Disbursed Camping Near Steamboat Springs CO

Disbursed Camping Getaway – Steamboat Springs, CO

Living in a resort area, it probably sounds funny to have a “get-away.” But we’ve discovered that (at least for ourselves) with working and living on grounds, there’s little separation from work.  Not that you’re working all the time, but you’re immersed in a community, with no real space of your own.  For independent people, that time away can be a precious gift.

We decided to take a van-camping trip to Steamboat Springs.  It’s an area that hubby hadn’t seen, and was only 2 hours away.  Plus fall colors were still in full bloom.

The drive over was gorgeous.  We drove through a curious little town called Kremmling.  It’s a small town, with a huge natural rock tower that watches over it.  Actually, it looks more like a castle than a tower.

On either side of the town, the road is through wide open spaces with occasional antelope herds in the distance.

The funniest part of our drive though was when we got caught behind a cattle drive.  The ranch was using the state highway to move the cattle and was blocking traffic on both sides.  City-living would easily make a person frustrated with getting stuck behind the cattle drive.  But we just sat there and laughed.  After all, how many times in life does one have a chance to get stuck behind a cattle drive up in the mountains?

Once we made it to Steamboat, we stopped in at the National Forest Office.  We’d been in the US Forest Service’s office in Granby and had a good experience with the staff there. Steamboat was a bit of a different experience.  Seems the staff in that office is a product of the area there (it’s an affluent image-focused area).  After a little prodding and having received several scornful looks, the attendant produced a few maps of the designated “disbursed camping” areas.

With disbursed camping, you drive along designated remote roads until you find a cleared camping area that suits you.  The ones we’ve found so far have pull-offs, fire pits, and no plumbing of any kind.  Pack it in, pack it out, leave no trace.

We first went over to Strawberry Hot Springs.  What a peaceful and beautiful place.  Soaking all day in the natural mineral springs was so incredibly relaxing… calmly euphoric.  Well worth the drive.



Steamboat Springs – Strawberry Hot Springs CO


After soaking, we set off in search of a disbursed camping site.  The first road we tried from the forest service map took a little work to find.  It had been well-hidden by some neighbors that bordered the entrance to the road.   We did finally find it, but just a short way up the road became washed-out, narrow and steep.  We didn’t even try it.  It just wasn’t something our Ford E-150 van would be able to navigate.  So we got the map back out and went in search of another location.

As luck would have it, we ended up instead with an absolutely incredible camping spot. It was very remote, so we were completely by ourselves.  The camp site was so high up in the mountains that we got to enjoy a view that still takes my breath away thinking about it.  How wonderful that such an amazing place could be free and available as such a blessing for public use!

Just picture enjoying coffee at a morning campfire with this view (below).  I think that morning alone added years onto our lives!



View from our Disbursed Camping Site near Steamboat Springs CO


Lessons learned from this van camping outing:

  1. Make sure that you’ve picked a spot to park that is level!  We ended up on a bit of a grade.  It didn’t seem like much of a slant at first.  But sleeping on it was a different matter.  We ended up sliding across the bed over the night, so that we were smashed together up against the side of the van.  Then again, maybe that was hubby’s plan!  🙂
  2. Make sure the place you park is one that you can get easily out of, should it rain. Actually, in this case, the ground was frozen when we got there.  It was thawed when we left.  It took a bit of planning and careful navigation to exit the site without getting stuck in the mud. Thankfully, we’d backed in the night before.  That made it so much easier to exit the site the next day.
  3. Don’t wait until dark to find your camping spot.  You may have to investigate several camping sites, before finding one that you like.  Disbursed camping is rustic camping.  There are no street lights. There are steep drop offs and obstacles.  In fact, there’s barely even a road.  Trust me.  You don’t want to be trying to pick a camping site that you’ve never seen before in the dark.
  4. Have a backup plan.  Unless you set up camp right away, there’s no guarantee your camping spot will still be available when you come back to it later.  Have a 2nd and 3rd choice in mind, just in case.
  5. Take a shovel and garbage bags.  With disbursed camping, you’re expected to leave the site exactly as you found it.  Leave no trace.  That means you bury your potty “leavings” at least 6″ in the ground, and you pack your trash back out with you.

This disbursed camping was rustic camping at it’s best.  We thoroughly enjoyed it and will do more of it!

Free Things to Do at The Resort in Granby, CO

Enjoying Free Activities at Snow Mountain Ranch, CO

Besides the opportunity to live in an absolutely beautiful spot, we picked this resort in Grand County, CO for seasonal employment because of the plethora of free things to do.  As seasonal employees, we get to enjoy the same activities that the guests do!

