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Once owned by one of the largest sheep companies in the US, owner John Kelly Hartt used this land for summer grazing for his sheep, which numbered in thousands. In winters, the flocks were transported to an open space near Rawlins, Wyoming. Upon Hartt’s death in the 1950s, his wife, Pearl, sold the Colorado property to the U.S. Forest Services, who in turn sold it to the state of Colorado.
Ringed by several mountain peaks like Hahns Peak, Farewell Peak, Lost Ranger, and Mt. Ethel, visitors to Pearl Lake State Park have an almost 360 panoramic view of the towering mountains. Twenty-seven miles to the south is Steamboat Springs a small-but-bustling town. Booking an RV in Routt County will result in endless opportunities for adventures and memories to last a lifetime.
When people think of Colorado, they often list features like mountains, outdoors, wilderness, and wildlife. Pearl Lake State Park has it all in spades. A poorly kept secret, this park is home to one of the best fishing in the state, known in particular for its cutthroat trout, which has been designated as “Gold Medal.” There is a small boat ramp for rowboats, kayaks, and canoes. The best times for fishing are generally in late spring after the thaw, usually in late May, and in the fall. Anglers, take note: only flies and artificial lures are allowed. A hiking trail meanders from the boat ramp to Coulton Creek Trail in the Routt National Forest.
Although winters often bring as much as 300 inches of snowfall, closing off automobile access to this area, the fun doesn’t stop. Snowmobiles, available for rent in Steamboat Springs, bring adventurers to Pearl Lake State Park and the other neighboring parks. Snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice fishing, too, are all popular activities.
Both Pearl Lake State Park and Steamboat Lake State Park are regular nesting grounds for sandhill cranes, bald eagles, ospreys, and a few other raptor species. Bears, various species of deer, elk, and moose are frequently spotted grazing on the slopes.
Common reasons to rent an RV are to skip hotels, have easier and faster access to the outdoors (especially for early starts to a long hike), and to unplug from the world. The Pearl Lake State Park campground, although small with only 36 sites, has a stunning view of the lake and the mountains around the valley. All sites can accommodate rental travel trailers and small motorhomes, and each site has a fire ring. Be aware that there are no hookups for rental RVs, and showers, laundry, and dump station facilities are available only at the neighboring Steamboat Lake State Park campground in Craig, CO. Leashed dogs are welcome.
In addition to more conventional amenities like electric hookups, laundry, and showers, camping at Steamboat Lake State Park has one benefit: the on-site marina store has fresh, homemade fudge. The larger park has close to 200 sites; however, it is better known than its sister park Pearl Lake and tends to run out of space quickly during the high season.
The Steamboat Springs KOA may be an option, too. Conveniently close to town, it boasts family-friendly fun amenities like miniature golf, WiFi, a swimming pool, and a free shuttle bus into the town.
Sometimes it’s nice to switch gears and hit the local towns for various attractions. Colorado isn’t all about mountains and nature. It has art. Culture. History. And beer, of course. Colorado Springs is a charming mix of Old West small-town blended with a hipster, funky vibe. Boutique shops with products made by local artisans and crafters line the main street. Just off the main is Tread of Pioneers Museum, which details the local history from its rough beginning when streets were paved with dirt, rather than asphalt, and the town residents consisted mainly of miners and lumberjacks. Photographs, sketches, ancient maps, firearms, and genuine artifacts line the halls, allowing visitors a glimpse into the past.
The town itself hosts several annual events throughout the year. The Carnival, held in early February, has been held since 1913. The Carnival includes quirky fun activities like skijoring races, donkey jump, and sledding races on shovels pulled by horses. Other crowd favorites include the annual Hot Air Balloon Launch and Rodeo, started in 1981, Oktoberwest, which began in 2009 and is going strong, and Rocky Mountain Mustang Roundup (for automobiles), which has been held since 1996. The nearby town of Craig, also holds regular events at its fairground, including an annual carnival and food festivals.
Temporarily swap an RV rental out for a dog sled and hit the trails at a surprisingly quick pace. The eager team of dogs, usually huskies, but they don’t discriminate, will often yip and howl in joy as they race down the snowy trails through the backcountry meadows and woods. Brisk, cold air whip at the riders’ faces. Although most rides are done in winters, a few dog sled tour services have carts similar to golf carts for summer runs. Most winters tours range between 10 and 20 miles and can only accommodate one or two riders at a time. Summer runs tend to be shorter due to the heat.
To unwind, hop into a rental motorhome and head over to one of the local hot springs, which are remnants of ancient volcanoes that are dormant today. Strawberry Park Hot Springs is one of the larger pools, able to accommodate several dozen people at one time. Heads up: pets are not allowed at the springs, though they’re welcome on the trails that connect to the neighboring state and national forest parks.
Make new memories to last a lifetime at the Pearl Lake State Park campground when you rent an RV and head out exploring with the family.