Dispersed Camping – Half Moon Creek, CO

Oh Colorado. Where else can you drive down a dusty forest road among fourteen thousand foot peaks and pristine mountain streams just to camp next to hipsters, hunters, hikers, millennials, rednecks, Midwesterners, Texans, and other assorted douche bags? I just had an epiphany. What if we rounded up all the politicians, threw them into a tent and left them in the wilderness for a month? They’d either kill each other or come out on the other side with something in common. Maybe just pooping in the woods, but that’s cheaper for us taxpayers than golf or elaborate prayer breakfasts.

Riffles of Half Moon Creek.

A wonderful place I’d suggest where this mix of campers exists in harmony is along Half Moon Creek outside of Leadville, CO. Only 20 minutes from town, this area has it all. It’s an excellent area to hike the tallest mountains in the state, the fishing is okay, but can be great if you are a straight up badass like myself, and the scenery is hard to beat.

The big brook trout are tough to get to, but worth it.

There are two pay campgrounds along this road. Half Moon East and Half Moon West. Both are acceptable but the real draw is the dispersed. Get there early and you’ll find some excellent spots but the key is to get there early. This area, like all in the state, fill up early. You’ll be above 10,000 so bring layers and a good bag.

Emerald Lake with the false summit of Mt. Elbert in the background. Bring pale morning duns.

Attractions along the road include the creek itself for small brook trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout fishing. Emerald Lake is worth an afternoon. Tons of fat stocked rainbows for dinner and a scenic place for canoeing and stand-up-paddle boarding. The water is crystal clear and Mt. Elbert looms above. If you are a hiker, the trail heads for both Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive are right here as well.

A spot on the creek. Yes, we camp heavy. Shut up.

The further you drive up the road, the more rugged the terrain and the fewer the camp spots, but the more dramatic the scenery. Don’t bring a trailer, it’s too rough and there’s nowhere to turn around past the last campgrounds. Have fun and respect your neighbors. Insert old man rant here about loud music and four-wheelers.

Directions: From Leadville, take 24 south out of town. If you need literally anything at all, stop at Saturday’s Discount store at the bend in the highway. Take the first right after the store, pass the trailer park, and take a left on 11 south. Drive a couple miles and take a hard right on Half Moon road 11. You’ll hit the forest on the edge of the plains and start looking.

Best outdoor store in Colorado? You be the judge.

Published by willbarch78

I grew up in the middle of nowhere Texas. The nearest Walmart was a full two hours away. My family still runs a ranch back home that I grew up on, but at some point in my treasured youth I hung up the idea of becoming a cowboy, and pursued my passion for architecture. Today I still find myself trying to fit in to a life that has treated me with the average ups and downs one can expect after a certain number of years. My wife and I moved to Denver after attending Texas Tech School of Architecture in Lubbock as we needed a grade change from the Llano Estacado. We camp with our three growing girls all summer and into the fall while I write and create and fly fish to maintain sanity. Life is moving fast as our careers and children progress in all areas, so being outdoors with each other keeps us mostly grounded.

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