Complete Guide to Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park, located in north-central Colorado, is a truly stunning National Park. Comprised of alpine meadows, 14,000 foot peaks, and meandering streams, RMNP is truly a one-of-a-kind place…

Rocky Mountain National Park, located in north-central Colorado, is a truly stunning National Park. Comprised of alpine meadows, 14,000 foot peaks, and meandering streams, RMNP is truly a one-of-a-kind place to visit. Planning a Rocky Mountain National Park camping trip is the perfect way to experience this environment first-hand.

There is just nothing like spending a night out under the stars in your tent or RV to truly gain an appreciation of this spectacular place.

Rocky Mountain National Park and surrounding areas have more than enough camping options to suit your needs. From the five developed campgrounds in the park, a plethora of backcountry campsites, to tons of nearby RV and car camping spots, and even free dispersed camping, you’re sure to find the perfect campsite.

Keep reading to get all the details to plan your perfect camping trip in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rocky Mountain National Park camping

 

In this Rocky Mountain National Park Camping Guide

 

Rocky Mountain National Park Campgrounds

The first step in planning your perfect camping trip in Rocky Mountain National Park is to understand a bit about the geography of the park. RMNP sits in the northern Front Range and is generally divided in half by the continental divide.

On the east side of the park, the main hub of activity is the town of Estes Park, while on the west side you’ll find Grand Lake. Connecting the east and west side of the park is Trail Ridge Road, a spectacular drive that is a highlight for many visitors RMNP trip.

Generally speaking, the east side of Rocky Mountain is more frequently visited, as it is much closer to Denver and the rest of the Front Range.

You’ll find good camping options on both sides of the park, and we’ve generally broken down your options geographically so that you have a good sense of what is available depending on which part of the park you want to explore.

Check out the map below to get a general sense of where the developed campgrounds in Rocky Mountain National Park are located.

Map of camping in Rocky Mountain National Park

Map of campgrounds in Rocky Mountain National Park. Map courtesy of NPS. (Click to enlarge)

 

In addition to the overview map shown above we’ve also created an interactive map with all of the campgrounds included in this guide displayed.

Campgrounds with a green tent icon are the developed campgrounds within the park, the blue camper trailer icon represents RV campgrounds near the park, and finally the red tent icon represents car camping options near RMNP.

Enjoy!

 

Reservations & Permits

Of the five developed campgrounds in Rocky Mountain National Park, three are reservable in advance while the other two are first-come, first-served. Aspenglen, Glacier Basin, and Moraine Park Campgrounds are all reservable in advance, while Longs Peak and Timber Creek Campgrounds are both available on a first-come, first-served basis.

To make a reservation at any of the three reservable campgrounds in Rocky Mountain National Park visit Recreation.gov, below.

Make a camping reservation in Rocky Mountain National Park here.

Camping in RMNP is very popular during the summer peak season, so we highly recommend making a reservation well in advance if at all possible. If  you’re hoping to land one of the first-come, first-served campgrounds during peak season be sure to arrive early as they are very difficult to snag!

Bridge over a creek in RMNP

 

For those interested in exploring the vast backcountry wilderness in Rocky Mountain National Park on a backcountry camping trip you’ll need to secure a wilderness permit and reservation for the specific campsite you plan to stay at.

This is true for the traditional backcountry campsites, those interested in Technical Climbing Bivouacing, or Technical Orienteering Cross-country camping.

To secure a wilderness permit in Rocky Mountain National Park you’ll need to apply through the park’s lottery system, which generally opens on March 1st for the upcoming season. If you have a specific date or campsite you’d like to secure you’ll need to try and reserve as soon as possible!

Get a wilderness camping permit in Rocky Mountain National Park here.

Tent at a backcountry campsite in Rocky Mountain National Park.

 

What to Bring Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park

Preparing for your Rocky Mountain National Park camping trip involves more than deciding which campground best fits your needs. There is also the important job of making sure you have all the right gear you’ll need to ensure a great trip.

We’re sure you’ll already have the essentials like a great tentsleeping bags, and camp chairs, but below are some of our favorite items specifically for camping in RMNP:

  • Coleman Camping Stove – This camping classic is perfect cooking up campsite dinners.
  • Portable water container – These portable water containers are a lifesaver.
  • Cooler – A good cooler makes any camping trip better. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
  • Rocky Mountain National Park Map – An essential for any trip, a good map is a must.
  • RMNP Guidebook – A good guidebook will provide insights and information to help you plan your perfect trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. We like this hiking guide.

When to Camp in Rocky Mountain National Park

The Moraine Park Campground is the only campground in Rocky Mountain National Park this is open year round. However, most visitors will prefer the warmer temperatures and easier access to the park during the peak summer camping season.

Peak camping season in Rocky Mountain National generally begins around late-May and lasts through the beautiful fall weather towards the end of September. On either end of these times you’ll need to be prepared for snow and cold temperatures.

The winter months bring cold temperatures, snow, and generally inhospitable conditions to RMNP. Those who are hardy enough to brave winter camping in Rocky Mountain will need to stay at either Moraine Park or for the even braver, plan a winter wilderness camping trip.

Find more information on the weather conditions you can expect to encounter in Rocky Mountain National Park here. 

Bear Lake in the winter

Winter in RMNP brings frigid temperatures and snow, but camping is still possible!

 

Developed Campgrounds in RMNP

There are five unique developed campgrounds in Rocky Mountain National Park. These campgrounds vary in size and proximity to different areas of the park and are sure to provide plenty of options for your perfect camping trip in RMNP. Details for all five campgrounds are below.

Aspenglen Campground

Number of Sites: 52 sites (13 tent only, 5 walk to)
Fee: $30/night
RVs: Yes, max length of approximately 30′. No hookups
Reservations: Required. Click here to reserve.
Season: Open seasonally during summer only.
More Information

Aspenglen Campground, Rocky Mountain National Park

Aspenglen Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Aspenglen Campgrounds is located in the northern section of Rocky Mountain National Park, just past the Fall River entrance on Highway 34. This section of the park gets fewer visitors compared with the Beaver Meadows entrance, and is a great place to stay before exploring Deer Mountain, Lawn Lake, or Old Fall River Road.

Aspenglen features 52 campsites, with 13 tent-only sites and five walk-in campsites. The campground is set in a beautiful location with giant ponderosa pines and douglas fir trees providing shade in the summer. Two of the campsites are also ADA accessible.

Close encounters with the park’s famous elk herds are also very common in this section of the park!

The Aspenglen Campground is open seasonally during the summer months and reservations through Recreation.gov are required. Campsites are equipped with food storage lockers, metal fire grates, and easy access to restrooms and potable water.

Click here to make a reservation at the Aspenglen Campground

Old Fall River Road in RMNP

The Aspenglen Campground is the perfect place to stay before exploring Old Fall River Road. Photo credit NPS.

 

Glacier Basin Campground

Number of Sites: 150 sites (73 tent only, 13 group sites)
Fee: $30/night, group sites more.
RVs: Yes, max length of approximately 35′. No hookups
Reservations: Required. Click here to reserve.
Season: Open seasonally during summer only.
More Information

Glacier Basin Campground, Rocky Mountain National Park

Glacier Basin Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Glacier Basin Campground is centrally located in one of the most popular areas of Rocky Mountain National Park. Situated just off the main road that leads to the Bear Lake trailhead and Sprague Lake this is the perfect place to camp for those looking to take in Rocky Mountain National Park’s quintessential spots.

Take a leisurely stroll around Sprague Lake or hike all the way to Dream Lake from the Bear Lake Trailhead to make the most of camping at Glacier Basin!

Glacier Basin is a large campground with 150 total campsites, 73 of which are tent-only and 13 that can accommodate larger groups. RVs and trailers up to 35′ can be accommodated at Glacier Basin and there are four ADA accessible campsites.

The campground is open seasonally during the summer months and is one of the most competitive in the park to secure a reservation at. You’ll want to get on Recreation.gov as soon as possible to try and snag a campsite here.

All of the campsites are equipped with food storage lockers, fire grates, and access to potable water. There is also an RV dump station available.

Click here to make a reservation at the Glacier Basin Campground

Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

A hike to Dream Lake is an excellent day out in Rocky Mountain National Park.

 

Moraine Park Campground

Number of Sites: 244 sites (101 tent only, 49 walk to)
Fee: $30/night in summer, $20/night in winter
RVs: Yes, max length of approximately 40′. No hookups
Reservations: Required. Click here to reserve.
Season: Open year round.
More Information

Moraine Park Campground, Rocky Mountain National Park

Moraine Park Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Moraine Park Campground is the largest and most centrally located in Rocky Mountain National Park. Situated in a beautiful valley with stunning views, the campground is a short drive from the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station. Those camping here will be close to the Cub Lake Trailhead as well as a short-drive from many of the other popular destinations in RMNP.

This is a huge campground sporting a total of 244 individual campsites, of which 101 are tent-only and 49 are walk to sites. In addition, Moraine Park features three ADA accessible campsites. RVs are welcome at the Moraine Park Campground, but you’ll be limited to a total length of 40′.

Moraine Park is the only campground in RMNP that is open year round, although anyone interested in winter camping should expect reduced services. As one of the most popular campgrounds in the park, advance reservations are essential here.

All of the campsites are equipped with food storage lockers, fire grates, and access to potable water, and a stunningly beautiful amphitheater. There is also an RV dump station available.

Click here to make a reservation at the Moraine Park Campground

Moraine Park Campground Amphitheater

The amphitheater at Moraine Park Campground is truly stunning. Photo credit NPS.

 

Longs Peak Campground

Number of Sites: 26 tent only sites
Fee: $30/night
RVs: Not allowed.
Reservations: First-come, first-served
Season: Open seasonally during summer only.
More Information

Longs Peak Campground, Rocky Mountain National Park

Longs Peak Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

Located south of the main park entrances, the Longs Peak Campground is the perfect spot for those looking for a quieter camping experience. This campground is situated just off Highway 7 between Estes Park and Allenspark and makes for an excellent camping spot to explore Chasm Lake, Estes Cone, and for the well-prepared, Longs Peak.

This small campground features 26 tent-only campsites tucked away in dense pine forest. Longs Peak Campground is located at an elevation of nearly 9,500′ so you’ll want to come prepared for some high-altitude camping. RVs are not allowed at the campground and unfortunately there are no ADA accessible sites.

The Longs Peak Campground is open seasonally during the summer, and all sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. During busy summer weekends be sure to arrive as early as you can, as the campground is often completely full.

All of the campsites here are equipped with food storage lockers, fire grates, and access to potable water.

Chasm Lake hike from Longs Peak Campground

The hike to Chasm Lake is a RMNP classic.

 

Timber Creek Campground

Number of Sites: 98 sites (30 tent only)
Fee: $30/night
RVs: Yes, max length of approximately 30′. No hookups
Reservations: First-come, first-served
Season: Open seasonally during summer only.
More Information

Timber Creek Campground, Rocky Mountain National Park

Timber Creek Campground. Photo credit NPS.

The Timber Creek Campground is the lone developed campground located on Rocky Mountain National Park’s west side. The campground is situated just off Highway 34 at the base of Trail Ridge Road. The Timber Lake trail leaves just up the road from the campground and you’re also likely to encounter more wildlife in this section of the park.

Timber Creek has 98 campsites, 30 of which are tent-only. RVs up to 30′ are allowed here and there are four ADA accessible campsites. The campground does not offer much shade due to many of the trees having to be removed as a result of the pine beetle, so be sure to bring a small shade canopy.

The campground is open seasonally during the summer months and all 98 campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. There is a bit less demand on the campsites since this is a less-crowded section of the park, but we still recommend arriving as early as you can to secure your site.

All of the campsites here are equipped with food storage lockers, fire grates, and access to potable water. There is also an RV dump station which is open seasonally.

 

Backcountry camping in Rocky Mountain National Park

For those looking to get off the beaten path in Rocky Mountain National Park a backcountry camping trip is the perfect opportunity. The expansive park has tons of options for backpacking from traditional, designated backcountry campsites to bivouac sites for climbers, and even off-trail orienteering backpacking. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know.

Visit the Rocky Mountain National Park website here for more details on wilderness camping.

Backcountry Camping at Designated Campsites in RMNP

The most popular and the best fit for most people who want to explore the backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park is to camp at one of the over 120 designated wilderness campsites in the park. These campsites are located in every section of RMNP, as shown on the National Park Service map below:

Map of backcountry campsites in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Map of backcountry campsites in RMNP. Map courtesy of NPS. Click to enlarge.

 

In addition, there is a helpful list of all the backcountry sites in Rocky Mountain National Park at the link here.

Once you’ve decided on a campsite or campsites you’d like to stay at, you’ll need to secure a backcountry wilderness permit for the specific night and campsite you plan to stay at. Permits cost $30 per trip and we highly recommend reserving in advance.

The National Park Service opens the wilderness permit reservation system for Rocky Mountain National Park in late-February or early-March at the website below:

Get more information on Backcountry Wilderness Permits in RMNP here.

Backcountry campsites can accommodate up to seven people per campsite and you are limited to a maximum of 3 consecutive nights at any one campsite.

Note that a carry-in bear canister is required for all backcountry camping below treeline between April and October in RMNP. We like this bear canister from Backpacker’s Cache as it can fit several days worth of food. Alternatively, you can also rent bear canisters from REI stores and locally in Estes Park or Grand Lake.

If you’re looking for a bit of inspiration or an idea for a trip, be sure to check out our Guide to Lake Verna/East Inlet post.

East Inlet, Rocky Mountain National Park

 

Winter Wilderness Camping

For the brave and experienced it is possible to plan a winter backcountry camping trip in Rocky Mountain National Park. Campers will need to be prepared with a winter tent, proper footwear, and a good sense of how to keep warm in this harsh environment.

There are a different set of regulations for wilderness camping in the winter, but you’ll still need to obtain a backcountry permit before setting out. It is best to contact the NPS directly for help planning you winter camping trip in RMNP.

Find more information on Winter Wilderness Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park here.

Technical Orienteering in Rocky Mountain National Park

For those interested in a true wilderness experience in Rocky Mountain National Park and trained in backcountry travel, a technical orienteering trip might be just what you are after. The NPS divides Rocky Mountain into several backcountry zones where you can camp and explore off-trail in some of the most rugged and remote terrain in the park.

This type of trip is only for experienced backpackers who have off-trail hiking and orienteering experience.

Find more information on Technical Orienteering in Rocky Mountain National Park here.

Technical Climbing Bivouac in RMNP

The final backcountry camping experience that is possible in RMNP is for climbers needing to bivouac prior to/during a climb of one of the park’s many climbing routes. The NPS defines a bivouac (or bivvy for short) as an open air, temporary encampment. If you’re not sure what a climbing bivvy is, it is probably not for you!

If you are looking to bivouac before climbing in RMNP, you’ll need to get a technical climbing wilderness permit. These limit group sizes to four climbers and have limits on the number of permits issued for various zones throughout the park.

Find more information on Technical Climbing Bivouac Permits in RMNP here.

A tent in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rocky Mountain National Park Camping Must Know

The following sections contain all the basic information you need to ensure you have a great time camping in Rocky Mountain National Park. Before we dive in, there are a few important regulations to note:

  • From May 1st – October 15th you can camp for a total of 7 nights in the park.
    • You can camp an additional 14 nights outside of these dates.
  • Only camp in designated sites.
  • No more than eight people per campsite.
  • Always store your food using the provided food storage locker, in your car, or in an animal proof container.
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles.

