Mud Season Survival Guide: Quick getaways | SteamboatToday.com

Mud Season Survival Guide: Quick getaways

The sun sets on Colorado's sand dunes as storm clouds roll over Mount Herard.

— Steamboat a bit too ghost-towny for your liking this time of year?

Here are a few places you can venture to. And if you leave early enough in the morning, you can be there long before happy hour:

Great Sand Dunes National Monument

Skiing and boarding season doesn't have to end when the ski mountain closes. Grab an old pair of cross-country skis and head south. The dunes have become one of my favorite mud season destinations.

You can usually beat the crowds this time of year, and late season snow on the Sangre De Cristos makes for better pictures. Plan on arriving on a Friday afternoon or earlier if you're looking for a good campsite at the park.

A quick hike to Zapata Falls is also a nice side trek. The park also rents out sand boards so you can still make some turns on the dunes.

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Echo Park, Dinosaur National Monument

Check the weather conditions before heading to this gem. Late spring and early summer are great times to head to Echo Park and beat the mosquitos, which can be ruthless here later in the summer. If storms are a strong possibility, the drive in and out of this area gets very hairy as roads turn to slick clay, and it's best to stay away.

One of the highlights of a visit to Echo Park is a short hike that originates in the campgrounds and follows a canyon wall to a white sandy beach in Mitten Park.

Along the way, eagle-eyed hikers can spot petroglyphs.

Moab

I know. I know. Everyone goes to Moab. But get a group of friends together, and this is a great pilgrimage to make. My insider tip: Prime camping spots can be found along the Colorado River off of Utah State Route 128 (Colorado River Scenic Byway).

The closer you get to Moab, the more full the campsites tend to get, so plan on trying to grab a spot earlier in the day. And if you can, arrive in town on a weekday.

If the river sites are full, there are a number of camping spots offering mountain views in the Sand Flats Recreation Area.

A final word of caution: Arches National Park is seeing some major road construction this spring and summer. Plan ahead, and if you want to do stargazing in that park, do it on a Friday or Saturday night.