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Camp Out Colorado

Carter Lake Campgrounds Camping Review

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Carter Lake Camping Overview

camp-out-colorado-carter-lake-east-side-campsCarter Lake campground and recreation are is a great place to go camping year round. Just outside of Loveland on US-34, nestled within the foothills, Carter Lake is surrounded by about 1000 acres of public land to enjoy and explore in Larimer county. There are about half a dozen different campgrounds around Carter Lake which provide a wide variety of different camping experiences, more than you will find almost anywhere else in Colorado. You can go camping in the pine covered hills to the northwest of Carter Lake or camp out in the open on the scrubland on the east side of the lake. You can also enjoy a mix of the two types of camping on the south end of Carter Lake where it is more open with some shrubs and grass as well as a few trees to help break the wind. Carter Lake itself is about three miles long and about a mile wide and is able to accommodate just about any activity in the water, including water skiing, fishing, and  scuba diving. Not only does Carter Lake offer a great variety of camping experiences, it is also close to Loveland, making it a prime destination for camping trips as well as a quick day trip.

Region: North Central Colorado
Location: Google Map
Forestry: Larimer County Natural Resources Campground
Elevation: 5,760 Feet
Camp Sites: 96 Camping Sites of all Types ~ Reserve a campsite today! ~
Cost: $25.00 a Night + $7.00 a day Larimer Park Pass required
Season: Peak Season is April through October ~ Open Year Round
Activities: Biking, Bird Watching, Boating, Camping, Fishing, Hiking, Horseback Riding, Rock Climbing,Photography, Picnicking, Sailing, Scuba Diving, Swimming, Water Skiing, Windsurfing, Sailboarding
Amenities: Boat Ramp, Dump Station, Electric Hookups, Marina, Picnic Shelters, Playgrounds, Trash Service, Swim Beach, Vault and Flush Toilets, Water

Carter Lake Campsite Details

Carter Lake is a very popular and fun place to go. Since it is so popular and so close to the Front Range, it is important to make sure that you get reservations, especially if you plan a weekend trip. You may be able to find a few open sites during the week during peak season, but these will likely be the few walk-in campsites or some of the more exposed campsites on the east side of the lake. If you plan to camp out at Carter Lake during the off season, reservations may not be available and the campsites will all be first come, first serve. Take this into consideration when planning your trip. One of the great things about Carter Lake is due to its elevation and proximity to the front range corridor, it is a prime location for off peak camping.

camp-out-colorado-carter-lake-pine-campgroundThe kind of campsite you enjoy will depend upon the area of the lake you end up in.

On the northwest side is the North Pines campground. These campsites are set up on the hill a little bit away from the lake and the trees offer these campsites some good shelter. There are not many campsites here, so if you would like to camp in this area during the peak camping season, make sure to get reservations.

There are several campgrounds along the eastern side of the lake. These vary some, but most of the campsites are going to be more open and in a more scrubland-type setting. There are few trees as it is mostly brush land here. These campgrounds may be more open to the wind and the weather, but they do have their own advantages. The biggest one is the wildlife you are likely to see and enjoy here. You are almost guaranteed to see deer every morning and evening since they move freely around these campgrounds if it is fairly quiet. Camping in this open area, you are also likely to see much more wildlife such as foxes, rabbits, raccoons, and others.

camp-out-colorado-carter-lake-coverd-tableI would like to remind all campers to always be vigilant and careful when camping. Make sure to keep a clean campsite and to maintain good outdoor habits with the wildlife in mind. Remember, never feed the animals or try to approach them. Leave them be and let them go about their business. Enjoy the opportunity to watch the wildlife and do your part so the next group of campers can do the same.

There is another large campground on the south side of the lake that is open and more suitable for large groups of campers. If you are looking to go camping with a bunch of friends or family I would suggest looking into the South Shore Campground. The sites here are a little closer than the other campsites around the lake, which is great for those who need to reserve multiple campsites. There are day use areas here as well for BBQ’s and other outdoor activities such as horseshoes and volleyball. There are also several hiking trails here that are within easy reach of the South Shore Campground.

The campsites at Carter Lake are well maintained and looked after. The tables at each site are handicap accessible, with one bench shorter than the table to allow a wheelchair.

Each campsite has a nice, sturdy campfire ring with a double-hinged grate on it. These kinds of campfire grates are nice because you can completely open it up for a good fire at night or close both sides to get a good cooking surface.

camp-out-colorado-carter-lake-flat-campingMost of the campsites have groomed and level tent pads in them. If your campsite has a tent pad, make sure that you use it. Camping outside of the pads is not permitted. This is to help preserve the vegetation around the campsite and to keep the area preserved. However, some of the campsites do not have tent pads. Instead they have open flat areas covered with grass where you can place your tent. In these sites, feel free to camp anywhere near your campsite. Just try to avoid camping exactly where the last camper did to give the vegetation on the ground time to recover. If you plan on staying at one of these sites more than 2 nights it is a good idea to actually move your tent every couple of days so you do not kill the vegetation it is on. Just sliding the tent a few feet away from where it was will be enough.

Carter Lake Campground Activities

Carter Lake has a long list of activities you can enjoy here. Besides the simple variety of camping experiences here there is a huge variety of what this Larimer county park has to offer. If you like to boat, there are areas for water skiing, sailing, surfboarding, or just about any other kind of boating you want to do. Make sure to read over the regulations for the lake and find a place on the lake that will suit your needs.

camp-out-colorado-carter-lake-scubaThere is a swim beach at the southeastern corner of the lake. It isn’t large but it is an official swim beach. There are no lifeguards on duty so be extra careful if you go swimming. There is a section of the lake that is also open to scuba diving, something that not a lot of Colorado lakes have. This can be found about mid lake on the eastern shore. There is a small area where you can pull your vehicles in and set up lakeside.

