Boondocking Near Silverton, CO – Mineral Creek

mineral2It’s too late in the season to be talking about camping at 10,000 feet now, but let me tell you about a place you’ll think of fondly as the temperature in the lowlands rises next summer. We found this place by accident, looking for a Forest Service campground a little further down the road, and stayed the two week maximum. It was quite an experience.

mineral3Silverton is an old mining town in the San Juans up the Million Dollar Highway (US 550) from Durango, in southwest Colorado. We had always enjoyed driving this stretch of highway back when we were still vacationing by car, and it was one of the many places we vowed to return to once we had our Roadtrek and could spend some serious time there.  In 2011, during our first complete calendar year of fulltiming, we had spent the spring in New Mexico, and were waiting for the snow to melt so we could go waaay up into the mountains for some serious solitude. After Memorial Day, we headed up to Haviland Lake at 8700 feet for a week or so about halfway up from Durango to Silverton, and by mid-June we were ready for the high country.

The world as Sharon sees it, 6/26/11.
The world as Sharon sees it, 6/26/11.

To find Mineral Creek dispersed camping area, go north on US 550 about 2.1 miles past where US 550 and State Road 110 (CR 2) join on the southern outskirts of Silverton.  You will see a brown US Forest Service camping sign. Turn left (west) on this gravel road, which is  County Road 7, and go about 0.7 miles to a Dispersed Camping sign. Go left until you hit the creek – maybe a hundred yards or so. The South Mineral Campground, which is what we were originally looking, for is about four miles further west on CR 7, but I didn’t see the advantage of paying $5 a day for a picnic table and fire ring, and plenty of neighbors, dogs, children, and other introduced species.  GPS coordinates of the dispersed camping area are 37.819050 N, -107.714400 W.

Female broad-tailed hummingbird at our feeder.
Female broad-tailed hummingbird at our feeder.

We found a beautiful creekside spot with no neighbors, set up the satellite dishes and lawn furniture, and were just astounded by the beauty of the place.   The creek runs roughly west to east, and downstream you can see Kendall Mountain. Upstream is US Grant Mountain, but there are mountains in every direction.  Trees are Englemann spruce and a few firs, there are hummingbirds all over, and probably some other larger visitors, judging from the burrows Fiona and I found on our walks in the forest.  Steller’s jays, ground squirrels, and gray jays kept us (and Fiona) entertained with their antics.

Fiona's  snow patch. There were still a few lumps of snow under the trees. She got fascinated with this one, licking it, pawing it, and generally acting silly.
Fiona’s snow patch. There were still a few lumps of snow under the trees. She got fascinated with this one, licking it, pawing it, and generally acting silly.

Weather is warm and sunny during the day, but quite cold at night for late June – we actually got snow flurries overnight on Midsummer’s Eve, which was fine with us, since this was our first summer out of the Gulf coastal plain’s oppressive heat and humidity.   Since we had gradually increased our elevation over the previous several weeks, we didn’t suffer much in the way of altitude sickness – just a shortness of breath with sustained exertion, which I avoid anyway now that I’m retired.

A nice place to spend an afternoon.
A nice place to spend an afternoon.

Our idyllic stay got a little less idyllic as the Fourth of July weekend approached and all these huge fifth wheels started showing up, trying to stake out a spot alongside the creek.  Our two weeks was running out anyway, so we just packed up and left the increasingly urbanized environment for some BLM land further into the forest, and did another two weeks there.  Silverton is only a few miles away, with fresh water, a dump, gas, propane – everything you need. The store there is a tad understocked and pricey, but despite the scarce shopping opportunities we managed to get along with our stocked food supply plus local supplements of bread, milk, eggs, etc. for a month before heading north on 550 to Montrose to restock at a real grocery store.  It’s the best way to spend the middle of the summer if you’ve sweated through as many southern Julys as I have.



63 thoughts on “Boondocking Near Silverton, CO – Mineral Creek”

    1. you really have only three choices through the hottest part of the summer if you want to camp in comfortable weather – the maine coast, the northwest pacific coast, or the 10,000 foot elevation islands of cool in the interior. that’s where you’ll find me from mid-june to labor day.

      1. My husband reads your posts and says you make a slow arc around the US to get away from any extreme weather. I see you stay in one of these three places in the summer, but what is the arc you make…not your exact places but a general idea! Where do you stay in the winter where there are not 10,000 RVers! We think we are not the type to like the RV cities that the RV parks become in the winter in Florida! My husband loves the boondocking idea. Thanks in advance.

        1. i have family in Florida, so i’m mostly driveway camping through the holidays, and occasionally going to a state park for a few days if i made the reservations early enough. it’s the only way to camp in Florida in the winter- there are WAY too many people there. i wrote about where i am at any particular time of year in another one of my posts here: out west it’s a lot less crowded.

      2. Northern Maine is less congested than the coast, pretty in a different way and is usually just as cool. New Brunswick to the east and Quebec to the west if you’re interested in traveling internationally.

    1. yvonne, that kit is for extending the range of computers picking up wifi signals. if is useful for picking up a wifi signal an extra few hundred feet from the wifi broadcast point, but where i go there’s nobody with a local wifi network like campgrounds have. my system is satellite internet – i get my signal from a satellite 23.000 miles out in space, and make my own wifi network with the internet connection.

  1. Can you sometime talk about security when boondocking? Have you ever run into any bad guys in your travels that want to separate you from your stuff or worse? I’ve read a lot about carrying guns across state lines and into Canada and the challenges of that, but just curious how much of a concern it is protecting yourself from people with bad intent.

  2. been to Silverton several times. Very interesting town – dirt streets, Durango & Silverton RR track stops in the middle of one street.

  3. Ok let’s look at the situation and area.. do you think 4×4 is needed to get into these areas safely? Snow how are they?… been trying to decide if I would need 4×4 or not or if rear wheel drive is enough… only reason I ask is because that is one area on my list.

    1. there is a little information on national forest websites but each forest has their own and the format varies. best thing to do is go to a ranger station and talk to them. they have maps for off-road vehicle use which also have the dispersed camping places marked.

  4. We’re in our way! At Navajo Lake SP right now. Thank you for the great blog & info. Hope you guys are back up here enjoying the lower temps & humidity!

  5. Just wondering why anyone would want to set up a satellite dish while camping. Its camping and beautiful there.

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