Stagecoach State Park – June 1st to 3rd, 2020

Stagecoach State Park in Colorado turned out better than we expected. We knew it would be rather exposed, didn’t have many hiking trails, and catered mostly to boaters and fishermen. However, the views were fantastic and the trails looping around the reservoir made a great bike ride.

Stagecoach State Park is centered around the dammed reservoir along the Yampa River. Our site was in the primitive section which was up on higher ground and only had vault toilets. Our particular site was the most unlevel in the loop. Even with leveling blocks it still had a good slope, but nothing we couldn’t live with. All the other sites are pretty level. Our loop has a great view of the water, but there are no trees, so it is rather exposed up on a hill. There are a few other loops with electric hook ups. All but two sites in our loop were occupied on Monday night.

The campground is pretty quiet. We cannot hear the boats from our loop, but there are not that many boats on the water. There were more non-motorized craft, such as kayaks, SUP’s, and sailboats, than motorized boats. We did see one water skier. Before dinner the first night, we walked around the campground and up the short trail to the top of Pinnacle Peak near the marina and swimming beach. Lots of wildflowers lined the road and path. Sounds of birds and crickets filled the air. The swimming beach was closed due to state orders. The campground has a dump station with a water fill up station.

We had pasta for dinner, and then we got some work done. We stayed outside until dark, enjoying the view. Then we worked inside the van. There were not a lot of bugs. We were able to easily kill the couple that made it into the van. Now that we were on the road, we could start assessing the changes we made to the van (Preparing Our Camper Van For Season Two 2020). We like the new shelves above the Espar heater. They make cooking so much more efficient and convenient. The new floor covering seems to make the floor much warmer. Right Buddy (RB) didn’t find both of her inside seats that comfortable (the stadium seat on the new bench and another stadium seat on the electrical cabinet), mainly due to the slope. After getting tired of having her feet stretched out straight, she tried to sit on the electrical box, but the Lagun table was too close, so she sat at an angle.

After a leisurely breakfast the next morning and calling back some campgrounds where we’re trying to cancel our reservations, we went for a bike ride around the reservoir. We started after 11 am and got back about 1:30 pm. We’re guessing it was about 10 miles.

The Overlook Trail is a little less than a mile long and starts right at our campground loop, the McKindley Loop. We hadn’t been riding our bikes in a while and the trail started out a little steep. We didn’t downshift quick enough and had to walk our bikes a short ways. About halfway through the trail is a bench with an overlook over the reservoir, probably a great place to watch the sunrise. The trail is dirt and gravel and somewhat narrow, but wide enough to pass someone. We continued down the other side of the hill to County Rd 18, one of the roads that goes through the campground.

A short little jog on the road to the west brought us to Lakeside Trail. Lakeside Trail is also dirt and gravel, but wider and flatter than the Overlook Trail. We followed Lakeside Trail down to the parking lot off of County Road 14 at the southwest end of the reservoir where the Yampa River feeds into it. A couple of geese had a half dozen cute goslings in tow. The shores of the reservoir were lined with people fishing, at a safe distance apart. Two American white pelicans flew over to a man who had just caught a fish. They were joined by a gull who was also stalking the man, waiting for him to cast away the fish guts as he cleaned the fish.

To reach the start of the Elk Run Trail on the southern shore we had to ride a short distance on County Road 14 and turn left onto County Road 16 which crosses the Yampa River. The trail starts at the east end of the second parking lot on County Road 16, the lot on the north side of the road. The Elk Run Trail follows the southern shoreline, weaving in and out of the coves, for five miles, reaching the dam at the east end of the reservoir. The trail is dirt and gravel and is fairly level until about a mile or two from the dam, where there are quite a few steep, but short sections. By this time we were back in the habit of downshifting for the inclines, but LB had to walk a small section when the tires of his hybrid bike lost traction in the loose dirt and gravel. There are some houses on the south side as the state park property ends not far from the shore line. We found a couple of picnic tables just before we crossed the dam with great views of the reservoir, so we stopped and had our lunch. While we were eating, a bald eagle flew overhead.

From on top of the dam, we could see the pretty canyon of the Yampa River below the dam, a view that was previously hidden from us by the dam. From the dam we took County Road 18 west around to the park entrance and back to our campsite. The road was dirt, but in pretty good condition. We had to restrain ourselves from going too fast because there were sections of washboarding and small holes that made it harder to control our bikes at faster speeds. Most of the terrain is sagebrush, with almost no trees, except down near the other campground loops closer to the water.

There were not many people on the trails while we were on them that day. There was one couple walking on the Overlook Trail. We passed a boy and his dad who were cycling on the Lakeside Trail. A handful of people were walking on Elk Run Trail about a mile or two from the dam.

We spent the afternoon working outside. Being exposed to the afternoon sun, we started feeling the heat. We tried putting out our awning, but it seemed a little stuck, so we stopped trying, not wanting to have it stuck partially open. We set up a tarp, attaching one side to our bikes and the other side to a couple of trekking poles for shade.

Dinner was baked potatoes, broccoli and cheese sauce. Afterwards, we went for a walk down to the Harding Spur campground loop. It has no electric hookups, but it does have flush toilets and access to the reservoir. If we return to Stagecoach State Park, we would probably try to get a site in the Harding Spur next time. However, it looks like it is a more popular loop and may not be as quiet. Of course that usually depends on who your neighbors are that day.

We talked with the couple camping next to us. She was from Denver, and he was from Vernal, Utah. They say they like to go on a trip together about once a month.

On Wednesday morning, our last morning at Stagecoach State Park, we enjoyed eating our breakfast with a view of the reservoir, with birds and prairie dogs scurrying around us. Then we packed up, dumped our gray water, emptied our trash and topped off our water before heading towards Dinosaur National Monument. The first stop on our trip was a success and we were hoping the next one will be just as rewarding. Onward to our next destination!

Check out our related video: Stagecoach State Park

(RB)