NFS Campground Review – Cayton, San Juan Forest, Rico, CO
A wonderful forest service campground high in the SW Colorado mountains on Hwy 145 near Rico, CO.
- Site Quality = 4.5/5
For forest service it rarely gets any better than this. The sites at Cayton were entirely renovated a few years back and it definitely shows. They are large, spacious, flat compacted dirt with good separation (bar a very few exceptions), nice selection of open or shaded and great sitting areas. Each site also has a picnic table, fire-pit and an area to pitch a tent. There are 2 loops
-> A lower “big RV” loop (sites 2-20) all of which have 50 Amp hookups and several of which sit right next to the stream (particularly sites 10, 13-16), but do have the disadvantage of being right next to the road as well
-> An upper “small RV” loop (sites 21-27) which is further up the hill (away from the road) and has just as big sites as the lower loop, but simply no hookups. Our 40-footer could fit into either loop without issue, frankly.
We thought all the sites nice, but the most private were probably #10, #11 in the lower loop and #21, #22 in the upper. My only (veeery minor) ding is that the lower loop sites do get some noise from the Hwy which runs right next door. However the lovely river sound washes out most of it.
- Facilities = 3.5/5
Very decent facilities here. There are several new (modern) and spacious pit toilets and several on-site drinking water spigots. Also a dump station but this is *only* for black tank (you are legally allowed to dump gray at your site, believe it or not).
- Location = 5/5
I really think this is a fabulous location. Set high in the CO mountains there are stunning views from several points in camp as well as jeeping (Bolam Pass goes right from the entrance) and direct access to the river from the campground entrance area (this is apparently a prime fly-fishing spot). There is a lovely “hidden” trail next to Site #21 and endless hiking at Lizard Head Wilderness only a few miles north on Hwy 145. Also you’re only ~6 miles from Rico (with restaurants, cafe) and ~15 miles from Telluride (shopping, restaurants etc.)
- Pet Friendliness = 5/5
Fabulous spot for doggie. Lots of space to hang out in camp as well as access to romp and play in the river (from your site or just outside the main campground). On-site walking trail near site #21 as well as miles of hiking in nearby mountains.
Overall Rating = 4.5
BONUS ALERT = Camp next to river and mountains at 9,400 feet!
Summary: Well, we simply LOVED this campground and area. Set beautifully in the high Colorado mountains at 9,400 feet, this is the gateway to endless hiking in the stunning Lizard Head Wilderness and the cool towns of Rico & Telluride. The campground is set right next to a stream with spacious sites, good separation and great “sitting areas”. Selection of choices from river-side (#10-16), to upper loop, from electric (50Amp) to nonhookup and from more open to fully shaded. LOTS of outdoor activities here including hiking, fly-fishing, jeeping and sightseeing. Very decent access throughout (a few tightish turns in the back of the lower loop, but nothing that worried us). The only minor ding I could give the place is that the lower loop is right below Hwy 145 and you can hear some of the traffic in camp (mind you this is true of almost all the campgrounds on this stretch of road), but from our site most of the noise was washed out by the running river. In summer this spot is perfectly cool and absolutely delightful. This was most definitely our kinda camp and we would certainly come back.
Extra Info: NO Verizon signal here (zippo, zip, nada) -> free WiFi at the Dew South Cafe in Rico ~6 miles south. Sites cost $20/night for electric (50Amp), $15/night for non-hookup. 27 sites on 2 loops, with 18 electric. 16 sites are reservable, with other half first-come, first-serve. On site dump station (for black tank only -> you are legally allowed to dump grey at the sites).
Extra, Extra Info – BOONDOCKING: There are actually a slew of boondocking sites in the open forest service and BLM land alongside Hwy 145. Two particular areas near milemarker 43 and 44 looked easily accessible, open and firm enough to take big rigs. If you have a smaller/lighter rig there are some more private and simply stunning spots up at the top by Lizard Head Pass (take the dirt road to the right towards East Fork trailhead at the pass and you’ll see several previously used spots)