Ah, camping. The bugs, sunburns, large carnivorous animals, poisonous plants and serial-killer drifter types hiding out in the woods. You know, camping.
Colorado is a great place for camping, and if you are living in the Centennial State, you are required to hit the great outdoors at least once a semester or face banishment forever. As an avowed stay-indoors type, I have been dodging the outdoor recreation police for about two years.
Most campgrounds close down in the winter. It gets pretty cold here, although everyone I meet from Iowa says, "You think this is cold?" OK, so it doesn't get that cold. But it gets snowy, particularly up in those tall, menacing mountains to the west. You don't want your winter camping trip turning into a Jon Krakauer book.
Moraine Park Campground
Nestled in a pine forest at 8,160 feet above sea level, this is the only year-round campground in Rocky Mountain National Park — and one that's certain to make you wish you had stayed in binge-watching "Twilight" movies. But it's only $18 bucks a night, so it's actually cheaper than an average movie theater ticket. Plus, it has vaulted toilets. Whatever those are.
St. Vrain State Park
3525 Colo. 119, just east of Longmont
This park may be tucked between a highway and an interstate, but they have birds. During the winter, it's mostly ducks and geese, but park officials say there are also bald eagles, hawks and great horned owls during the winter months. It's not a rough camping ground — more of a get-together-and-barbecue-then-sleep-outside kind of place. But hawks are unassailably cool and nature's flying death machines. A campsite with RV hookups costs $28 a day plus fees.
Longs Peak Campground
It's located 9 miles south of Estes Park off of Colo. 7, close to the Longs Peak trailhead. Longs Peak was recently named one of the most dangerous hikes in the world, so there's definitely bragging rights if you make it to the summit (go early). It is listed along with another hike — Mount Hua Shan in China — rumored to kill 100 hikers a year, just FYI. The campground costs $26 a night and also has vaulted toilets. Seriously, what is a vaulted toilet?
Peaceful Valley Campground
It's called Peaceful Valley, so leave your stereo at your dorm. They also have vaulted toilets. (I have got to get myself one of these.) It's situated in a glacial valley next to middle St. Vrain Creek north of the town of Ward. It usually fills up on weekends, so go early or make a reservation. It costs $19 a night.
Heaton Bay Campground
The campground is located on the shores of Dillon Lake between Frisco and Dillon in the White River National Forest. The United States Department of Agriculture says Lake Dillon is surrounded by mountains including Tenmile Range, Gore Range and the Continental Divide. The area also has opportunities for biking, hiking, fishing boating and picnicking. It costs $21 a day.
John Bear: twitter.com/johnbearwithme