We went on our first camping trip in Colorado! We stayed at the Moraine Park campground located inside Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and it was an awesome trip. The campground has beautiful views, access to shuttles that can take you around the park and into the town of Estes Park, and most sites offer plenty of privacy. Pit and flush toilets are available and there are also solar shower stalls, which we did not get a chance to check out. If you need to go into town for anything, it is only a 15 minute drive from the campground.
The one rule that is strictly enforced and followed is the food storage policy. There were several signs warning of bear activity, though we did not see any bears. Most sites have bear-proof food lockers and you MUST store your food in them. We were also advised to store our toiletries, such as deodorant, or any other strongly scented items in the lockers as well. This was not really an inconvenience, though, as we were able to fit all of our items in the food lockers. The camp provides a nice basin for washing dishes but you cannot leave food particles in the sink.
Each site can accommodate 2 tents or 8 people. There is a tent pad on each site. 10 x 10 is the smallest tent pad and 15x15 the largest tent pad. Most sites have tent pads that are 11 x 11 or 15 x 15. However, you should check the chart below for the tent pad size in your site. Your two tents must fit on the tent pad, although I did see several sites where this rule was not strictly followed. If you decide to camp with a large group you may need to reserve several sites or a group site as the tent and vehicle limits per space may prove to be an inconvenience.
Speaking of tents, my 4 season tent is in California and we did not have a tent in Colorado (I am working on having a tent in every state- just kidding). My girlfriend and I wanted a larger tent for this camping experience and we purchased a 5 person tent that was on sale (Eagle’s Camp Dome Tent 11 x 11). The tent was very roomy inside and we thought it was a bargain at only $70. After setting it up at camp, though, we soon discovered why it was on sale. Unfortunately, this was actually the worst tent I have ever purchased.
The rain fly barely covered the net portion of the tent. It was not very easy to set up as the tent poles did not slide easily across the clips. It had many more problems that a discounted tent normally should. Granted, the weather in Rocky Mountain National Park can be unpredictable. We experienced some rain while setting up the tent which made the process more difficult. However, once the tent was set up it was still not very sturdy. The cheap tent stakes barely held it together and we had to supplement them with rocks. Once the wind started to blow the tent could barely hold itself together. Although it did not fully collapse, the walls would cave in and had to be pushed back into place. We were able to sleep throughout the night but our sleep was interrupted because we constantly had to upright the walls. We woke up to a twisted tent with splintered tent poles. I have purchased inexpensive tents in the past but never like this.
In my experience, I have found that it is not always bad to purchase a less expensive tent but I also should not count on it to last a long time. That said, I never expected a tent to only last for one night. Even my $30 tent from Target lasted two years. Sometimes camping on a budget requires purchasing a cheap tent but I do believe it is better in the long run to buy a more expensive tent that is well-made and able to withstand the elements. I’m sad to say it, but I cannot recommend this tent and it will be returned promptly. We will keep you posted on the replacement tent and post a full review of it once we use it.
Other than the tent, our mini vacation was amazing. For the most part, we really enjoyed camping at Moraine Park. We ate delicious food- carne asada, spicy seafood, and banana boats. My girlfriend’s parents joined us for dinner and I might have convinced my girlfriend’s dad to become a camper, though I am apparently more excited about this than my girlfriend. We saw a lot of wildlife within the park (4 moose, many elk, and a few deer). We also attended the ghost tour at The Stanley Hotel. It was amazing and a little creepy. We cannot explain it but we actually witnessed a door close by itself, presumably by a ghost.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Where should we camp next? Take care and happy camping!
Tent Pad sizes:
Lily Lake is a beautiful lake about 6 miles south of Estes Park, on Colorado Highway 7. Although it is considered part of Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) there is no entrance or parking fee required. There was a visitor center there but it is closed indefinitely. The rather small parking lot can get full during weekends but you can park in the visitor center lot across the highway. Picnic tables and pit toilets are available. Fishing is permitted with a valid Colorado fishing license but is catch and release only. No camping is allowed.
The Lily Lake Loop, almost a mile long, is a level, easy trail that goes around the lake. The western Lily Ridge Trail junction is around the halfway point of the Loop trail (if you are going in a clockwise direction). If you take the path for the Lily Ridge Trail, you will notice that at one point it splits. Instead of following the sign and heading right onto the trail, continue straight ahead for a bit until the path ends. You will get a beautiful view of Estes Park and the mountains that are part of RMNP. You can then turn around and go back to the sign and up the Lily Ridge Trail, which heads east and will add an extra almost half mile to your hike but takes you a couple hundred feet or so above the lake and offers even more beautiful views.
You can also access the Lily Ridge Trail at its eastern junction, which is near the parking lot and Lily Lake Loop trailhead. Please note that the hike will be much more strenuous and a lot steeper if you take the eastern trailhead and head west, due to the stairs cut into the rock.
In addition to gorgeous scenery, this is a great place to spot wildlife. We saw various birds, several muskrats (many people confuse them with beavers), a salamander, and even a small snake. You can visit the lake at any time of year but if you want to see wildlife and wildflowers, go now before winter comes and freezes it over. I hope you enjoy Lily Lake!
Want to buy me a beer?
books, and products.
Text and photography copyright 2011 by Brian S White, all rights reserved.