State park and the surrounding region is like all of Colorado's nature highlights wrapped into 71,000 acres.
Let's talk sand dunes, and not the ones in southern Colorado. Many might be surprised to know that Colorado is home to another sand dune area, and it is the only one in Colorado that is open to recreational vehicles (and moose)!
State Forest State Park and the North Park area between Poudre Canyon and Walden really has something for everyone. The park stretches along the west side of the Medicine Bow Mountains and into the north end of the Never Summer Range. Here, you'll find alpine lakes, wildlife aplenty, and vast views of the state in all its glory, not to mention a vast list of activities you can enjoy.
"Visitors can experience a bountiful array of outdoor recreational favorites such as camping, hiking, four-wheeling, horseback riding, skiing, snowshoeing, telemarking, snowboarding, snowmobiling, fishing, hunting, birding, wildlife viewing, and geocaching," says Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
In fact, the park has terrain similar to Rocky Mountain National Park, but without the crowds. There are miles and miles of hiking trails, as well as four-wheeling trails, and plenty of room to get away from civilization and relax.
To get an idea of just a bit of what the area offers, check out this cool 360-degree video that allows you to take a look around State Forest State Park, courtesy of CPW.
There's so much to do at this park, it would really be hard to cover it all, so let's take a look at just a few of the highlights that really set it apart.
Moose are the park's claim to fame. The North Park area is considered the moose-viewing capital of Colorado. In the 1970s, a handful of moose from Wyoming and Utah were transplanted into the area to create a breeding population. Today, the number of moose in the state totals more than 2,000, and approximately 600 of that number can be found in and around State Forest State Park. Start your trip at the Moose Visitor Center to get revved up for a day of wildlife viewing.
"Moose is the theme at our educational visitor center and store. Picnic out back, take a virtual tour of the park, observe moose if they’re around and enjoy some alpine shopping. Stop in and learn about the fun new way to play nature hide-n-seek, called geocaching. GPS units are available for rent," says CPW.
Courtesy of VisitDenver.org
You can stay at the park year-round with cabins that overlook the North Michigan Reservoir and Yurts and Huts in beautiful locations throughout the park. The park is on the reservation system, so if you want to stay, plan far ahead.
Yurts are round tents on a wooden frame with circular skylights and windows to provide illumination, reminiscent of tents used by nomads on the steppes of Mongolia and Siberia. The seven yurts and two huts in State Forest State Park are operated by Never Summer Nordic. Staying at a yurt is an adventurous way to relax after a long day of exploring. Each one comes with a woodstove; beds; cooking facilities with a propane cook stove, pots, pans, dishes, and silverware; a lantern; and an outhouse.
The Great Sand Dunes isn't the only sandbox in Colorado's playground. The North Park area is home to the North Sand Dunes. Adjacent to State Forest State Park on Bureau of Land Management land, this is the only sand dune area in the state that welcomes OHV recreation.
"North Sand Hills provides unique riding opportunities for dirt bike, ATV, side-by-side and sand rail riders, says the BLM's website. "The area also has connecting trails into the State Forest State Park and adjacent U.S. Forest Service lands, all while providing the scenic backdrop of the Park and Medicine Bow Mountain Ranges."
According to the BLM, the sandhills are very popular, especially on holiday weekends during the summer. The area is seasonally closed to motorized use from December 15 to April 15 annually.
Additionally, inside the park itself are the East Sand Dunes. There are trails to hike into this area, but recreational vehicles are not allowed, which has helped to preserve the ecosystem. Both East Sand Dunes and North Sand Dunes are part of a larger, predominantly dormant, dune system approximately 25 square miles in size. The system contains the only cold-climate dunes in the state, making it different in formation than its cousin, the Great Sand Dunes, to the south.
Plan a Trip
If you want to take a vacation to North Park and the nature that lies within the area's public lands, a good place to start is the CPW's State Forest State Park Trip Planner and website. You'll find suggestions for outfitters that can take you on a horseback ride, perfect places to stay, area attractions to visit, and so much more.
Have you been to State Forest State Park? Sound off in the comments below.