Detailed information on fires, pets, wildlife, and more can be found in the sections below.

Campfires in Rocky Mountain National Park

Campfires are permitted at all five developed campgrounds in Rocky Mountain National Park, but they must be fully contained within the provided fire pit. Be sure to adhere to the following regulations:

  • Fully extinguish your fire before going to sleep or leaving your campsite.
  • Do not gather any wood from the park.
  • Purchase wood locally to avoid bringing invasive pests into the park.

Campfires are prohibited in the backcountry of Rock Mountain National Park.

Pets

Pets are allowed in Rocky Mountain National Park, but only in specific areas and under specific rules. Pets are not allowed in the backcountry, on any trail, tundra, or meadows within RMNP.

They are permitted in the developed campgrounds, parking lots, and on the main park roads.

We generally recommend against bringing you pet to Rocky Mountain National Park, but if you do please follow these regulations:

  • Pets must be on a leash at all times.
  • Pets are not allowed in park buildings, on trails, or in the backcountry.
  • Do not leave your pet unattended in your vehicle.
  • Always properly dispose of pet waste.

For a complete list of regulations related to pets check out the Rocky Mountain National Park website here.

Where to get supplies

Rocky Mountain National Park is well served on both the east and west side of the park. You’ll have no problem getting anything and everything you could possibly need for your camping trip in the two adjacent towns, outlined below:

  • Estes Park: Estes Park is a hub of activity on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park. This lovely town is just a few short miles from multiple entrances to the park and has everything you might need to prepare for your trip. Restaurants, outdoor stores, gas station, and a grocery store are all easily accessed here.
  • Grand Lake: On the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Lake is your best bet for stocking up on supplies. This lakeside resort town has a grocery store, outdoor stores, gas stations, and anything else you might need before your camping trip in the park.

 

Camping near Rocky Mountain National Park

Given the popularity and scarcity of options, it is always possible (and even likely) that you won’t be able to find a campground within Rocky Mountain National Park. However, don’t give up as there are plentiful camping options just outside the National Park boundary!

Check out your best options for RV camping, car camping, and free dispersed camping near Rocky Mountain National Park below:

RV campgrounds near Rocky Mountain National Park

Those camping in an RV will have plenty of options just outside Rocky Mountain National Park. The best option for you will depend on which side of the park you’re planning to explore, and we’ve provided RV campgrounds near on both the east and west side of RMNP below:

RV in Rocky Mountain National Park

 

RV Campgrounds on the East side of RMNP

The east side of Rocky Mountain National Park sees far more visitors than the quieter west side. As such, there are plenty of good options for your RV camping trip here. Read on to learn more.

Elk Meadow Lodge & RV Park

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $75/night for RVs $40-$46/night for tents
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Elk Meadow Lodge and RV Park is located just a short drive from the Beaver Meadows entrance to RMNP. This location will work great for most visitors, as you will be well positioned to access most of the top sights in the park. Elk Meadow is a large park and features full hookup RV sites, tent camping, teepee rentals, and cabin rentals.

The site features an outdoor swimming pool, laundry facilities, and entertainment at the site lodge.

 

Manor RV Park

Number of sites: 110 sites
Fee: Varies
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Manor RV Park is located just off Highway 36 past the town of Estes Park. You’ll be perfectly situated between Estes Park and RMNP and have access to tons of great amenities. These include free WiFi, a playground, laundry facilities, and free breakfast on Saturdays.

 

Estes Park KOA

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: Varies
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Estes Park KOA is located east of the town of Estes Park, just above Lake Estes. You won’t be as close to the park here as other options, but you will get the predictability of a KOA campsite. Amenities include cable tv, WiFi, and a dog park.

 

Spruce Lake RV Park

Number of sites: 123 sites
Fee: $73 – $79/night
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Spruce Lake RV Park is located on the banks of the Big Thompson River and makes for a tranquil place to spend the night before exploring Rocky Mountain National Park. You’ll be well located for venturing into the park as well as for exploring downtown Estes Park and the plethora of amenities make this is a great option.

RV Campgrounds on the West side of RMNP

The west side of Rocky Mountain National Park sees fewer visitors than the east side, and there are plenty of great options for RV camping. Read on to learn more:

Elk Creek Campground & RV Resort

Number of sites: 48 RV site + 10 tent sites
Fee: $42 – $62/night depending on the site
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Elk Creek Campground & RV Resort is located just across Highway 34 from the town of Grand Lake. This is a great location for exploring the East Inlet as well as the many shops and restaurants in Grand Lake. You’ll find both tent and RV sites at this well run campground.

Amenities include WiFi, a general store, playground, and the chance to encounter some of the local wildlife!

 

Winding River Resort

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $50 – $75/night depending on hookups
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Call 970-627-3215 to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Winding River Resort is set in a beautiful and secluded location north of the town of Grand Lake. Situated adjacent to the Colorado River this campground can accommodate RVs, tents, and also features cabins for rent. Those travelling with horses or hoping to do some riding in the park will find this an especially attractive option.

 

Car camping sites near Rocky Mountain National Park

If you’re looking for car camping sites near Rocky Mountain National Park you’ll have a lot of good options on both sides of the park.

In addition to the campgrounds listed below, car camping is permitted and recommend at all of the campgrounds listed in the RV camping section above.  Keep reading below to see what your best bets are for car camping near Rocky Mountain National Park.

Campsite near Rocky Mountain National Park

 

Car camping sites on the East side of RMNP

Estes Park Campground at East Portal

Number of sites: 66 sites
Fee: $45 – $55/night depending on the site
Capacity: 6 people per site
RVs: Small RVs and trailers less than 22′ permitted.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Estes Park Campground at East Portal is run by the Estes Valley Recreation and Park District. The campground is located in a pristine and secluded location at the end of Highway 66 on the east side of RMNP. The East Portal trailhead leaves from the campground and accesses popular hikes such as the Glacier Basin Loop.

The campground can accommodate small RVs and does offer a few sites with hookups, but you’ll find this is a much quieter campground than the typical RV resort. Highly recommended.

 

Estes Park Campground at Mary’s Lake

Number of sites: 128 sites
Fee: $45 – $65/night depending on the site
Capacity: 6 people per site
RVs: Small RVs and trailers less than 22′ permitted.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Also run by the Estes Valley Recreation and Park District, the Mary’s Lake Campground is a large site located adjacent to Mary’s Lake on the east side of Rocky Mountain. The campground is well located not too far from Estes Park, but also close to the park.

 

Hermit Park Open Space Campgrounds

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $30/night
Capacity: 6 people per site
RVs: Not recommended
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Hermit Park Open Space is owned by Larimer County and there are several great car camping options close to Rocky Mountain National Park. The campgrounds are located south of Estes Park along Highway 36. There are three excellent campgrounds to choose from here: Hermit’s Hollow, Bobcat, and Kruger Campgrounds. All of the campgrounds can be reserved in advance and offer basic amenities.

 

Olive Ridge Campground

Number of sites: 56 sites
Fee: $23/night
Capacity: 8 people per site
RVs: Allowed, but no hookups.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Olive Ridge Campground is a US Forest Service run campground located on Highway 7 just north of the town of Allenspark. The campground is near both the Wild Basin and Longs Peak trailheads in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Sites at Olive Ridge typically fill on summer weekends, so advance reservations are a must. Keep in mind that there is no water source at the campground so you’ll need to bring all that you need.

 

Meeker Park Overflow Campground

Number of sites: 29 sites
Fee: $23/night
Capacity: Not stated
RVs: Not recommended due to difficult roads
Reservations: All site first-come, first-served
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Meeker Park Overflow Campground has 29 first-come, first-served campsites that serve as overflow camping for the Olive Ridge Campground. Campsites feature picnic tables and fire rings and many have a food storage locker. The campground is located just north of Olive Ridge on Highway 7.

Similar to the Olive Ridge Campground, there is no water at the Meeker Park Overflow Campground.

 

Peaceful Valley Campground

Number of sites: 17 sites
Fee: $23/night
Capacity: 8 people per site
RVs: Allowed, but no hookups.
Reservations: 9 campsite can be reserved, 8 are first-come, first-served. Click here to reserve. 
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Peaceful Valley Campground is located south of Rocky Mountain National Park along the famous Peak to Peak Highway. A very popular campground in the summer, be sure and try to reserve your campsite ahead of time. If you can’t, there are always 8 sites that are held on a first-come, first-served basis.

 

Camp Dick Campground

Number of sites: 41 sites
Fee: $23/night
Capacity: 8 people per site
RVs: Allowed, but no hookups.
Reservations: Recommended, but some sites available first-come, first-served. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Located just up the road from the Peaceful Valley Campground, Camp Dick has 41 campsites situated along Middle Saint Vrain Road. Campsites are available for reservation and first-come, first-served here making this a good option if other campgrounds are full.

You’ll be a bit further from RMNP here, but still situated in a beautiful area.

 

Car camping sites on the West side of RMNP

Green Ridge Campground

Number of sites: 79 sites
Fee: $23/night
Capacity: 8 people per site
RVs: Allowed, but no hookups.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Green Ridge Campground is located south of Grand Lake, beautifully situated on the shores of Shadow Mountain Lake. This large site can accommodate both tents and RVs and all campsites feature picnic tables and fire rings. From the campground you’re only a short, 15-minute drive to the East Inlet trailhead.

 

Sunset Point Campground

Number of sites: 25 sites
Fee: $26/night
Capacity: 8 people per site
RVs: Allowed, but no hookups.
Reservations: All sites first-come, first-served.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Sunset Point Campground is located on the south end of Lake Granby, approximately 30 minutes from Rocky Mountain National Park. You’ll find 25 first-come, first-served campsites here that can accommodate both tents and RVs. The campground is typically full on summer weekends, so be sure to arrive as early as you can to get a site.

 

Free dispersed camping near Rocky Mountain National Park

Your final option for camping near Rocky Mountain National Park is to find a free, dispersed campsite on adjacent US Forest Service land located on both the east and west sides of the national park. This land is overseen by the USFS which manages hundreds of thousands of acres of public land throughout the country and generally allows for ‘dispersed camping’ on it. You can find more information on dispersed camping here.

 

Dispersed campsite near Rocky Mountain National Park

 

If you have any questions about the dispersed camping options outlined below be sure to reach out to the USFS/BLM offices that oversee the specific areas, shown below:

  • US Forest Service Office (east side sites): 303-541-2500 or 970-295-6700
  • US Forest Service Office (west side sites): 970-887-4100

Coyote Hill Road

Your first option for free dispersed camping near RMNP is along Coyote Hill Road, located just outside of Estes Park. Also known as Forest Service Road 119 it is recommend to come with a high clearance 4×4 to reach the campsites.

Parachute Hill/Johnny Park Road

Parachute Hill Road and Johnny Park Road are both good options for free dispersed camping on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park. To access the camping area you’ll take Highway 7, which runs between Estes Park and Allenspark to Boulder County Road 82. From here, head east towards the Johnny Park Trail before turning off on FS Road 329.

Pole Hill Road

The Pole Hill Road dispersed camping area is accessed from Highway 36 just south of Estes Park. Look for the Pole Hill Road intersection just before Highway 36 begins its descent into Estes Park. 4WD is a must here and also be sure to practice Leave No Trace principles as there have been many complaints from surrounding land owners.

Stillwater Pass Dispersed Camping

The lone option for free dispersed camping on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park is up Stillwater Pass/County Road 4. There are tons of campsites along the road, but be aware that it can get a bit crowded given this is a well known camping area.

 

Have a great trip!

That’s it!

We hope you’ve found all of the information on Rocky Mountain National Park camping in this post helpful and we know you’ll find the perfect campsite for your upcoming adventure! Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions or had a great time out camping!

 

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Guide to Camping in Mesa Verde National Park

Even in a state brimming with incredible sites and scenery, Mesa Verde National Park stands out as one of Colorado’s best places to visit. Located in the southwest corner of…

Even in a state brimming with incredible sites and scenery, Mesa Verde National Park stands out as one of Colorado’s best places to visit. Located in the southwest corner of the state, Mesa Verde hosts a collection of diverse ecosystems, from semiarid desert environments to high elevation pine forests.

Of course, the most compelling reason to visit this beautiful national park is to see the centuries-old ancestral Pueblo cliff dwellings. The Pueblo people of the four-corners region built rich, thriving, and complex communities, and the cliff dwellings are just one lens into their incredible culture and society. Mesa Verde National Park is home to a jaw-dropping 600 cliff-dwellings, and nearly 5,000 archaeological sites!

A soft winter sunset in Mesa Verde National Park. Photo courtesy of NPS/Sandy Groves.

Nature lovers will agree that wild places like Mesa Verde National Park are best experienced on a camping trip. There’s no better way to cap off day in the outdoors than to spend a night under the stars. Since camping options are limited, it can be difficult to find good information on camping. That’s why we created this comprehensive guide so you can spend less time planning and more time in the great outdoors. Enjoy!

Mesa Verde is home to a rich collection of archaeological sites, including these petroglyphs seen along the Petroglyph Point Trail. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Mesa Verde National Park Basics

When to Visit

The weather in Mesa Verde National Park is quite variable and it can change quickly. You can get warm, sunny days in January and snowstorms in May! While Mesa Verde is beautiful year-round, most campers will want to visit between April and October. These months typically have the best weather for camping and many campgrounds are only open during the summer season.

Check out this great webpage for more details on weather in Mesa Verde.

Pets

Pets are allowed at the Morefield Campground in Mesa Verde National Park, provided that they are kept on a leash. You can also walk your dog along any paved road in the park.

Pets are not allowed in any of the park buildings, at archaeological sites, and on most trails in Mesa Verde (although leashed pets are permitted on the Long House Loop and some other trails at Wetherill Mesa).

There are a few pet boarding options in the area near Mesa Verde National Park, including the kennel at the Morefield Campground. You can find more information about pet boarding here.

Fires

Fires are permitted in designated fire rings at the Morefield Campground. Fires are prohibited everywhere else in Mesa Verde National Park. If camping in the park, check with the Morefield warden upon arrival, as seasonal fire bans may be in place.

Wildlife

Nature lovers will appreciate the great diversity of wildlife in Mesa Verde National Park. The park is of particular significance for several unique bird species, including the threatened Mexican Owl.

Campers should keep in mind that bears are active in Mesa Verde National Park. It’s important to store food and other strong-smelling items (sunscreen, toothpaste, etc) in your vehicle, a bear locker, or other secure location.

What to Bring

Preparing for your Mesa Verde National Park camping trip involves more than deciding which campground best fits your needs. There is also the important job of making sure you have all the right gear you’ll need to ensure a great trip.

We’re sure you’ll already have the essentials like a great tentsleeping bags, and camp chairs, but below are some of our favorite items specifically for camping in Mesa Verde National Park:

  • Coleman Camping Stove – This camping classic is perfect for whipping up al fresco dinners.
  • Pop-up canopy – The sun in this part of Colorado can get intense! You may not be able to find a shady spot where you’re camping, so we recommend bringing a portable shade structure to create your own!
  • Portable water container – Save yourself the hassle of constant trips to the water tap and bring one of these.
  • Cooler – The hot summer temperatures make a good cooler an essential. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
  • Background Reading: There’s nothing better than relaxing at your campsite with this great book about the history of Mesa Verde.
Bears are active in and near Mesa Verde National Park, so campers need to properly secure their food items. Photo courtesy of NPS/Joshua Petersen.

