Ridgway State Park
Guide

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Introduction

Located just north of Ouray—the Colorado town known as “the Switzerland of America”— Ridgway State Park is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, with its stunning scenery, 1000-surface-acre reservoir, and year-round recreation. Sitting at the base of the San Juan Mountains and stretching nearly five miles into the Uncompahgre River Valley, this southwestern Colorado state park offers nearly 300 campsites spread across three unique campgrounds—making it the perfect spot for your next RV vacation.

With the San Juan Mountains to the south and the Cimarron Range to the east, Ridgway State Park has no shortage of breathtaking mountain views, but the most prominent peak is Mt. Sneffels, which stretches a whopping 14,149 feet above sea level. Closer to eye level, the park offers sightings of deer, marmots, golden eagles, waterfowl, mink, red fox, elk, bald eagles, and black bears, in its beautiful landscape of pinyon-juniper woodland, Western sagebrush, ponderosa pine, and cottonwoods. The park also boasts a history worth exploring, as settlement of the Uncompahgre River Valley occurred following the mining boom of the 1880s.

Adventure-seekers of every variety will find something they love at Ridgway State Park, which offers over 14 miles of hiking and biking trails, over 140 species of birds, and opportunities for fishing, swimming, boating, paddle boarding, and water skiing on Ridgway Reservoir. Ridgway State Park is open year-round, but visitors hoping to take advantage of the park’s cross-country skiing and ice fishing should come in the snowy winter months, while visitors hoping to soak up the sun on the reservoir should visit in the summer season.

RV Rentals in Ridgway State Park

Transportation in Ridgway State Park

Driving

Getting to Ridgway State Park is a very simple and scenic drive in an RV, since the park is located just off US 550—the “Million Dollar Highway.” For visitors needing to restock supplies or yearning to dine out, the town of Ridgway is an easy five-minute drive south from the Dutch Charlie area of the park; those coming from the north can stop in the town of Montrose about a 30-minute drive north of the park for a bigger selection of stores and restaurants.

Navigating within the park in your rig is relatively easy as well, as the highway runs through the length of the park and the Dallas Creek, Dutch Charlie, and Pa-Co-Chu-Puk areas are all easy turn-offs from the main road. There are two parking lots in the Dallas Creek Day Use area, giving visitors easy access to trails, picnic sites, and fishing on the reservoir in this section of the park. When water is low in the reservoir, access gates in Dallas Creek are opened to allow vehicles to drive even closer to the reservoir. For those staying the night, many campsites are pull-through, allowing for easy RV access. Ridgway State Park is also widely recognized for its barrier-free design, so visitors with limited mobility will find easy access to many activities, including camping, fishing, trails, and swimming.

Parking

Public Transport

Campgrounds and parking in Ridgway State Park

Campsites in Ridgway State Park

Reservations camping

Dakota Terraces

Located in the Dutch Charlie area of the park, the Dakota Terraces Campground is just steps away from the reservoir and swim beach, and offers some of the best mountain views in the park. This campground holds sites 1-79, and all campsites have RV electrical hookups and shared water, with the dump station located at the entrance to the campground. The campground also offers group eating areas and restrooms. While most of the 79 sites in Dakota Terraces are RV sites, three ultra-modern yurts are also located here, which are available to rent year-round. The RV sites offer concrete pads, tables, cooking grills, and fire rings. If you plan to come in the off-season, make note that this is the only area of the park with year-round RV camping. Showers and laundry facilities are available at the Camper Services building during peak season from Memorial Day through Labor Day. All sites are available by reservation only.

Elk Ridge

Home to campsites 80-187, Elk Ridge Campground is the most popular campground in the park, due to its prime location: perched on the top of a mesa, covered in juniper trees and pinyon pine. This campground is also part of the Dutch Charlie area of the park, and similarly offers easy access to the reservoir and swim beach. 98 of the campsites at Elk Ridge offer electric hookups, nearby water, concrete pads, tables, fire rings, and cooking grills, while the remaining 10 sites are walk-in tent sites. The nearest dump station for this campground is located down the hill at the entrance to the Dakota Terraces Campground. Many sites also have excellent shade, and some sites even provide panoramic views of the San Juan Mountains. Sites are available through reservation only.

