A Crowd-Free Summer Vacation
Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer
Some people enjoy the hustle and bustle of happy crowds of tourists, but others want to get away. My own childhood was spent hiking and camping in remote locations around the west because my father liked to avoid touristy spots and he loved nature. If you’re looking for a quiet summer escape this year, here are some out-of-the-way locations to consider.
Echo Campground Dinosaur National Monument petroglyphs [Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer]
Our country’s National Parks have gotten crowded, especially during the summer and especially here in Colorado, but some of our National Monuments are just as spectacular. A national monument is a protected area that’s been designated by the president or congress, and there are approximately 129 national monuments in the United States.
On a late May trip to Dinosaur National Monument in northwest Colorado, we barely saw a soul while camping at Echo Park campground, which is located at the confluence of the Green and Yampa rivers.
This entire area is remote and steeped in history both ancient and more modern. While it is best known for its more than 800 paleontological sites, the Powell Geographic Expedition of 1869 investigated segments of the area and camped at Echo Park during this famous exploration.
Dinosaur National Monument is about two hours west of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and an about an hour south of Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge Recreational Area. Echo Park campground is entirely cut off from cell service, so plan accordingly.
Colorado is home to eight national monuments. Check out this Quick Guide to Colorado’s National Monuments.
Snowy Mountain Range, Carbon County [Photo courtesy Wyoming Tourism Office]
The entire population of Wyoming is less than the population of Denver, so if you want to escape crowds, this is where to go.
In Wyoming, you’ll find a lot of wide open space where the antelope outnumber people. The Snowy Range Mountains, part of the Medicine Bow National Forest in the south-central part of the state, offers visitors a chance to disappear into the woods for a weekend to enjoy fishing, horseback riding, hiking, camping and more.
If camping isn’t your style, but you still long to be in nature, stay at the VeeBar Ranch. This guest ranch is within biking range of the Snowy Range Mountains, often referred to as “The Snowies” by locals. The ranch offers an array of activities including a kid's program.
Meeker Drug Soda Fountain [Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer]
There are the small mountain towns that everyone knows about, and then there are those that truly fly under the radar. One such town is Meeker, Colorado, located in northwest Colorado next to the White River and adjacent to the White River National Forest.
Hunters discovered it long ago, but it’s just now being recognized by those outside of the region as a great place for recreational activities such as biking, hiking and fishing. Charming downtown Meeker has some rather unexpected features like an adorable wine and cheese shop and fun little spots like Country Raised.
It will be a bit busier than normal, but I recommend going during the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championships and the corresponding Jammin’ Lamb Festival in September.
Trinidad, Colorado isn’t exactly in the mountains, but it’s a stone’s throw from the Spanish Peaks, two peaks that are east of and separated from the Culebra Range of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Interestingly, West Spanish Peak is the second easternmost mountain over 13,000 feet in the United States. Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs is the first.
I adore the quirky southern Colorado town of Trinidad. Not only does their downtown have some of the prettiest architecture in the state, the area is rich in Sante Fe Trail history. There are a few can’t-miss restaurants like Rino’s Italian, a family-run joint where guests are serenaded nightly by the wait staff.