We stayed at the La Junta KOA Journey Campground in La Junta, Colorado, as part of a multi-day camping trip. We had not visited the small town of La Junta before. We drove the scenic route, avoiding almost all highways, which ended up taking us at one point along the Santa Fe Trail Scenic and Historic Byway.
We visited the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site on our way to the campsite. The drive from the historic site to the campground is about 1.5 hours. After a good night’s sleep at the campground, we drove 15 minutes to Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site.
Local Area Attractions
How We Choose This Campground
This trip was our first experience at a KOA campground. We chose it based on reviews and the proximity to the National Historic Sites. We tried to get a reservation at the John Martin Colorado State Park because it is on Our Bucket List. There were a limited number of sites available, but none of them appeared to be shady. After our last trip, Our Perfect Trip, we decided to choose an easier campground experience with no crazy wind or sun conditions. Other factors that influenced our decision were the playground and pool!
There were some conveniences close by to the KOA Campground in La Junta that made life easier. There was a McDonald’s about five minutes down the road, which helped with the coffee situation in the morning. We were also within walking distance to a Walmart for some much-needed and forgotten aspirin. There was a Village Inn which we stopped in for lunch after a long morning out. It wasn’t “roughing it,” but it was easy and fun!
Our Campground Experience
We were able to check into the campground within a matter of minutes. It was quick, which was great because the kids were ready to get in the pool. I wanted to be anywhere other than in the car. The gentleman who checked us into the campground told us about the campground, our site, and the local ice cream truck that would be open the next day. We ended up talking to him about other activities that happen in La Junta, such as the Annual Tarantula Migration (September), Koshare Indian Museum, and Otero County Museum.
We were able to find our site easily thanks to the map and the visible site markings. The campsite was surrounded on three sides by a fence. It offered privacy and a way to see where each site started and ended. There was an area in the middle of our campsite for the tent. There was also a sink with water, a fire ring, and a picnic table. There were two power outlets. The outlet ended up helping charge my phone.
We were able to set up our 60-second tent in literally a minute. We visited the pool and playground a few times during our trip. There were a bunch of other kids there, so all the kids played together. We used the fire ring for roasting marshmallows for smores and hot dogs.
Reminder: Burn First Aid
As a friendly Public Service Announcement, do not touch the metal pole used to roast marshmallows with your fingers. If you do, your fingers will look like a seared hot dog. I was reminded of this slightly painful lesson when my youngest son handed the hot metal pole to me. Rather than grabbing it by the handle, I grabbed it by the hot part.
My oldest son was quick to remind me that first aid was necessary. He had me put my hand under the conveniently located sink at our site. My kids made a rule that for the remaining part of the day I was not allowed to hold the metal pole because it was too dangerous. My kids are funny and right, sometimes.
Do you want to learn about first aid before your next camping trip? The Red Cross offers in-person and virtual First Aid Courses.
Bring Bug Spray
We would strongly recommend bringing bug spray. I do believe being prepared is an aspect of ensuring you have a good experience. The bugs found my youngest son tasty. We did have bug spray, but it was no match for the bugs. If we went back to this campground, we would probably bring pants and not just shorts. I think that would have helped us. We took a tally of his bug bites when we got home. He had 70 bug bites. It was like he was an all-you-can-eat buffet.
The bug spray and necessity of pants were probably the takeaway lessons from this camping trip.
Final Campground Thoughts
The campground was a great place for us after Our Perfect Trip. It was easy. I worried about the effects of being next to a Walmart. I thought it would make camping less authentic and take away from the camping experience. It didn’t.
My favorite moments were around the campfire as we talked about “weiners” and made fondue smores. It was just us spending time together laughing, having fun, and being silly. Once we finished eating, my kids ran off to the within eyesight playground to have fun with the other kids. I could hear their laughter from afar while I sat at the fire.
I thought about how there were so many things that changed this year. I am not sure this is a trip we would have necessarily taken without these changes. While some of the changes were beyond sad, I am still grateful for all of them because they brought us here.