Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Labor Day at East Portal

Campsite at East Portal Reservoir Campground (Estes Park)
 Labor Day weekend took us back to Estes Park where we enjoyed a final summer outing at one of the prettiest places in Colorado.     Also, the fresh mountain air provided a brief escape from one of the worst allergy seasons I've ever experienced.  I stopped sneezing as soon as we arrived. (Yay!)

One of the trip highlights was a lung-busting hike to the top of Estes Cone. This 5.7-mile (one way) trail conveniently passes next to our campground, eliminating the need to drive to a trailhead.  The scenic hike takes you past the East Portal Reservoir, along the Wind River, through stands of blazing golden aspen, and up to the 11,006' summit.   Panoramic views abound at the top with Rocky Mountain National Park spread out like a carpet below.  

Estes Cone - Hiking Destination

Early signs of Fall along the way

Aspen  ablaze

View from the top of Estes Cone

 The second day of hiking was much less strenuous,  but equally as beautiful.   We took the East Portal Trail from the campground and hiked past Glacier Basin Campground to Sprague Lake, which couldn't have been any prettier with the tranquil, crystal clear water backdropped by thick pine forest, granite peaks, and blue skies.

Sprague Lake

East Portal Campground sits adjacent to thick forest

Usually on a weekend stay in Estes Park, you are almost guaranteed to see herds of elk and deer.     However, I was beginning to doubt that wisdom when after two full days of hiking in RMNP, the biggest wild game we saw was the ground squirrels that begged for handouts when we sat down on a rock to have lunch.    As it turned out, the deer, like many of the townsfolk I suspect, were waiting for the holiday  tourists to leave before venturing out again.   The morning that we began packing up, a small family of deer strolled through the mostly empty campground, nibbling on thorny rose bushes between campsites.  They came right up to the camper, and I managed a few blurry photos through the window.

Critters at the campsite

We had a great time, and in spite of the holiday crowds, this was one of the most relaxing and enjoyable camping trips I've taken all year long. I was sorry to have to hitch up and head home, not to mention begin dealing with allergies again.  About 10 miles from home, once we were down and out of the mountains, my eyes began to itch, and I immediately started sneezing (sigh).  Now, where did I pack the Claritin….

If You Go:

We stayed at the East Portal Campground just outside of Estes Park.  This campground has a lot of pros and cons. Here are a few to consider if you plan a visit:

On the plus side, it is in a fantastic and convenient location, nestled in the forest at the end of a quiet road with some great mountain views (albeit behind some power and phone lines).  On the other hand, many of the sites feel crowded together.  As an example, our camping neighbors brought along an iPad-like device to watch videos one evening.  The two campsites were close enough that we got to enjoy the movie dialogue right along with them, even though they had the volume turned down fairly low. 

Trees are turning early this year.
The campground has a variety of sites with full hook ups, water & electric only, non-electric, and tent-only sites.  Shower facilities are conveniently located and free, but they show their age and some modest updating would go a long way, IMO.   There is a free dump station on site.  Also, not sure if this is a plus or a minus, but I was not able to get reliable cell service at the campground.

The campground website warns that some areas of the campground require vehicles less than 22', and they mean it!  The campground road narrows considerably in some spots with very sharp turns.   Getting to our site (A50) was a little bit like driving through an obstacle course.  The road is a windy, one-way, narrow path, and I had to turn my rig around 180 degrees to back in to the site (next time, if they will let me, I'll drive in the opposite direction for a much easier approach).   Navigating to the site would have been close to impossible to do with a large trailer.  Not all sites are difficult to get in to though;  I just happened to reserve one of the more challenging ones.  Hmmm, perhaps that is why it was the only one left when I made my reservation....

A great feature of this campground is that it is located on the free Estes Park Shuttle route.   Every hour between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. the shuttle stops to pick up passengers.   Three routes take you to just about anywhere you need to go in Estes Park for dining and shopping as well as routes into Rocky Mountain National Park for hiking and sightseeing.  I didn't use my car even once during our entire 3-day stay.  The free shuttle is a fantastic amenity, especially for such a small town.

Cost for a 3-night stay at East Portal Campground with no hookups was $91.00 (includes tax and transaction fees).    Reservations can be made through the Larimer County website.

No comments:

Post a Comment