Colorado is known for its high, Rocky Mountain peaks, but there is much of the state that is not mountainous. Elkhead Reservoir State Park, located in the northwest part of the state in the Yampa Valley, is considered an oasis in the high desert plains. RV campers and recreation seekers come to the park for the seclusion as well as the many amenities, but it is the fiery sunsets and the panoramic views that keep people from wanting to leave.
Elkhead Reservoir is located ten miles north of the City of Craig, Colorado. The reservoir earned its name because it sits in an area known as the elk capital of Colorado. Hunters come from all over the state to hunt elk during the prime season. This remote 900-acre reservoir provides water for the surrounding towns as well as plenty of water recreation activities for skiers, boaters, and paddlers.
Elkhead Reservoir is a seasonally operating park that only uses self-pay stations. Campers will need to have check or cash on hand when entering the park. Because of the location, cell phone signals are almost non-existent, so you will be able to unplug and get away from the hustle and bustle of the world when you visit. Thankfully, campers and guests who still need to feel connected don’t have far to travel to reach a city with plenty of amenities. Craig has plenty of places to get food and outdoor gear so you can refuel your body and refill your fishing tackle at the same time.
RV Rentals in Elkhead Reservoir State Park
Transportation in Elkhead Reservoir State Park
Elkhead Reservoir is located just over ten miles northeast of Craig, or 15 miles northwest of Hayden, Colorado. There are many smaller cities located within a few hours from the park, but the largest major city, Grand Junction, is located 160 miles away.
All visitors to Colorado State Parks must pay a daily access fee. These fees are an additional daily cost added to camping and other recreation. Please bring cash or check and use the self-pay station when you enter the facility.
Campers who need water should fill up before coming to the park. The closest location for water and a dump station is Yampa Valley State Park, which is located 12 miles from Elkhead Reservoir State Park.
Campgrounds and parking in Elkhead Reservoir State Park
Campsites in Elkhead Reservoir State Park
Craig KOA is perfectly located between Dinosaur National Monument and Rocky Mountain National Park, with Cedar Mountain only 25 minutes away. While in the area, tour the Museum of Northwest Colorado, and the Wyman Living History Museum, too. At Craig KOA, you can relax in the swimming pool, take a walk in the dog park, watch some cable TV, and take advantage of Wi-Fi. There is a convenient Kamping Kitchen on-site, and propane and firewood are available for purchase.
Bears Ears Campground
Bears Ears Campground is a pet-friendly campground located on the north end of the dam. This primitive-style campground does not have water, sewer, or electric, but does offer restrooms close by. Each site has a fire fit, parking pad, and a sheltered picnic table. The spaces are both back-in and pull-through, with the largest space accommodating RVs and trailers up to 66 feet in length. Some of the campsites have water-front views, so if camping near water appeals to you, be sure to choose a site that shows proximity to water. Because the park does not have water or a dump station, campers needing either can go to Yampa River State Park headquarters and fill up your water and empty your black tanks. Yampa River State Park is located 12 miles west of Elkhead Reservoir State Park. Please silence your generators between the hours of 10:00 pm and 6:00 am.
Pronghorn Campground is the park’s more modern campground, offering campers large, electric-only spaces. The Pronghorn campground is located by the north end of the reservoir near the boat ramp. The pet-friendly facility does not have access to water or sewer, but each space has a fire pit, parking pad, tent pad, and a shaded picnic area. The gravel spaces are both pull through and back in and accommodate RVs and trailers up to 141 feet. This multi-looped campground has few restroom facilities located throughout the campground as well as access to a dumpster. Because the park does not have water or a dump station, campers needing either can go to Yampa River State Park headquarters and fill up your water and empty your black tanks. Yampa River State Park is located 12 miles west of Elkhead Reservoir State Park. If you choose to use a generator, please silence them between the hours of 10:00 pm and 6:00 am.
Seasonal activities in Elkhead Reservoir State Park
Day Use Areas
The park offers plenty of day use areas for guests who are visiting for the day or staying overnight. If you enjoy hiking and biking, there are approximately 10.5 miles of trails to explore. Should you want to have a more relaxed day, visit one of the picnic sites and enjoy your meal at the shaded picnic pavilions. People who prefer hot dogs, hamburgers, and other grilled food can use the fire-based grills located near many of the picnic areas. For detailed information on the day use facilities, pick up a park map when you enter the park.
Elkhead Reservoir is a favorite destination for boaters and paddlers. If you prefer less leisurely activities, then bring your jet skis and water skiing equipment and cruise the water in the designated wake zones. The park doesn’t rent any equipment, so guests should arrive with the items they will need for a fun day on the water such as gasoline, flotation devices, sunscreen, and other personal needs. Those who like to watch water activities from the shoreline will love the quiet no-wake-zone swim beach, located near the north end of the lake. Before boating, please take your boats to the inspection station, as this lake participates in mandated aquatic nuisance species inspections.
Anglers love the water of Elkhead Reservoir because it has many places for boats to find areas of complete silence which is often needed for fishing. Before taking to the water, ensure you have your needed fishing supplies including your fishing license with you. Colorado requires that all anglers over the age of 16 have and possess a valid permit at all times. During the warm months, fish like northern pike, crappie, and both big and smallmouth bass can be caught. If fishing from a boat isn’t for you, stand along miles of shoreline and drop your pole in the water. No matter what kind of fishing you enjoy, you are sure to have fun out on the reservoir.
Because of the high desert plains location, this park has many different types of wildlife for people to spot year-round. Reptiles, birds, rodents, and mammals call this area of Colorado home, while other migrating creatures find the reservoir the perfect place to stop and rest or roost along their migratory routes. The park is most famous for large herds of pronghorn, elk, and deer, but eagles and owls also frequent the area. On a quiet day, visitors might be able to spot other animals passing through, such as bobcats, mountain lions, bear, or coyote. If you sit in nature long enough, you might be able to spot more than a few beautiful species.
During the cold months when the reservoir is frozen, fishing enthusiasts set up their ice shanties and fish in almost complete solitude. If you prefer to spend your winter months active, then take to the trails and see the park wrapped in snow. Snowshoeing and cross country skiing are both favorite winter activities at Elkhead Reservoir State Park because people can go for miles without seeing anything except maybe an elk. During the winter months, elk and wildlife move in large herds across this portion of northwestern Colorado.
Hunters who have taken the Colorado Hunter’s Safety Course and have a qualifying license may hunt within the park’s boundaries. The park opens for hunting after Labor Day. Those who want to hunt big game, such as the area’s famous elk, may do so in the northern portion of the park. Hunters who wish to use the park as a staging ground and then hunt in the approved areas around the park during the operating season should contact Colorado Parks and Wildlife for more information.