FARMINGTON — The weather is warming up, snowfall is melting in the mountains and wildflowers are popping up throughout the area. With summer just around the corner, there's no better way to experience the changing of seasons than to head outside for a camping trip.
The Four Corners has an abundance of camping destinations, and, no matter what climate you crave to explore, you can find it within an hour or two drive.
"What is special about our area is you can be in a forested area an hour from town or a desert area an hour from town," said Allen Peterson of the San Juan Mountains Association, an organization based in Durango, Colo., that promotes education and volunteerism on public lands in southwest Colorado. "They are each different and offer their own unique opportunity to enjoy the backcountry and your public lands."
The San Juan Public Lands office, where Peterson works, has dozens of suggestions for scenic and beautiful camping areas not too far from Farmington. Camping in spots like Chaco Cultural National Historical Park or the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness are ideal for secluded desert exploration. But for wildflowers, greenery and water, the San Juan Mountains are the place to go.
Molas Pass near Silverton, Colo., is a top contender. A travel article published on The Guardian's website last summer lists Little Molas Lake Campground as one of the top 10 places to camp in Colorado.
"Molas Pass is one of the most unique areas to camp just because of its spectacular views," Peterson said.
Molas Pass sits at 10,910 feet and is surrounded by scenic mountain views in every direction. It's also near the Colorado Trail, a nearly 500-mile trail that spans from Durango, Colo., to southwest of Denver.
Bob and Chrissie Tonge, of Durango, make it a family tradition every year to go camping and sleep under night sky at their favorite campsite at the Little Molas Lake Campground.
If you want to get some camping experience locally before you head out on your own in the great outdoors, you are in luck.
Farmington's Sycamore Park Community Center will host the sixth annual Father Son Campout next week.
What: The event will include games, a keepsake photo, weenie roast and a continental breakfast for fathers and sons. Bring your own tent and your boys for a night around the campfire and create memories and bonding sure to last a lifetime.
When: Activities begin at 6 p.m. on Friday, June 27.
Tickets and information: Tickets for the event will be $4 a person and must be purchased in advance at fmtn.org/spcc or at the Sycamore Park Community Center, 1051 Sycamore St. in Farmington.
Bob Tonge said the reason the couple loves it is apparent as he looked out at the views on Sunday afternoon. He said he sets his tent up so it faces the best views when the couple opens it in the morning.
"It is so relaxing," Chrissie Tonge said. "Plus, it is technology-free — a good way to unplug and get back to nature."
The Tonges and their family said camping plays a key role in their summer, and they've made it an annual tradition.
"We've camped every year for our son's birthday for the past 25 years. This year, he is coming up with his 4-month-old daughter," Chrissie Tonge said.
The couple said they are excited to share the tradition, as well as their love of nature, with future generations and new members of their family.
Little Molas Lake Campground is located about a mile off of U.S. Highway 550 on Molas Pass, just north of and on the opposite side of the Molas Overlook. It is about two hours from Farmington.
For more information on reserving a campsite at Little Molas Lake Campground, go to www.recreation.gov or call 877-444-6777.
For information on camping in the San Juan Mountains, call the San Juan Public Lands Center 970-247-4874. The office is located at 15 Burnett Court in Durango, Colo.
Peterson said everyone can benefit from a night out in nature.
"Spending a night in nature is healing and rejuvenating," he said. "There is something special about it. We are surrounded in our back doors with public lands, and it is something we should all take advantage of and cherish."
Peterson explained one of the most important parts of camping is to protect the resource. Camping at least 100 feet from water and keeping a clean campsite are top priorities.
"Keep food in back of (your) car or trailer, or hang your food or trash from a tree limb or use a bear resistant container. Anything that has strong smell needs to be hung up properly or put away out of reach from animals," Peterson said.