Camping Inside Mesa Verde National Park

When it comes to camping in Mesa Verde National Park, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that backcountry and dispersed camping are not permitted anywhere within the park. The good news? It’s still possible to enjoy camping in the lovely and convenient Morefield Campground, and those looking for more remote dispersed camping have a few good options nearby.

Morefield Campground

  • # of sites: 267
  • Type: Tent, RV, Group
  • Fees, per night: $35 (Standard tent or RV w/o hookups), $50 (RV w/hookups)
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Allowed in designated fire pits

The Morefield Campground is located about four miles past the main entrance to Mesa Verde National Park. This large campground is run by the concessionaire company, Aramark, and therefore offers amenities more commonly seen in deluxe private campgrounds than in your typical NPS facilities. Keep in mind the base fee only covers groups of two, and you’ll need to pay a fee for every additional person in your group, plus a park entrance fee.

Amenities

  • Flush toilets
  • Hot showers
  • Dump station
  • Kennel
  • Campground store and cafe
  • Trash and recycling
  • Bear lockers

Reservations

Reservations are strongly recommended for the 15 RV sites in the campground, as these fill quickly throughout the season. Advance bookings are typically not essential for the tent/dry RV sites, although it’s a good idea to reserve a spot for holiday weekends.

Morefield Campground is open with full services from early May through mid-October. Off-season camping (no services) is available for a few weeks before and after the campground’s official opening and closing dates. See the campground website for details.

Reservations can be made HERE

A bird's-eye view of the Morefield Campground in Mesa Verde National Park.
A bird’s-eye view of the Morefield Campground. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Campgrounds Near Mesa Verde National Park

Despite the limited options for camping within the boundaries of Mesa Verde National Park, there are plenty of good campgrounds in the surrounding area. All of the campgrounds covered in this section are within 30-minute’s drive of the park entrance. Those wanting to prioritize proximity can camp just down the road from the park entrance, while campers looking for more services will find those in the towns of Mancos and Cortez.

Below we’ve shared our top picks and tips for the best campgrounds near Mesa Verde National Park:

Campgrounds near the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park

Ancient Cedars Mesa Verde RV Park

  • # of sites: 80+
  • Type: Tent, RV, Group, Cabins
  • Fees, per night: $30-$33 (Standard or deluxe tent), $38-$55 (RV w/hookups)
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Allowed in designated fire pits
  • Reservations: Recommended

This comfortable campground is conveniently located just across the road from the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park. The plentiful amenities make this a great option for RVs and tent campers alike. Reservations are recommended in the peak summer season. There is a $3.50 charge per person for groups larger than two.

Amenities include free wifi, hot showers, laundry facilities, mini golf, dump station, dog park, playground, and swimming pool.

Mesa Verde RV Resort

  • # of sites: 57
  • Type: Tent, RV, Cabin
  • Fees, per night: $31 (standard tent), $39 (RV w/ partial hookups), $42-$49 (RV w/full hookups)
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Allowed in designated fire pits
  • Reservations: Recommended

The Mesa Verde RV Resort is just minutes from the entrance of the park. This friendly campground can accommodate big rigs, tiny tents, and everyone in between! The convenient shop sells grocery items and snacks on site. There’s a $3.50 extra-person charge for groups of three or more. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 970-533-7421 or emailing info@mesaverdervresort.com.

Amenities include bathrooms, hot showers, wifi, convenience store, pool, dog walking area, and playground.

Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center in front of a blue sky.
The Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center is just minutes from the campgrounds described above. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Campgrounds in Cortez, Colorado

Cortez/Mesa Verde KOA

  • # of sites: 115
  • Type: Tent, RV, Cabin
  • Fees, per night: $43 (standard tent w/electric), $42 (RV w/ partial hookups), $53-$70 (RV w/full hookups)
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Allowed in designated fire pits
  • Reservations: Recommended

This excellent campground has all of the amenities you’d expect from a KOA, plus easy access to a large dog park, walking trails, and in-town services. It’s a fifteen-minute drive to the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park. Campers love the quiet and scenic setting near Denny Lake.

Amenities include bathrooms, hot showers, dishwashing station, wifi, convenience store, snack bar, pool, dog walking area, and playground.

La Mesa RV Park

  • # of sites: 38
  • Type: Tent, RV
  • Fees, per night: $25 (standard tent, 1 person), $44-$46 (RV w/full hookups)
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Not permitted. Only gas grills are allowed in the park.
  • Reservations: Recommended

This family-friendly RV Park is a simple, no-frills option that offers a convenient location and reasonable prices. La Mesa RV Park is less than 10 miles from the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park, and very close to shops and services in Cortez. Keep in mind there are extra-person charges for tent campers.

Amenities include bathrooms, hot showers, wifi, and laundry.

Sundance RV Park

  • # of sites: 63
  • Type: RV only
  • Fees, per night: $48 (RV w/full hookups)
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Not permitted.
  • Reservations: Recommended

While they do not accommodate tent campers, Sundance RV Park makes a great in-town option for the RV crowd. The park is conveniently located within walking distance to grocery stores and restaurants, and it’s just 10 miles from the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park. Keep in mind that there is a $4 per person, per day extra-person charge for all additional guests over age 16.

Amenities include bathrooms, hot showers, wifi, convenience store, dog walking area, laundry, and vehicle wash.

A back SUV pulls an RV in front of a mountain near Mesa Verde National Park.
RV Campers will find plenty of great options in Cortez.

Campgrounds in Mancos, Colorado

Mancos State Park

  • # of sites: 32
  • Type: Tent, RV (no hookups), Yurt
  • Fees, per night: $22 (Tent and RV, June-September), $18 (Tent and RV, October-May) + $9/day park pass
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Permitted in designated areas (purchase local firewood and check ahead for seasonal bans)
  • Reservations: Required

This is one of the best camping options for those looking to get closer to nature, while still having easy access to Mesa Verde National Park. Camping options in Mancos State Park consist of the Main Campground with spaces that can accommodate most small and mid-size RVs or tents, as well as an auxiliary tent-only West Campground. Both camping areas are on the edge of the Jackson Gulch Reservoir, making for a scenic and tranquil place to spend the night. Keep in mind that reservations are required for all campers and can be made HERE or by calling 1-800-244-5613.

Amenities include vault toilets, drinking water (available at the Main Campground only), picnic tables, fire pits, and a dump station.

Riverwood RV Resort

  • # of sites: 68
  • Type: RV only
  • Fees, per night: $44 (RV w/full hookups)
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Not allowed.
  • Reservations: Recommended

Guests love the friendly service and well-kept facilities at this convenient RV park. The Riverwood RV Resort is walking distance to the local coffee shop and just a 10-minute drive from the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park. Unfortunately, they only accommodate RV’s, so tent campers will need to head to Mancos State Park if they want to camp in the area.

Amenities include bathrooms, hot showers, wifi, dog walking area, laundry, and a lending library.

Echo Basin RV Park

  • # of sites: 65
  • Type: RV, Cabins
  • Fees, per night: $45-$55 (RV w/full hookups May-October)
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Not allowed.
  • Reservations: Recommended

This RV park is a bit further afield, but guests enjoy the peaceful, wooded setting that comes with the location. Echo Basin offers competitive rates and a variety of sites for RVs of all sizes. There are also cabins available for rent on the property. Unfortunately, they they do not accommodate tent campers; they’ll need to head to Mancos State Park if they want to stay in the area.

Amenities include bathrooms, hot showers, wifi, and laundry.

Looking out at mountains and scrubland from Park Point in Mesa Verde National Park.
Camping in Mancos gives you quick and easy to some of Mesa Verde’s most beautiful viewpoints, like this one at Park Point. Photo courtesy of NPS/Jacob W. Frank.

Dispersed Camping Near Mesa Verde National Park

For those seeking a less developed and more affordable (ie; free) place to pitch a tent or park an RV, dispersed camping near Mesa Verde is a fantastic option. Keep in mind that it takes a little legwork to find a good dispersed camping spot, and you’ll need to bring your own water and of course, leave no trace. Your efforts will be rewarded with the kind of deep satisfaction that only comes from spending a night tucked in the trees and under the stars.

County Road 34 BLM Land

This is by far the closest dispersed camping option to Mesa Verde National Park. These thirteen dispersed camping spots can be reached by driving for a short ways along County Road 34, which is accessed from US 160 (East Mancos Road). While there are a few potential drawbacks about this area, such as crowds and trash, the fact that it’s less than 10 minutes from the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park makes up for any downsides. It is important to note that County Road 34 is not paved and can get quite rutted. When dry, it’s typically passable for most vehicles and smaller RVs, but it becomes a muddy nightmare when wet.

San Juan National Forest

The San Juan National Forest is a huge and beautiful expanse of wilderness that sits just northeast of Mesa Verde National Park. Below, we’ve shared the best dispersed camping options for those wanting easy proximity to MVNP. Be sure to check the current fire restrictions before heading out.

Madden Peak Road

This is a favorite dispersed camping area for those visiting Mesa Verde National Park. It can be reached by driving a mile or two along a dirt road (Road 316), just off US 160 near Mancos (about 15 miles from the entrance of the park). The road is typically in pretty good shape, and the sections closer to the highway are definitely passable for RVs and larger rigs. There are about 15 spacious spots dotted along the closer stretch of road, although there are more options further back. Those seeking greater seclusion should continue uphill and camp further back along Road 316.

Road 561

There are plenty of dispersed camping areas in San Juan National National Forest that provide good proximity to MVNP, but this is one of the better options. It is located roughly twenty minutes from the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park, and the road is more accessible than most of the other dispersed camping areas nearby (brave souls with good 4WD can also check out Cherry Creek Road). There is a large open area on one side of the road, and then a few more secluded spots further up. Spots are marked with fire rings and many can accommodate RVs. The views of the surrounding mountains are lovely.

Road 566

This is another great option for both tents and RV’s in San Juan National Forest. Also known as Echo Basin Road, Road 566 is typically accessible for all vehicle types, although extreme caution should be used in wet or muddy conditions. It is located about 25 minutes from the park entrance. The spots along the lower portion of the road are located right beside the creek, while the areas further up offer splendid views and seasonal wildflowers.

Close up of the Mesa Verde National Park Cliff Dwellings

Conclusion

There’s no shortage of activities to enjoy in Mesa Verde National Park. You can explore the fabulous network of hiking trails, watch for a myriad of fascinating bird species, and, of course, wonder at the incredible Ancestral Pueblo cliff dwellings. Your next adventure is waiting, and it all starts with the perfect basecamp. Happy camping!

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Shenandoah National Park Waterfalls | The Complete Guide

Shenandoah National Park is full of stunning beauty. This includes the spectacular route along Skyline Drive, incredible sunsets over the Blue Ridge Mountains, and of course the countless waterfalls that…

Shenandoah National Park is full of stunning beauty. This includes the spectacular route along Skyline Drive, incredible sunsets over the Blue Ridge Mountains, and of course the countless waterfalls that dot this landscape. Whether you’re visiting Shenandoah on a day trip, spending a few nights camping, or simply passing through, a visit to one of Shenandoah’s many waterfalls is a must.

In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Shenandoah National Park’s waterfalls including a complete map and list, the best waterfall hikes in Shenandoah, and how to prepare for your visit. Read on to learn everything you need to know to enjoy these beautiful cascades.

Waterfall in Shenandoah National Park

Dark Hollow Falls. Photo credit NPS.

 

In this Post

 

Shenandoah National Park Basics

Before any trip to Shenandoah National Park it is always a good idea to familiarize yourself with basic park information. Below, we’ve included some important information that you’ll need for planning your next trip to Shenandoah National Park.

Permits, Entrance Fees, and Opening Times

 

What to Bring

There are a ton of variables that need to be taken into account when packing for a visit to one of Shenandoah National Park’s many waterfalls. You’ll need to consider the weather conditions (and forecast), length of the hike you plan to undertake, and availability of nearby services.

That being said, there are a few universal items that are essential for all Shenandoah visits:

  • Water: 1 quart per person per hour of hiking is recommended. We like carrying water in a hydration bladder for better weight distribution and easy access.
  • Sturdy Boots: You’ll encounter a variety of trail conditions in Shenandoah, so it’s important to have supportive footwear that is up to the task and protects your feet and ankles. The terrain can also get extremely muddy, so waterproof footwear is a good idea.
  • Layers & Sunscreen: It’s important to dress in layers so you can quickly adapt to the elements. Additionally, the summer sun is strong making it a good idea to pack sunscreen.
  • Backpack: Most hikers will need a comfortable backpack for their outing in Shenandoah National Park.
  • Shenandoah National Park Map – An essential for any trip, a good map is a must.
  • Shenandoah Guidebook – A good guidebook will provide insights and information to help you plan your perfect trip to Shenandoah. We like this hiking guide from Falcon Guides.
  • Tick repellent– Ticks are common throughout Shenandoah, and while it is always a good idea to wear long pants, this tick repellent from Ben’s is worth applying when out hiking or camping.

 

Shenandoah National Park Waterfalls

The map and list below show some of the most popular waterfalls in Shenandoah National Park. We’ve done our best to include all of the easy to visit waterfalls in the park, but be sure to let us know if we missed any!

You can also find additional information on Shenandoah National Park Waterfalls on the National Park Service’s website here.

The list and map are designed to give you a general sense of the waterfalls in Shenandoah, with the following section highlighting some of the best waterfall hikes in Shenandoah.

 

Overall Run Falls

  • Overall Run Falls are the tallest in Shenandoah National Park at 93′ tall. There is an excellent hike to the falls that leaves from the Mathews Arm Campground, located at mile marker 22 along Skyline Drive.

Rose River Falls

  • Rose River Falls are located at mile marker 49.4 on Skyline Drive. From here it is an approximate 2 mile hike to the 67′ tall waterfalls. The Rose River Falls are located a short distance from Big Meadows.

South River Falls

  • The South River Falls soar to an incredible 83′ high and are the third tallest in Shenandoah National Park. There is an excellent hike to the falls that takes 2-3 hours and is highly recommended. There is also an excellent picnic area just off Skyline Drive near the South River Falls.

Jones Run Falls

  • The Jones Runs Falls are some of the most picture perfect in all of Shenandoah. These 42′ high falls are located near both the Doyles River Falls as well as the starting point for the Browns Gap Waterfall Loop. Well worth a visit.

Whiteoak Canyon Falls

  • The Whiteoak Canyon Falls are located on an excellent hiking loop that let’s ambitious walkers visit a series of stunning cascades. This includes both the Whiteoak Canyon Falls as well as the Cedar Run Falls, described below. Whiteoak Canyon is located in the central part of Shenandoah and just a short drive from the Big Meadows Visitor Center.

Whiteoak Falls, Shenandoah

Whiteoak Falls. Photo credit NPS.

 

Cedar Run Falls

  • Cedar Run Falls are a popular spot to visit on the Whiteoak Canyon loop trail. If you’re not interested in hiking the entire loop, it is easy to visit the Cedar Run Falls from the Whiteoak Canyon lower parking lot.

Dark Hollow Falls

  • The Dark Hollow Falls arew one of the most visited waterfalls in Shenandoah National Park. Located a short .75 mile hike from Skyline Drive, the falls are a beautiful and serene place to visit.

