Lathrop State Park, Colorado’s first state park, is a perfect weekend getaway with two lakes for fishing, swimming, and boating, trails for hiking and mountain biking, an archery range, horse trail, and plenty of campsites for tents, trailers, and RVs. The 1,594-acre park, located three miles west of Walsenburg, is known for its superb lakeside picnic spots and won an award as one of America’s Top 15 Picnic Areas. Golfers love the park’s scenic Walsenburg Golf Course, the only course in the state park system. Anglers toss their hooks into two reservoirs—Martin and Horseshoe lakes—for trout, channel catfish, crappie, bass, perch, and large tiger muskies. The three-mile handicap-accessible Cuerno Verde Trail encircles Martin Lake, and the two-mile Hogback Trail explores a rocky ridge and the park’s natural history.
“Why don’t we go camping at Lathrop State Park,” my wife said. “The boys will love it.” Yeah right, I thought, I’d rather go climb a 14er. At the park, we settled into a spacious campsite, then pumped up an inflatable kayak. My son Brett and I donned life jackets and paddled around shimmering Horseshoe Lake among bobbing ducks and Canada geese. Later we hiked Hogback Trail, passing a maze of sand-colored boulders to a long volcanic ridge and marvelous views. Pikes Peak rose to the north over 100 miles away and rows of mountain peaks spread along the western horizon—Greenhorn Mountain, the snowy Culebra Range, and the twin Spanish Peaks. “You’re right,” I said. “Lathrop is ideal for a family adventure.”
- Visit Lathrop State Park during the week and you’ll have most of the park to yourself.
- The park has 103 campsites in two campgrounds and three group camping areas. Make a reservation at ReserveAmerica on weekends to ensure a campsite.
- Bring binoculars and a field guide to identify Lathrop’s abundant birds, including meadowlarks, roadrunners, pinyon and scrub jays, pelicans, great blue herons, cormorants, and western grebes. Osprey seen in summer and bald eagles in winter.
- Lathrop State Park is great for swimming. Horseshoe Lake, for wakeless watercraft only, is warmer than high-elevation lakes, reaching temperatures of 75 degrees in summer. Martin Lake has a swim beach and shower.
Recommended season(s): Year round. Best seasons are spring and fall. Summer days can be hot.
—Stewart M. Green