Basecamp in Crawford State Park
The perfect place to stay for our Black Canyon adventures
In Mission: Wanderlust, I write and podcast about our family’s travel adventures and the things that we have learned along the way.
Regardless of where we are camping, our family typically prefers staying at state parks. It is nice to have the occasional full hook-up and easy access to laundry that we get from privately owned campgrounds, but in general, if we can find a decent state park within a reasonable distance from the places we want to explore, we will pick the state park every time.
Which is how Crawford State Park became base camp for our trip to Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
As demonstrated by my misdating of reservations for our first two stops and lack of planning ahead for mountain travel, my carefully honed planning skills were lacking with the stop in Crawford as well. Not because it isn’t a nice park. It’s great. But because I didn’t understand that the close proximity to the national park was the unpaved North Rim of Black Canyon, not the visitor friendly South Rim.
Lesson learned. Look at more than just distances when planning on Google Maps.
But even with the 90-minute drive during a single day to Black Canyon’s South Rim, we didn’t regret our stay at the Colorado state park at all.
Our campsite backed onto the reservoir lake, a small inlet immediately down the hill from where we set up camp. For three days, our kids walked up and down the hill at every opportunity, spending plenty of time together and being one with nature. They talked, our daughter sang and wrote, and our son threw pieces of dried mud at the shore on the opposite side of the small waterway.
Our daughter and my sister-in-law Kristen set up the tent so that our daughter could fulfill her dream of sleeping outside with her aunt and having special Aunt Kristen time. The first night that they had the tent up was almost awash, literally, when a serious rainstorm popped up out of nowhere, but Kristen is a seasoned Colorado camper and they made it through the night mostly dry and perfectly content.
Jeff and I took advantage of the park’s biking and hiking trail to ride our bikes over to the visitor center to purchase a state park magnet (to add to our nearly full outdoor fridge) and had a lively conversation with the three older ladies who were working the desk inside.
We survived the wind whipping across the desert at nearly every dinner time, forcing me to cook several meals inside.
And on our second full day in the park, since we didn’t feel the need to return to Black Canyon, we chose to explore another way by going rafting down the river, a trip that got us completely focused on our family as we enjoyed the scenery and even learned a little history when we took a side stop at an archaeological dig.
The state park offered us everything that we needed for the adventures that we had planned for the region and gave our family room to move and explore in the mornings and evenings before we left for those adventures. We had room to spread out, we spent quality time in nature, and we got to see some spectacular unobstructed sunsets as a bonus.
It was how every camping vacation should be.
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