It’s summertime in Colorado and the Rockies are battling several forest fires. As we make our way through Denver we can barely see downtown and there are Ozone alerts and warnings to exercise indoors. Yes, we had ashes on our RV and car when we departed Estes Park a few days ago and the smoke only seemed to get worse around Denver.
But as we made our way further south to Colorado Springs we could see the sky and the air seemed clearer. Welcome to Colorado Springs!
Colorado Springs sits south of Denver along the Rocky Mountain foothills at a little over 6,000 ft elevation and is at the base of Pikes Peak which rises to over 14,000 feet. Colorado Springs is home to the Air Force Academy, the United States Olympic Training Center and Committee, the Broadmoor Resort, Peterson AFB, Fort Carson Army Installation, Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, and many other interesting sites.
An interesting bit of trivia is “The difference in annual average temperature between Pikes Peak and the eastern Colorado town of Las Animas (90 miles southeast) is the same as between Iceland and southern Florida”.
To the southwest of town is Cheyenne Mountain which is a triple peaked mountain with an elevation of around 9,200 feet. The mountain offers recreation activities, residences, and military and communications housed underground as an operations center for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
Cheyenne Mountain State Park sits in the foothills of Cheyenne Mountain and offers 4 campgrounds with both RV and tent sites. There are over 21 trails spread over 27 miles and the state park is open year round.
The four campgrounds are Raptor Glen, The Meadows, Swift Puma, and Gobbler Grove. Raptor Glen has 10 sites which run along a ridge with great views overlooking the city (Fort Carson) and beyond.
The Meadows offers a group camping area and walk-in tent sites.
Since it was the “Summer of Covid-19” we had to have reservations everywhere we stayed. Our original reservations for Cheyenne (which we made long before the Coronavirus hit) were cancelled due to the park being closed. But when it re-opened we tried to get reservations again. It took quite awhile and required us splitting our stay between 2 sites. No problem.
We stayed first in Swift Puma which has 21 sites along with 6 tent sites. It is the largest of the campgrounds with wide open spaces and views to either the city below or back to Cheyenne Mountain. Our site had views in all directions and was wide open (i.e., no shade for those hot summer days).
We also stayed at Gobbler Grove which is a small campground with 7 sites and is aptly named. Our site was at the end of a cul-de-sac with lots of privacy, great views to NORAD, and some trees with shade.
Note: The Cheyenne Mountain State Park website has great descriptions and photos for each site.
Colorado State Parks require day use fees for your RV (and none for your tow vehicle) along with your nightly camping fee. When you check in they provide vehicle passes, for your RV and for your tow vehicle, for every day that you are staying. Out of the machine came 8 passes for 4 days (4 for the RV and 4 for the tow vehicle). It was like getting a CVS receipt!! Ha, ha…. Imagine if you were staying 14 days then that would be 28 passes would come pouring out of the machine!
Campgrounds: Swift Puma and Gobbler Grove
Location: Ft. Carson, Colorado
Site: Swift Puma 21 (back-in) and Gobbler Grove 12 (back-in)
Cost: $50 (includes a $9 daily day-use pass for the RV – tow car included with that price)
Comments: A lovely campground with nice sites and great views. Since the campground is just up the hill from Fort Carson we heard reveille early in the morning and taps at night. Oh, it’s great to be back in the Army! The trails are great and are quite varied with wide open flat trails down below to more rocky, shaded trails (with bears and cougars) further up the mountain.
COVID Awareness: 7 out of 10. I had to go into the office to register (even though we had paid for the online reservation). The employees were wearing masks, one not covering his nose. There wasn’t any sign regarding number of people allowed in the building (many places say only one allowed at a time) but there were social distancing “circles”. Check-in was very slow (i.e., not prepared for campers with reservations like some places are) yet they were very polite.
Swift Puma Campground – Site 21 (back-in) sat at one end of the campground along a cul-de-sac. Our rig (26′) fit perfectly on the level portion of the site. A longer rig may find it a bit unlevel (not our car).
Our site had lovely views of Cheyenne Mountain, nice site privacy, lots of space, and we even saw a few nice birds, a few coyotes, and a few bunnies!
A few of the other sites in the Swift Puma campground cul-de-sac had nice views and were all back-ins too.
Gobbler Grove Campground – Site 12 was a back-in with lots of privacy. We loved this site. Our picnic table had the usual bear warning sign which seems to have been eaten by some animal (A bear? – ha, ha…).
We had a breakfast one morning over the campfire and enjoyed the shade on a hot summer’s day.
Most of the sites in the Gobbler Grove campground were back-ins but there was one pull thru site 11. Many of the other sites had views over the city.
Our site at Gobbler Grove was right next to the trailhead for Acorn Alley which meant it was easy to get going every morning and hit the trails. The trails are all marked with trail markers along the way including a GPS unique ID and the lat/long (if you should get lost).
We took a variety of hikes every day and enjoyed them all!