Near escapes from the Arizona heat

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of September 4-10, 1997
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Going on safari in eastern Africa
Telemarking the gladed Eastern slopes
Overnight camping trips on horseback
Near escapes from the Arizona heat

Near escapes from the Arizona heat
Question: My buddy and I are going to take a break from the desert of lower-central Arizona and go up to southwestern Colorado. It's mainly an exploratory trip so we're planning mainly to camp. Know anything in that area you'd recommend? We are in shape enough to go on extended day hikes, but we're not looking for a backpacking weekend. Thanks in advance.

Chad Harrison Ford
Tempe, AZ
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: Vallecito Reservoir, approximately 20 miles east of Durango, is a primo car-camping spot in southern Colorado. With two marinas and one side devoted to rental cabins, the lake isn't entirely pristine wilderness, but the whole eastern shore is dotted with forest-service campgrounds nestled between massive old-growth pines.

My favorite campground is Middle Mountain on the northeast side of the lake because its sites sit right on the rocky shoreline of Vallecito with incredible views of the San Juans to the northwest. Sites cost $12 per night and none of the campgrounds takes advance reservations, but you should have no trouble finding an empty one at this time of year.

Though you can't really hike to the mountain trails from the campgrounds on Vallecito, you will find two or three great trails on roads that branch off the reservoir road. Most of them wind up into the San Juans and run along rushing rivers that lead to scenic alpine lakes.

For more detailed information on trails and campgrounds, call the Bayfield Chamber of Commerce at 970-884-7372. To get to Vallecito, take Highway 160 approximately 20 miles east of Durango. When you reach Bayfield, the road north to Vallecito is very well marked. Follow that for approximately 15 miles until you reach the reservoir. When you get to the reservoir, take the right-hand road which will wind its way east around the reservoir to the campgrounds. Be sure to stop at Mesa Verde on the way!!!

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