What do you seek in your next sojourn? Fun in the sun, adrenaline-pumping activities, and a heavy dose of flora and fauna await you at Jackson Lake State Park. Located in Orchard, Colorado, this 440-acre state park is the perfect RV destination in any season. Situated on a large 2,700-acre reservoir, Jackson Lake is known for its boating and water sports. This family-friendly park has seven excellent waterfront campgrounds offering 260 campsites with plenty of space to park your camper. Enjoy swimming in the warm waters of Jackson Lake, or soak up some sun on the beautiful sandy shoreline. After you hit the beach, relax with a picnic lunch at one of the 60 picnic sites available in the park. In addition to water sports, Jackson Lake has an off-highway vehicle trail where you can take your dirt bike out for a spin. It is also a popular place to hunt, fish, or simply photograph the abundant wildlife. In the winter, you can ice skate on the frozen lake or try your hand at ice fishing. With excellent facilities, lots of recreational activities, and hundreds of spacious campsites, Jackson Lake State Park is an ideal spot to park the rig and set up camp.
Located in the northeastern corner of Colorado, Jackson Lake State Park is close to Fort Collins, Denver, and Boulder. The park is near to Orchard, Colorado, and is 13 miles north of Wiggins, Colorado, off of I-76. While the park is off the beaten path, the route is well signed, and you can follow the paved County Road Y-5 into the park. The park has two entrance stations at the west and south gates. The main entrance is at the west entrance. These entrance stations are staffed on weekends from late April through Labor Day weekend and on some weekdays. If you plan to arrive in the off-season or on a weekday, be prepared to pay with cash or check at the self-serve station located at the west entrance. Every vehicle entering the park must pay a fee in addition to the camping fees.
If you are towing a vehicle behind your motorhome, you are required to get a towed vehicle pass. The pass is free of charge, and you can obtain it by showing your camping permit or proof of reservation at the entrance station, park office, or Visitor Center. There is additional parking in the Pelican Campground and day-use parking in the Cove Campground by the west swim beach.
Many of the roads throughout the park are unpaved, so drive with caution as you may encounter deep ruts. Be especially alert in the winter as ice and snow may be thick. The dump station is easy to access from the main road, just beyond the west entry point.
This 26-site campground offers 20-30 amp electrical hookups for all of its sites. It shares facilities with the Fox Hills campground but offers flush toilets as well as pay-per-use laundry and shower facilities. The park has one dump station that is centrally located between the west gate entrance and the Visitor Center. The park can be busy during the peak season, so reservations are recommended and can be made six months in advance, but must be made at least three days ahead of arrival. Sandpiper Campground is closed during the off-season (mid-September through March). As per the state park policies, you must observe quiet hours at night. The length of the sites vary, but vehicles up to 40 feet long can be accommodated.
The 87 sites at Fox Hills Campground are the most primitive of the park because these sites have no hookups. The campground does, however, offer flush toilets and pay-per-use laundry and shower facilities. The park fills up during weekends, so reservations are recommended and can be made six months in advance but must be made at least three days ahead of arrival. Fox Hills is open year-round. The park has one dump station that is centrally located between the west gate entrance and the Visitor Center. The sites at Fox Hill are typically meant for tent-only, but some can hold RVs up to 50 feet long.
The Northview Campground has both 20 and 30 amp sites, however, there are no sewer or water hookups. It is a small campground with 10 campsites that are a bit farther from the lake than the other campgrounds. There is a 200-yard path that leads from the campground to the shore. The sites are quite level and can hold RVs up to 40 feet in length. There are no flush toilets at this campground, but the vault toilets are well-maintained. The park has one dump station that is centrally located between the west gate entrance and the Visitor Center. The park gets busy on weekends, so reservations are recommended and can be made six months in advance but must be made at least three days ahead of arrival. Northview Campground is open year-round.
Pelican Campground is named after the bird, which can be occasionally spotted here by an astute observer. The campground has 20, 30, and 50-amp sites with a foot trail down to the marina as well as access to the Prairie Wetlands Nature Trail. There is a pond in this campground, which makes an excellent spot for wildlife photography. There is also a spot to set up a volleyball net if you want to have a game with friends. All the sites at this campground rise away from the lake, so most campsites still have a lakefront view even if they are not directly beside the reservoir. The site offers pay-per-use showers and flush toilets. The park has one dump station that is centrally located between the west gate entrance and the Visitor Center. This campground is open year-round for tents or RVs up to 45 feet in length.
If you're hauling a big rig, Lakeside Campground is your best bet. Vehicles up to 60 feet long are permitted. This is beachfront camping at its finest, as you can pull your trailer close to the waterline. There are 62 sites at this campground with 20, 30, and 50-amp electrical hookups, although four of the sites are non-electric and reserved for tents. There are no sewer or water hookups, but there are nine water stations available throughout the campground. Lakeside has the park’s one accessible campsite. The park has one dump station that is centrally located between the west gate entrance and the Visitor Center. The campground has both flush toilet and vault toilet facilities as well as a centrally located pay-per-use shower station and dumpster. Running through Lakeside is a food trail to the Shoreline Marina and the Visitor Center. You can also play a game of horseshoes at the local horseshoe pits. Be careful using the three sets of stairs down to the waterfront, as they are mossy and can be slick. The campground is closed during the off-season (mid-September through March).
