The road has been long and crooked. All the way from Breckenridge lessons in poor snowboarding to the hallowed halls of Victoria Bar in Salida. Even in a glamping yurt, while gallivanting hither and yon across the American west, nightly stays can get quite costly. Over time, expenses like board and gas begin to mount and take an increased impact. When faced with the soaring prices of campsites and hotel rooms, free camping begins to sound like a grand idea. It would seem so easy to travel around and find quiet, secluded spots in which to pitch your tent, but alas, thing are not always that simple. Whether public or private lands, most folks don’t dig on hippies camping on their patch. Welcome to Free Camping in Buena Vista, Colorado.
You know how it is. We’re why we can’t have nice things. We are the wookies of the Fifth Order. We are the Watusi incarnate. If one beat is allowed to cop a squat and hang their dirty laundry from the white cedars, then soon to follow there will be a whole bevy of hippies tweaked on moonshine and washing their socks in the creek.
But what’s a walkin’ man to do? Haggard and worn, the flight from Colorado deputies can eventually leave a mark on both man and beast. As much as he wanted to complain about the gestapo, this time, they probably saved lives. Thank God for the acid from Boulder. It was the only thing that counter-acted the Coors and moonshine offering some semblance of balance and making the operation of a motor vehicle at least a sliver of a possibility. He was so bent, driving south along the Sangre de Cristo range that he had to close one eye to keep the passing lanes in view. At one point, he had to turn the radio off just to stop the hallucinations. Why were there giraffes standing on mushrooms in the middle of the sidewalk and why was he driving on it at unsafe speeds? Thank ye gods for the police.
Colorado makes it easier than most states to camp on the cheap. For scenic vistas of the Collegiate Peaks and pro bono camping, look no further than Buena Vista and Turtle Rock.
Turtle Rock is a campground in the Four Mile Recreation Area of Buena Vista, Colorado. This is one of several campsites in the area that allow a stay of up to 14 days. Slightly up above the Arkansas River, Turtle Rock is a secluded campsite that is several miles from the nearest paved road and offers tons of privacy. There are many opportunities for hiking, biking, climbing, and kayaking in the area, and Turtle Rock campground is only a few miles from downtown Buena Vista.
The various aspects of this nifty granite outcrop feature bouldering, climbing routes and a cool “two-pitch” scramble. The scramble to the top of this neat little rock takes only minutes, but the trip to the top is quite a joy. From the summit, enjoy views of the Arkansas River valley to the north and the south. The twin humps of the Buffalo Peaks thirteeners rise in the near northeastern distance. The views up and down the mighty Sawatch range will leave your mouth hole gaping.
There is little mystery as to how this peak got its name. For certain, when viewed from the east, the shape of a large turtle, head pointing southward down the Arkansas Valley, emerges. The summit area is wide-open, a bare granite viewing platform. Enjoy your stay here in nice weather. Avoid the sheer drops, especially on the east side, in high winds. Kick back, be stunned by the views, and bask in the beauty all around you.
Colorado Rank: Unranked
Prominence: 160 feet
USGS Quad: Harvard Lakes
YDS Rating: Class 4
THINGS TO DO IN BUENA VISTA:
Mount Princeton Hot Springs: A must do at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort are the hot springs pools located right in midst of the cool rushing waters of Chalk Creek. Each pool is fed by its own natural geothermal hot spring that is bubbling up into the actual creek bed and into majestic circles of stones that create natural pools of warmth and rejuvenation.
Brown’s Canyon Rafting: The Browns Canyon section of the Arkansas River is the most popular whitewater section in the U.S., because it is challenging enough for experienced rafters, yet forgiving enough for first-timers. This boulder-strewn canyon sports large, exciting rapids, each followed by a calm pool that allows time to recover and prepare for the next big rapid. It is this pool-drop character that makes Browns Canyon suitable for a wide range of ability levels. Be sure to check out Brown’s Canyon Rafting for some world class rapids on the Arkansas River. Visit Byron in early summer for some “sporting” rafting as the snow melt turns the river intro a frothy mess. Big fun, here in River City.
Free camping area on BLM land with free porta-potties. There are beautiful overlooks of the valley from Turtle Rock and about 20-30 sites. The road to the campground isn’t bad at all, just a little washboarding, but the campground itself is somewhat challenging to get around with low clearance or extra long rigs.
The summit of Turtle Rock sits just 3 miles north-northwest as the crow flies from the town of Buena Vista [BYOOnah Vistuh], Colorado. From the traffic light on U.S. 24 in Buena Vista, turn east onto Main Street. After.2 miles, in the center of old town, turn north (left) onto Colorado Avenue (which becomes Chaffee County Road 371). After about 2.2 miles, CR 371 turns into a graded dirt-road suitable to all passenger cars.
From this point, there are two options for parking and approach:
From the east (turn before the Midland Tunnels and park in the campground)
After traveling 2.7 miles on CR 371, turn east (right) on CR 375 just before the Midland Tunnels. Following this twisting, graded dirt road for 0.8 miles to the entrance for the Turtle Rock Campground. Limited day use parking may be found near the back (western edge) of the campground.
From the west (continue through the Midland Tunnels and park in a pullout on the east side of the road)
After traveling 2.7 miles on CR 371, pass CR 375. Proceed through the narrow, one-lane series of tunnels. Immediately after exiting the northern-most tunnel, there will be a pull-out on the right-side of the road.
Four Mile Rd
Buena Vista, Colorado
GPS: 38.881945, -106.145212
Keep up with nailtravels as we continue the Summer “Low-Brow” Tour with a stop each of the next few months. Continuing with Purple Hatter’s Ball in Live Oak, the Moonpies then head to the North Plains, Oregon and Northwest String Summit Kids and Family Tent. Then it’s on to hillbilly heaven and LOCKN’ in Virginia. This is about as low-brow as it gets. Thanks for showing up.