Pagosa Springs is a great place for vanlife – sleep out in the National Forest, get some work done at the Town Park or at one of the cafes or restaurants, go for a hike or trail run and then bathe at Hippy Dip Hot Spring before enjoying a night out in town. Vanlife at its best so to speak!
The town is surrounded by the rugged San Juan Mountains and national forest but is best known for its hot springs. There are several natural hot springs, the one we loved best is called Hippy Dip Hot Spring (https://goo.gl/maps/mDtXGZqLFcw) and runs directly into the San Juan River at the Town Park in the center of the old town. It’s free and just so awesome! We really enjoyed this hot spring and then took a couple of steps into the river bed and dove into the cool river water. Hydrotherapy at its best!
If you prefer a less natural setting, then you have the choice to visit several Resorts and Spas along Main Street that also use water from the Hot Springs. We visited one of them, the Overlook Hot Spring (http://www.overlookhotsprings.com/) and it was a great experience. We were practically the only guests at the time during afternoon hours and had the hot pools all to ourselves.
We also enjoyed the San Juan River Walk – a paved path that runs from Town Park along the river towards the West, a 0,5 mile trail that connects to other roads and is great for an easy walk or run to get your body accustomed to the high altitude air. The Town Park itself is a nice park with parking, public restrooms and picnic tables that invite for a break and a picnic or to get some work done when it’s nice out.
Also the surrounding area has a lot to offer, from great hiking, trail running, kayaking, river rafting, fishing and even skiing during the winter months. And Chimney Rock National Monument with ruins of ancient Ancestral Puebloan dwellings is close by and definitely worth a visit.
We found our campsite along Jackson Mountain Road through Campendium: https://www.campendium.com/jackson-mountain-road However, the location mentioned in the link was already taken, as were the many spots that followed, so we just drove further along Jackson Mountain Road for a few miles until we found a campsite that was nicely tucked into the woods with existing fire ring already in place.
One thing to mention is, that Cell Signal can be tricky outside of the town. We use Verizon and did not have any Cell Signal a couple miles outside of town and since we had to get some work done during our last night we had to find a better option. Be aware that Pagosa Springs has many parking restrictions and does not allow overnight parking in town, also Walmart did not allow overnight parking. We asked one of the gas stations and they were very friendly and offered us to stay in their parking lot for the night. We got our work done and had a good night sleep. After filling our gas tank the next day we moved on to new adventures!
Montrose, Colorado is a great spot for wild camping aka boondocking in the surrounding BLM and national forest while being in close proximity to town. We found this great spot on public land (BLM) when driving up 90 Rd a few miles outside of town.
The GPS Coordinates are: 38.376723, -108.027371
90 Rd leads to the site which is easily accessible by 2 wheel drive vehicles, the road is a mix of dirt, gravel and asphalt. There are many sites with already established primitive campsites along this road, some with great views into the valley, others with access to trails and woods.
This is wild camping at its best, so there are no amenities. Please carry out your trash, some of the sites sadly were left with litter and garbage laying around.
Montrose is a small town with a nice vibe and a few restaurants, there’s even some vegan-friendly options. We especially loved the artisan Bagel spot called Backstreet Bagel Company with lots of yummy toppings, savory and sweet options as well as a nice selection of tea and coffee.
We also visited the beautiful Ute Indian Museum and highly recommend it!
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Dry camping aka boondocking or wild camping is one of the best ways to experience nature and enjoy some solitude and peace. Camping without the amenity of electricity or hook-ups needs some preparation as it is important to be equipped and self-sufficient. No matter if you travel in your RV, Travel Trailer, Van, Truck or Tent, this dry camping gear checklist will equip you with the right tools so you can enjoy the outdoor adventure with comfort and ease. And since the leave-no trace practice and taking care of nature is an important part of dry camping, this list includes gear that is eco-friendly as possible as well.
