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Roadtrip: CO to WY camping tips

Updated: Aug 1, 2018

This month we decided to take a week off work and go explore our beautiful state, plus our neighboring state Wyoming. As you might know, we have two beautiful dogs who hate to be without us. So, we packed our car, loaded the dogs and went on a little journey.

This story is our roadmap. You will be able to read about some cool camping spots we found, the places we have seen, restaurants we ate at and lakes we paddled. Maybe next time when you would like to explore a little it can be useful for you. BTW through the whole trip, we had paid only one campground fee of $20 while for the remaining 5 nights we were lucky to find free, dispersed camping spots. We paddled in three different lakes, and enjoyed hundreds of breathtaking views that will stay in our memories for life.

Total miles: +/- 1270

States: Colorado, Utah, Wyoming

Total money spend on lodging: 20$

Day 1

Thornton, CO - Guanilla Pass, CO

Distance: 80 miles

Day one we decided to camp at Guanilla Pass. I am sure most of you have heard about it. Guanilla pass is 23 miles of Colorado beauty that stretches between Grant and Georgetown. For the past several years it was closed for construction of the road.Since the grand re-opening, it was our first time back there. They have done a great job: paved road all the way, nice concrete corners, beautiful rest stops, nice stone walls. And of course the views.

There are many campgrounds throughout the pass and all of them are special. We went to one of our usual camp spots - along the Geneva Creek.  To get there you will need to turn left from Guanilla pass to Duck Creek road and follow the dirt road for several miles (not treacherous at all) and you will see many designated camp areas. We hiked a bit and got our perfect spot - private river, tree shade, and a magnificent view. Us and dogs loved it!

Day 2-3

Guanilla Pass - Yampa

Distance: 124 miles

fter a night at Guanilla Pass, we decided to hit the road again. We didn’t have a planned rout, so we took this journey day by day. The plan was to kayak and paddle board the Flaming Gorge lake so finding a midway point sounded reasonable. A solution came to us quickly - we camped on the ranch that we have coming up in Yampa for sale. It is just a short stretch from Steamboat Springs.

We took Guanilla pass all the way to Georgetown where we stopped for lunch at Alpine Inn (our favorite Italian restaurant - their wood fired pizza is off the chart). Then took I-21 to Silverthorn, turn to Kremlin and took HW134 to Yampa. To all motorcyclist: HW134 is an absolutely awesome road for a bike. Nice turns, good road, no cars, pretty scenery… just beautiful.

We had our own piece of heaven on a 40-acre ranch. River, hammocks, fishing… You can read about the ranch here. Just take a look at the pictures. We really enjoyed our time there.

In the evening we went for a 40-minute drive to Strawberry Hot Springs. You can read all about them here - It costs 15 dollars to get in, there are 5 pools with different water temperatures. The place works till midnight on the weekend and till 10:30 pm during the work days. It was pretty awesome watching the stars and the moon from the hot pools.  FYI dogs are not allowed on the territory so you need to think ahead where you can leave your furry friends if traveling with them. Also of note, the park allows for a textile free enjoyment of the springs after dark and for this reason, kids under 18 are not allowed once the sun begins to set.

Day 4

Yampa, CO - Utah - Flaming Gorge, WY

Distance: 275 miles

We woke up early in the morning in Yampa and hit the road to Flaming Gorge. Google maps said it is some 4 hours, but it took us about 7 to to get to our spot (lunch and other stops included). We took Hwy 40 through Utah with a hope to camp on the Utah side of the lake. HOPE…. We have googled some of the campgrounds (i.e. "Mustang Range", "Antelopes flat"). According to the campground websites, most of them are“first come first serve”. Well, it is not 100% true. There is a way to reserve a camp spot and as you may guess most of the spots were reserved. Also, camping sites were placed very close to each other, which is not our cup of tea. After feeling pretty desperate and not being able to find an acceptable spot we decided to go north on 191 to the Wyoming side of the lake and hoped for the best.

1. That road stretch! OMG. It seems like you are on Mars, but no, you are just in Wyoming.

2. After another hour on the road (Flaming Gorge is an 81-mile long lake), we saw a sign “Firehole campground”. It was going on 5 pm, we have been in the car since 9:30 am, so... we turned. A 30-minute canyon road lead us to a place we will most definitely go back to one day: awesome views, privacy +  waterfront spot… Take a look at this pictures. I think they will speak for themselves.

PS. To all motorcyclist: HW 191 from Vernal, Utah to Flaming Gorge is unreal beautiful and MUST be done on a bike. Say when!

Day 5-6

Flaming Gorge WY - Jackson Lake, WY

Distance: 228 miles

All morning we spent kayaking and paddle boarding on Flaming Gorge. It was one of the most awesome experiences of the trip. The water was glass, no people, no hot sun, just beautiful caves and complete peace. We took our dogs with us and they loved it. Well, at least we think so=)

We were back on the road about noon. This time we decided not to take a chance on campgrounds near the lake (there are 3 of those), but to look for dispersed camping, which was found on Shadow Mountain. Just a little bit north of Jackson, right after you will pass Moose, WY take a right on Antelope road. There are a lot of beautiful spots overviewing the Grand Tetons. The road is unpaved but not treacherous. It was hard to find a spot with the amount of tourist in the area but we managed to put a tent and had a fire. If you will be there look for spots #2 and #10 - views are absolutely incredible from there.

We have spent a whole day exploring Grand Teton National park. Yet again we managed to sneak away from the tourist and find some cool spots to paddle around.

1. Jackson lake. Try to take  “Spalding Bay Rd” - it is an unpaved road that will lead you to a little beach area on the lake. No cars, no tourists. Along the way, you will find two dispersed camping spots in the woods - not many views, but right on the lake. Paddleboarding was fun, even though it can get quite windy.

2. String lake. A smaller lake with great views. Can get pretty popular with people. String lake has a long stretch on the north side that connects with Leigh lake. It is about a 40-minute paddle to it and a quarter mile hike. It is amazingly beautiful! And further out you go - fewer people there are. There are many spots for dispersed camping along the way which you have to get to by water only. But it’s totally worth it the added effort.

Day 7

Jackson Lake, WY - Thornton, CO

Distance: 507 miles

We were taking turns driving for the 8 hour return trip. Made it home safe, tired yet fulfilled with positive emotions and memories  from this amazing little trip.

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