Pa-Co-Chu-Puk

Those looking for full hookups for their rig will find their solution at Pa-Co-Chu-Puk Campground, located at the north end of the park near the Uncompahgre River. This campground is home to campsites 200-295: sites 200-280 are RV sites with water, sewage, and electric hookups located close to the river, while sites 281-295 are tent sites located across the river along a short pedestrian bridge, in a secluded ponderosa pine forest. Each of the RV sites has a level concrete pad, table, cooking grill, and fire ring. The Pa-Co-Chu-Puk Campground also offers two fishing ponds, volleyball, horseshoes, and a group picnic area. As with the other two campgrounds, all campsites are available though reservation only.

First-come first-served

Alternate camping

Seasonal activities in Ridgway State Park

In-Season

Hiking

Visitors keen on hiking will find plenty to keep them busy at Ridgway State Park. With about 14 miles of developed trails ranging from moderate walks to challenging hikes, there’s a trail to suit every kind of hiker. If you’re looking to learn more about your surroundings as you get your heart rate up, you can check out one of the three self-guided trails available in the park: the Forest Discovery Trail, the Dallas Creek Nature Trail, and the Oak Leaf Trail all feature information about the wildlife, history, geology, and vegetation in the park. Guides for these trails can be picked up at the Visitor Center.

Boating

Boating on Ridgway State Park’s reservoir is easily one of the most popular and picturesque ways to enjoy the park. Visitors can enjoy water-skiing, sailing, windsurfing, paddle boarding, and more on the park’s 1000-surface-acre reservoir. Boats can launch from the four-lane concrete boat ramp located at the Dutch Charlie site, while windsurfers and paddle boarders often launch from the Dallas Creek shoreline. April through October, the park also has a mooring buoy field, boat slips, and a dry storage area available.

Swimming

If you come in the summer, be sure to check out the beautiful swim beach located at the Dutch Charlie site. This sandy beach offers visitors a perfect way to cool off in the hot summer months and enjoy the refreshing water of Ridgway’s reservoir while surrounded by stunning views. There are changing rooms with lockers and outdoor showers right by the swim beach, but swimmers should note that lifeguards are not on duty. Water level is sometimes very low, forcing the swim beach to close, so be sure to visit the park’s website before your visit for updates on closures and water level.

Off-Season

Fishing

Anglers will be happy to know that Ridgway State Park offers two fishing piers within it: one just off the boat ramp on the Fish Tale Trail path, and the second at the Uncompahgre River, just off the paved River Walk Trail. All piers are handicap accessible, and these piers are available year-round, as conditions allow—making fishing a perfect activity during non-peak seasons. Stocked rainbow trout, brown trout, and kokanee salmon can all be found within the reservoir.

Cross-Country Skiing

A healthy winter snowfall—which is very common in this part of southwestern Colorado at about 7000 feet—transforms some of Ridgway State Park’s hiking trails into perfect trails for cross-country skiing. While the park encourages visitors to try out any of the 14 miles of hiking trails on cross-country skis or showshoes, about 3 miles of packed trails are typically ideal for winter excursions. To find the best cross-country skiing trail, check the park website for current trail conditions or inquire at the Visitor Center.

Wildlife Viewing

Wildlife enthusiasts will not get bored at Ridgway State Park, where there is no shortage of opportunities for wildlife viewing at any time of year: mule deer, chipmunk, mink, elk, bobcat, mountain lion, bighorn sheep, black bear, and even moose can be spotted in the park. Those more interested in birds won’t be disappointed either: over 140 species of birds have been identified in the park. If you visit in the winter, look out for mountain chickadees, black-billed magpies, red-breasted nuthatches, bald eagles, and great horned owls.

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