Buy Today This is a power house of a portable battery with built-in AC inverter, continuous 300W, 600W surge pure-sine wave inverter, 2.1A USB ports and 120W 12V ports. Charge it at home via wall-outlet and while camping in the wild use the foldable solar panel to recharge the generator battery for endless power. A great off-grid solution to charge your laptop, campera, gopro, phone, lighter, fan, portable gaming devices, kitchen gadgets etc
This is a great way to improve the signal on your cell phone when dry-camping in remote areas where the cell signal is weak. It can raise the bars significantly and help to keep you connected out in the wild. Now, it can’t turn a zero-signal into a 4G of course, but if there is a faint signal it will boost it up to a usable connection.
A great solution for using the sun to charge a phone, ipod or other USB-powered gadget on the go while backpacking, hiking, kayaking, festival camping or exploring with your bike. This power bank is small and handy, waterproof, shockproof and dustproof and comes with 2 USB slots to charge 2 phones or gadgets at the same time. It is made of eco-friendly material and comes with an integrated flashlight and emergency light and a hook to attach it to a backpack or bag so it can charge wherever you go.
Use the power of the sun to light up your campsite. These string lights are versatile and beautiful to look at. Hang the string on your vehicle when setting up camp, lay it out on the floor for a romantic evening picnic or use them inside your tent or vehicle.
This little light is the perfect companion for your camping or backpacking trip and can be used as a flashlight, indoor or outdoor light. This versatile light is inflatable and easy to store, shatterproof, waterproof and comes in different light variations from warm eggshell to bright white or in different colors. It is powered by the sun and charge takes about 8h of direct sunlight, it also can be charged under cloudy skies or incandescent light if needed. Once charged fully, it will stay lit for about 6-12h.
This little wonder-machine turns fire into electricity while cooking your food! Such a great invention. The stove boils 1 liter of water in 4,5 minutes and generates 3 watts of electricity that’s stored in it’s internal powerbank and comes with a USB port for charging your USB devices. It is lightweight and small enough to bring on your backpacking trips.
This small device is a life-saver! It removes 99.999999% of waterborne bacteria and parasites (including E. coli and salmonella, giardia and cryptosporidium as well as microplastics. It has a long lifetime and can filter up to 1,000 gallons of water to make it clean and safe for drinking.
And while it’s a great purchase for yourself of your loved ones, with every LifeStraw product purchased, a donation is made for school children in need to receive safe drinking water.
Having the convenience of a hot shower in the middle of nowhere is just a wonderful experience! This simple shower bag by Sprtneer can be filled with water from the river, creek, lake or any other water source (use a water filter if needed), lay it to rest in the sun and a few hours later a hot shower awaits! This bag holds 5 gallons, which is more than enough for 2 people. Using the power of the sun is a great way to save on propane or electricity and allows to use it off-grid which is great for the adventurer, Vanlifer and camping addict alike.
We love this water filter because it’s a simple setup, easy to fill from any water source and fills up our hydration packs pretty quick via gravity filtration. No need to hand pump. It packs into a small pouch and is lightweight to bring for any adventure.
A great bag for any outdoor adventurer! It comes in different sizes and colors, is very lightweight yet sturdy and allows for easy storage of items and gadgets to keep them safe and sealed from water in any wet situation. We use it when kayaking, backpacking and even bicycling to store our cameras, cell phones and other gear to keep them safe from moisture and water.
This super strong and ultra light hammock is easy to set-up and a great companion for any outdoor adventure. Great for festival camping, vanlife, truck-camping, cross-country biking, trekking, multi-day kayak adventuring, backpacking, relaxing in the woods or chilling at the beach.
Fire starters are a great way to get your fire going, especially when it’s damp or wet outside. These fire starters are harvested from the stumps of pine trees that contain a high concentration of natural resin and are 100 percent natural, with no chemical or additives. They are user friendly, clean and non-toxic and SCS Green Cross certified.
This little tool is a great way to start a fire in emergencies or when you are out of matches or lighters. It is small and handy while being powerful and strikes up to 15,000 times to make a fire. It even includes an emergency compass and whistle.
A great way to light a flame or using lighter-fluid. This invention uses plasma wave technology to light a fire instead of butane or other gases. It can be recharged via USB charger and is windproof, splashproof and waterproof.
This little shovel is a must have for campers and backpackers alike. This is a handy little tool for using the backcountry as your toilet. Follow the leave no trace policy, use the shovel to dig a hole, do your business, then use the shovel to cover your waste with dirt. Easy as pie.
