Colorado State Parks Project, Part Two

I made it a goal of mine last year to visit all of the Colorado State Parks. I’m not sure if it was a combination of me wanting to just explore the state more, or give myself something to do since I was no longer working or what … but it was an awesomely fun project. This is the second of two posts on the quest.

July 13, State Forest State Park

IMG_2946

This one was a bit of a drive to get to and we almost got lost … but it was actually really gorgeous. And huge.

Will I return?: I definitely want to. We only did a few short hikes due to time constraints but the longer ones looked awesome. Plus there are apparently a ton of moose in this park and while we heard their calls … we saw no moose. I want to see moose!

July 19, Elkhead Reservoir State Park

IMG_3514

I was a little cranky at this one. This was a long day trip to hit up all five parks in the Steamboat Springs area. I got up early, stopped on the side of the road to catch the absolutely gorgeous sunrise that morning … and somehow got my first speeding ticket in a decade (and first in the state of Colorado). I was not entirely happy. I don’t speed these days! I was getting passed all the time! Oh well. Such is life.

Will I return?: Not to this one. The parks that are mostly just reservoirs/lakes (this, Harvey Gap, Jackson Lake, etc.) aren’t entirely for me right now. I don’t boat and I don’t fish. I do swim, but not all of these inspire a want for open water swimming.

July 19, Yampa River State Park

IMG_3515

Easy peasy to find, right off the main highway going through town.

Will I return?: No reason to, really. Unless I’m driving up there and B wants to see it.

July 19, Steamboat Lake State Park

IMG_3541

This and the next park were basically across the street from each other. A little buggy, but I guess that’s to be expected.

Will I return?: I was initially thinking not – really no reason to – but there’s a tri I’m tossing around doing at the end of July that will be held here so maybe?

July 19, Pearl Lake State Park

IMG_3633

This park was a bit confusing. Not to find, but to access what I might want to access.

Will I return:? Weirdly enough, I think I’d like to. I saw some people stand-up paddleboarding and was insanely jealous (totally something I want to learn). Also, I’m betting that park has some great hiking. I just have to find it …

July 19, Stagecoach State Park

IMG_3917

Final stop of the day. Needed to hike, so chose to here (even though the path I found was easy peasy). I was drooling over the roads on the drive, thinking I may need to haul my bike up to train on the rolling hills for IMoo.

Will I return?: I’d like to! This park captured me in some way and I would love to explore it some more. And obviously ride my bike on the roads outside it.

August 14, Highline Lake State Park

IMG_4350

Another day where the fire haze was awful. Also another day that I hit up multiple parks. But when I need to drive to the other side of the state … Highline Lake is on the western slope, probably like 8 miles from the Utah border.

Will I return?: Probably not. See: Elkhead Reservoir.

August 14, James M. Robb Colorado River State Park

IMG_4373

So this park actually has five “outposts” if you will, which makes sense because the Colorado River is huge. I stopped at two of them – the one in Fruita, where this photo was taken, and the Island Acres section just off I-70 (where I got evacuated thanks to a fire just off the highway).

Will I return?: Maybe, if only to hit up the other three sections. I’ve driven past one of the others, but still have yet to spot the other two …

August 14, Vega State Park

IMG_4395

Another park where it was totally more about the journey. The drive to Vega (on main roads) was fairly outstanding. When it came time to leave, I could go back from whence I came (and technically backtrack in direction), or go the road less traveled. I chose the latter … and ended up on bumpy, washboard dirt roads. All about the adventure, right?

I also didn’t stay long because fire haze. Air quality was shit.

Will I return?: Most likely not, no.

September 3, Trinidad Lake State Park

IMG_4740

Okay, technically I was first here on the first. B had a long(ish) layover in Tucson on the 2nd and you know me – I am all about the desert – so I dropped him off at the airport early in the morning and then drove on down. I hoped to try to catch the sunrise at the park, but that was not to be. Instead, I stopped again on my drive home. That drive home was a miserable rainy mess (okay, both directions were in a lot of ways) and the park was gloomy and I think the picture captured that well.

Will I return?: Probably not. Unless I find myself in Trinidad for some reason and need to run …

September 3, Lake Pueblo State Park

IMG_4743

Where Trinidad was gloomy and rainy, Pueblo was not. I stopped here to run and it was pretty awesome (the park, not my run). The trail system in the park actually goes all the way to downtown Pueblo which is really cool. If there is one actual main lake in Lake Pueblo State Park, I didn’t see it.

Will I return?: I would definitely consider it. I enjoyed my time here. Except for the times I’ve played hockey, probably the best time I’ve had in Pueblo.

September 14, Crawford State Park

IMG_5001

Another park where the drive to get there was more fun than the park itself. Although to be honest I don’t think I saw Crawford at its full glory – the water levels here looked to be pretty freaking low …

Will I return:? Doubtful. It’s way out of the way and doesn’t have a truly compelling reason for me to want to go back.

