Our experience with Colorado’s State Parks is pretty limited. We’ve only visited one other twice in the last six years – Golden Gate Canyon, located about thirty minutes northwest of where we live on a wicked ribbon of curvy and steep mountain highway. One visit we took the old pop-up trailer, and the other was staying at the Harmsen Ranch house with RAS’s family.
He doesn’t think camping in the state parks is the real deal. Because everyone is required to be on the campgrounds and not allowed to do dispersed, or finding your own site, you’re stuck with dozens of other campers. They can range in ages from quiet senior citizens to rowdy college-age and everyone in between. Each site has its own metal fire bowl, picnic benches and gravel pens if you want to pitch a tent. Most sites have an electrical outlet so you can run your microwave and satellite TV. There’s also facilities – not just pit toilets, but bathrooms with sinks and hot water showers, plus coin-op washer and dryer machines. In other words, luxury in the wilderness, and therefore, not camping.
So our expectations (well, really more his) for Mueller State Park were right in line with this notion, and it was just as expected. But we weren’t ready for the pleasant surprise that awaited us…sweeping natural beauty.
Mueller is arguably the most popular of the all the State Parks in Colorado. Summer weekend reservations for campsites fill up months in advance, and it’s not hard to see why. Situated on a plateau and surrounded by rolling hills, the park lies directly west of Pikes Peak. Most of the terrain is alpine forest, with a mixture of semi-arid grasslands and large rock formations. Even though there’s over 130 campsites, they are spaced out well enough so you don’t feel like you can simultaneously touch the walls of your RV and your neighbors. Finally, the best feature about Mueller is the extensive network of 33 well-marked trails.
But be warned if you bring your furry friends…even though park allows pets, they can’t go on the trails, due to the abundant wildlife present. In the light of day, we couldn’t find any of the elk, mule deer, beavers or black bears mentioned in the park literature. Perhaps we would’ve had a better chance at seeing them if we had arisen early or ventured out at twilight.
Here are some early morning pictures near our campsite:
We then went to the visitors center, where more awesome views awaited:
Pike’s Peak, looking east.
The Sangre de Cristo Range, in the far horizon, looking south.
Mueller’s visitors’ center
This is about as close as we got to a black bear, thank God.
Historical displays in the visitors center.
This was a great time to make a trip. Right before the craziness of the Memorial Day weekend, but with just enough warm weather that made us quietly but effectively welcome summertime.