Dark Hollows Falls, Shenandoah National Park

Dark Hollow Falls. Photo credit NPS.

 

Doyles River Falls

  • The Doyles River Falls are accessed via a moderately difficult 3.5 mile trail. The falls are located near the Loft Mountain campground and Big Run overlook.

A hiker sits at Doyles River Falls in Shenandoah National Park

Doyles River Falls. Photo credit NPS.

 

Lewis Falls

  • The Lewis Falls are one of the most accessible waterfalls in Shenandoah, with an easy path leading to the falls from the Big Meadows amphitheater. You’ll be blown away by the impressive 81′ tall waterfall!

Browns Gap Waterfall Loop

  • For those looking for an excellent loop hike to take in several stunning Shenandoah waterfalls, be sure to consider the Browns Gap Waterfall Loop. This 6.5 mile loop takes in multiple cascades in the park and makes for a wonderful day out.

 

Best Waterfall Hikes in Shenandoah National Park

Given the sheer number of waterfalls in Shenandoah National Park it can be difficult to decide which to visit and which to skip. In reality, there is no bad answer to this question are each cascade in the park has its own unique character and allure.

However, for those short on time we’ve highlight five of the best waterfall hikes in Shenandoah National Park below. These hikes range in difficulty, distance, and hiking time so be sure to select the best option for your particular circumstances.

For more information on hiking in Shenandoah, visit the NPS website here. 

Enjoy!

Shenandoah National Park waterfall

 

White Oak Canyon & Cedar Run Loop

Distance: 9 miles
Approximate hiking time: 4 – 6 hours
Difficulty: Difficult

The Whiteoak Canyon & Cedar Run Loop is a popular waterfall hike for those looking for a challenge. The 9 mile loop hikes takes hikers deep into the Shenandoah backcountry and visits a series of stunning waterfalls including Whiteoak Falls and Cedar Run Falls.

It is best to start the hike from the Whiteoak Canyon Boundary parking lot, accessed from the town of Syria, VA. Note that the trailhead is difficult to reach from Skyline Drive, so be sure to take that into account if you plan on visiting other sections of the park.

Find more details on the Whiteoak Canyon Loop below:

 

Stream in Whiteoak Canyon, Shenandoah National Park

Whiteoak Canyon. Photo credit NPS.

 

Dark Hollow Falls Hike

Distance: 1.5 miles round trip
Approximate hiking time: 1 – 2 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

The Dark Hollow Falls Trail is one of the most popular trails in Shenandoah. A short, 1.5 mile round trip hike takes visitors to the beautiful Dark Hollow Falls. Keep in mind that although the distance is quite short, the trail to the falls is very steep.

To reach Dark Hollow Falls you’ll park at the Dark Hollow Falls Parking area located at mile marker 50.7 on Skyline Drive. This is very close to the Big Meadows area of Shenandoah. The NPS publishes a helpful map of Big Meadows, including the Dark Hollow Falls trail here.

Find more details on the Dark Hollow Falls trail below:

Dark Hollow Falls in Autumn.

 

Rose River Trail

Distance: 4 miles
Approximate hiking time: 4 – 5 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

Rose River Falls are a stunningly beautiful 67′ waterfall in the Big Meadows area of Shenandoah. The falls are accessed via the Rose River Fire Road, located at mile marker 49.4. From here it is a 2 mile, moderately difficult hike to the falls. You can return the same way you came or create a longer loop to also visit Dark Hollow Falls.

If you opt for this option you’ll return to your car by walking back on the Rose River Fire Road. This adds significant time and distance so be sure you are properly prepared.

Find more details on the Rose River Trail in Shenandoah below:

Lewis Falls Trail

Distance: 3.5 miles
Approximate hiking time: 3 – 4 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

The Lewis Falls Trail leaves from the centrally located Big Meadows Amphitheatre and takes hikers to a stunning viewpoint of the 81′ tall falls. The trail is a popular one in  Shenandoah, so be sure to arrive early on busy summer weekends to avoid the crowds.

The route is approximately 3.5 miles round-trip to the overlook and back, so hikers should plan on spending 3-4 hours on the trail.

Find more details on the Lewis Falls Trail below:

Trail marker for the Lewis Falls Trail in Shenandoah National Park

The Lewis Falls Trail leads to a stunning overlook. Photo credit NPS.

 

South River Falls Trail

Distance: 2.6 miles
Approximate hiking time: 2 – 3 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

The double cascades of South River Falls are some of the most stunning in Shenandoah National Park. The falls overlook are accessed via a 2.6 mile out and back trail that departs from Skyline Drive at mile marker 62.7. For those who wish to continue on a bit further you can continue past the overlook to reach the falls themselves.

Find more details on the South River Falls Trail below:

Conclusion

We hope you’ve enjoyed this post on Shenandoah National Park’s waterfalls. Please let us know in the comments below if we missed any of your favorite trails or if you found the information useful! Also, don’t forget to checkout our other Shenandoah National Park guides below:

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Guide to Camping on the Great Glen Way

The Great Glen Way is an excellent introduction to walking in the Scottish Highlands. The route traces the Caledonian Canal as it makes its way from Fort William in the…

The Great Glen Way is an excellent introduction to walking in the Scottish Highlands. The route traces the Caledonian Canal as it makes its way from Fort William in the south to Inverness in the North. The walk is designated as one of Scotland’s Great Trails, notable both for its stunning scenery as well as historical interest.

Along the way trekkers will enjoy relatively easy access to services and accommodation. This includes some excellent options for camping, both in developed campgrounds as well as great wild camping spots. These campgrounds are the focus of this guide where we’ll walk you through all your options for camping on the Great Glen Way.

We’ve included detailed information on campgroundscamping itinerarieswhat to pack, and more, in order to help you plan your own Great Glen Way camping adventure!

Green hillsides near Inverness Scotland

 

In this Great Glen Way Camping Guide

Great Glen Way Must Know

The Great Glen Way is a relatively new trail having been established as one of Scotland’s Great Trails in 2002. The route follows the Great Glen, a series of three lochs (Loch Lochy, Loch Oich, and Loch Ness) that all connected by the Caledonian Canal. While less popular than its nearby neighbor, the West Highland Way, the Great Glen Way offers easier walking and less crowded trails.

The route begins in the beautiful town of Fort William located on Loch Linnhe before makings its way to northeast along the Caledonian Canal all the way to Inverness. Along the walk you’ll enjoy beautiful loch side hiking, stunning Highlands views, and visits to several quaint towns along the path.

Generally speaking most walkers will complete the Great Glen Way is 5 – 8 days, with six days seeming to be the most common. The Great Glen Way camping itinerary we’ve described below is based off a well-paced 6-day itinerary, although there are plenty of options to shorten or extend your walk.

Map showing the location of the Great Glen Way

The Great Glen Way is located in Northern Scotland.

 

How long is the Great Glen Way?

The Great Glen Way is approximately 125-kilometers or 74 miles from the start in Fort William to the finish at the Inverness Castle.

However, walkers and especially campers, should expect to cover a bit more distance than this as a few of the campgrounds are located slightly off the main trail. Add in a side trips to the local pub or to visit a shop and you should plan on walking well over 75 miles on your own Great Glen Way trip.

Map of the Great Glen Way

Map of the Great Glen Way. Click to enlarge.

 

In addition to the standard route, the Great Glen Way features two excellent high-routes that leave the loch shores and venture into the hills. These high-routes occur between Fort Augustus and Drumnadrochit and are highly recommend for their stunning views.

For more resources on maps for the Great Glen Way Check out our Great Glen Way | Maps & Routes article here.

How difficult is the Great Glen Way?

In terms of Highland walking the Great Glen Way is a very approachable walk. The route is a great introduction to the longer walks in Scotland and should be suitable for a wide variety of abilities and experience levels.

Generally speaking, the southern half of the walk will be much easier than the northern half as it is mostly flat walking along the lochs. As you venture north you encounter more hills and the difficulty will increase, although it never gets too strenuous.

However, as with any long distance walk those attempting the Great Glen Way will want to be sufficiently prepared for long days on their feet, especially for some of the longer stages towards the end of the walk. Those camping on the Great Glen Way will also be carrying a heavier rucksack, which can significantly increase how difficult a given stage is.

We think most reasonably fit walkers will adjust just fine to the Great Glen Way, but we do recommend a little extra preparation for those camping. Try to take few walks with your fully loaded backpack prior to heading out as a way to prepare your body and adjust to carrying the weight.

Trail in the Scottish Highlands

 

Great Glen Way Weather & When to Hike

The Scottish Highlands are known for their fickle weather. One minute you can be enjoying brilliant sunshine while the next you’re slogging through a torrential downpour. In general, you can expect to experience some rain during any month of the year you plan to walk the Great Glen Way, but rest assured that is just part of the experience.

Besides just the weather you’ll also want to think about Scotland’s most famous pest, the mighty midge!

These tiny, biting creatures, have the potential to wreak havoc on your trip and are especially pesky for campers. They are most present during the peak summer months of July and August, although with a little preparation you can avoid the worst of them.

Below we’ve included general information on when to walk the Great Glen Way by month.

April

Unpredictable weather, but very few crowds and midges. Walkers will need to be prepared for shorter days and therefore fewer daylight hours for walking. You’ll enjoy an uncrowded trail and plenty of places to pitch your tent.

May

May is a great month to walk the Great Glen Way as the temperature warms and the wildflowers come into bloom. Midges are also not yet at their peak, making this one of the best months to complete you walk. However, given these circumstances you can expect the trail to be quite busy and accommodation should be booked in advance.

July & August

Crowds, midges, and rain are all plentiful during peak summer these months. It’s still very possible to have a wonderful time if you trek in July or August, just be sure you’re prepared for the midges and don’t mind sharing the trail with other walkers and tourists.

September

This is a fabulous time to walk the Great Glen Way, although it can be quite wet especially near Fort William. The trail is relatively quiet and the midges tend to be less of a problem later in the season. Be aware of the increasingly shorter days as the month progresses.

 

Great Glen Way Camping

Camping on the Great Glen Way is a wonderful way to experience this incredible trail.

Many of the campsites along the route are designated wild campsites allowing campers to experience this stunning environment first-hand and sleep out under the stars. In addition, you’ll save significantly on accommodation costs and have more flexibility in your itinerary.

We can’t recommend camping on the Great Glen Way highly enough!

In the sections below will give an overview of all the campgrounds on the Great Glen Way as well as provide some information on wild camping. In addition, we’ll also include information on how to utilize some of the facilities along the Caledonian Canal that making camping a much easier endeavor. Finally, we’ll provide a detailed stage-by-stage itinerary for camping on the Great Glen Way complete with distances, where to camp, and more!

Camping at Loch Ness

 

Campgrounds on the Great Glen Way

The map and list below show all of the campgrounds that are in the general vicinity of the Great Glen Way. This includes both developed campgrounds as well as wild camping pitches along the route (known as Trailblazer sites, more on that below).  We’ve done our best to include all of the relevant campgrounds, but if you see any missing let us know!

The list and map are designed to give you a general sense of your options for Great Glen Way camping, but we recommend utilizing our full Great Glen Way camping itinerary in the following section when planning your own trip.

Campgrounds are listed in the order you’ll reach them when walking the route from south to north.

  • Glen Nevis Camping & Caravan Park
    • Located south of Fort William at the base of Ben Nevis this large, well-equipped campground is your best bet for camping prior to starting the Great Glen Way.
  • Moy Bridge Wild Campsite
    • The first campsite you’ll encounter is the Moy Bridge wild campsite. Located next to the Moy Bridge over the Caledonian Canal this is a good option for your first night if you don’t want to stay in a developed campground.
  • Gairlochy Holiday Park
    • The Gairlochy Holiday Park is a good bet for your first night on the Great Glen Way. It is located just up the road from Gairlochy and has good facilities for campers.
  • Glas-dhoire Wild Campsite

    • This is our recommend campsite for your second night. Located on the shores of Loch Lochy.
  • Leiterfearn Wild Campsite
    • Located adjacent to the shoreline of Loch Oich, this wild campsite is a good place to stop at the end of Stage 3.
  • Kytra Lock wild campsite
    • One of the Trailblazer designed wild campsites along the Great Glen Way, this site is located adjacent to the canal.
  • Inver Coille Campsite
    • A popular campground on the shores of Loch Ness, this is the perfect place to stop at the end of Stage 4.
  • Borlum Farm Campsite
    • The Borlum Farm Campsite is located on the outskirts of Drumnadrochit and is our recommend stopping point at the end of Stage 5.
  • Abriachan Campsite
    • The Abriachan Cafe and Campsite is located in the hills above Loch Ness. A good place to spend the night if you’d like to split up the final stage.
  • Bught Caravan & Campsite
    • The Bught Caravan & Campsite is located in Inverness and is the perfect place to stay at the end of your trip. That is of course if you don’t plan on splurging for a hotel after walking 75+ miles!

Caledonian Canal Facilities

One of the great features of camping on the Great Glen Way is the ability to make use of several restrooms along the Caledonian Canal. These facilities are typically locked, but walkers, boaters, cyclists and others users of the canal can get easy access for just £10.

To do so, simply head to the Scottish Canals Corpach (near Fort William) or Inverness office during their opening hours to pay your fee and get a key. You’ll then need to return the key at the Scottish Canals Office in Inverness.

Alternatively, you can also arrange for the key to be posted to you by calling the canal office directly.

You can find more information on accessing these facilities on the Great Glen Canoe Trail website here.

Wild camping on the Great Glen Way

Wild camping is a staple of the Scottish wilderness experience. This type of camping seeks to minimize your impact on the surrounding environment by only staying for a single night and by limiting the size of your group.

Although the length of the Caledonian Canal is considered a Scheduled Ancient Monument, which typically prohibits wild camping, there are luckily several informal wild camping spots provided along the Great Glen Way.

These campsites can be broken into two broad categories: Trailblazer rest sites and canalside informal campsites. For all intents and purposes there isn’t much difference between the two, just be sure to only stay for a night and always practice Leave No Trace principles.

Outside of these designated wild camping spots you are not allowed to wild camp along the route of the Great Glen Way.

For anyone interested in wild camping along the Great Glen Way we always recommend reviewing the Scottish Access Outdoor Code as well.

Stage-by-stage Itinerary for Camping on the Great Glen Way

The following guide is based on a moderately paced 6-day itinerary. Starting in Fort William and finishing in Inverness, there is camping available every night of the route. In addition to the itinerary described below it is also possible to shorten or extend the time you spend walking the Great Glen Way by utilizing the campgrounds between stages.

Reservations are recommended for all of the formal campgrounds along the trail and prices are listed to the best of our knowledge.

Stage 0: Fort William

Distance & Elevation: N/A
Where to stay:
Glen Nevis Caravan and Camping Park
Description:

The Great Glen Way officially begins in the center of Fort William. The town does not have a campground, but the nearby Glen Nevis Caravan and Camping Park provides a convenient option. Keep in mind that the campground is approximately 45 minutes walking from the center of Fort William.

For those who plan to camp here prior to starting the Great Glen Way you’ll want to plan on some additional time/distance for Stage 1.

Services at Glen Nevis Caravan and Camping Park

  • Toilets
  • Potable water
  • Hot showers
  • Laundry
  • Dishwashing area
  • Restaurant/bar
  • Small shop
  • Electronics charging
  • WiFi (£2.00 per hour/£5.00 per day)

Price: £11

Glen Nevis Camping Website

Nearby Glen Nevis and Fort William:  There is a visitor center and a few restaurants in the village of Glen Nevis. Fort William is approximately 45 minutes away by foot. There you’ll find supermarkets, banks, a pharmacy, a hospital, restaurants/bars, an outdoor retailer, a post office, a library, and bus and train connections. 

Glen Nevis Caravan and Camping park

Glen Nevis Caravan & Camping Park is a short distance from the start of the Great Glen Way.

 

Stage 1: Fort William to Gairlochy Holiday Park

Distance & Elevation: 11.8 mi // +625 ft, -428 ft 
Where to stay: 
Gairlochy Holiday Park
Description:

The first stage of the Great Glen Way is just under 12 miles and is a great introduction to the walk. The route is relatively flat and will let you get accustomed to hiking with your fully loaded backpack.

You’ll have two options for camping at the end of the first stage, the first being the Moy Bridge wild campsite and the second being the Gairlochy Holiday Park.

Moy Bridge does not have any amenities or restroom facilities and requires stopping a bit earlier in the day, so we recommend that most walkers opt to stay at the Gairlochy Holiday Park. This campground is approximately 15 minutes up the road from Gairlochy.

Services at Gairlochy Holiday Park

  • Toilets
  • Hot showers
  • Dish washing area

Price: £7.5/person

Map of Stage 1 from Fort William to Gairlochy Holiday Park

Stage 1 – Fort William to Gairlochy Holiday Park.

 

Stage 2: Gairlochy Holiday Park to Glas-dhoire Wild Campsite

Distance & Elevation: 9.9 mi // +1,306 ft, -1,233 ft 
Where to stay: 
Glas-dhoire Wild Campsite
Description:

The second stage of the Great Glen Way takes walkers to their first wild campsite of the trip, and an excellent one at that! Leaving Gairlochy hikers will follow the shore of Loch Lochy as they make their way to the Glad-dhoire wild campsite. This campsite is situated beautifully on the shores of the loch.

Be warned that the midges can be pretty bad here!

Services at Glas-dhoire Wild Campsite

  • Small shelter
  • Composting toilets

Price: Free

Map of Stage 2 Gairlochy Holiday Park to Glas-dhoire

Stage 2 – Gairlochy Holiday Park to Glas-dhoire wild campsite.

 

Stage 3: Glas-dhoire Wild Campsite to Leiterfearn Wild Campsite

Distance & Elevation: 7.1 mi // +902 ft, -866 ft 
Where to stay: 
Leiterfearn Wild Campsite
Description:

Stage 3 of the Great Glen Way is a relatively easy one, covering just over 7 miles. The trail reaches the end of Loch Lochy and transitions to following the shores of Loch Oich. You’ll be headed to another excellent wild campsite, this time located at Leiterfearn.

Situated just up from the shore, the Leiterfearn wild campsite has space for eight tents, log seating, and two composting toilets.

Services at Leiterfearn Wild Campsite

  • Composting toilets

Price: Free

Map of Stage 3 from Glas-dhoire to Leiterfearn

Stage 3 – Glas-dhoire wild campsite to Leiterfearn wild campsite.

 

Stage 4: Leiterfearn Wild Campsite to Inver Coille Camping

Distance & Elevation: 11.51 mi // +1,488 ft, -1,537 ft 
Where to stay: 
Inver Coille Camping
Description:

Stage 4 takes walkers to the end of Loch Oich before tracing the route of the Caledonian Canal to Fort Augustus at the tip of Loch Ness. Just past Fort Augustus you’ll have the option to take the first high-route variant of the Great Glen Way, which we recommend.

However, do keep in mind that taking the high-route here will require some backtracking on the main trail to reach the Inver Coille Campground. We think it is worth it for the excellent views, but be sure to consider your own situation before opting to take the high route.

Your campground at the end of Stage 4 is the Inver Coille Campground, a lovely spot on the shores of Loch Ness. Keep in mind that given the current situation it is advised to inquire ahead at the campground, as they are unsure if they will be able to accommodate tent campers in 2021.

Services at Inver Coille Camping

  • Toilets
  • Hot showers
  • Fire Pits

Map of Stage 4 from Leiterfearn to Inver Coille

Stage 4 – Leiterfearn wild campsite to Inver Coille Campground.

 

Tents at the Inver Coille Campground on the Great Glen Way

Lovely grounds at Inver Coille Camping. Photo courtesy of Inver Coille.

 

Stage 5: Inver Coille Camping to Borlum Farm Camping

Distance & Elevation: 17.11 mi // +2,731 ft, -2,759 ft 
Where to stay: 
Borlum Farm Camping
Description:

Stage 5 presents walkers on the Great Glen Way with another high-route option. This alternative leaves the main trail just past Invermoriston and rewards hikers with excellent views of Loch Ness. Keep in mind that Stage 5 is over 17 miles long, so if you opt to take the high-route be prepared for a full days walk.

Your campground at the end of Stage 5 is the Borlum Farm Campground, located on the outskirts of Drumnadrochit. This large campground can accommodate caravans as well as tent campers and features excellent services.

Services at Borlum Farm Camping

  • Toilets
  • Showers
  • WiFi
  • Laundry facilities
  • Dish washing area

Price: Varies. See details here.

Map of Stage 5 from Inver Coille to Borlum Farm Camping

Stage 5 – Inver Coille to Borlum Farm.

 

Stage 6: Borlum Farm Camping to Inverness

Distance & Elevation: 20.1 mi // +2,052 ft, -2,083 ft 
Where to stay:
Bught Caravan & Campsite

Description:

You’ve made it to the final stage of the Great Glen Way!

The route saves the hardest stage for last, with the final day’s walk covering over 20 miles! Early in the stage you’ll leave the shores of Loch Ness and turn inland where a fair amount of climbing awaits. About midway through the stage you’ll pass the Abriachan Cafe & Campsite. This is the perfect place to stay if you want to break up this long final stage, or at least stop to enjoy a cup of tea.

Upon reaching Inverness you’ll have the option to camp at the Bught Caravan & Campsite on the edge of town. Alternatively, Inverness is a great place to splurge on a hotel after spending the past several nights in your tent!

Services at Bught Caravan & Campsite

  • Toilets
  • Showers
  • WiFi
  • Laundry facilities
  • Small shop

Price: £12/person

Map of Stage 6 from Borlum Farm to Inverness

Stage 6 – Borlum Farm to Inverness.

 

What to Pack for Camping on the Great Glen Way

Packing for a camping trip along the Great Glen Way is an exercise in balancing needs vs wants. While having a few creature comforts can certainly make camping a more enjoyable experience, you’ll want to keep your pack weight as light as possible.

It’s simple- the heavier your pack, the harder your effort.

As such, we recommend focusing on bringing high-quality, lightweight equipment. With a little planning and strategy, you can keep the weight of your backpack manageable while still ensuring you have everything you need for your trip.

We’ve provided some general packing information for camping on the Great Glen Way below.

In general, you should be able to get by with a 40L – 60L backpack and the following essentials:

A hiker on the Great Glen Way

 

What’s Next?

You’re well on your way to an incredible camping experience on the Great Glen Way. However, you still have lots of preparation before you’re truly ready! Be sure to read our entire series on the Great Glen Way to learn everything you’ll need to know for your trip!

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Guide to Camping on the South Downs Way

The South Downs Way is one of England’s most spectacular National Trails. These walks are renowned for their natural beauty, cultural heritage, and historical significance. The South Downs Way fits…

The South Downs Way is one of England’s most spectacular National Trails. These walks are renowned for their natural beauty, cultural heritage, and historical significance. The South Downs Way fits nicely into all three of these categories at it takes walkers through the beautiful South Downs while visiting charming Sussex villages and grand cathedrals along the way.

The route covers 100 miles from its start in the cathedral city of Winchester to its finish on the coast in Eastbourne. Along the way walkers will have plenty of accommodation options to choose from, including many wonderful campgrounds, which are the focus of this resource.

This guide has been designed to be perfect companion for the walker hoping to camp along the South Downs Way.

We’ve included detailed information on campgrounds, camping itineraries, what to pack, and more, in order to help you plan your own South Downs Way camping adventure!

Let’s get started.

Sign post on the South Downs Way

 

In this South Downs Way Camping Guide

South Downs Way Must Know

The South Downs Way was established as a National Trail in 1972, although the general route has been in use for thousands of years by Romans, pilgrims, and other precursors to modern England. The walk is one of the most popular National Trails in England, due in part to its close proximity to the major population centers of London, Southampton, and Brighton.

However, those seeking solitude shouldn’t be scared off by that fact, as there is plenty of quiet to be found on the South Downs Way, especially for campers!

The route begins in the cathedral city of Winchester before making its way through the South Downs National Park and the counties Hampshire and Sussex before reaching Eastbourne on the coast. Along the way walkers will enjoy highlights like the Winchester Cathedral, rolling Sussex hills, quaint village of Amberley, and the famous Seven Sisters Cliffs.

South Downs Way overview map

The South Downs Way connects Winchester and Eastbourne. (Click to enlarge).

 

How long is the South Downs Way?

Officially, the South Downs Way is 101 miles or 163 kilometers long from the center to Winchester to Eastbourne.

However, walkers should expect to cover a bit more distance, as many of the campgrounds are located slightly off the main trail. Add in a few side trips to the local pub or to visit a shop and you can plan on walking well over 100 miles.

South Downs Way map

Map of the South Downs Way. (Click to enlarge).

 

In addition to the main route which finishes by heading from Alfriston to the coast before taking the stunning pathway along the Seven Sisters to Eastbourne, there is an alternate inland path for the final stage. This route is primarily used by those cycling the South Downs Way, but does allow for a slightly shorter route for those who are interested.

For more resources on maps for the South Downs Way Check out our South Downs Way | Maps & Routes article here.

How difficult is the South Downs Way?

The South Downs Way is a very approachable walk and is suitable for a variety of fitness levels.

However, while the trail never crosses any soaring mountain passes, you should be prepared for the constant up and down nature of walking in the South Downs. Those rolling hills provide a stunning backdrop for the walk, but they can certainly tire you out!

In addition, anytime you set out on a 100-mile walk you need to be prepared for long days on your feet. Most walkers will adjust after a few days walking, but any preparation you can do in advance will be beneficial.

Walking path in the South Downs

 

For those who plan on camping, a little extra preparation will be especially helpful. Carrying the extra weight necessitated by your camping equipment will certainly make the South Downs Way a bit more challenging. We recommend taking a few walks with your fully loaded backpack prior to heading out as a way to prepare your body and adjust to carrying the weight.

South Downs Way Weather & When to Hike

The southeast of England is known for its generally sunny weather when compared to the rest of the country, making it the perfect destination for walkers. The South Downs are renowned for beautiful summers, while the winter months bring cooler temperatures, more precipitation, and even the occasional snow shower!

For these reasons, we recommend walking the South Downs Way anytime from mid-March through the end of September.

Keep in mind that many of the campsites in this guide close down during the winter, so if you’re planning on camping on the South Downs Way you’ll need to do it outside of the colder months.

Generally speaking, here’s what you can expect in each month of the hiking season:

March/April: Cool temps, moderate rainfall, and sparse crowds make this an attractive month to hike. Be aware of the shorter days, which allow for fewer daylight hours on the trail.

May & June: The weather tends to be a bit milder and more settled than in April and the days are longer, but it’s still pretty quiet on the trail. These are great months to walk the South Downs Way.

July/August: School holidays and warm weather mean that these are the busiest months on the South Downs Way. July and August (August in particular) tend to be wetter than May and June, but you can also get some brilliant sunny days, too.

September: With few crowds, mild temperatures, and relatively less rainfall, September is a wonderful time to be on the trail.

October: The days begin to get shorter, colder, and wetter as you enter October. You may get some incredibly clear and crisp autumn days, but you’ll also need to be prepared for harsh conditions. Many of the campgrounds on the South Downs Way may be closed for the season.

South Downs Way in autumn

Autumn brings cooler weather to the South Downs.

 

South Downs Way Camping

Camping on the South Downs Way is a great way to experience this wonderful trail. You’ll save money on your accommodation costs, enjoy increased flexibility, and in many cases avoid long detours off the track to reach your accommodation.

In addition, many of the campgrounds on the South Downs Way are small, family-run farms which will give you a greater connection to the local area.

We can’t recommend camping on the South Downs Way highly enough!

The sections below will give an overview of all the campgrounds on the South Downs Way as well as provide some information on wild camping. Finally, we’ll provide a detailed stage-by-stage itinerary for camping on the South Downs Way complete with distances, where to camp, and more!

Campground on the South Downs Way

 

Campgrounds on the South Downs Way

The map and list below show all of the campgrounds that are in the general vicinity of the South Downs Way. We’ve done our best to include all of the relevant campgrounds, but if you see any missing let us know!

The list and map are designed to give you a general sense of your options for South Downs Way camping, but we recommend utilizing our full South Downs Way camping itinerary in the following section when planning your own trip.

Campgrounds are listed in the order you’ll reach them when walking the South Downs Way from west to east.

  • Morn Hill Caravan Club Campsite
    • Located just outside of Winchester, this is your best option for camping prior to beginning the walk.
  • Holden Farm Camping
    • This is your best option for the first night.
  • Meon Springs Glamping
    • Not a campground per se, but this glamping set-up is located just off the trail.
  • Wetherdown Lodge & Campsite (Sustainability Centre)
    • Most campers will stay here on their second night.
  • Upper Parsonage Farm Camping
    • Located just off the South Downs Way near Butser Hill, this is a good option if the Wetherdown Lodge is full.
  • Manor Farm Campsite
    • Located right on the trail, Manor Farm is the perfect stopping point on Stage 3.
  • New House Farm Campsite
    • New House Farm is located south of the trail just past Cocking. A good option if Manor Farm can’t accommodate you.
  • Graffham Camping & Caravanning Site
    • Quite a ways from the trail, this campground has limited appeal to South Downs Way walkers.
  • Gumber Camping Barn & Campsite
    • Formerly known as the Gumber Bothy, this National Trust run campsite is highly recommended.
  • Slindon Camping & Caravan Park
    • The Slindon Camping & Caravan Park is quite a distance from the South Downs Way. Only useful for those who prefer to not stay at Gumber Camping Barn & Campsite.
  • Foxleigh Barn & Campsite
    • The Foxleigh Barn has an excellent location near the village of Amberley. However, they have limited capacity to accommodate campers so be sure to inquire ahead of time.
  • High Titten Wild Camping
    • Unfortunately this excellent wild camping spot has been purchased by private owners and is no longer open. We’re keeping it on the list in the hopes that it reopens in the future!
  • Washington Caravan & Camping Park
    • The Washington Caravan & Camping Park, or Wash Camp for short, is a great stopping point just off the South Downs Way. We recommend staying here at the end of Stage 5.
  • YHA Truleigh Hill
    • The YHA Truleigh Hill is located right on the South Downs Way and provides excellent facilities for campers.
  • Saddlescombe Farm Campsite
    • Saddlescombe Farm is a National Trust run campsite that we recommend for the end of Stage 6.
  • Ditchling Camp
    • Ditchling Camp is located short distance north of the South Downs Way.
  • South Downs Farm Campsite
    • The South Downs Farm Campsite will only make sense if Ditchling Camp is full.
  • Stoneywish Camping
    • Stoneywish Camping is quite a ways from the South Downs Way near Ditchling. It will not make sense for many campers to stay here.
  • Blackberry Woods Camping
    • This lovely campground is quite a bit north of the main trail and won’t make sense for most walkers.
  • Hackmans Farm Camping
    • Hackmans Farm is a small operation that is conveniently located just off the South Downs Way. This makes sense for those who don’t plan on walking all the way to Housedean Farm.
  • Housedean Farm Campsite
    • The Housedean Farm Campsite is the most common place to stay at the end of Stage 7.
  • Firle Campsite
    • The Firle Campsite is located north of the South Downs Way prior to reaching Alfriston.
  • Alfriston Camping Park
    • The Alfriston Camping Park is the perfect place to spend your final night before completing the walk to Eastbourne.

Wild camping on the South Downs Way

Generally speaking, wild camping is not recommended on the South Downs Way. Unlike their Scottish neighbor to the north, England generally prohibits any form of wild camping on private land without permission of the land owner. Since the vast majority of the South Downs Way crosses private property, it does not make for a great wild camping adventure.

However, a quick Google search will reveal several personal accounts of folks doing just that: successfully wild camping along the South Downs Way.

For our guide we’ve chosen to leave out any details on potential wild camping spots to help limit the impacts this type of camping can bring to the trail. If you’re set on attempting to wild camp on the South Downs Way, keep these suggestions in mind:

  • Always abide by Leave No Trace principles and show respect for the environment and local communities.
  • Always enquire with the land owner before setting up camp.
  • If permission is granted be sure to set up your tent after sun down and be packed up by sun rise.
  • Do not widely advertise wild camping as this can increase negative impacts on the trail and surrounding communities.

Stage-by-stage Itinerary for Camping on the South Downs Way

The following guide is based on a moderately paced 9-day itinerary. Beginning in Winchester and finishing in Eastbourne, there is camping available every night with the exception of the finish in Eastbourne. Given the number of campgrounds along the South Downs Way, there are plenty of alternative itineraries possible for those looking to spend more or less time on the trail.

Reservations are recommended for all of the campsites along the trail and prices are listed to the best of our knowledge.

Green tent at a campground

 

Stage 0: Winchester

Distance & Elevation: N/A
Where to stay:
Morn Hill Caravan Club Campsite
Description:

The South Downs Way officially starts in the center of Winchester. Unfortunately, there are no campgrounds directly in this cathedral city, so you’ll either need to camp a bit outside of town or plan to stay in one of the many hotels available. 

Keep in mind it is not necessary to stay in Winchester the night before starting your trek, given that transportation is relatively quick and easy from the London area and your first day is only 7 miles.

For those who would like to camp near Winchester prior to their South Downs Way walk, we recommend staying at the Morn Hill Caravan Club Campsite. This campground is about an hours walk outside of Winchester, although you may be able to take bus number 64 to the campground rather than walking.

Morn Hill is a large campground that is more geared towards caravanners than walkers, although you will find some nice amenities. These include laundry facilities, WiFi, and hot showers.

Services at Morn Hill Caravan Club Campsite

  • Toilets
  • Hot showers
  • Laundry
  • WiFi

Price: £7.90 per adult.

Nearby in Winchester

  • Supermarkets
  • Pharmacy
  • Banks/ATMs
  • Post office
  • Outdoor retailer
  • Restaurants/cafes/pubs
  • Train and bus connections
  • Taxi service

Winchester, UK

The South Downs Way begins in Winchester.

 

Stage 1: Winchester to Holden Farm Camping

Distance & Elevation: 7.19 mi // +1,055 ft, -842 ft 
Where to stay: 
Holden Farm Camping
Description:

The first stage of the South Downs Way for campers is relatively easy and a good introduction to the walk. You’ll enjoy walking on some of the undulating hillsides that the South Downs are known for as you cover 7 miles before stopping for the day at Holden Farm Camping.

Holden Farm is a lovely, rural campsite that is geared specifically for walkers and tent campers. You’ll get to choose anywhere in their large field for your pitch, and each comes with a complimentary fire pit for the evening. They also have an excellent shop featuring locally sourced essentials for your trip!

Services at Holden Farm Camping

  • Toilets
  • Hot showers
  • Potable water
  • Communal kitchen
  • Electronics charging
  • Small shop

Price: £15 – £20/adult depending on the time of year.

Map of Stage 1 from Winchester to Holden Farm Camping

Stage 1 – Winchester to Holden Farm Camping.

 

Stage 2: Holden Farm Camping to Wetherdown Lodge & Campsite

Distance & Elevation: 12.43 mi // +1,725 ft, -1,378 ft 
Where to stay: 
Wetherdown Lodge & Campsite
Description:

The second stage of the South Downs Way covers nearly 12.5 miles as walkers wind their way to the Wetherdown Lodge & Campsite. A part of the larger Sustainability Centre, this campground is surrounded by lovely woodland and forest, making for a rejuvenating place to spend the night.

Keep in mind that there are only six pitches at Wetherdown Lodge, so advance bookings are recommended.

Services at Wetherdown Lodge & Campsite

  • Toilets
  • Solar showers (not always hot!)
  • Wood fired pizza oven
  • Cafe
  • Electronics charging
  • Small shop

Price: £12/person

Should you arrive and find the campsite at the Wetherdown Lodge full, simply continue on to the Upper Parsonage Farm Campsite, described below.

The Upper Parsonage Farm Campsite is located a short distance (.75 miles) from the South Downs Way, just before reaching the top of Butser Hill. This will make your walk on Stage 2 a bit longer, but you’ll be rewarded the next day by getting a head start on the longest stage of the walk!

Services at Upper Parsonage Farm Campsite

  • Toilets
  • Hot showers
  • Potential for evening meals/breakfast

Price: £10/person

Map of Stage 2 from Holden Farm Camping to Wetherdown Lodge and Campsite

Stage 2 – Holden Farm to Wetherdown Lodge & Campsite

 

Stage 3: Wetherdown Lodge & Campsite to Manor Farm

Distance & Elevation: 17.06 mi // +2,225 ft, -2,523 ft 
Where to stay: 
Manor Farm Campsite
Description:

Stage 3 is a long one! You’ll be covering over 17 miles en route to the Manor Farm campsite, just south of Cocking. Don’t be too intimidated, as the day’s walking is  relatively flat, but you’ll still want to be prepared for a full day’s outing. Your reward for all that walking is a lovely campsite just off the main trail, known as Manor Farm.

This pastoral campground has lovely views and very friendly owners. You’ll have easy access to Cocking for supplies, but we recommend picking up some local delicacies from the on-site farm shop.

Services at Manor Farm Campsite

  • Toilets
  • Hot showers
  • Farm shop

Price: £10/person

Map of Stage 3 from Wetherdown Lodge & Campsite to Manor Farm

Stage 3 – Wetherdown Lodge & Campsite to Manor Farm

 

Tents at Manor Farm Camping on the South Downs Way

Manor Farm is located just off the South Downs Way and makes an ideal stop for campers.

 

Stage 4: Manor Farm to Gumber Camping Barn & Campsite

Distance & Elevation: 7.78 mi // +1,114 ft, -1,086 ft 
Where to stay: 
Gumber Camping Bar & Campsite
Description:

Stage 4 is a nice reprieve after a long walk on the previous day. You’ll walk just under 8 miles before reaching the Gumber Camping Barn & Campsite, formerly known as the Gumber Bothy. This National Trust run campsite is a rural and simple campground, perfect for those walking the South Downs Way.

You won’t find any cars or caravans at this car-free campsite and you’ll enjoy a communal atmosphere in a beautiful location.

Note: Traditionally this stage has taken walkers all the way to Amberley where a free wild camping spot was available at High Titten. As of 2021, High Titten Campground has been purchased by a private owner and is not currently open for camping. If the situation changes we’ll update this guide. 

Also near Amberley, the Foxleigh Barn Campsite is a potential option. However, they have limited capacity so we recommend stopping at Gumber Bothy instead. 

Services at Gumber Camping Barn & Campsite

  • Toilets
  • Showers
  • Kitchen & BBQ
  • Drying room

Price: £15/pitch + £12/person for each additional person

Map of Stage 4 from Manor Farm to Gumber Bothy

Stage 4 – Manor Farm to Gumber Camping Barn & Campsite

 

Stage 5: Gumber Camping Barn & Campsite to Washington Caravan Park

Distance & Elevation: 12.8 mi // +1,402 ft, -1,656 ft 
Where to stay: 
Washington Caravan Park & Campsite
Description:

Stage 5 requires campers to walk approximately 1 mile off the main South Downs Way trail to reach your campground at Washington Caravan Park & Campsite. This isn’t too much trouble, and does take you past an excellent pub, but walkers should be prepared for the extra walking.

The Washington Caravan Park & Campsite is a large site with room for up to 80 tents in addition to caravanners. You’ll find plenty of amenities here as well as easy access to the surrounding area.

Services at Washington Caravan & Campsite

  • Toilets
  • Showers
  • Dishwashing area
  • Laundry
  • Food/meals available during peak season
  • WiFi

Price: £8 – £12/pitch + £6/adult. More information here.

Map of Stage 5 from Gumber Campsite to Washington Camping

Stage 5 – Gumber Campsite to Washington Caravan & Camping Park

 

Camping field at Washington Camping Park.

The camping field at Washing Caravan & Camping Park.

 

Stage 6: Washington Caravan Park to Saddlescombe Farm

Distance & Elevation: 12.95 mi // +1,858 ft, -1,616 ft 
Where to stay: 
Saddlescombe Farm
Description:

This is a lovely stage filled with some of the best scenery on offer in the South Downs. You’ll finish at the rustic, yet lovely campsite at Saddlescombe Farm. This is a National Trust run campsite which retains much of its pastoral character by forbidding cars. You won’t find any glitz and glamor here, but this is what camping on the South Downs Way is all about!

If you’d like to break this stage up, we recommend stopping at the well run YHA Truleigh Hill, located a bit past the halfway mark of Stage 6.

Services at Saddlescombe Farm Campsite

  • Toilets
  • BBQ
  • No showers available – this is rustic camping!

Price: £10/pitch + £10/adult.

Map of Stage 6 from Washington Camping Park to Saddlescombe Farm Camping

Stage 6 – Washington Camping Park to Saddlescombe Farm Camping

 

Stage 7: Saddlescombe Farm to Housedean Farm

Distance & Elevation: 9.91 mi // +1,305 ft, -1,554 ft 
Where to stay: 
Housedean Farm
Description:

Stage 7 is a beautiful walk, although you can expect the trail to be a bit more crowded given how close you are to Brighton at this stage of the South Downs Way. Your campground for the night is the beautiful Housedean Farm Campsite, a very well run establishment.

Although just off the busy A27, you’d never know it from the tranquil countryside surrounding the campground.

Services at Housedean Farm Campsite

  • Toilets
  • Showers
  • Washing basins
  • Communal fridge/freezer
  • Charing points

Price: £14/adult

Map of Stage 7 from Saddlescombe Farm Camping to Housedean Farm Camping

Stage 7 – Saddlescombe Farm Camping to Housedean Farm Camping

 

Housdean Farm Campsite

The lovely campsite at Housedean Farm.

 

Stage 8: Housedean Farm to Alfriston Camping Park

Distance & Elevation: 14.45 mi // +2,068 ft, -2,148 ft 
Where to stay: 
Alfriston Camping Park
Description:

You’re getting close to the end!

Stage 8 takes walkers closer to the coast and the completion of the South Downs Way, with an overnight stay at the excellent Alfriston Camping Park. This large campground has good service and a separate field specifically for families. You’ll find the caravanning crowd here, but there is always plenty of space for South Downs Way walkers.

There are plenty of services available nearby in Alfriston.

Services at Alfriston Camping Park

  • Toilets
  • Showers

Price: £10/adult

Map of Stage 8 from Housedean Farm Camping to Alfriston Camping Park

Stage 8 – Housedean Farm Camping to Alfriston Camping Park

 

Stage 9: Alfriston Camping Park to Eastbourne

Distance & Elevation: 11.12 mi // +2,197 ft, -2,101 ft 
Where to stay: 
YHA Eastbourne or other hotel.
Description:

This is it, your final stage of the South Downs Way!

The route saves the best for last with a stunning walk along the Seven Sisters, culminating at Beachy Head. This is a challenging day’s walk, but we’re willing to bet you’ll be too distracted by the beautiful views to care too much.

Unfortunately there are no campgrounds in or near Eastbourne, although we recommend treating yourself to a hotel anyways. For the budget conscious, you can’t go wrong with the YHA Eastbourne.

View from Beachy Head.

Take in the stunning views from Beachy Head on the final stage of the South Downs Way.

 

Map of Stage 9 from Alfriston Camping Park to Eastbourne

Stage 9 – Alfriston Camping Park to Eastbourne

 

What to Pack for Camping on the South Downs Way

Deciding what to pack for the South Downs Way is an important part of having a successful trip. This is especially true for campers, who can expect to be carrying a much heavier rucksack. It’s simple- the heavier your pack, the harder your effort.

As such, we recommend focusing on bringing high-quality, lightweight equipment. With a little planning and strategy, you can keep the weight of your backpack manageable while still ensuring you have everything you need for your trip.

We’ve provided some general packing information for camping on the South Downs Way below, but for more in-depth information be sure to check out our full packing list for the South Downs Way below.

Read our Complete Guide to Packing for the South Downs Way here.

In general, you should be able to get by with a 40L – 60L backpack and the following essentials:

Hiker on the South Downs Way

 

What’s Next?

You’re well on your way to an incredible camping experience on the South Downs Way. However, you still have lots of preparation before you’re truly ready! Be sure to read our entire series on the South Downs Way to learn everything you’ll need to know for your trip!

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Abel Tasman Coast Track Packing List

Over the course of its 60 glorious kilometers, the Abel Tasman Coast Track passes through verdant hillsides, pristine beaches, coastal bush, and rich forest. It’s easy to see why this…

Over the course of its 60 glorious kilometers, the Abel Tasman Coast Track passes through verdant hillsides, pristine beaches, coastal bush, and rich forest. It’s easy to see why this is one of New Zealand’s most beloved Great Walks. While the diversity of sights and landscapes certainly adds to the richness of the experience, it can make packing pretty challenging!

You’ll need to be prepared for all sorts of weather, and well as some challenging hills and muddy conditions on the Abel Tasman Coast Track. At the same time, carrying too big a rucksack will undoubtedly take away from the enjoyment of your trek.

So how does one strike that elusive balance between having all of the necessities without feeling like they have a baby elephant on their back? Read on for our best advice and detailed kit lists to learn everything you need (and what you don’t need) to have your best possible Abel Tasman walking adventure!

In this post:

View of cliffs and shoreline on the Abel Tasman Coast Track
The Abel Tasman Coast Track crosses a variety of rugged and beautiful coastal landscapes.

Packing Basics for the Abel Tasman Track

There are so many variables when it comes to packing for the Abel Tasman Coast Track, such as your accommodation type, hiking style, trip length, baggage transfers, time of year, and many more. Every hiker will have a unique kit to best serve their individual needs. Despite all of those factors, there are some universal rules that all hikers should follow when putting together their kit for the Abel Tasman Coast Track.

How Much Should My Pack Weigh?

This isn’t easy to answer, since there are a ton of factors that influence how much is too much for any individual hiker. Some things to think about…

  • How fast are you hoping to hike? Generally speaking, lighter=faster
  • Have you completed a multi-day through hike with this specific backpack and this amount of weight before? 
  • Are you injury-prone or do you have any chronic knee, hip, or back issues? 

As a very general rule, campers should keep their pack weight below 13kg, including food and water. Those staying indoors should carry no more than 9kg. If having your luggage transferred along the trail, most transfer services will limit you to 20kg, and your daypack shouldn’t exceed 4kg. If you are backpacking for the first time or have a chronic injury, the weight of your pack should be significantly less than these guidelines.

Generally speaking, less is more. Here’s a few tips for lightening your load:

  1. You only need a couple of shirts. Same goes for underwear and socks. Bring quick-dry items that you can rinse out in the sink or shower.
  2. Plan out when/where you’ll restock food provisions and don’t carry more food than you need.
  3. Consider leaving your bulky camera equipment at home. Unless photography is your passion, most smartphones take great photos and save a ton of space and weight.
Backpacking backpack
The type of pack you’ll need for the Abel Tasman Coast Track will depend on your individual itinerary.

Choosing a backpack for the Abel Tasman Coast Track

Just like with footwear, a properly fitting backpack is crucial on the Abel Tasman Coast Track. Also similar to your boots, your pack needs to be broken in for optimal comfort. We recommend carrying a weighted pack on your training walks to get used to the extra weight and ensure it fits well.

If you plan on staying in the Department of Conservation (DoC) huts along the route, you’ll to carry a sleeping bag and cooking gear. A 30-50L pack will be more than enough space for everything you need.

If you plan on camping, you’ll need a larger pack to fit your tent and sleeping pad in addition to your basic supplies. A 45-60L pack will be suitable for most campers.

Last but not least, don’t forget to bring a pack cover to protect against rain! Many newer packs come with one built-in.

Read More: The Complete Guide to the Abel Tasman Coast Track

Coast to Coast Walk hiking boots
Footwear on the Abel Tasman Coast Track comes down to personal preference and fit, but always break in new boots ahead of time!

Footwear on the Abel Tasman Coast Track

The Abel Coast Track covers a variety of terrain, but it’s not too technical or rugged. Hiking boots, hiking shoes, and trail running shoes will all work for the Abel Coast Track, provided that they will work for your unique needs. The most important thing is that they’re adequately broken in and that you’ve tested them on multiple walks to ensure they are comfortable. You’ll likely need to go up half a size to account for thicker socks and/or swollen feet. Some people may prefer the ankle support of traditional hiking boots, while others may seek out the cushion and breathability of trail shoes. Again, it’s all about trying a variety of options and finding the best one for you.

Waterproof boots or shoes can be a good idea, considering you’ll likely face rainy, wet, and muddy conditions at some point on the trail.

Good socks are also a game-changer on the Abel Tasman Coast Track. We love merino wool socks like these for their comfort, breathability, and anti-stink qualities.

If you’re blister-prone, consider trying toe sockssock liners, and/or body glide.

If you need more underfoot padding, try using socks with extra cushioning or even some custom insoles.

Finally, make sure you also bring sandals or water shoes for beach walks and tidal crossings.

Boat on the Awaroa Inlet
You’ll have to wait until low-tide to cross the Awaroa Inlet.

Good Waterproofs

There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad rain gear! Even if you’re hiking in the drier summer months, it is likely that you’ll experience wet weather at some point along your journey. Having the appropriate gear will make all the difference when it comes to enjoying your trip to the fullest. Bonus: waterproof outer layers will also serve as great protection against the infamous westerly winds that can blow along the Kiwi coast.

At the very minimum, make sure you have a lightweight rain jacket and a pack cover. Some hikers pack their clothing and other items inside trash bags or waterproof packing cubes as an extra precaution. A hat can be nice to keep the rain (or sun) out of your face. And a waterproof carrying case for your map and/or phone isn’t a bad idea either.

Cloudy day in Abel Tasman National Park
With the right waterproofs, you don’t need to worry about wet weather on the horizon!

Read More: Abel Tasman Coast Track | Maps & Routes

Personal Gear

Whether you’re camping or staying indoors, these items are must-haves for your Abel Tasman Coast Track packing list. While we’ve included some toiletries that are absolutely essential for this trek, we’ve left it up to you to determine your own list of additional self-care items (comb, toothbrush, prescription medication, etc). 

Most Valuable Personal Item: Platypus Big Zip Hydration Bladder

With its variable temperatures and high humidity, it is imperative to stay well-hydrated while trekking the Abel Tasman Coast Track. Traditional water bottles can be bulky and inconvenient, which is why we love hydration bladders like this one! Fill it up once in the morning and you won’t have to worry about finding water for the remainder of the day. The bladder distributes weight evenly against your back and the design is leak-proof and easy to clean.

ItemOur RecommendationWhy We Love It
Multi-ToolGerber Dime Multi-ToolPerfect for cutting cheese or opening cans when you need some trail-side snacks!
First Aid KitAdventure Medical Kits Ultralight Watertight KitA good backpacking first aid kit is essential. You hope to never have to use it, but will be glad you have it when you need it. We like the labeled compartments and waterproof case on this one.
Hydration BladderPlatypus Big ZipWay easier than a water bottle! We suggest carrying a 3-liter version.
Pack CoverSea to Summit Ultra-Sil Rain CoverThis is a truly essential piece of gear given how hard it can rain on the Abel Tasman Coast Track! This one has an extra strap that keeps it in place on windy days.
Men’s BackpackOsprey Atmos AG 65While backpacks are a very personal item, we think Osprey makes the most comfortable packs on the market. This 65L model will work for both campers or those staying indoors.
Women’s BackpackOsprey Aura AG 65One of our favorite features of Osprey packs is the ‘anti-gravity’ mesh. So comfortable!
Trekking PolesBlack Diamond Alpine FlzThese can help take the load off your knees and they’re great on steep sections.
Travel TowelSea to Summit Airlite Travel TowelGreat to have for the beach or washing up.
Headlamp/ Head torchBlack Diamond SpotGreat headtorch with long battery life and adjustable brightness.
Dry BagsOsprey UL Packing Cube SetKeeps your clothes and other items dry in a downpour! These are also great for keeping your kit organized and packed efficiently.
Hiking GaitersOutdoor Research Ankle GaitersOptional. These will help keep your boots dry when walking on muddy or boggy trails and they’ll keep out stones, dirt, and gravel.
SunscreenWe recommend a waterproof sport version with SPF 30 or higher.
Bug SprayBen’s Insect RepellentYou’ll be glad you brought this when the mozzies or midges come out.
Toilet Paper and TrowelThe TentLab Ultralight TrowelAs any hiker will tell you, it’s always better to be prepared and Leave No Trace!
Booking ConfirmationsIt’s a good idea to have printed copies of all of your reservations.
A section of trail on the Coast Track.
You can expect well maintained trails and easy walking on the Abel Tasman Coast Track.

Miscellaneous Gear

These odds and ends are the unsung heroes of any Abel Tasman Coast Track packing list. From getting your stinky shirt clean to keeping your phone charged, these items help your trek run smoothly. Make sure to use this list in addition to the other categories to complete your Abel Tasman kit. 

Most valuable miscellaneous gear: Anker Powercore 10000.

Chances are, you’re getting out on the trail to get a break from the constant demands of screens and that’s wonderful. However, don’t underestimate the importance of having a charged cell phone on the Abel Tasman Coast Track. Your phone can be your navigational device, your camera, your guidebook, and your notepad all in one. The route can be a bit unclear at times, and charging opportunities are virtually nonexistent so a battery backup can be an absolute lifesaver. This one is dependable, relatively small, and can fully charge your phone 1.5-2 times between charges. Check it out here:

ItemOur ReccommendationWhy We Love It
Ear PlugsMack’s Ear PlugsEssential for a good night’s sleep! We find the silicone ones to stay in place and block out noise best.
Sleeping MaskAlaska BearPerfect to block out light while sleeping in huts or campgrounds on the Abel Tasman Coast Track.
Travel AdapterMintong All in One USB Travel AdapterIf you’re coming from abroad, this is going to be necessary. This one is super compact and the two USB ports are very handy!
Digital WatchCasio Classic Sport WatchWe recommend a simple digital watch to keep track of hiking times. This one is a great value and nearly indestructible.
CameraSony Alpha a6000Optional, but this compact camera takes beautiful photos and is easy to use.
Battery BackupAnker Powercore 10,000Great for charging electronics when you don’t have access to an outlet.
Biodegradable SoapCampsuds Biodegradable SoapPerfect for doing the dishes or washing a few clothing items.
Plastic Bags- quart, gallon, and garbage bags.We used these constantly for everything from storing trail mix to keeping our sleeping bags dry. A must-have for backpacking. They can be repurposed many times to minimize plastic waste.
FoodYou won’t be able to purchase any food along the trail, so it is essential that you pack everything you’ll need (plus a little extra).
A woman walks along the beach on the Abel Tasman Coast Track

Women’s Clothing

When you’re wearing the same clothes for several days straight in various weather conditions and while doing some serious walking, it is imperative that those clothes are comfortable and high quality.  Although your individual preferences may look a little different, this list is an excellent starting point to ensure you’ve got all the essentials for your Abel Tasman Coast Track Walk.

Emily’s most valuable clothing item: Icebreaker Tech Lite Merino Wool T-Shirt

It’s easy to pack light when you have anti-stink, quick-drying, and endlessly comfortable gear like this merino wool tee. In the humid conditions on the Abel Tasman, you’ll appreciate how this shirt wicks moisture and stays comfy all day long. Check it out here:

ItemOur RecommendationWhy We Love It
Underwear (2-3 pairs)ExOfficio Give-N-Go SportThese are worth every penny when it comes to staying comfortable on the trail. They are quick-drying and antimicrobial meaning you can just bring a few pairs and wash them in the sink as you go.
Socks (2-3 pairs)Darn Tough Micro Crew SocksIn our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Sports Bra (1)Under Armour Mid Crossback This is a good example of something breathable and comfortable that you can wear all day.
Long Sleeve Base Layer (1)Smartwool 150 Base LayerA great merino wool base layer for chilly mornings or whenever the sand flies come out.

Short Sleeve Hiking Shirts (1-2)Icebreaker Tech Lite T-ShirtMerino wool is perfect for backpacking. Lightweight, quick-drying, and odor resistant.
Leggings or hiking pants (1)PrAna Halle PantStylish, lightweight, and great to hike in.
Shorts (1)The North Face Paramount ShortThese shorts are super versatile and durable! The fabric has just the right amount of stretch and the pockets are really handy.
Rain JacketMarmot PreCip Eco JacketA high-quality all-weather jacket that packs up small.
Hiking BootsKeen Targhee Mid Height Hiking BootEmily has had these boots for five years and hundreds of muddy, snowy hikes, and they are still going strong!
SunglassesSuncloud Polarised SunglassesGood quality sunglasses are essential when you’re outside all day. And these are stylish too!
Underwire/Standard BraAfter a long day of hiking in a sweaty sports bra this can be a welcome relief to change into.
HatColumbia Bora Bora Booney HatHelps keep both the sun and rain off your face.

Sandals/Camp Shoes Crocs Classic ClogGreat to change into after a long day of walking!
BandanaLevi BandanaI used this for everything from a towel to extra sun protection.
Kayakers in Abel Tasman National Park

Men’s Clothing

When you’re wearing the same clothes for several days in various weather conditions and while doing some serious trekking, it is imperative that those clothes are comfortable and high quality.  Although your individual preferences may look a little different, this list is an excellent starting point to ensure you’ve got all the essentials for your Abel Tasman adventure.

Ian’s most valuable clothing item: Darn Tough Merino Wool Socks

The conditions on the Abel Tasman Coast Track are such that hikers are at a particularly high risk of getting blisters at some point on their walk. The wet environments and stony paths conspire to create the perfect environment for blisters to sabotage your walk. Fortunately, a good pair of socks can greatly reduce your chance of foot issues. This is one of those times where you really do get what you pay for. We love Darn Tough socks because they keep our feet dry and comfortable in a variety of conditions. They have just the right amount of cushion without being too bulky in boots. Plus, the Merino wool keeps them smelling fresh for days. Check them out here:

ItemOur ReccommendationWhy We Love It
Underwear (2-3 pairs)ExOfficio Give-N-Go Sport Boxer BriefHighly recommended! You can bring just 2-3 pairs and wash them easily in sinks or showers. A must!
Socks (2-3 pairs)Darn Tough Hiking Socks In our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Long Sleeve Base Layer (1)Columbia Thistletown Park Long SleeveThis is a very versatile baselayer that works great under an outer layer or on its own.

Short Sleeve Hiking Shirts (1-2)Icebreaker Tech Lite T-ShirtMerino wool is perfect for backpacking. Lightweight, quick-drying, and odor resistant.
Hiking Pants (1 pair)The North Face Paramount Convertible TrousersThese are great for hiking and also look great walking around town!
Hiking Shorts (1 pair)Columbia Silver Ridge Cargo ShortsYou can skip these if you’re using our recommended convertible trousers, but it can be nice to have an extra set of bottoms. These are so packable that you really can’t go wrong!
Rain Jacket Marmot Precip JacketUnlike many lightweight rain jackets. this one will actually keep you dry during long days on the trail.
HatColumbia Bora Bora Booney HatHelps keep both the sun and rain off your face.
Sandals/Camp ShoesCrocs Classic ClogSuper nice to change into after walking in boots all day! These are also good for sand and water crossings.
Hiking BootsSalomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTXVery comfortable and super waterproof!
SunglassesSuncloud Polarized SunglassesGood quality sunglasses are essential when you’re in outdoors all day. And these are stylish too!
BandanaLevi’s BandanaThis can be used for everything from a towel to extra sun protection.
Abel Tasman Coast Track packing list
Campers will need to bring a bit more on the Coast Track.

Camping Gear

Camping on the Abel Tasman Coast Track is definitely worth carrying the bigger backpack. Campgrounds are plentiful (although you do need to book ahead), and there’s no better way to immerse yourself in the great outdoors than sleeping under the stars. With the right gear and a manageable pack size, you are guaranteed to have an amazing experience conquering the Abel Tasman with your own tent.

Most valuable camping gear: Nemo Tensor Ultralite Sleeping Pad

We all know how important a good night’s sleep is, especially when you’re putting your body through the demands of a multi-day trek. However, it can be so hard to get comfortable when you’re sleeping in a tent. Thankfully, this Nemo sleeping pad changes all of that. It’s nice and thick, meaning it even works for side sleepers! Plus, it is very lightweight, packable, and easy to inflate. It’s a total game-changer.