September 14, Paonia State Park

IMG_5014

This was the only park on my list that had a time constraint, as it’s only open May-October. One of the most gorgeous drives to get there. I also got to pull off and see a roadside waterfall on the way, so bonus points there.

Will I return?: Mostly a camping park, so probably not. Unless I start that up.

September 23, Navajo State Park

IMG_5197

This was one of the parks I was stressing about hitting the most as it’s not the easiest to get to (and Colorado technically shares it with New Mexico as it straddles the border). I figured it was just going to end up being one long 14-15 hour day to get there, take some pictures, and go back home. Thankfully, my wonderful husband decided to indulge me on going to Las Vegas for our anniversary trip the long way … so we got to see Navajo that way (and the next park and Mesa Verde and then Horseshoe Bend the next day …)

Will I return?: Most likely not. I don’t camp and I don’t boat and it is REALLY out of the way.

September 23, Mancos State Park

IMG_5247

As you can see, we decided to do a trail run in Mancos. The trail was a lot more difficult than we expected, but it was still super awesome.

Will I return?: I’d like to! I enjoyed the run and would love to hike around more. I actually passed the turn off for this park on my next parks trip, but the schedule didn’t allow for a return.

October 16, San Luis Lakes State Wildlife Area

IMG_5747

A.K.A. The state park that wasn’t.

San Luis Lakes is (or at least was when I first decided on this project) on the CPW site, the signs on the way to it all say “San Luis Lakes State Park” on them … but as I found out later, this has actually been changed to a state wildlife area. Oops. Whatever, I marked it off and, as you can kind of see in the background, it’s right near the Great Sand Dunes … which I visited right before.

Will I return?: As it’s not actually a state park … no. No reason to.

October 16, Lone Mesa

IMG_5782

Ugh, Lone Mesa. Lone Mesa is state land that hasn’t officially reached State Park designation … but since I accidentally kinda wrote it down in the bullet journal … I went off to find it. I followed the directions for it, but saw no signage. To this day I’m still not entirely sure I found it. But, as a friend commented on my insta post of the above picture, “Looks like a lonely mesa. #nailedit”.

Will I return?: If it ever freaking gets designated as an actual state park … yes. On principle.

October 17, Ridgway State Park

IMG_5791

I knew I would have to do an overnight trip (or two) to get parks at one point, and this was the designated trip for that. After the Lone Mesa debacle, I stayed the night just outside of Telluride (more at the ski resort, not in town) before hitting up the other two parks on the agenda. Ridgway was the first. The drive? Oh, so amazing. The park? Well, I could stop at the river or drive into the park. I just stopped at the river. Apparently I should have done both.

Will I return?: I initially thought no, but a friend says that’s her favorite state park and apparently the inside of the park is super awesome, so I’m thinking that’s a yes, I will have to go back. Honestly I’m totally cool doing that drive again so …

October 17, Sweitzer Lake State Park

IMG_5911

This would normally not be a park that I would be interested in (really no hiking, kinda small, really just a lake), but for some reason, it captured me. Maybe it was the tire swing at the playground. Who knows.

Will I return?: Hopefully! This lake just screamed out to me to swim in it. So I will.

October 20, John Martin Reservoir State Park

IMG_5913

The last of the eastern parks, this one in SE Colorado. Go to Pueblo, hang a left on 50, keep driving past La Junta and Rocky Ford to a town called Hasty. That’s where you’ll find this park. The main plus about this one (besides seeing more of the state) was that it was only a short (30-45 minutes?) detour to the state border with Oklahoma and as OK was a state I still needed to hit … I did that. Had my phone change time zones and everything.

Will I return?: I don’t boat, so probably no need.

October 20, Lathrop State Park

IMG_5922

At this point, I had actually had several opportunities to knock this park off (at least three), but I wanted to save it for last as it was actually Colorado’s first designated state park. I thought it would be cool to see Colorado’s first as my personal last. So I did.

Will I return?: I’d like to. B was along for this final park venture (all in all, he went to 13 with me on the actual day, and two others on different occasions) and he really liked Lathrop. I also would have liked to explore it more.

*****

This project was awesome. I got a Parks Passport too late in the project to actually get it stamped everywhere (and a good chunk of them I visited beyond visitor center hours), but I don’t need that to know that I DID IT.

The best part of the project was exploring parts of Colorado I’d never seen before. The biggest reason I would advise others to do something like this is it takes you to parts of the state you may have never seen. You’ll see farming communities, small towns.

As it was finished before Election Day … I think it influenced my vote some. Too often do we choose to vote for something that would only benefit US, without thinking of how it will impact others. There is a lot more to Colorado than just Denver/Boulder/ski resort towns. So much more. The needs of someone in Rocky Ford, or Olathe, or Julesburg, or Telluride, or Cortez, or wherever else are a lot different than what mine are here in Denver. It made me think … what helps me most while simultaneously NOT causing harm to others? A tax on x might help me, but it might cripple someone in one of those other places. Well that’s no good. A tax on y, however, might aid both. Or aid me without harming the other.

Colorado is a wonderful state, and it is so much more than just the mountains. Get out and explore it.