The drive to this campground couldn’t have been easier. The straight, brown dirt expanse lining I-25 quickly faded into the distance as our Explorer turned onto Exit 74 in Colorado City and wondered through green rolling hills dotted with barns and ranches. As we quickly gained elevation, we were soon surrounded by a lush forest of ponderosa pine, blue spruce, and aspen. The trees were surprisingly dense as our car hugged the side of the mountain and began weaving to greater vistas. It couldn’t have been more relaxing to reach La Vista campground on a Friday night in mid-September.
We arrived and took the incorrect turn; instead of passing the dam and Lake Isabel, we instead turned before the lake and this afforded us an evening drive around the lake, past other campgrounds and trailheads that provide ample recreation for visitors. We found La Vista Campground and slowly drove on the one-way road until we reached Site 25. The site, just like the drive, was a pleasure to back into and, though not level front to back, was quite level side-to-side. It had a distinct, separate section that contained a campfire ring, table, and tent pad. We were parked and ready for the weekend in 15 minutes.
The camp host was a genuinely happy man from the South. He quickly arrived on a golf cart and introduced himself, telling us we had the best campsite at the campground. Later we would discover that this was definitely the case if one wanted shade, some privacy, and an amazing view of aspen trees. I was already exuberant about the site. Two ponderosa pines, each older than 100 years, towered at the entrance of the 40 foot back-in spot. The scrub oak that were taller than our camper were turning various versions of red which contrasted beautifully to the green aspen grove directly behind the table and tent pad. The trees provided an excellent view of the Wet Mountains and an amazing hammock spot. While there are other sites at this campground that provide views of Lake Isabel, this site’s peace and abundance of shade made it ideal. Site 25 also offered 30 amp service, with a water spigot only a short walk away and vault toilets available at various points throughout this campground.
There are several trails that weave through the mountains for motorized and non-motorized vehicles. Hiking is also available, particularly around the lake and to the small lodge and restaurant on the rim of the lake, but hikers should be aware of the many motorized vehicles that access the well-marked trail system. This lake is one of the few in Colorado that was created specifically for recreation. During the 1920s, so many cars traveled to this area that it became necessary to create campgrounds, restrooms, and recreation opportunities to reduce the destruction of natural habitat. The activities of the 1920s developed into a charming weekend get-away that remains so for individuals who enjoy fishing, kayaking, and other non-motorized lake sports. The lake itself is medium-sized, but it definitely handles its visitors with ease.
When we were there, we enjoyed the lake with approximately eight other boats on the water and numerous people fishing for stocked trout. The fish skimmed bugs at the surface of the lake, especially at dusk.
There is a large parking lot on the west side of Lake Isabel, with several access points and parking on the east side as well. The Saint Charles River runs from the mountains to feed this lake, and picnic areas with grills are scatted near the river. There are three main campgrounds, but our favorite is La Vista. The Saint Charles campground would provide direct water access to the Saint Charles River and also had several shaded sites.
We settled into the location and enjoyed not only kayaking on the lake, but also the peaceful campground. There was little noise despite being completely full. We also had one of the few sites that had shade over the table at every meal time. This, combined with the perfect fall mountain air at 9,600 feet, made for a completely relaxing weekend.