This handy tool allows a female to easily pee while standing up. It’s great for adventuring out in the wild or even to pee into a designated bottle inside your vehicle or tent during those cold or rainy nights. This practical little funnel is super elastic which makes it comfortable to use while the designed splash-guard makes it easy to pee without splashes or spills. It is reusable, made of silicone and is 100% latex free, moisture resistant, antimicrobial and made in the USA. It folds into a small tube or bag and is a great companion for any camping or backpacking trip.
If you are camping with a car, truck, van or RV and want to bring a portable toilet that is small and handy, then this Porta Potti solution is a great way to go. It is small enough to store but big enough for about a week depending on how often you use it. The seat feels just like a regular toilet while the waste is being collected in the lower compartment that is closed-off when not in use. Use the EcoSmart holding tank solution for a greener alternative to deodorize and liquify the waste inside the tank. It’s easy to empty and clean too.
If you are travelling in an RV, travel trailer or van and want to be out in the wild for weeks in a row while having your own toilet, then this is the way to go. This toilet separates urine from feces (aka solid and liquid waste) which allows for the solid waste to slowly turn into dirt by ways of composting via a ventilation system. The solid compartment needs emptying only about every 3-4 weeks depending on use while the liquid waste container needs emptying about every 2 days. It’s an eco-friendly toilet system made for RVs, boats and off-grid living.
Using 100% biodegradable soap is important when camping. This brand has been around for many years. This pure castile soap is gentle on the skin and can be used for showering, shaving, dishwashing, laundry and general cleaning. It comes in different fragrances with natural essential oils: Peppermint helps clear the mind, lavender is relaxing, citrus is refreshing and rose is soothing. The soap is made from certified fare trade organic and vegan ingredients, free of synthetics or preservatives, it’s certified cruelty-free and produced without animal testing, 100% biodegradable.
Disclaimer: To support our cause, we use affiliate links and may receive a commission for purchases made through these links at no cost to you. We are not sponsored by anyone and list only gear that we are personally use and love. We selected the items we recommend purely based on personal satisfaction and because we like their quality.
We loved spending time in the beautiful town of Salida in Colorado with our Van.
Salida is a great place for Van Life as there are many options for free and low-cost camping. There is plenty of free camping on BLM (public land that’s overseen by the Bureau of Land Management), at the surrounding San Isabel National Forest, the nearby Arkansas River Recreation Area, on commercial campgrounds; and street parking is available in and around town. And then there is even Harvest Hosts. Have you heard of Harvest Hosts? It’s a great program that allows members with self-contained Vans and RVs to stay overnight at participating host locations, such as farms, wineries, breweries, museums etc. As members, we were excited to find a participating winery in Salida where we parked overnight and enjoyed their wine and food and the beautiful views of the mountains and night sky. This beautiful winery is called Vino Salida, located just outside of town and they even have live-music on Friday and Saturday nights. We had a great time there for sure.
Salida was also a great spot as the Aquatic Center in town has a large spring fed lap-pool (85F) and a soaking pool (98F) and of course hot showers. During the last hour of the day admission is only $5 and it’s a great way to get a nice swim, hot soak and shower, a great option for vandwellers without a bathroom!
We loved Salida also for the many outdoor activity options. The area is just so beautiful. Salida is located adjacent to the Arkansas River Recreation Area and surrounded by fourteeners and National Forests. There are plenty of hiking and biking trails in and around Salida, and there is a plethora of activities in the area available from climbing, fishing, four-wheeling, golfing, kayaking, whitewater rafting, skateboarding, skiing, snowboarding, ziplining and zipline aerial adventures etc.
The stunning Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is only one and a half hours drive away, bring water, a hat and sunscreen and rent a sand sled at nearby retailers to sled down the sand dunes with!
Other Eco-Friendly Establishments and Favorite Places:
Salida has many restaurants that use locally sourced ingredients as available and many stores sell locally made products.
We especially loved the hand crafted natural body care products from Vital Living and the in-store made fleece jackets at J2 Softwear.
Salida is one of Colorado’s Certified Creative Districts and has some wonderful galleries, art displays and an active art community and scene. We loved Salida and are looking forward to return for another visit one day!