10 Things that Made Our Campsite Great – with Pictures!

Last weekend we went camping down at Wellington Lake outside of Bailey, Colorado for a few days.  Just prior to leaving I read through Trail Sherpa’s 89 Tips to Elevate Any Campsite again to get some ideas.   If you get a chance to read through it, I highly recommend it.

I’ve spent many years backpacking and hiking and camping as a boy scout, river guide, mountain guide and outward bound instructor, but sometimes camping with the kids means car camping – and doing it well.  That’s what this is about.

Here are my 10 things that made our camping trip better.

1. Camping near water.  Wellington Lake is a very pretty lake.  Although it’s about 12-15 feet low right now, it’s still really pretty.  They also allow swimming and it actually wasn’t very cold.  There are a couple floating docks and a small floating trampoline.  You can also bring your own non-motorized boats.

Wellington Lake

2. A view from your campsite is a must!  They call this the Castle and it was quite an impressive view from our campsite.  This part of Colorado is really rocky and scenic.  There’s a trail up to it but it wasn’t great for small kids.

Sunset on the Castle

3. Find a nice clearing in the trees and set up your most comfortable 8 person tent for the 4 of you.  We have this great 8 person North Face tent that fits all 4 of us on air mattresses really nicely.  Because the campground allows campfires, the ground and lower parts of the trees have been picked clean of all wood and branches.  So there’s very little to do to clear a space.

North Face 8 Person Tent

4. Bring a hammock, not to camp in, but for naps and reading books (don’t forget your pillow).


5. Have a strong knife that you can really use for everything from making kindling to marshmallow roasting sticks.

Strong Knife

6. When possible, make a fire.


7. Everything tastes better wrapped in foil and tossed on the coals (Thanks AdventureTykes! More recipes here.)

Campfire BurritoCampfire Burrito Cooked

8. Have a nice hiking destination.  This waterfall in this cool grotto was a perfect destination for all of us, including the kids.  It’s on the way to the Castle, but was a perfect place to stop and spend a couple hours playing.

Hiking destination


9. Duct Tape.  Always handy to patch things that hold air like air mattresses when you discover that one had a hole.

Duct Tape

10. Enjoy the sunset!




And a bonus.  Bring a rope for a clothesline.  With kids and water, you know that some of you are gonna get wet.

One of My Favorite Green River Campsites

Near the campsite in Lodore.

This is the river right near one of my favorite campsites on the Green River in Lodore Canyon.  I’ve camped here many times.  There’s often a long beach right in front of this campsite to play on, sleep on or just hang out on.  Like many places in Lodore, there are lot’s of trees and campsites on the river right along with a trail to a nice overlook.

My first time to camp here was in the sleet on my very first Outward Bound training river trips in the early 90’s.  It was early season and it was very cold.  I remember this day as being fairly nice during the day, but that changed quickly as the evening wore on.  I also remember having a leak in my bike water bottle that as tied to a boat, hanging in the river.  Without looking, I pulled it up, opened it and took a big swig of river sand.  yuck.

There’s also a nice hike up to an overlook which is fabulous for taking pictures!

The Green River is one of my favorites because it’s a clear, low volume, technical alpine river, which is what I spent most of my life on.  Also, much like the middle fork of the Salmon.  I find them to be so much fun!  Don’t get me wrong, as I also really love the high volume dessert rivers too, but these are different and incredibly special.


Campsite on the Green River Lodore Canyon river overlook

Camping along the Colorado River near Moab

This summer we had a great opportunity to head to Moab with the family to spend a few days camping along the River Road. We didn’t get too far out into the wilderness, but just being by the river was fabulous, as always. Especially when you wake up to views like this.  Camping along the river is truly the best.

Late morning along the Colorado River near Moab

Gates of Lodore on the Green River

Heading towards the Gates of Lodore on the Green River.

Headed Towards the Gates of Lodore

This was a really fun summer trip on the Green River through the Canyon of Lodore.  This was just after launching and we are still in the flats headed toward the Gates.  This is one of my favorite rivers because of the low volume and technical nature of it.  It’s really fun to be able to truly navigate a river around the bends, eddies, rocks, currents, etc.  It reminds me a great deal of the Arkansas River in Bunea Vista, CO, where I spent most of my river time…

Mid way through, the Yampa River joins it in Echo Park and increases the volume.  You can drive into Echo Park and camp, hike, climb, etc, but floating through it is the best.  On Steamboat Rock, you can see some old climbing gear (webbing mostly) hanging about halfway up that is rumored to belong to Layton Kor, but who knows.  Maybe he can confirm?

Grand Canyon Calm

Colorado River in the Grand Canyon nearing the end of a long day.

Colorado River in the Grand Canyon nearing the end of a long day.

I remember this moment really well. We were camping after what was always a long day on the river and where we were camping there wasn’t much beach.  Just one small soft, sandy spot that a couple people grabbed right away.  But that’s ok, they didn’t have quite this view. Anyway, so a bunch of us found some rocky ledges above the waterline to settle into.   The rocks were perfect for setting a thermarest into and having a very nice place to recline and watch the evening drift by.

We had broken up into different group for meals and my partner, Ed, had cooked a really good dinner and was mixing up the just-add-water cheese cake pie.  This was one of those luxuries that is easily overlooked.  You would NEVER get boxed, just-add-water cheese cake pie at home, but on a long river trip, it was HEAVEN and we easily made everyone else envious.

It was a good day! (as they all were)

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