Tent Poles: Cow Creek South campground at Green Mountain Reservoir
If you want to get away from it all, but not really, head to Green Mountain Reservoir.
Found about 23 miles north of Silverthorne, the reservoir is home to six campgrounds with tent and RV sites. There’s a marina, stellar fishing, nearby cliff diving, the Eagles Nest Wilderness, dozens of hiking trails and more. Summit’s northernmost reservoir is also home to the only water skiing and wakeboarding in the county. Sure, the water is still chilly, even in late summer, but it’s nothing compared to the bone-chilling temperatures at Grand Lake.
But, here’s the true appeal of Green Mountain: While everyone else is drawn to the close, convenient, jam-packed campgrounds around Lake Dillon, the short jaunt up Highway 9 is enough to ward off the majority of weekend warriors. You’ll often camp right next to locals from Summit and Grand counties, plus visitors from across the country who have frequented this not-so-hidden gem since discovering it decades ago. For a while it was also known as a party site, but the U.S. Forest Service has supplied extra manpower over the past few years, and it’s now a favorite for young families.
“I wouldn’t say it’s quiet, but you don’t get much highway noise at all,” says Ken Waugh, recreation officer for the Dillon Ranger District. “We’re trying to provide a safe, family camping atmosphere, and the reservoir had a reputation for being kind of a Wild West area for a while. We’ve been enforcing the rules more strictly to provide extra safety and security.”
Of the six campgrounds around the res, Cow Creek South is one of the largest and most popular. If pad-site camping isn’t your thing, it might be best to try Prairie Point or Cow Creek North. But, if you simply want convenient access to the water, plus more than enough space for a family reunion or group outing, car camping in Summit doesn’t get much better than this.
Cow Creek South
Recently, the U.S. Forest Service split Cow Creek into two campgrounds. The north campground is smaller and more secluded, separated from neighbors by a marshy wetland area, while the south campground is close to the reservoir and Highway 9.
Cow Creek South is easily the largest at Green Mountain, with 45 campsites spread across six loops. One loop is set aside solely for RVs (sorry, no hook-ups) and the entire campground is overseen by two friendly camp hosts.
Like the remaining five campgrounds, just about every site at Cow Creek South sits within steps of the reservoir shore. Each site has a large, flat parking area, and recent road upgrades make it perfect for wheelchairs and ADA access. The $13 overnight fee covers two cars. Additional cars are $5 apiece after that, and expect the camp hosts to keep a close eye on overcrowding. Again, they no longer want to encourage a Wild West atmosphere.
Cow Creek South is one of the final Summit campgrounds to close for the season. Barring any bizarre weather, your can reserve a spot at least through Sept. 20, if not through Sept. 28 at the latest. The remaining sites at Green Mountain are phased out beginning Sept. 7.
Made for: Large groups, family reunions, boaters
Site amenities: Picnic tables, fire pits, large parking sites, lantern posts, vault toilets, no running water
Reserve your spot: Cow Creek South is the only campground at Green Mountain that requires reservations. The stay limit is 14 nights in a row, at a rate of $13 per night (tent and RV), plus $5 for each additional vehicle over the two-car limit. Make reservations a minimum of four days in advance. To reserve a site, see http://www.recreation.gov.
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