Fire bans, COVID 19, and unemployment rates in Denver at record levels? You’re going to have to drive further baby! Once upon a time I would hit the road to a green area on the frayed Colorado Gazetteer and with fingers crossed, find a nice little dispersed campsite near a babbling brook full of eager trout on a Friday afternoon. Those days are long gone my fellow campers. If you are looking for dispersed bliss you better get your ass out of bed and be on the road early Thursday morning.
Routt National Forest and the majestic Flat Tops Wilderness offers a wide array of dispersed opportunities, just be prepared to drive 3 1/2 – 4 hours from hot and sweaty Denver. It is a beautiful drive so it’s totally worth the blood clots in your legs.
Make sure and stop at the liquor store in Yampa. They are the nicest people in the world and the exterior of the shop is photo-worthy. The fine folks there even let us fill up our empty water jug out of their garden hose “free of charge”.
There are several areas to find good spots. The first is on your way to Sheriff Reservoir. The closer you get to it, the more camping there is. The reservoir is also large, but not too large to put your SUPs, kayaks, and canoes in.
We easily rowed across it a couple times as the wind tried to give me a hernia. The stocked rainbows in the lake are also stupid. Once you find them, tie on an Adams Parachute and impress your family by catching them easily.
The other area we camped was Crosho Reservoir. A little higher in elevation in the Flat Tops Wilderness, and a tighter road, and less camping spots. That said, there are about ten crowded spots at the lake, otherwise there isn’t any. But if you get up there early, the lake is usually all yours. And it contains arctic grayling and cutthroat trout. Also good for canoeing and SUPping. It can get windy, but you are on top of a mountain so the views and solitude easily make up for a little breeze. Remember to Leave No Trace.
Directions to Sheriff Reservoir: Oddly the road to the Res. doesn’t show up on my Apple map, so trust me on this one. It’s on the Colorado Gazetteer and Google if you don’t believe me. From Denver, drive glorious I-70 to Wolcott. Exit onto 131 and head north towards Steamboat. At Yampa, stop at the liquor store and buy a bottle of Pendleton. Take Rcr 17 on the north side of town. It jogs a couple times then winds up the mountain toward the Flat Tops. Keep an eye on the signage along the road. There is a brown sign for Sheriff Reservoir. Camping all along the way, even before your turn off. You’re welcome.
Directions to Crosho Reservoir: Same road out of Yampa but don’t go very far before you see the turn off for Crosho which is road 930 on the map. It gets very tight in the aspens but is worth the hairy drive up.