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Backpacker Magazine – May 2012

America's Best Campsites

Park your tent in one of these 10 spots, and you'll be happy in the morning. Guaranteed.

by: Michael Lanza

Sahale Glacier Camp (Photo by: Michael Lanza)
Photo by BP0512CAMP_Lanza_Sahale_445x260.jpg
Sahale Glacier Camp (Photo by: Michael Lanza)
Blue Lakes (Photo by: Grant Orfelheide)
Blue Lakes (Photo by: Grant Orfelheide)
Fairy Head (Photo by: Tim Seaver)
Fairy Head (Photo by: Tim Seaver)
The Dune Field (Photo by: Michael Lanza)
The Dune Field (Photo by: Michael Lanza)
Powell Plateau (Photo by: Ed Callaert)
Powell Plateau (Photo by: Ed Callaert)
Sandstone Castles (Photo by: Ben Sapp)
Sandstone Castles (Photo by: Ben Sapp)
Cirque of the Towers (Photo by: Ethan Wely / Tandem)
Cirque of the Towers (Photo by: Ethan Wely / Tandem)
Johns Hopkins Inlet (Photo by: Michael Lanza)
Johns Hopkins Inlet (Photo by: Michael Lanza)
Coyote Gulch (Photo by: David H. Collier)
Coyote Gulch (Photo by: David H. Collier)
Castleton Tower (Photo by: Justin Bailie)
Castleton Tower (Photo by: Justin Bailie)

The Dune Field
Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO

If the only dunes you’ve ever seen were at the beach, your eyes—and legs—are in for a shock. The sand mountains here rise hundreds of feet, and climbing them with a full pack is no easy task. And camping in this 30-square-mile sea of dunes, with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains rising to 14,000 feet in the background, is one of the most unique experiences on the continent. Sunrises and sunsets mellow this surreal landscape with soft colors and long shadows, and at night, shooting stars arc across a coal-black sky. There are no official trails or campsites in the dunes. Just start walking northwest from the visitor center, crossing shallow (or dry, depending on the season) Medano Creek within a half mile, to enter the sand field. Continue northwest to tag 750-foot Star Dune, then veer north to find a flat spot—like this one—to pitch camp.

Permit Required (free, reservations not accepted)
Map Buy the BACKPACKER PRO MAP
Contact (719) 378-6300, nps.gov/grsa





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Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
Steve
Mar 16, 2014

Having spent lots of nights in the canyon I can say that just about all of the campsites there are five star worthy! How can you really go wrong in this country of back country? Get out and hike! Enjoy life on the trail.

Star Star Star Star Star
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Victor
Oct 19, 2013

Hard to take seriously an article that lists no California campsites/campgrounds.

aussie56
Aug 09, 2012

Just there this week - it is County Rd 7 and is easily accesible to 2wd cars and is reasonably well signposted. Yankee Boy Basin has nothing to do with it(unless and until you hike to Blue Lakes Pass that is). The trail to the pass is in poor condition in places and i was glad i did not have a full pack. Incredible place!! And if you do Sneffels consider the SW ridge route - more fun that the standard.

Dan Froelich
Jun 20, 2012

Heads up for all the eastcoasters thinking they can just drive to the trailhead. You will need a 4w drive vehicle to access the trail.

chillwill
Jun 14, 2012

I cant believe theres not a top ten place for camping in california?????????????????

Kris Gabor
Jun 09, 2012

Not true about the Dallas Creek trailhead. I hiked up to the Blue Lakes from there in 2010. The road name and number may be incorrect, but the lakes are certainly accessible from the north. Just take Rt. 62 five miles west of Ridgway and turn left. Google Maps has it labeled as County Road 7.

That said, the Dallas Creek trail is wooded and, not counting some waterfalls, not as scenic as the Yankee Boy Basin approach (which starts about 2000' higher).

This is spectacular country. I was really happy to see it on this list.

Dan Froelich
Jun 04, 2012

Regarding Mt Sneffels. The phone number does not work and forest rd 851 (Dallas Creek Rd) does not exist. The trail is at the end of forest rd 853.1B (Yankee Boy Rd).

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