Open from April until September, the Cove Campground has 12 RV campsites, all equipped with 20 and 30-amp electrical hookups. Be prepared as all the sites in Cove require backing in. They are all quite spacious sites, so this shouldn't cause much of a problem. The site lengths range from 16 to 45 feet. This campground is equipped with flush toilets and pay-per-use showers. The campsites have some natural or human-made shade, as well as picnic tables and fire rings. The Cove Campground is located close to the west swim beach, and there is a foot trail you can follow to the Visitor Center. The Prairie Wetlands Nature Trail also winds its way through this campground. Cove Campground is home to an amphitheater where you can enjoy informative interpretive programs on the weekends during the summer months. The park has one dump station that is centrally located between the west gate entrance and the Visitor Center.
If you brought your dirt bike along on your RV vacation, then be sure to check out Jackson Lake’s OHV trail. This nearly two-mile track is perfect for beginners but is sure to be fun for the whole family. It is located on the south side of the park and is open year-round. All OHVs must have valid registration, and no large vehicles, such as a dune buggy, are permitted. The track opens in the morning and closes when the sun goes down.
When summer is over, pack up your RV with camouflage gear and head to Jackson Lake State Park to do some hunting. The park is a popular hunting destination for waterfowl, doves, pheasants, and rabbits. A permit is required for hunting and can be purchased online or at the Park Office. Hunting season is open from the Tuesday after Labor Day until the Friday before Memorial Day. There are some hunting restrictions, as you can only hunt with bows and arrows or shotguns with birdshot. Check the State Park website for a copy of their hunting brochure for specific regulations and a map of designated hunting areas.
For the wildlife enthusiast, Jackson Lake State Park offers an abundance of wildlife to observe. Keep your camera close as you walk the nature trail or go out on the water. Birds are especially plentiful at Jackson Lake, including pelicans, hawks, bald eagles, waterfowl, and many other shorebirds. If you are lucky, you can sometimes spot a long-billed curlew or a whooping crane. The park is quieter in the off-season, and it is home to long-eared owls who live in the shrubs along the lake. In the winter, look for ferruginous or rough-legged hawks. If you have patient eyes, you may be able to spot a deer, coyote, turkey, rabbit, or even a fox.
Ice fishing is a must at Jackson Lake if you're in the area during the winter months. Ice on the lake is usually thick enough for fishing from November until mid-February. Trout are plentiful during this time of year, so try your luck at reeling one in at the boat ramp, outlet, and inlet areas of the lake. Check the Jackson Lake State Park website or visit the Park Office for ice conditions before venturing out.
Don't forget to pack the camera along with you in the RV, because Jackson Lake State Park is brimming with photo-worthy critters and landscapes. You'll be snapping photos of more than just memories of your Colorado camping trip. Legendary sunrises, gorgeous lake vistas, and a plethora of wildlife are waiting for you to behold at this state park. The off-season is an excellent time of year to practice photography due to the fall foliage, snow-covered lake, and lack of other people.
Just because you didn’t bring a boat, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy Jackson Lake. With its sandy beach and warm water, this lake is perfect for swimming and sunbathing. If you are traveling with the whole family in your RV, Jackson Lake is great for swimmers of all ages. The shoreline slopes gently, so there is lots of warm, shallow water with a sandy bottom for kids to enjoy. Be sure to swim only in the two designated areas, off of Lakeside Campground and Dunes Campground. These areas are wake-free so that swimmers won’t be disturbed by watercraft. There is also a picnic area nearby. Please do not bring your pets to the beach and make sure an adult accompanies all children.
Jackson Lake is a favorite of Colorado anglers. This large lake is home to rainbow trout, walleye, catfish, yellow perch, white crappie, and wiper fish, to name a few. You can fish from the comfort of your boat or off the north side of the boat ramp. If you didn't tow your own boat behind the rig, you could rent one from the Shoreline Marina. You can also fish from the jetty on the dike on the south side of the marina, although this area is closed to fishing at night. Please do not fish from any of the swimming areas and note that you need a fishing license if you are over age 16. Licenses can be purchased online, over the phone, or at the Park Office.
Jackson Lake State Park is a favorite recreation destination for water sports. For the adventurous, water skiing is allowed in all areas of the lake, but you must stay 150 feet away from the designated swimming area. You can also sailboard and jet ski on the lake. You must be over the age of 16 to jet ski, but if you are RV camping with youth aged 14-15, there is a Boating Safety course offered at the park, which qualifies them to operate watercraft. If you brought your own boat, tow it to the four-lane boat ramp located on the west side of the lake in Pelican Campground. If you towed your RV and didn’t have room for the boat, don’t worry! You can rent boats, jet skis, and other equipment from the Shoreline Marina. The Marina is located on the west side of the lake.
If you're itching to stretch your legs and ditch the Airstream for an afternoon, consider exploring the park on foot. Jackson Lake State Park has several different trails for you to discover, some leaving right from the campgrounds. Prairie Wetland Nature Trail starts north of Cove Campground and is an easy, quarter-mile self-guided hike. For a longer excursion, head to Northview Campground. Just north of the campground, you will find a 1.5-mile trail that leads to the Visitor Center. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife along the way, and do not hike off of the designated trails.
If you're camping at Jackson Lake over a summer weekend, take advantage of the free education programs offered by the park. These programs take place at the amphitheater in Cove Campground on Friday and Saturday evenings from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend. Visitors of all ages can learn something new, whether it be about the park's history, certain wildlife that call the park home, or geology of Colorado. Stop by the Visitor Center to see which programs are available during your stay at the park.