For our first (or maybe consider it second) camping experience, I reserved a spot at Lathrop State Park in Colorado. As a tent camper, I had diligently reserved my tent-only, walk-in campsites at Colorado State Parks six months in advance. Sipping hot chocolate while it snowed outside, I would try to make a camping itinerary for the summer that would not interfere with baseball, other vacations, holidays, or the beginning of school. It’s an almost impossible task.
Purchasing the camper in the middle of summer, I knew we would have to scour the nearby state parks for open spots in the summer if we wanted to camp before fall. I found an available spot at Lathrop and immediately booked it. Usually I am a planner; I investigate the site far in advance and keep a journal of my favorite spots at each campground. I have a great list of my favorite tent sites, but hadn’t looked at camper-specific spots. Lathrop was a gamble that paid off.
Lathrop is the first park in Colorado’s extensive state parks system. Built in the 1960s, it has been maintained and updated and includes two lakes, a swimming beach, hiking trails that lead up a hill overlooking the campground and beyond, and a nine hole golf course maintained by the City of Walsenburg. All of this added up to mean we had more activities available to enjoy than we had time in our two night stay.
We arrived on Friday night and, unlike our usual tent-camp set-up, had our trailer leveled, plugged in, and a campfire started within the first 30 minutes of arrival. The campsite was fairly level with a huge field and various trees. It was a pull-through, far larger than our vehicle needed, so our son enjoyed using the remaining driveway for a scooter course. Our site provided beautiful, west-facing views of the Spanish Peaks. Despite being in a large, open field, the trees made it difficult to see other campers around us.
We started our morning with a great breakfast before hiking up the Hogback Nature Trail. This trail leads up a hill that acts as a boarder to the north side of the park. Our journey brought us to lovely vistas where we enjoyed views of Southern Colorado and the entire park. It also provided an opportunity to see a very large snake sunning itself on the rocky trail, which my son assured us was not a rattle snake due to its eye placement. We didn’t take any chances and let it slither far off the trail and into its hole before proceeding.
Our son has been taking golf lessons this summer and a nine hole course was the perfect place to practice. My husband and son brought their clubs and I was their golf cart driver and score keeper (sort of). This was my son’s first experience golfing on a real course (not just practicing on the course) and he enjoyed it. The relaxed, helpful staff at the clubhouse quickly checked us in and showed us to the carts. We sped off toward the first tee and continued playing through gentle rain on the seventh hole. The course was in good condition, with work being completed on a couple greens. It was perfect for a fun afternoon activity and we beat the big thunderstorm that came through later in the day. On our next trip to Lathrop, we will definitely have a re-match on the course.
Sunday was warm and we ventured to the lake. The idea of a swimming beach was intriguing. I had read that there was sand at this beach, the stuff you build castles out of and can walk on without your shoes. It’s more difficult to find sand beaches in land-locked Colorado, so my expectations were not great. We arrived at the beach in the morning after making a full drive around the lakes for fun. Lathrop is comprised of two lakes, the 180 surface-acre Martin Lake and the 150 surface-acre Horseshoe Lake. We wanted to see the various picnic areas available around the lakes and noticed the full walking/jogging path that follows Martin Lake. We were the only people at the beach when we arrived and I was excited to see the sand-castle-worthy sand actually existed. We settled into our spot near the cool water and were joined by other families and locals within the next couple hours. A swimming lap lane is available at this beach as well.
After an early lunch back at the campsite, we were ready to pack up. As new owners of a camper, we were particularly cautious about remembering to remove the leveling blocks, correctly and fully attaching the camper to the Explorer, and preparing everything to leave. Lathrop State Park is now a new favorite in Southern Colorado.