Date of Stay: May, 2015
Memorial Day weekend at Chief Hosa, one of the coldest/rainiest holidays in recent memory. The site we had was OK, it was fairly level, but it was muddy, particularly where the tow vehicle was parked. Didn't spend much time outside due to the weather. The campground can get crowded and the sites are close together, but no more so than some of those parking lot RV parks where there's barely room to breathe. The staff was friendly and very helpful, guide to help us get the rig in place. Water/Electric connections, no sewer. Only drawback -- they charge an additional $23 to use the dump station there, which is way too steep a price. I gave the park a 7 rating, since it's a viable park to stay in, close to I-70 and amenities, easy commute to Denver or Evergreen/Conifer area. Some of the sites aren't overly level, and it does take some experience in getting in and around the campground, as there are a lot of trees, and some tight turns. It was clean, and the restrooms were very clean. Some folks gripe about the fee to shower, but it's not really unreasonable.
Date of Stay: August, 2014
Rate noted above is with the Senior Pass discount. This is the "off the beaten path" campground in RMNP, somewhat less popular than Moraine Park, but just as nice. There's great views, a mixture of campsites/types; pull-throughs, back-ins, and tent sites. Some in the trees, some out in the open. We had a site that was a pull-through in D loop (D142), nestled in the trees but with an open view to the south. Will definitely keep this site in mind for future trips there. The restrooms (and there were numerous restroom buildings) were sparkling clean with flush toilets and sinks; seems a shame they don't include showers, but that doesn't detract from them, would just be a welcome addition. About the only thing that somewhat soured our visit was the very cranky "lady" that was selling firewood/ice, who made a very disparaging remark about us not having anything less than a $20 for the firewood; that was all the cash we had. She was really nasty about it, and when we go again, we will make sure to have something smaller so she won't be as cranky!
Date of Stay: July, 2014
Price paid reflects Senior Pass. This park is a hidden gem! Yes, it was damaged by winds in 2013 and there are a lot of trees down in the lower loop making it unusable/closed. The remaining sites are all really nice, as USFS campgrounds go. Trees that were damaged have, for the most part been cut down and removed. It's a lot more open than it used to be, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. There's plenty of space between sites, and a good mix of back in and pull thru sites. All have electricity, which was unexpected. Vault toilets in several locations. Easy access to Bellaire Lake itself, which is beautiful! Lots of folks come there for the fishing, which, from conversations with folks fishing, can be a mixed bag...some days good/some days not so good. One can easily hike around the lake. This CG is a good alternative to West and Dowdy Lakes that are closer to Red Feather. It's about 5 miles south of the main/paved road, and is dirt road access, but not a problem. There's also hiking trail access nearby.
Date of Stay: July, 2014
The best park in the area! Having stayed here many years ago, decided to return. It didn't disappoint. There are 5 different areas to choose from for your camping needs. We staying in the Upper Ranch Camp area, in the trees. Bathhouse specific to that area. Pull- through site, did need to do some leveling, but nothing overly extreme. The only shortcoming was the bathhouse itself. A bit run down and in need of a better cleaning. There were only 2 toilet stalls and 3 shower stalls for an area that was constantly busy from campers coming and going. The mix there was of motorhomes, trailers, and tents, so not everyone was using their own on-board facilities. Nice open meadow areas between the different camping areas. Office staff was friendly and efficient. Swimming pool by the office with extra parking for the pool area. Pancake breakfast in the mornings from 8-11 AM, reasonably priced...and delicious! Rafter J is convenient to just about everything one could possibly want to see in the central Black Hills area -- close to Hill City and Custer City, and convenient to Mount Rushmore and the Needles Highway, as well as Custer State Park.
Date of Stay: July, 2014
Good, basic, no-frills campground with 3 distinct areas for camping. There's the usual rows of pull-through sites for those wanting full hookups, with the sites fairly close together. There is also a W/E only area, that's primarily back in sites, with more space in between in some areas, but other sites a bit close together. This area also has a few boondocking sites with no hookups. There is also a separate tent area with no frills/hookups; tents are, however, allowed in the W/E area. Sites are generally level, dirt/gravel mix throughout the park. Utility hookups are conveniently located, no difficulties in hooking up at all. There's also a dump station on site as well for those using the W/E sites. Showers/restrooms have always been clean and up-to-date; the showers are pay ($2 in quarters for 6 minutes), but have always had plenty of hot water and the time has always been sufficient...just don't dally! One thing to be aware of -- it can get windy there at times. Because of the location, there's a bit of a swirl to the wind, coming in at different directions. Not a good idea to leave awnings out unless they are really anchored down well, and even then, consider taking the awning in if you're going to be away from the site for any length of time. Convenient to the entrance to RMNP or to downtown Estes Park, there's a shuttle that can take you downtown, or up to Bear Lake in RMNP. Price is the most reasonable in Estes Park. It's the same price for full hookups or Water/Electric only, at $37/night. It's $27 for no hookups/tenting area. The campground is very popular on the weekends and reservations are recommended, but during the week, it's pretty easy to get a walk in site w/o reservations.
Date of Stay: May, 2014
We've stayed at this park several times, usually one of the first to open for the season in Estes Park. Convenient to downtown as well as the Beaver Meadows entrance to RMNP. First and foremost, it's overpriced. The fee we paid was with a discount for full hookups. The most recent visit here, we discovered (along with their maintenance person) an anomaly with their electrical system. Initially, we didn't have electricity and tripping the breaker on the post didn't resolve it. What maintenance discovered was that, the sites are tied together with EVERY OTHER SITE, not the one next to it, that would be logical. Had to trip the breaker on a site 2 sites up! Once that was resolved, there were no additional problems with utilities. Sites are somewhat level...but not consistently throughout the park. We usually stay in the area more on the southern side of the park, and the sites there require a bit more leveling then some of the others closer to the highway. The access roads need some attention, in places it's asphalt that is breaking up, other places it's more gravel. Restrooms have always been clean every time we've visited. There's a bathhouse in the central part of the park that's more communal. Then there are restrooms at the upper end by the tenting area, that are 4 individual restrooms, that give more of a sense of privacy. Both cases, they are clean with plenty of hot water. Staff has always been friendly each time I've been there. I've read complaints about unfriendly staff, but have never experienced that myself and we've been going there for several years. Normally we don't use the group facilities such as the pool and hot tub area, so can't comment on them. The company that owns this park also owns Spruce Lake. Their pricing structure seems to be the same, but of the two, I prefer Elk Meadow, as the sites are not quite as tight as Spruce Lake, and there are pull thru sites, which Spruce Lake doesn't offer. If you're willing to spend the money, Elk Meadow is an acceptable park. But like all the parks in Estes Park, there seems to have been a decline in quality, while prices have increased. Unfortunately, there's just not many alternatives; USFS campgrounds aren't close by, and the campgrounds inside RMNP fill up rapidly during the camping season.