Aurora, CO – Cherry Creek State Park Review
Note: Our reviews are from the perspective of full timers “glamping” in a 40-45′ big rig. Our review focus is on maneuvering, site attributes, hookup quality, internet access, proximity to services, etc. We are self contained and usually don’t use any campground toilets, showers or laundry so we don’t always report on them. We tend to favor state and federal parks because they tend to be more in tune with nature and usually have more spacious sites.
Website: Cherry Creek State Park Website
The park locator map gives the general location. Address is 4201 S. Parker Road, Aurora, CO 80014. The online park directions are here. A good GPS should get you to the proper entrance with no issues (there is more than one), but the main park entrance is at 39.647251, -104.829316. We arrived via I-225 Exit 4 to Parker Rd (CO83) south. Use the park entrance lat/lon above then follow to the entry booth (keep right at the booth, it’s narrow but navigable) where you will possibly need to pay the entrance fee. They did not ask us to pay the entrance fee here. Our annual pass was affixed to our windshield, but as it is on the right side we are not sure if it was visible to the attendant. Now follow the signs to the campground entrance (two right turns) which is at 39.647251, -104.829316. There you will need to park in the registration area, go inside and check in. If the registration area (on the right) looks full, note there are a couple of pull thru parking spots to the left along the main entrance road. At the campground check in desk, they did ask us if we had an annual entrance pass but did not ask for any proof.
Date(s) of Stay: October 8, 2017 arrival, October 13, 2017 departure.
Anchored around a 880 surface-acre lake, this popular state park which is open all year is a natural oasis on the southeast outskirts of the sprawling Denver metropolis. Nature lovers can view birds, elk, prairie dogs and other wildlife in their natural habitat either by walking or biking the numerous trails or picnicking at the numerous picnic areas. The more adventurous can enjoy boating, jet and water skiing, sailing, fishing, swimming, horseback riding, a firing range and more. The state park campground located on the east side of the reservoir offers 131 sites (101 are full hook up and 59 of those are pull-thru) each with a picnic table and fire pit. Park brochure, Campground Map & Info, Park Trail Map.
Reservations can be made at Reserve America but be aware that the booking window for an online reservation is 72 hours in advance of your arrival. Within the 3 day booking window sites will show as walk up only.
Full rate detail can be found here. During our stay the daily rate was $28 per night (winter season) for a full hookup site. But be forewarned, in addition there is a $10 flat charge (ouch) for making an online reservation. So while the $28 daily rate may seem at first glance to be a reasonably good deal the reservation fee really drives up the cost of a short stay. To add insult to injury, staying at any of the CO State Parks also incurs an additional $7 – $9 daily State Park Entrance Fee (fee varies by specific park, it was $9 here). A one night stay at a full hookup site would set you back up to a whopping $47! A 10 day stay would amortize the reservation fee and result in a $38 daily rate including the daily entrance fee.
If you are planning on staying more than 8 or 10 nights at Colorado State Parks within the year, the best approach to mitigate that daily vehicle fee is to purchase an Annual Pass. We suggest physically purchasing the pass at the first campground you visit. At St. Vrain and Boyd Lake, the Annual Pass fee was $70, but here at Cherry Creek it was $73. Note that the Annual Pass not only covers the entrance fee for your motorhome, but for your towed vehicle as well – as long as it is connected when you arrive at the park.
Knowing that we would be staying at several other Colorado State Parks (5 parks over 21 days to be exact), we purchased the Annual Pass at St Vrain State Park when we first arrived in CO. It turned out that without it, we would have paid $160 in entrance fees, so we saved $90! Good deal! Plus the annual pass is valid for 13 months from date of purchase.
Additional info – for a motorhome towing a car, the Annual Pass will be for the motorhome and attached to the lower right corner of the motorhome windshield. When registering at the campground, make sure you arrive with your tow vehicle connected and be sure to get a free Towed Vehicle Pass for the dates of your stay. The Towed Vehicle Pass at Cherry Creek is issued at the Campground check-in office. It will also get you into any other Colorado State Parks for the dates of your stay. Note that if even if you do not purchase an Annual Pass, the Daily Vehicle Fee will still apply to the motorhome and the Towed Vehicle Pass will still be free.
Overall Impression – 4.6/5
What an absolutely beautiful park! Never expected to find this kind of oasis so close to the city. Out of the three Colorado State Parks that we have stayed at so far (St. Vrain, Boyd Lake and Cherry Creek) this one is definitely at the top of the list. From the moment we checked in at the registration office, which is manned by very helpful and friendly staff, until the day we left, there are only positive things to say about our stay here. Overall the campground and the entire park was clean and well maintained. The bath houses were immaculate, quite spacious and modern. From a campsite perspective, the full cement site pads were plenty big for our 45′ rig, very well spaced apart and had picnic tables and fire pits. Beside and behind our back-in site were huge expanses of green grass. Definitely big rig friendly with wide paved roads that were easy to maneuver. Colorado State Parks on Reserve America tend to categorized their sites by size; <= 30 FT, <= 40 FT and > 40 FT. There may be additional categories for Electric, Non-Electric, etc. In this case, all sites > 40 FT were Full Hookup, and the <= 30 FT and <= 40 FT were Non-Electric. The sites designated as > 40 FT were typically 70 to 80 feet in length irregardless of whether the site is a back in or pull thru. Pull thru sites are similar to those found in the other Colorado State Parks we stayed at – they run parallel to the road and tend to give a bit less privacy, also the “yard” may not be as expansive as some of the back-in’s. During our stay here we had a FHU back in site (#81) located in the Gold Rush Loop.
The network of trails, some of which border the reservoir, provided lots of opportunity for hiking and/or biking along with viewing wildlife. One area that commemorates the 1993 World Youth Day is home to families of prairie dogs – it was so much fun watching all their antics. Plus seeing elk grazing near our campsite in the early morning and late afternoon hours was a special treat!
Advanced reservations are a definite necessity as this park is extremely popular. We were lucky that it was off season so we were able to find a time slot that fit into our schedule to stay here. We will most definitely return to this park when we return to Colorado in the future.
Another positive is that the park is fairly close to Denver so it provides several sightseeing opportunities as mentioned in our previous Exploring Denver post and our Red Rocks Park post.
Size – 5/5
Our site #81 had a full size concrete pad which was 70′ long so there was ample room for both our 45′ rig and our toad. Behind our site was a huge expanse of green grass and a huge tree, providing shade when needed, where we could sit out enjoying the fine weather and watching the elk graze.
Privacy – 4/5
None between sites but there was such a huge expanse of grass between our site and both of our next door neighbors, it didn’t matter that there wasn’t any vegetation.
Amenities – 5/5
Beach, boat ramp, boat rental, fishing, dump station, jet ski rental, marina, model airplane field, shooting range, stables, volleyball, firewood, extensive hiking/biking trails and wildlife. Wow. It would take weeks to walk all the trails here.
Convenience – 5/5
Very close to the center of Aurora as well as downtown Denver so Walmart, grocery stores, other retail and numerous restaurants are located nearby.
Physical Surroundings – 4/5
Beautiful surroundings, an oasis in the middle of suburbia!
Maneuverability and Roads – 5/5
Paved roads wide enough for any size rig to maneuver throughout the park. The one and only exception being the park entrance booth which is a bit narrow, but we had no problems navigating it.
Peace & Quiet – 3.5/5
At our particular site, there was some traffic noise from I-225 & I-25 but it was distant. Noise level depends on where your campsite is located. One demerit is that the park itself is open to the public so the crowds here can be dense on busy days. However the campground itself was mostly peaceful during our stay.
Utilities – 5/5
- Sewer – Very Good. Toward rear of site but well placed, level with grade, threaded cap.
- Satellite – Most sites have a clear view of the sky, however some loops have mature trees that might interfere in some cases. Our site #81 in the Gold Rush Loop had no issues receiving all three DISH Western Arc satellites.
- WiFi – Free WiFi, however we did not use or test it.
- Cellular signal – Verizon: Strong signal, Very Good LTE data performance. AT&T: Strong signal, Adequate LTE data performance.
- Over-the-Air (OTA) TV – We scanned and picked up 29 channels so most of the primary networks should be receivable.
- Power – Very Good. 20/30/50A pedestal in good condition. Voltage was strong at 123 volts on both legs. No errors or outages during our stay.
- Water Pressure/Quality – Good. Adequate pressure, no odors or obvious turbidity. Freeze proof faucet.
What We Liked
– Natural setting
– Watching the wildlife
– Lots to do here
– Lots of space between sites
– Very clean, well manicured lawns
– Very friendly staff
What We Didn’t Like
– Some traffic noise
– $9 daily entrance fee
– $10 reservation fee
Would We Return?
Most definitely, especially if we had an active annual pass. This is one of our all time favorite parks. For a very short stay without the annual pass we might reluctantly seek other options due to cost.
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