Have you ever heard of a state park where you can take a hot air balloon ride, fly your model airplane, and see a mountain lion? And during the winter you can go cross-country skiing, do some ice fishing, or go sledding like you did when you were a kid. Chatfield State Park, in the middle of Colorado, has all of that and more. In fact, the 3,895-acre park has so much more it is hard to believe. You can ride horses, trek through 26 miles of trails, take your dog to the off-leash dog park, ride your jet ski, and do some sailing or paddling with a mountain view.
During the cold months, you can have fun at Chatfield State Park too. Colorado is famous for its ski slopes, and Chatfield has some good ones. Bring your skis, snowboard, or sled to slide down some of the awesome hills in the park. Or hunker down in your rig or out on a trail and watch for wildlife. The park is full of both mule and white-tailed deer as well as rabbits, foxes, and coyotes. You may even see a black bear!
Since there is no way you can do all you want to do in one day, make a reservation for a weekend or two at the campground where they have 197 campsites. During the winter, only one loop is open, and there are only 34 sites, so make sure you book your reservation early. But no matter when you come, you will surely have a blast. After all, why else would over a million people visit the park every year?
Just 20 miles south of Denver and 43 miles south of Boulder, you can easily find Chatfield State Park just off CO-121 in Littleton, Colorado. You can take I-70 if you are coming in from the north, I-25 if you are coming from the east, US-85 from the south, and US-285 from the west. The main roads are all paved and somewhat level, but this is Colorado, which is mountain country, so expect some hilly and winding roads here and there.
Inside the park itself, you will be pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to get around. Even in the largest rig or pulling a long trailer, you will have no issues driving in this well-developed modern park. The state of Colorado has put a lot of time and money into the park and keeping the roads drivable to everyone is important to its growth. The only thing you will have a problem with is the Deer Creek entrance. If your motorhome is taller than 13.5 feet tall, you will have to take another entrance.
Even though the park is easy to drive around in, the best thing to do is to leave the rig at the campsite and use another vehicle to get around the park. You can also use a bike or foot power. There are plenty of trails and park roads to explore while you are in the park, so don’t stay cooped up in the rig the whole time.
With 197 campsites in four loops, Chatfield State Park Campground has plenty of room for everyone. Out of these, 146 boast full utilities with 20-, 30-, or 50-amp electric. The others only have electric connections but there are water spigots, restrooms, and showers nearby. You’ll also find a laundry facility and an RV dump site if you need to clean the tank. The length limits for RVs and trailers range from 25 to 45 feet and 12 of the sites are ADA-accessible. Although the park is open all year, the only part of the campground that is open from mid-October through February is Loop C. You will still have access to the laundry, showers, and restrooms in Loop D even though that loop is closed. Reservations can be made up to six months in advance.
All of the spacious sites are nicely kept with native grasses, lake views, and have picnic tables and grills. The kiddos will enjoy the large playground in the middle of the campground across from campsites 23 and 24. Fido and Fluffy will love it here too, so go ahead and bring them along since pets are welcome. Just remember to keep them leashed and supervised. In fact, Chatfield has a doggie playground in the northern section of the park by the spillway where they can run free off their leash.
If you have a large family or group, Chatfield State Park is a great place to do some group camping because they have 10 different group campsites with electricity. There are four electric pedestals at each site, and you can only use one plug per outlet. They also have a water hydrant at each group site for potable water, and a central comfort station with restrooms and showers. Be aware that the comfort station is closed for the winter from mid-October until April.
Each campsite can accommodate up to 36 people, and you have to make a reservation at least 30 days in advance. Your dog can come along as well but must be supervised and restrained at all times while you are at the park. However, there is a dog park where your pooch can run off-leash up by the spillway in the north part of the park. There is plenty of space to run around and have fun with your pooch playing ball, or you can just relax and watch the dogs play together.
If you’ve got some skis, it would be a shame not to bring them along when you come to Chatfield. Even though Aspen is the main skiing area in Colorado, some of the best cross-country skiing in the state can actually be found at Chatfield State Park. With 17 different trails from the 0.1-mile Mary Carter Greenway Trail to the 10-mile Chatfield Internal Trail, there is a trail for everyone out there. Be sure to dress warm, always ski with a buddy, and let someone know your itinerary before you go.
Make sure you bring your thermal underwear and other cold-weather gear so you can do some ice fishing. The fish that call Chatfield Reservoir home are hungry and will hit on just about anything during the winter. In fact, Chatfield Reservoir is one of the top 10 ice fishing lakes in Colorado. Anglers have pulled out walleye and trout over two feet long! As long as you check with the rangers on the thickness of the ice where you plan to fish, you should be okay. Don’t forget your hand warmers and, of course, your fishing permit.
How long has it been since you went sledding? Even if you don’t have kids to take down the hill when it snows, sledding has become a popular winter activity again. So, bring your sled. Or even an inner tube or raft will do. You may be surprised at what some people are using to get down the hill nowadays if you haven’t been sledding in a while. Kayaks, tote lids, trashcan lids, even shovels. Yes, shovel racing is a thing. And if you are more athletic, bring a snowboard and try that. But be safe out there and dress in layers.
Be sure you have your good hiking shoes in the rig before heading out. And maybe your bike too. With 26 miles of trails, how can you resist? The Chatfield Dam Trail is for biking and hiking and has just under three miles of both paved and unpaved paths to explore. You can start your journey at the Dam Overlook parking lot, and your furbaby can come with you as long as you keep him on a leash. There are even two miles of trails you and the pooch can enjoy off-leash in the dog park.
Have you ever been in a hot air balloon? If you are not afraid of heights, this may be your lucky day because you can take a balloon ride from right in Chatfield State Park. Grab your phone, so you can take some pics and selfies while you are up there. And if you have your own balloon and have a pilot’s license, you can launch from the balloon launch area off Wadsworth Boulevard just north of the entrance station. You’ll need a permit, which you can get by talking to park staff.
Your pooch is going to love this! Chatfield has one of the largest dog parks in the state with almost 70 acres of wide-open space for your fur buddies to romp around in. Even though it is fenced, you may have trouble keeping them in your line of sight since there is so much space, so make sure they are voice-controlled. There is a limit of three dogs per person, so if you have more than three, bring more people. Bring a ball or frisbee too, so you and your pups can enjoy some fun time together. Make sure your dogs are leashed until you get inside the dog park safely. And bring bags to clean up after your furbaby.