Five Star Campingin Southwest Colorado
Site privacy: 4
Site spaciousness: 3
Stay among the aspens at the finest campground the Uncompahgre National Forest has to offer.
Silver Jack Campground is arguably one of the prettiest campgrounds in the prettiest spots in the Colorado. Located near the forks of the Cimarron River in the shadow of Uncompahgre Peak, the campground borders 2-mile-long Silver Jack Reservoir, which enhances the forests, meadows, and summits of the nearby Uncompahgre Wilderness. Only hand-propelled boats are allowed on the reservoir, maintaining peace and quiet to go along with the scenery both in and beyond the campground.
The campground is situated on a knoll above the lake, surrounded by aspens. Their leaves flutter in the wind, emitting a purr and creating an ever-changing mosaic of light on the forest floor. Tall grass forms an unbroken understory that contrasts with the white trunks of the aspen. This is the reason you come tent camping to begin with.
Silver Jack has three tiered loops. The roads are paved, along with each camper's parking spot, which really cuts down on the dust. The first loop, Ouray, has a short two-way road with campsites along it before the actual loop starts. Ouray is at the lowest level and has 20 campsites set in the aspens. One small meadow breaks up the trees, along with a very occasional small evergreen.
The Chipeta Loop circles around a meadow of its own. Yet all the campsites are in an extremely dense aspen wood. The young trees make for shady campsites and offer great privacy, especially on the upper part of this loop. This seems to be the most popular place to camp.The Sapinero Loop is the highest on the knoll and is sometimes closed until the campground fills. It is my favorite loop. Here, the aspens are older, larger, and allow more light to form a more flowery understory. You can also see the surrounding mountains better. The road rolls upward with campsites spread far apart, though they tighten up as the loop is completed.
Water spigots and vault toilets are evenly spread about the campground. There should be no trouble finding a campsite in June, when the weather is less predictable and can still be chilly. But in July and August, arrive early to ensure a campsite on weekends. September is a great time to visit and watch the aspen leaves change color. Any time is a great time to relax in this wonderful campground setting.
Of course, you may want to get active. Hiking, fishing, and boating are the main activities here. An informal trail circles Silver Jack Reservoir, so you can bank-fish for rainbow trout, brook trout, and kokanee salmon. By all means, if you have a canoe, bring it. Your arms are the only motor you can use here. The scenery from a boat in the middle of the lake is inspiring. You won't care if you catch fish or not.Fly fishers like to try their luck on one of the three forks of the Cimarron River, as the waters tumble down from the wilderness above. Beaver Lake lies a mile below Silver Jack and is also popular for fishing. The smaller Fish Creek reservoirs are just a few miles north of Silver Jack on Cimarron Road. No one swims in these chilly lakes. For more information, see GORP's Uncompahgre National Forest fishing resources.
Silver Jack derived its moniker from the mine of the same name located in the Uncompahgre Wilderness just south of the campground. You can hike up the East Fork Trail (#228) to the old mine site. Always be careful near any mine, closed or open. Beyond the mine site are two waterfalls of the East Fork.
You don't have to go to Europe to climb the Matterhorn. There's one right here in the Uncompahgre Wilderness. Take the Middle Fork Trail (#227) for a challenging day hike to top the 13,590-foot peak. Uncompahgre Peak is a fourteener, but can't be reached in one day from this side of the wilderness.
For an easier hike, go to Cimarron Ridge, across the reservoir. It can be accessed from Trail #222. You'll end up at 10,800-foot Lou Creek Pass, overlooking your camping paradise. Or hike up to High Mesa on the Alpine Trail, which starts near the campground.
Or you may just want to hang out and watch the aspens flutter in the wind.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication