Overall Rating: B
Pros: Deeply wooded and secluded with the sounds of the Roaring Fork River in the background. Short drive to Aspen. Access to some of the best fishing in Colorado along the Roaring Fork and Frying Pan rivers.
Cons: Many sites are not level with little room for a vehicle and a tent. Lots of (non-biting) bugs. The deep Aspen forest can be almost claustrophobic.
Difficult Campground isn't difficult campground at all. It's a surprisingly pleasant, deeply wooded National Forest site five miles south of Aspen headed toward Independence Pass. The entire campground lies in the bottom of a deep valley alongside the upper reach of the Roaring Fork River.
I'm amazed at how different the vibe is at each campground. Peak One and Heaton Bay at Dillon were exposed and windswept - Difficult is cloyingly protected by both the surrounding mountains the deep, dense foliage. Each site seemed to have a lot of privacy and seclusion from the others. There are always birds singing and the sound of the river in the background. The campers there were friendly and quiet.
You feel as though you are deep in the forest. Indeed, the territory to the south is wild and mountainous. Bears are apparently common in camp, although we were not able to confirm or deny. It's not a deep pine or coniferous forest - it's thick Aspen with undergrowth. There are nice trails that follow the river and wind deep up the sides of the canyon.
The sites each had the usual amenities - picnic table, fire ring with grill, and bear proof food storage. There are frequently spaced vault toilets and plenty of water pumps, but no RV water hookups. I found that the sites were not all ergonomic. Some were not quite level, without enough roomto fully and completely spread out. Very few pull throughs. Most sites were back in. On most, the fire ring was not right beside the parking area. There's a beautiful large group campsite right on the Roaring Fork river itself which would be fun with a large number of people.
Only a few campsites are directly on the river. Unlike some of the Montana river campgrounds I've frequented, you don't get the feeling that the river is the central feature of the area. You have to walk a bit to get to it. There's also a feeder creek behind it on a trail.