We took the short drive from Cheyenne Mountain State Park to Trinidad Lake State Park passing through Pueblo with no traffic, great weather, and a lovely drive.
And on to Trinidad which sits in the southern part of Colorado right off I-25 in the Purgatoire River Valley at about 6,000 ft. It is only about 13 miles north of the New Mexico border. The town has slightly less then 10,000 inhabitants and is known for the nation’s first private practice for gender reassignment surgery back in 1969 and was dubbed “The Sex Capital of the World”. Of course, there is much more to Trinidad than that with historically being close to the Santa Fe Trail, mining, and home to the first woman sports editor of a newspaper, Ina Eloise Young. As of 2015 the pot industry boom saved the town financially and it has its own “Trinidad Weed Mall” along Commercial Street!
Trinidad Lake State Park is about 4 miles west of Trinidad along a damned reservoir with fishing, hiking, boating, camping, and biking. There are 2 campgrounds, Carpios Ridge with 63 electric sites on the north side of the lake, and the South Shore Campground with 10 non-electric sites on the south side of the Lake. Carpios Ridge sits high up on a ridge with no direct access to the lake where as South Shore is level and right on the lake. Carpios Ridge sites 46-52 on the overlook seem to have the best water view sites.
Campground: Trinidad Lake State Park – Carpios Ridge Campground
Location: Trinidad, Colorado (4 miles west of town in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains foothills)
Site: 23 – back-in
Cost: $45 (includes a $9 daily day use pass for the RV – tow vehicle included in price)
Services: E (shared water taps located throughout the campground – one of them right next to our site)
Comments: A lovely state park with some very nice water view sites and some some sites rather close together. We lucked out and got a site somewhere in between, not a lake view but not real close to other sites. We had plenty of hiking trails and activities in the area to keep us busy.
COVID Awareness: 11 out of 10. They had an outdoor check in area on the side of the Visitor Center where you could go knock on a window and an employee would check you in. The window opened and there was a plexiglass shield there, the employee was wearing a mask and gloves to handle the paperwork.
There were always a few birds in the trees at our campsite along with some bunnies who would munch on the grass all day!
The campground has a amphitheater with a horno which is a mud adobe outdoor oven. The horno was covered up when we were there and we could not use it or see it (probably due to COVID?). They advertise to come try it out! There is also an archaeological area with what appears to be tipi rings which are stones used to hold down the hide of a tipi. Experts now think they may be foundations of stone and brush structures dating back more than 1,000 years. This site was within one mile of the Santa Fe Trail so the housing many have been used for those following the trade routes.
We took a drive to the South Shore Campground one day to check it out. We drove over the dam to the southern part of the lake and it was about a 7 mile drive from the Carpios Ridge Campground to the South Shore Campground. We were still experiencing quite a bit of smoke from the Colorado fires that’s why many of the photos are hazy and what looks like clouds are really smoke.
Long’s Canyon is part of Trinidad State Park and lies about 10 miles from Carpios Ridge Campground. We drove our car there one day to hike the trails. The canyon is famous for the K-T boundary which is visible in the rocks along the trail. Geologists from all over the world come to see this amazing site. Note: A K-T boundary is a thin band of rock that shows the transition between the Cretaceous and Paleogene (previously called Tertiary) periods. It is estimated to have been formed about 66 million years ago and to have been around the period of the extinction of dinosaurs. We can vouch that the dinosaurs are extinct as we did not see a single dinosaur while hiking (ha,ha….). The trail leads to a few bird blinds with views over Long’s Canyon pond and on to the southwest part of Trinidad Lake along an old railroad bed.
It was another smokey day so we decided to hike straight from our campsite. The Levsa Canyon Interpretive trail begins right by our site and runs along the cliffs of the lake to the Reilly Canyon trail. The Reilly Canyon trail is about a 10-mile round trip hike from the Carpios Ridge campground and offers ups and downs and great views of the lake.
Highway of Legends in the Spanish Peaks Country runs along Colorado State Highway 12 for 82 miles (one way) through the Rocky Mountains. Of course, it is full of tales from Native American nomads, Spanish explorers, and Anglo and Hispanic settlers, hence the name. You rise to over 11,000 feet as you cross the Cordova Pass and the scenery is breath taking. There are a few alpine lakes along the way, the quaint town of Stonewall which has the Dakota Wall (a sandstone wall that stretches along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, the House on the Bridge in Vigil (quite difficult to find but we found it – it was like a treasure hunt), old churches, and old mining towns including the old town of Cokedale which still has the remains of about 350 coking ovens (used to convert bituminous coal into industrial coal). It is well worth the drive even though we had smoke filled skies. The highway runs along the Purgatoire River valley which was called Picketwire by English fur trappers.