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Five major wildfires are still burning throughout the state, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Coloradans’ camping plans need to be placed on hold. This September, dozens of Colorado campsites are accepting reservations and for many campers, the question is: Are those sites really safe — and are they safe for everyone?

The Forest Service has closed certain portions of Colorado’s forests where ongoing fires might spread, and it’s regularly updating its site with new closure information. Meanwhile, even at open sites, air pollution caused by smoke from both Colorado’s and California’s fires can pose a health risk for anyone breathing in that air for an extended period of time.

According to Alex Huffman, an associate professor at the University of Denver who studies the health impact of inhaled particles, those health risks aren’t just an issue on their own. They may also have a link to the severity of complications when someone comes down with COVID-19.

But even during wildfires, Huffman said it’s important to get out and enjoy the outdoors. And it’s possible to do that safely, he added, suggesting that campers look into the possible risks of an area before making plans.

One tool that can help is this interactive fire and smoke map overseen by AirNow, a partnership of several government agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The website includes data from permanent and temporary air quality monitors, which are color-coded on the map; green monitors indicate areas with good air quality, followed by yellow, orange and red.

In green areas, the EPA has said there is little or no risk. In yellow areas, there could be a moderate risk for unusually sensitive populations, such as older adults, children and people with heart or lung disease. That said, because of the way air quality is monitored, smaller particles, like smoke particles, may be more prevalent than the ratings show, Huffman said.

“The breathing quality and the health effects in the yellow areas may be a little bit more noticeable than you might expect, no matter who you are,” Huffman said. “I would be careful in those regions and consider if you want to go there or not.”

The following is a list of campsites that have been cleared to be open by the Forest Service and are located in areas with good air quality, as of September 3. All sites are subject to an order from Governor Jared Polis prohibiting campfires, except within constructed, permanent fire pits or grates, if local restrictions allow.

Twin Peaks Campground

Twin Peaks Campground via Independence Pass Rock Climbing

Where: Southwest of Denver, the campgrounds are west of the Twin Lakes and can be reached by taking US 24 south from Leadville. The site is located in Chaffee County, which is in a Stage 2 Fire Ban. This ban prohibits campfires and only allows liquid gas or propane-fueled cooking stoves outdoors.

The Lowdown: This campground is open for tent camping and RV camping and, with its proximity to both Mount Elbert and La Plata Peak, serves as a great hiking spot. The campground also sits just eight miles from Independence Pass. Twin Peaks does not accept reservations and operates on a first-come, first-served basis.

Reverends Ridge Campground

Reverends Ridge via Live Laugh RV

Where: Toward the northern end of Golden Gate Canyon State Park, the easiest way to reach the campgrounds is by taking Highway 93 through Golden to the north and turning left onto Golden Gate Canyon Road, just north of Washington Avenue. The road will take you all the way from Golden to the campgrounds. The site is located in Gilpin County, which is currently in a Stage 2 Fire Ban.

The Lowdown: Part of Golden Gate Canyon State Park, this campground offers 97 reservable sites, two yurts and six cabins. The campground is known for both its summer and winter activities, with September being a great time to mountain bike, hike or fish at the campgrounds. Reservations can be made here.

Aspen Meadows Campground

Aspen Meadows Campground via Outdoor Project

Where: Also located in Golden Gate Canyon State Park, the site can be reached via Golden Gate Canyon Road or by taking Highway 93 north to Highway 72, then turning left off the highway onto Twin Spruce Road.

The Lowdown: This tent-only campsite is less than a 40 mile drive from Denver. Home to aspen forests and diverse wildlife, the scenic site offers similar activities to neighboring Reverends Ridge including hiking and fishing in the summer months. Reservations can be made here.

Guanella Pass

Guanella Pass. Photo by Cori Anderson

Where: This campground in Idaho Springs is about an hour west from Denver. Take US-6 west to I-70, then take I-70 through Georgetown before reaching Guanella Pass Road.

The Lowdown: Eighteen sites are available at this campsite located in the spruce forests south of Georgetown. The campground sits at an elevation of more than 10,000 feet, making it an ideal hiking spot. It’s also adjacent to the Guanella Pass Scenic and Historic Byway, an old wagon route connecting Georgetown to Grant. Reservations can be made here.

Ansel Watrous

Ansel Watrous Campground via the USDA Forest Service

Where: To reach this smaller campground in the Canyon Lakes Ranger District, take Highway 287 about 11 miles north of Fort Collins, then turn left onto Highway 14. Continue for another 13 miles before reaching the site.

The Lowdown: Located alongside the Cache La Poudre River, the campground is home to a well-known whitewater rafting and kayaking scene. A variety of trails makes Ansel Watrous a solid spot for hiking as well as horseback riding. The campground is divided into two loops — the lower area of the campground has sites reservable through September 19 and the upper area, through September 26. Reservations can be made here.

Kelsey Campground

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Where: Kelsey Campground is just over an hour south of the Denver area. Take US Highway 285 south until you reach Pine Valley Road. Take a left and continue on the road for about 17 miles, staying on the road when it turns into Deckers Road, until you reach Kelsey Campground.

The Lowdown: This campground sits at an elevation of more than 8,000 feet in the Buffalo Creek Recreation Area. Known for its proximity to the area’s 40 mile trail network, visitors have a choice of activities that includes mountain biking, rock climbing and river fishing. Reservations can be made here.

Elk Ridge Campground

Elk Ridge Campground Photo by Brittany Werges.

Where: One of three campgrounds in Ridgway State Park, the site is located several hours outside of Denver. Take I-70 west almost 250 miles to exit 37, which will take you onto US-50. Follow the highway east to US-550 in Montrose, which will take you south to the campground.

The Lowdown: A long list of outdoor activities are available at this campground, from water skiing to horseback riding. The campground also includes a number of useful amenities, with vending machines, BBQ grills and an amphitheater all open for use. Reservations can be made here.

This content was originally published here.