Monday, November 1, 2010

South Mineral Campground, Silverton Colorado camping, Road Trip

Morning sun on the dew at campsite; on etsy
The last two nights of our road trip were to be spent somewhere between Silverton and Ouray or in Ouray at a campground or campsite.  But since we had such a hard time finding campgrounds/sites during the beginning of the trip, I was concerned were doomed to spending another day in the car.  We drove from our campsite that we vacated earlier in the day and headed north on 550 through the dramatic town of Silverton with the huge mountains surrounding the teeny town and continued up the million dollar highway (550) to find a campsite.  Just past Silverton we noticed a national forest campground sign pointing us to turn left onto Co Rd 7, we decided to camp down this road, no matter what, just to get us out of the car!  While the scenery on dirt road CO Rd 7 was pretty, it wasn't amazing like Colorado's scenery can be.  The road follows Lime Creek and there are numerous dispersed campsites along the road and beside the river; there are also two small free campgrounds on this road just after your turn.  However, none of the sites looked good to us, so we continued down the bumpy, but easily drivable, dirt road past a fork in the road, and ended at the South Mineral Campground.  By this time it was getting dark fast, the campground was pretty nice, settled in the valley between the mountains and next to the river.  Many of the campsites were under the ponderosa pine, other sites more out in the field; there were 3 loops in the large campground, and the bathrooms were open for use in mid-October, which was a big plus for me.  We found a campsite in the last loop near the front of the campground, there were two other campers in other loops at the campground, but it was far from crowded and we were happy to have that solitude. 
Getting there:  From Silverton, drive 2 miles north on the Million Dollar Highway/Hwy 550 and turn left onto CO Rd 7.  There is a brown national forest sign before the turn, so it's very easy to find.   Continue down CO rd 7 for 4.4 miles until you reach the campground.  Don't turn right at the fork in the road, continue straight or left to the campground. 
The base of the waterfall from Ice Lake.  Photo avail on etsy
Specs:  The campground at 9,800 ft in elevation has numerous pit toilets which were still open in Mid October.  It was comprised of 3 loops with 25 sites; some are situated under the pine trees, other near the river or open meadow next to the river.  There are numerous hiking trails nearby including the trail to Ice Lake, approx 2.5 miles round trip to lake.   This campground was very empty in October, but after reading info online and the proximity to Silverton with numerous activities, this campground does fill up in the summertime. 
Fee in summer: $17, offseason, $8.50.
Here is the National Forest site for this campground. 
The Journey:  Once we finally found our site on Saturday night at the S. Mineral Campground, I immediately started cooking dinner and Josh started a fire after setting up the Chalet.  We sat outside under the stars which eventually came out, and ate our dinner while the dogs ran around in the nearby field acting like real animals.  Belle gets kind of scared while camping, so she'd rather hang out in the camper, but Rock loves to run free in the night, something she used to do freely when we lived in Michigan, 8 years ago.  It got cold pretty quickly and it was about this time that Josh informed me that the camper battery didn't charge while we were driving (we were told that driving charged the battery, but now Josh thinks it's just not that type of battery) and there were no electrical sites available at the campground, so we might be cold tonight.  A sarcastic, "great" was my response and I shivered, scooching my chair closer to the fire.  We let the fire burn out and then went into the Chalet for the evening and played cards (our fav. camping game is called Castle/Palace, here are directions) until we went to bed. 
South Mineral Campground sign and loops
Fortunately, the battery didn't die until about 7am, so we had a warm night and cold morning in the camper.  However, it wasn't quite as cold as being in a tent (close, but not quite) and the best part about the Chalet is that we can make coffee in the camper with our camping percolator and we don't even have to go outside in the cold!   Josh made coffee while I got dressed and cleaned up a little before going outside to snap some photos of the dew and frost on the grass glistening in the sun.  After breakfast, we decided to take a hike on the trailhead just across the dirt road from the campground called Ice Lake trailhead.  The hike took us to a waterfall and farther up the mountain, great views of the surrounding mountains and valley.  More info on this hike coming soon.  Because our battery had died, and we didn't have a way to charge it besides plugging it in, we had to vacate our spot and drive to a campground with electricity, or stay at a cheap hotel in Ouray.  On our way out; a national forest ranger asked us if we could complete a survey for the campground and area, and since there was no-one else around, we said we would.  It took 15 minutes, but it was fun talking with him about the beautiful area.   What a great job he has! 

If you live in the area, or have hiked or camped nearby; I'd love to hear your favorite places to hike and camp or experiences to share!  
Other hikes or campgrounds in the area blogged about:
* Haviland Lake Campground
* Easy Hike to Spud Lake
Here is a google map of campground, click to input your own directions.  Below are more photos from the campground. 
Our campsite

Lime Creek near our site. Love the sound of rushing water all night long! 

The Chalet, looking back at our site from the river
The River, Lime Creek

Views from our hike, the snow had just come the night before, brrrrrrrrr.......


  1. I have the fondest memories of camping at South Mineral with my late husband. When we moved from Texas to Durango we camped there several other times and made the hike up to Lower Ice Lake. Thanks for the photos. It brings back fond memories.

  2. My first trip to South Mineral was in 1978 with my grandparents. I had my 4th birthday there that year. Many trip since. I have my own kids now and hope to take them there soon,


  3. This was a favorite site for my family growing up in the 60s. I have such found memories there. It was our first destination on vacation. We left Houston and drove for 1-1/2 days. Vacation did not really start until South Mineral Creek.