For starters, the resort sits on 5,200 acres that borders the national forest.  Of course, there are hiking and mountain biking trails galore.  One of the favorite hikes is to the waterfall, a small but lovely waterfall in the woods.


The Waterfall Hike @ Snow Mountain Ranch

The resort is comprised of what were originally two homestead properties: The Just family ranch, and the Rawley homestead.  I’m always fascinated by how innovative the settlers were.  There was no researching and ordering items online.  They used whatever they had and figured out how to make it do what was needed.  I love practical frugalness.  Granted, they didn’t have much of a choice.


The Just Homestead, Granby CO

At the resort, there’s also a stables that provides complimentary trail-rides to the staff.  Our ride ended up being a decadently private ride with just hubby, myself and the wrangler.



View from Horseback @ The Resort

And of course, there’s always wildlife watching.  It was pretty common to see mule deer, moose, red fox, chipmunks, and an occasional bear or coyote.


Who’s watching who?

Some of the wildlife does and exceptional job of disguising itself. Like so many things in life, you have to be paying attention to see it!


Ptarmigan hiding in the grasses

Do you see the ptarmigan in the photo above?  They’re game birds, also known as “Prairie Chickens.”  Their feathers turn white in the winter to disguise them in the snow.

There are so many other things to do at the resort.   There’s really no reason for anyone to be bored. Essentially, all the activities that are available to the guests are available to the staff.  Most of them are free to guests and staff, but there are a few that are available for a small fee.  Other outdoor activities at the resort:  tubing hill, mini-golf, tennis, basketball, frisbee-golf, zip-line courses, and archery.  Indoor activities:  swimming pool, sauna, climbing wall, archery, yoga, and arts and crafts.



Disbursed Camping – Grand County CO

Our first disbursed camping experience:

We’d been reading up on disbursed camping, and were anxious to try it. Disbursed camping is basically “dry camping” in approved areas of the national forests, BLM lands (Bureau of Land Management), or other government managed lands.  Dry camping means that there are no facilities: No clean water source, no bath houses, etc.  You’re responsible for taking along whatever you’re going to need, and you’re responsible for packing it all back out (cleaning up after yourself).

With disbursed camping, your campsite is really just a roughly cleared area just off the bumpy  dirt road.  Often times they have stone fire pits, but that’s the extent of the amenities.

We wanted to make sure we understood the rules and where to go, so we stopped in at the local US Forest Service office (Arapaho National Forest).  They were very friendly and helpful.  They stocked us up with maps showing the designated disbursed camping areas, as well as a brochure with the disbursed camping guidelines.

We picked a general area that we wanted to try for our first disbursed camping outing:   Meadow Creek Reservoir in the Arapaho National Forest.  The disbursed camping was along the long and windy dirt road up to the reservoir.  It was actually only 15 miles or so from the resort, so hubby took a day to do some reconnaissance ahead of time.  It seemed safe enough, so we invited some friends (Mickey & Joy) to meet us there.

We couldn’t get there until that evening, so Mickey & Joy went ahead of us and picked a most excellent camping location.  The spot was in a nice flat area that bordered Meadow Creek, with a couple of lovely fishing pools cradled by beaver dams.  And it was such a quiet and peaceful spot, with no other campers in the nearby area.



Disbursed Camping in Colorado with Friends

It was a pretty chilly night, and we felt a little guilty.  Mickey and Joy were tent camping.  Meanwhile we were “roughing it” in our cozy, insulated van.  We even had heat!  Hubby had a catalytic heater that you fuel with campstove propane bottles.  It’s a flameless heater (no open flame), and has a safety feature that shuts the heater off if it tips over.  I didn’t smell any fumes, but just to be safe, we always crack a window when running that heater.  That little heater worked like a charm and we were toasty warm, despite the cold night.  (Hubby did have to change propane bottles about halfway through  the night though.  I imagine more expensive versions of the heater would last longer.)

We woke up to an amazing autumn morning up in the mountains.  The air was crisp and smelled like fall.  And we enjoyed a very decadent breakfast while sitting around the campfire with friends.

On our way out, we learned a lesson though. When you’re disbursed camping, you’re pretty much on your own. Make sure you’re picking a camping (parking) spot that you can easily get back out of.  Our spot was easy to get into with the van, but not quite as easy to back out of.  It wasn’t that we got stuck, it just was a little bit more challenging than we expected.  A good lesson.