Fishing is very popular at Carter Lake. Whether you’re trolling or jigging on the lake, or shore fishing, a wide range of fish can be caught here. Walleye are a popular sport fish here, but remember if you catch a walleye, you’ll need to release it. In fact, I would advise catch and release to all anglers unless they are specifically planning to eat what they catch. Otherwise, throw them back so they can grow bigger and be enjoyed by more anglers. As far as the walleye are concerned, there is an advisory from the Colorado Department of Wildlife that the mercury levels of walleye are reaching dangerous levels. Any walleye longer than 21 inches in length must be returned to the water immediately. Honestly, there is no reason to risk mercury poisoning. I would recommend releasing all walleye that you catch.

http://www.larimer.org/parks/consumption_advisory_carter.pdf

camp-out-colorado-carter-lake-hikingAlong with the activities listed above, there are many activities to enjoy away from the lake as well. Hiking and rock climbing are very popular for outdoor enthusiasts. This is also a great place for bird watching and wildlife photography. With so much public land surround the lake there are many opportunities to go out and explore the wilderness.

If the weather turns or you find out that you need something from “civilization”, Loveland is very close and convenient. You can drive into town during a storm for a hot, sit down meal, or stop by one of the many stores to replace something you forgot or that was damaged..

Carter Lake Camping Summary

All in all Carter Lake Campground is an excellent place to go camping and enjoy all that the great outdoors has to offer. It sits just inside the foothills a few miles west of Loveland, making it a short trip and easy to get to.  Carter Lake offers almost a half a dozen unique campgrounds, allowing each camper to find the campsite that suits them most. The lake is large enough to easily accommodate even busy summer crowds and allows nearly any water activity you want to enjoy. You’ll see a lot of wildlife in the area and the weather here is usually mild. If you enjoy camping, Carter Lake campgrounds are a “must try” along the Front Range. It is a popular place so make sure to get reservations if you are going to go during the peak season, otherwise try to start your trip mid-week. This is a great place for a family to go camping or for first time campers to enjoy. If you haven’t been to Carter Lake, put it on your list of places to visit!

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Carter Lake Campgrounds Camping Review, 5.4 out of 10 based on 19 ratings

11 comments to Carter Lake Campgrounds Camping Review

  • We have put up our motor home for the season. Here in Montana it is just too cold to be out camping after the middle of October.

    We want you to know that we have enjoyed your Colorado camping blog posts this summer and hope you continue to write about your special places.

    Best to you,
    Doug and Sharon

  • UNhappy Camper

    This was our first, and LAST time camping at Pinewood Reservoir at Carter Lake. The campsites were not clearly marked, which caused a lot of confusion between rangers and campers. The campsites were also placed WAY too close to one another. We were approached 4 separate times by rangers about various regulations including NO hammocks, dogs being leashed, and “quiet hours” at 10pm when it was only 9:30… So unless you plan on not letting your dog out of a 5′ radius, speaking in a whisper, and being constantly pestered by accusatory rangers, do not camp here.

  • Carter Lake Camping seems to be good according to the post you have shared. I never been there but i really wanna be !

    What to say about june lake camping ??

  • keith

    We were at carter lake for 3 days. The urinal was clogged, all 3 days. Where the pit toilets are, there is no sanitizer, or pump water. The restroom/shower had not been cleaned either all 3 days. Our neighbors party well after 11:00, and let their dog wander our campsite. No ranger came to check on us all 3 days. Also when we got there on Fathers Day, there was day use people at our campsite, There is No sign when entering the campground to tell day use people where to go. Last but not least. Why did we have to pay for a campsite AND a day use pass? It should be included. I give this campground a 4

    • Wow sounds like you did not have a good camping trip here. Sorry to hear it. However, thanks for your input. It should help other campers that want to go to Carter Lake Campground. What campground were you in? There is a handful of different ones.

  • keith

    What do you mean, what campground? Carter lake has 4 areas. Only 1 has a flush toilet, and water pump. The other 3 are pit toilets, no water pump. We were at Carter Knolls, C09. With all the extra fees, you would think that the bathrooms would be cleaned, the shower is $2.oo for 3 Min. Don’t make excuses. We made reservations for 3 days, and had to stay for 3 days. We know campgrounds, and this one is a 4

    • I was just curious which one of the campgrounds around the lake you were camping in. I appreciate your posting of your experience here, it will really help others when looking for a place to camp. I would agree with you. With so many extra fees this campground should be much better maintained. I am a firm believer there should be someone that goes around once a day to clean out campground facilities.

      Camp Out Colorado doesn’t have any affiliation with any of the campgrounds we review. Please make sure to click your star rating on the stars so it will reflect for other users. Thanks again for posting your experiences!

    • Roger Dorn

      Carter Lake actually has a total of 8 campgrounds. 6 of them have water available. Carter Knolls site C09 is also a walk in site that is not very close to it’s neighboring site. Maps are available online for viewing for further specifications. Sunday, specifically Father’s day is the busiest day at all of the Larimer County parks. The expectations appear to have been rather high for this camper at Carter Lake. We have stayed there a bunch of times and , yes, they don’t have showers everywhere. It is camping not staying at a hotel.

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