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Camping near THs in the San Juans

Trailhead conditions, directions, roads, parking, camping, etc. Trailhead Info/Status
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Camping near THs in the San Juans

Postby macgyver » Thu May 16, 2013 11:44 am

Later next month I have a trip planned to the San Juans with a few friends. We’ll have 2 trucks (5 one-person tents) and our goal is to hike 6 peaks in a week(ish) time span; meaning we'll be camping>hiking>driving x5.
I’ve been researching the forum for info on places to car camp near trailheads (or close by) and would like to see if there are any other ideas or disagreements, with what I’ve been able to find so far:

West Willow Creek TH: “There is very little parking at the TH, but you could camp very close to the TH. I couldn't see any "established" spots however. I car camped about 200yds south of the TH”

Matterhorn Creek TH: Couldn’t find good info for this one - Sent a PM to someone, waiting to hear back

Yankee Boy Basin TH: “There is a popular place for people to stop along the road where there is a waterfall, this is just a 1/4 mile or so below the bathrooms. It is surrounded by trees and made a great place to camp. The spot will be pretty obvious as there is a parking lot that can hold 8-10 vehicles.”

Kilpacker basin TH: “there are a few car camping spots at the Kilpacker TH (near El Diente)”, “there is ample camping at the TH”

Rock of Ages TH : “There are campsites along the road to the Rock of Ages trailhead”
-MacG

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Re: Camping near THs in the San Juans

Postby ChrisinAZ » Thu May 16, 2013 1:58 pm

Matterhorn Creek: there's room for maybe 2-3 tents on some grass right at the trailhead at the end of the 4WD road. Couple of meadows along the 2WD roads on the approach that make for wonderful camping too.

RoA: several campsites along the way, of varying quality. Camping at the actual TH is apparently not allowed.
"If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason."
— Jack Handy

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Re: Camping near THs in the San Juans

Postby TravelingMatt » Thu May 16, 2013 2:05 pm

ChrisinAZ wrote:RoA: several campsites along the way, of varying quality. Camping at the actual TH is apparently not allowed.


I slept in my car at RoA last year without a problem. I realize this is probably not an option for the OP. However, I can't imaging getting "caught" camping there would be likely if you break camp and start at the usual recommended time.
So pleas'd at first the towering Alps we try,
Mount o'er the vales, and seem to tread the sky,
Th' increasing prospects tire our wand'ring eyes,
Hills peep o'er hills, and Alps on Alps arise!
-- Alexander Pope

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Re: Camping near THs in the San Juans

Postby eskermo » Thu May 16, 2013 4:00 pm

Yankee Boy: If I recall correctly, you can't really park/camp along the road going into Yankee Boy Basin, with maybe a couple exceptions. When I arrived at the trailhead, the lower camping area by the creek was already filled by early afternoon. So I drove back out to Highway 550 to look for dispersed camping elsewhere. From the CR 361 road that you turn onto from 550 to go to Yankee Boy Basin, continue south on 550 toward Silverton. The first turn you can take onto a Forest Service road on the left offers a ton of dispersed camping. I believe this is the road that connects the Alpine Loop to Ouray. From what I remember, the road was pretty rough and steep so I wouldn't take anything other than a high clearance 4WD up there. However, I was able to find tons of open dispersed camping sites. I slept in my car off this road and had a short drive in the morning back to the CR 361 road and to Yankee Boy Basin. I remember there being a couple spots that looked like you could fit maybe 3 cars, but I also didn't drive very far up the road. Maybe there are larger camping areas further.

Kilpacker: Plenty of parking there and there may be a couple spots to set up camp, but I remember it being very wide open/meadow-y/not a lot of trees. I continued down the road past the Kilpacker trailhead and past the Navajo trailhead to find some better dispersed camping. Go past a switchback or two past the Navajo and there are a lot more trees and much more choice areas to park/camp. The area I stayed at was on the left side of the road after passing Navajo and had a few canopied areas and plenty of room for 5 cars and 6 tents. However, I would highly recommend packing in for this one as there are some AWESOME camping spots on the Kilpacker trail. You'll hike in and take a right at a fork for a trail that leads down to meet the Navajo trail, and then you'll come to a large stream crossing (Kilpacker creek). Between this stream crossing and treeline, there are a TON of awesome camping spots, and plenty of them would have room to comfortably set up 6 tents. The one spot I remember standing out from them all was near the creek and just below a pretty cool waterfall, all under canopied trees and on a really flat, not rocky surface.

Hope this helps!

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Re: Camping near THs in the San Juans

Postby benners » Thu May 16, 2013 4:30 pm

Yankee Boy try Angel Creek, Thistledown, or Amphitheater.

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Re: Camping near THs in the San Juans

Postby macgyver » Thu May 16, 2013 5:06 pm

Much appreciated, I'll keep an eye out for these spots. thanks all!

-Mac

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Re: Camping near THs in the San Juans

Postby ChrisinAZ » Thu May 16, 2013 5:25 pm

Agreed that you'd probably be fine if you did this--in fact, my friend opted to just sleep in his car there as well. Just mentioning that "officially" you're not supposed to, on the slim chance a ranger would be by...

TravelingMatt wrote:
ChrisinAZ wrote:RoA: several campsites along the way, of varying quality. Camping at the actual TH is apparently not allowed.


I slept in my car at RoA last year without a problem. I realize this is probably not an option for the OP. However, I can't imaging getting "caught" camping there would be likely if you break camp and start at the usual recommended time.
"If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason."
— Jack Handy

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