp, in hopes of being closer to water further up the road: (Even though the view tempted us, there was not a lot of shade)

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See the end of the post for a map on how to get to these sites.

We continued around the lakes, where we settled on Parry Peak Campground:

parry-peak-camping-map-colorado

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Although our site was right off the road (kind of loud with traffic), it was also right next to the river:

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bridge

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It was chilly, even in July; after all, we were in the mountains!

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We fished a little, although we didn’t catch anything.  It was still a pleasant morning by the water.  We were given a tip by a girl working at the camp store; she told us to cross the dam and fish on the southern side of the lake.  It was peaceful, but the ants were a bit out of control.  Poor Sprockette had a hard time trying to get away from them.  He found the water to be the best answer.

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After fishing, Matt suggested we take a scenic drive that looped from the lakes up and over and down through Aspen, across the continental divide and back down to the lakes.  I obliged. 🙂

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I think the loop took about 4 hours.  We traveled North to Leadville, where we stopped and walked around.  It was another cute little mining town with lots of shops and tourist attractions.  (We had hoped to stop for a beer at the local brewery, but discovered it to be temporarily closed due to a new coat of exterior paint being applied.)

leadville-co

I-70 proved to be quite stunning near Glenwood Springs.  Just a tip for anyone traveling this road:  there’s a rest stop before entering Glenwood Springs.  By all means, stop there to pee and take in the beautiful views!  Glenwood Springs is kind of a nightmare in that it’s a small town on the interstate, is undergoing construction, full of traffic and pedestrians and the turn-off to head south to Aspen.

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The drive continued to be stunning as we wound southeast through the mountains and aspens.

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Woo-wee, was it COLD way up on Independence Pass!

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Even though this was a lot of driving and exploring to pack into a 3-day trip, it was worth it to be in the mountains.  And, it was the last camping trip we were able to take our dog on.  He was feeling a bit tired on this trip, and when we returned home, we discovered he was very ill.  I feel very fortunate that we had the opportunity to have him along one more time in the mountains.  He loved the water and the cool mountain air.

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Here are some tips and links if you plan on visiting the area:

Independence Pass
The town of Salida
Buena Vista Rafting Tours (I’m recommending this place because my friend works here 😉Leadville’s National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum
Twin Lakes fishing info
Parry’s Peak Campground info
Lakeview Campground
We ran across dispersed camping above the lake, which I think I was able to mark on this map with purple.  There were a lot of side roads, but it’s a good place to explore!  I suggest taking some good maps or printing them out before you go since phone reception is very spotty.

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