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  • Meagan Butler

A Review of Lathrop State Park: A Colorado State Park

Camping Misery: The Backstory

Staying at Lathrop State Park is one of the best things that happened to me the night after the cactus-infested boondocking boondoggle camping experience.

After camping out in the middle of open space, not sleeping well, and spending the first half of the day at the Great Sand Dunes, Katie and I were exhausted by the time we returned to our campsite. The sun was so intense that day. And our camp? It was in the direct line of the boiling midday sun. We considered setting up my awning and pulling the dogs into the shade with us since it was way too hot to take refuge inside either of our places. Because we were boondocking, I couldn’t run my air, and because the ground was covered in cacti, sitting under my awning meant an afternoon outside, sitting in upright chairs, with our sweaty and overheated dogs on our laps. GOOD TIMES.

For us, this whole scenario screamed misery. We considered driving home, but the four hours or more in the car seemed almost impossible since we slept so poorly the night before.

Anything to Escape the Heat

I suggested on a whim that we try to book a night at Lathrop State Park since I remembered seeing it off the interstate when I drove in the night before. If anything, staying there meant we were two hours closer to home, and a lot more likely to find a space where the dogs could at least lie on the ground.

We tried to make reservations, but we didn’t have a strong enough cell signal to see if there were any available camping spaces for the night. We looked at each other, said, “eff it,” and packed up our campsite as fast as we could.

Thankfully, it was past Labor Day, so the chances of finding a space that wasn’t reserved was a little more likely. It’s almost impossible to secure a camping spot in many of the Colorado State Parks on the weekend during the summer, so we were taking a serious risk by looking for a first-come, first served space.

And that is how Lathrop State Park became the best thing to happen to us that weekend. The park had a few spots left, and we were able to secure a site with electricity, shade, a picnic table, a fire ring, and a tent-pad for Katie. Now, I’m hooked on Lathrop State Park, and I can’t wait to go back for a longer stay.

Lathrop State Park

Lathrop State Park, a year-round facility, rests in the shadows of Southern Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range’s Spanish Peaks. The mountains, known for the fiery hue the sunrises and sunsets create across the horizon, create a luminous backdrop for recreation. Park visitors have access to a large visitor center with a gift shop, a golf course, two lakes, and miles of hiking trails. All Colorado State Parks have a daily parking fee. The cost of the pass is an addition to camping and recreation fees.

Which RV Did I Take?

I took my 2016 T@B 320 S Outback. The T@B is a single-axle, 15-foot long teardrop-style camper. The total length of the camper is about 17 feet when considering the additional length of the trailer.

The Campground

Katie and I stayed in the Pinon Campground. This campground is a four-looped, reservation-only campground that operates seasonally. The campground is a pet-friendly campground that offers paved pull-through and back in sites ranging from 25 to 75 feet in length. Some of the sites have tent pads, and all of the sites have fire rings and picnic tables. We stayed in a partially shaded space with a tent pad. It was perfect because our site was located close to a community hydrant, a restroom with pay showers, and a dump station. All of the spaces are electric-only offering 20/30/50 amp hookups.

The park also has another campground, the Yucca Campground. The Yucca Campground is a pet-friendly, primitive-style, reservation-only campground that accommodates smaller-sized RVs and trailers. Each site has a fire ring and a picnic table. There is no electric service in this campground, but visitors have access to community hydrants, vault toilets, and a dump station.

Other Information

Driving inside of the park can be a little tricky. Many of the streets are one-way streets, and the traffic flow is not what you expect. Take care when driving inside of the park, because you might have to drive around your butt to get to your elbow. Trust me. I know.

My Experience At Lathrop State Park

Our campsite was a beautiful space with tons of room around us. We had plenty of shade, and the ground was free of any shrubbery and plants that could hurt the pooches. We set up our camp, had lunch at our shaded picnic table, and then took the dogs to one of the lakes where pets are permitted. Even though it was hot outside, the lakes gave off a gentle cooling breeze, and we were able to put our feet in the water. We spent time walking the lakeside trails and enjoying the views of the water and the mountains. When we returned to our camp, we cleaned up, made dinner, and spent time doing what we’d intended on doing the night before, but were unable to. After the sun started to set, the wind picked up again. It felt hot outside, and our neighboring site decided that 20mph winds made the perfect setting for a giant campfire. We became irritated and more exhausted, so we crawled inside my T@B, turned on the air conditioning, and watched Alaskan Bush People on my tablet. We stayed cool and comfortable inside my camper, the dogs liked our setup, and we stayed clear of the honyocks next to us who could have set the whole place on fire. For us, at that time, sitting inside with the cool air and a show was the perfect way to wait for the sun to set so we could get the much-needed sleep we missed out on the night before. Our experience at Lathrop State Park was a good one, and I am looking forward to staying there again, soon!

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