State Forest State Park, Colorado
Yes, State Forest State Park has a bit of a confusing name, but it turns out to be the moose capitol of Colorado. It is a large state park in the northern part of the state, about four hours from Colorado Springs. We booked camping with some friends in February for the July 4th weekend in State Forest State Park and embarked on what turned out to be a very dirty weekend of clean fun.
A month or so before our departure date we received an email saying that the North Michigan Reservoir, where our campsite was located, would be drained. They would be doing work on the dam and it might be noisy. We were offered the chance to cancel, but opted to just give it a go. (Most everything else seemed to be booked.)
The campsite itself was pretty great. It would have been amazing had we had views of the reservoir, instead of a large muddy hole. The other issue is that running water was a 15 min car drive around the lake and showers were completely unavailable. (These things are likely not a problem unless you are camping this year, but make sure to check before you go.)
We brought with us our trusty 2 gallon Igloo water cooler and made sure to keep it filled. There are plenty of places to purchase ice and the running water at the cabins and at the visitors center was cold right out of the ground.
You will want to stop at the Moose Visitors Center. Not only are there clean bathrooms and cool water, they also have a great display about the 600 moose that live in the park. Pick up a park map and self-guided nature trail map for the best visit. We also grabbed the Jr. Ranger Packet for the park and checked out a backpack for the kids to use in their exploration.
We went on a moose Interpretive walk with Ranger Lilly. The walk was about 1 mile and lasted 45min. Ranger Lilly was happy to answer all the kids’ questions and point out everything from native wildflowers to evidence of moose and beavers in the area. It was a highlight of our visit.
We really wanted to see moose. We were most successful in our moose hunt around sunset. We ventured out from the campground by car to drive down a few of the park roads. We got a glimpse of a few moose each night this way, as well as deer and even a black bear. You will want some binoculars to really be able to see the animals, as they largely try to avoid park visitors. Our friends also caught sight of a moose one morning getting a drink from the river in the drained reservoir.
We tried out a few of the short nature hikes in the area. They were all lovely and teeming with wildflowers.
We also ventured into Walden. It doesn’t have much to offer, but we did play at the playground and grabbed some ice and gas.
There is so much hiking in this area you are bound to find something that fits your needs. The drive is also incredibly scenic, most of it running alongside a river.