Golden Gate Canyon State Park is said to have some of the best tent camping in Colorado - I concur. This is just one reason why you can't just pack up the car today and hope to find a spot tonight. Reservations are almost a necessity and when you're going with kids you just can't take the risk of driving around trying to find a camping spot (fyi, we made this mistake for the first and last time about a year ago).
To me, Golden Gate is the perfect location for several reasons, not the least of which that it is close to home (less than an hour and a half from south Denver) and because it is a state park has plenty of well-kept accommodations (ie. decent bathrooms).
We scored what I think were the best spots in the whole park - Aspen Meadows sites 24 & 25 - because of their quiet, inner-loop location, and tons of boulders for the kids to climb on and play. We've also stayed at Aspen Meadows sites 18 & 19 before which are also winners, and great if you really want to find some community with other campers.
|Kid's relaxing at the camp site|
We hiked to "Dude's Fishing Hole" which was an easy and short walk for kids, just slightly uphill on the way back to camp. Skipping rocks & bird watching were our main events, but obviously fishing would suit & in warmer weather I'd bet some wading would be a blast.
|Dude's Fishing Hole|
On your way in or out, you need to stop at Panorama Point and enjoy the view. If you're only taking a day hike, this would be an awesome spot for having your picnic lunch because it has bathrooms and a covered area. My experience is that some of the lower hiking trails (before you get up to the camping areas) are very exposed and not great for families on a hot sunny day.
Even if you already have your state parks pass, I'd still recommend a stop at the visitor's center on the way into the park. They have a nice display that will pique the kids' interest and give them some extra motivation to make it the rest of the way up to your camping spot!
I'd love to hear about your favorite camping spots close to (or far from) Denver. Leave a comment so we can check them out!