ItemOur RecommendationWhy We Love It
TentMSR Hubba Hubba NX Backpacking TentThis is the best designed tent on the market. The genius freestanding rain cover allows you to pack up all of your gear and tent while still being sheltered- perfect for rainy mornings!
Sleeping BagMarmot Trestles 30 Sleeping BagSuper compact, light, and cozy, this bag is a great value. If you’re walking in the summer months, you should only need the 30-degree version.
Sleeping PadNemo Tensor Ultralight Camping PadIf you are a side sleeper this is a must! Even if you’re not, this is one of the most lightweight and comfortable sleeping pads out there. The pump sack makes inflating it a breeze, too!
PillowTherm-a-Rest Compressible PillowNot 100% necessary, but a small luxury that is definitely worth carrying in your pack.
Stove+FuelMSR Pocket RocketIan has used this stove for nearly a decade and highly recommends it!
Backpacking PotGSI Outdoors Halulite BoilerThis versatile and high-quality pot is the perfect size for anything from boiling water to making porridge.
Plate/Bowl/MugMSR 2-Person Mess KitWe find this bowl and mug combo to be light, durable, and perfect for camp dinners.
UtensilHumangear SporkThe only utensil you’ll need!
Advance reservations are required for all huts and campsites along the Coast Track.

Hut Gear

Even if you choose to sleep indoors on your Abel Tasman trek, there are some essential items you’ll need to make sure you pack. The huts are typically quite basic, and most do not have lighting nor cooking stoves. At a minimum, hikers staying in huts should bring a sleeping bag, cookset, headlamp, and all of their own food.

Most valuable camping gear: MSR 2-Person Mess Kit

One of the benefits of sleeping in huts is that you can carry a smaller rucksack. However, it’s a little trickier to pack light on the Abel Tasman when you need to carry your own cooking gear. This MSR Kit is super lightweight, easy to pack, and convenient for all of those al fresco dinners and trailside coffee breaks.

ItemOur RecommendationWhy We Love It
Sleeping BagMarmot Trestles 30 Sleeping BagSuper compact, light, and cozy, this bag is a great value. If you’re walking in the summer months, you should only need the 30-degree version.
PillowTherm-a-Rest Compressible PillowNot 100% necessary, but a small luxury that is definitely worth carrying in your pack.
Stove+FuelMSR Pocket RocketIan has used this stove for nearly a decade and highly recommends it!
Backpacking PotGSI Outdoors Halulite BoilerThis versatile and high-quality pot is the perfect size for anything from boiling water to making porridge.
Plate/Bowl/MugMSR 2-Person Mess KitWe find this bowl and mug combo to be light, durable, and perfect for camp dinners.
UtensilHumangear SporkThe only utensil you’ll need!
Eye MaskAlaska BearPerfect to block out light while sleeping in dormitories.
EarplugsMack’s Ear PlugsThe best defense for that snorer next door!
Sunset on the Abel Tasman Coast Track

Conclusion

The Abel Tasman Coast Track, with its rugged shoreline, spectacular beaches, and unique scenery, is certainly one of New Zealand’s most memorable walks. While it’s definitely manageable for walkers of all ability levels, it’s not without its challenges. By putting together a smart kit, you’ll get to focus your energy on the good kinds of challenges (like climbing a steep hill or covering vast distances), and avoid the less fun types of challenges (getting soaked in a downpour or dealing with blisters). The gear choose to pack (and leave behind) will be essential in ensuring that you have everything you need to stay comfortable, prepared, and injury-free without carrying a bigger rucksack than needed. Happy trails!

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Great Glen Way | Maps & Routes

The Great Glen Way is a classic Scottish walk connecting Fort William in the south with Inverness in the north. The route is a natural extension of the West Highland…

The Great Glen Way is a classic Scottish walk connecting Fort William in the south with Inverness in the north. The route is a natural extension of the West Highland Way, which finishes in Fort William. However, the Great Glen Way features much more loch-side walking, including along the famous Loch Ness, Loch Lochy, and Loch Oich. Traditionally, the walk is completed in 5 – 8 days, with six days seeming to be most common. 

Although the Great Glen Way visits some of the more remote parts of northern Scotland, it is still well served by a variety of small towns and accommodation options. These include quaint B&Bs, hostels, small hotels, and several campgrounds. This post will introduce the Great Glen Way through a series of maps, navigational resources, and more. 

Let’s get started.

Green hillside above Loch Ness

The green hillsides above Loch Ness are a highlight of the Great Glen Way.

 

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Where is the Great Glen Way?

The Great Glen Way is located in northern Scotland and connects the port town of Fort William in the south with Highlands capital of Inverness in the north. Along the way the route passes several idyllic lochs as it traces what is known as the Great Glen fault line. The walk is almost exclusively completed from south to north, although it can certainly be walked in the opposite directions as well.

The route is well served by a variety of small towns filled with friendly locals to compliment the stunning scenery this part of Scotland is known for.

The Great Glen Way is surprisingly easy to get to from the rest of Scotland and the UK, with plenty of rail connections available. Fort William is easily reached from Glasgow via the spectacular West Highland line while Inverness has good rail service to both Edinburgh and Glasgow. From the rest of the UK you can reach both Glasgow and Edinburgh by coach, train, or plane!

Map showing the location of the Great Glen Way

The Great Glen Way is located in Northern Scotland. Click to enlarge.

 

Between Fort William and Inverness the Great Glen Way provides some of the best walking in Scotland and is also much less crowded than other popular routes in the area. Highlights of the walk include tracing the length of the Caledonian Canal, walking along the famous Loch Ness, and finishing at the famous Inverness Castle. You’ll walk the length of three different lochs, Loch Lochy, Loch Oich, and Loch Ness on the Great Glen Way.

The route is traditionally completed in six days walking, although it is possible to shorten or extend your walk to suit your own personal timeframe. It is possible to camp along the Great Glen Way as there are both developed campgrounds as well as some excellent wild camping spots along the route. For those that prefer sleeping indoors, you’ll find plenty of accommodation options at each stop along the way.

Below is the standard route for the Great Glen Way:

  • Stage 1: Fort William to Gairlochy
  • Stage 2: Gairlochy to Laggan
  • Stage 3: Laggan to Fort Augustus
  • Stage 4: Fort Augustus to Invermoriston
  • Stage 5: Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit
  • Stage 6: Drumnadrochit to Inverness

Map of the Great Glen Way

Map of the Great Glen Way. Click to enlarge.

 

In addition to the standard route outlined above, there is also the option to take two high-route alternates between Fort Augustus and Drumnadrochit. These alternate routes leave the lochside trail to climb into the hills adjacent to Loch Ness. These alternates provide exceptional views of the Loch and also provide a bit of variety to the walk and we recommend that most walkers seriously consider taking them.

The high routes are split over two days, with the first option leaving the main trail on stage 4 shortly after leaving Fort Augustus. The route then keeps walkers in the hills before descending back to the main trail just before reaching Invermoriston.

The next day, on stage 5, the second high-level route begins just after leaving Invermoriston and rejoins the main trail about half-way through the stage to Drumnadrochit.

Take a look at the map below for more detail on the Great Glen Way high-level alternate routes.

Great Glen Way High Route

The two high-route alternates on the Great Glen Way. Click to enlarge.

 

Interactive Great Glen Way map

The interactive Great Glen Way map below will allow you to zoom in on the various stages as well as view the traditional stops along the route.

 

How long is the Great Glen Way?

The official Scotland Great Trails website lists the Great Glen Way as 125-kilometers long. While this is certainly an accurate estimate, we measure (via GPS) the Great Glen Way to be 118.8-kilometers or 73.8 miles long from Fort William to Inverness.

If you plan on taking either or both of the high-routes described above you’ll want to plan on covering a bit more distance.

However, the exact measurement of the trail will have little practical value to the average walker. The nature of long-distance walks provides that you will certainly walk further than any official trail length. Evening walks to stretch your legs, short detours to visit the local pub, and even the occasional side trip to a nearby attraction will all add up.

However, it is still helpful for trip planning purposes to have a sense of the total length as well as individual segment lengths on the Great Glen Way. The map below shows just that, with the approximate distances for the standard six stage itinerary shown in kilometers.

Note that these distances do not include the high-level routes and should only be used to get a general idea of distance.

Map of the Great Glen Way with stage distances

Stage distances on the Great Glen Way.

 

Great Glen Way Elevation Profile

The Great Glen Way is certainly not the most challenging walk in the Scottish Highlands, although it still has a not insignificant amount of elevation change.

Much of this is due to the undulating nature of the shorelines of the three Lochs that the route follows. The Great Glen Way has approximately 1,600 meters or 5,250 feet of elevation gain over its 119 kilometers. That averages out to approximately 267 meters of elevation gain per stage, although as you’ll see below it is not so evenly distributed.

The vast majority of the elevation gain occurs on the walk’s final two stages, with the final day being the most difficult in terms of both distance covered as well as elevation gained. The high point of the walk is reached on the final stage just after leaving the shores of Loch Ness and climbing to approximately 370 meters above sea-level.

However, don’t be deceived by the loch-side sections of the walk, as there is still significant elevation to be gained/lost here!

Trail in the Scottish Highlands

 

The elevation profile below will give you an overview of what each stage of the Great Glen Way entails in terms of total elevation change and distance. Elevation is shown on the left side while distance is shown on the bottom. Each blue dot represents a stop along the traditional six-stage walk, with the stop names shown at the top.

The steepness of the line between any two points reflects the steepness of the trail for that particular stage. The distance between the two points shows the length of the stage. For instance, you can see that the stage from Drumnadrochit to Inverness is rather long in distance, while the stage from Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit has a lot of elevation gain.

Keep in mind that the profile below does not include either of the two high-route options, so count on some additional climbing if you plan to take those alternates.

When thinking about how many days or stages you’ll take to complete the Great Glen Way be sure to reference this elevation profile. It will give you a sense of how hard each day is and will let you see which stages may make sense to combine or split up on your walk.

Elevation profile for the Great Glen Way

Great Glen Way Elevation Profile.

 

Which maps should I carry on the Great Glen Way?

The Great Glen Way is generally a very well marked trail. You’ll find the Scotland Great Trails symbol on signposts and at trail junction along the route, making navigation fairly simple. This is especially helpful where different trails intersect with the Great Glen Way, giving the walker clear direction on where to go.

However, it is still quite easy to get turned around or otherwise off-track on the Great Glen Way due largely to the number of trail junctions encountered. For this reason, we recommend all walkers carry a few Great Glen Way maps to ensure they don’t spend an afternoon walking the wrong direction!

Our preference is generally to rely on GPS maps on our smartphones when out on a multi-day walk, and we can highly recommend this method for most walkers. All you’ll need is a GPX file for the route and a GPS app. We like Gaia GPS, although there are many great options available.

In addition to digital navigation methods, we also recommend you bring a paper map or map booklet of the Great Glen Way along on your walk. There is simply no replacement for a physical map, afterall you never know when you may find yourself with a dead battery rendering your GPS app useless!

There are several excellent physical maps available for the Great Glen Way, outlined below:

The Great Glen Way Guide & Map Booklet – Cicerone Guides
In our opinion, your best bet will be to pack this excellent resource from Cicerone Guides. Their Great Glen Way guidebook comes complete with a map booklet that contains helpful maps for the entire route, neatly organized into a small and portable booklet.

 

Harvey Maps Great Glen Way Map
Another convenient and highly recommended option is the Great Glen Way map published by Harvey Maps. This map consists of the entire Great Glen Way route, although it does not include much outside of the trail. It is also a bit larger and easier to read when compared to the Cicerone Map Booklet, which many walkers will prefer.

 

Ordnance Survey Explorer – Great Glen Way maps
Finally, no article on maps for the Great Glen Way would be complete without referencing Ordnance Survey maps. These detailed maps provide an excellent resource for the walk, although you’ll need to carry three OS maps to cover the entire route:

In addition, a weatherproof carrying case like this one wouldn’t hurt to have either.

Stage-by-stage Great Glen Way maps

The Great Glen Way is most commonly walked in six stages, with a wide variety of accommodation options available at each point along the walk. The stage maps below provide a general outline for each of these six stages and we’ve also included the distance and elevation change for each day below.

Stage 1: Fort William to Gairlochy

Distance: 17.43 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +159 m / -132 m

Map of Stage 1 of the Great Glen Way

Stage 1 – Fort William to Gairlochy

 

Stage 2: Gairlochy to Laggan

Distance: 18.73 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +413 m / -407 m

Map of Stage 2 of the Great Glen Way

Stage 2 – Gairlochy to Laggan

 

Stage 3: Laggan to Fort Augustus

Distance: 17.24 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +238 m / -250 m

Map of Stage 3 of the Great Glen Way

Stage 3 – Laggan to Fort Augustus

 

Stage 4: Fort Augustus to Invermoriston

Distance: 11.72 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +507 m / -487 m

Map of Stage 4 of the Great Glen Way

Stage 4 – Fort Augustus to Invermoriston

 

Stage 5: Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit

Distance: 23.32 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +701 m / -713 m

Map of Stage 5 of the Great Glen Way

Stage 5 – Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit

 

Stage 6: Drumnadrochit to Inverness

Distance: 30.32 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +653 m / -665 m

Map of Stage 6 of the Great Glen Way

Stage 6 – Drumnadrochit to Inverness

 

Have an excellent Great Glen Way adventure!

We hope this post has given you all the information you need to get a basic overview of the Great Glen Way. Let us know your questions or comments below. Happy trails!

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North Downs Way | Maps & Routes

The North Downs Way is one of the most popular of England’s National Trails. Given the route’s location just south of London, it is easy to understand why. The walk…

The North Downs Way is one of the most popular of England’s National Trails. Given the route’s location just south of London, it is easy to understand why. The walk crosses the North Downs and traverses a number of beautiful landscapes, including the Surrey Hills and Kent Downs Areas of Outstanding National Beauty. Beginning in Farnham in the west and finishing at the coast in Dover, the walk is traditionally completed in ten stages.

Unique to the North Downs Way, you’ll have two options for the last two stages into Dover. The first option, known as the Southern Loop, takes walkers to the coast along the White Cliffs of Dover. Alternatively, the Northern Loop heads through the cathedral town of Canterbury before turning south to Dover. Whichever route you choose you’re sure to have a great adventure!

This post is designed to provide an introduction to the North Downs Way though in-depth maps, elevation profiles, stage-by-stage maps, and more!

Let’s get started.

View of the North Downs in Surrey

The North Downs.

 

In this Post

 

Where is the North Downs Way?

The North Downs Way is located just south of London and connects Farnham in the west with the port city of Dover in the east. The walk is traditionally walked from west to east, although you can certainly walk in the opposite direction as well. Along the way the route visits several lovely villages and explores some of the best countryside this close to London. For those interested in venturing a bit further afield, be sure to consider a walk on the South Downs Way as well.

Given the walk’s location, it is easy to get to the start and finish from London and other parts of England via rail or bus. Farnham sits on the Southwestern Railway which has frequent connections, while Dover is a major transit hub for the southeast coast.

Check out the map below to get a general sense of where the North Downs Way is located.

Overview map of the North Downs Way

The North Downs Way connects Farnham and Dover. (Click to enlarge).

 

Highlights of the North Downs Way include the Rochester Castle, Canterbury Cathedral (for those who opt for the Northern Loop), and White Cliffs of Dover (for those who opt for the Southern Loop).

The walk is commonly completed in ten days, although it is always possible to shorten or extend your walk as you see fit. The North Downs Way is also especially well situated to be completed over a series of trips rather than in a single walk.

Northern & Southern Loops

As alluded to above you’ll have two options to complete the final two stages of the North Downs Way. This is a bit unusual for a National Trail, but gives walkers two attractive options. The route splits at Boughton Lees, and gives walkers the two options described below:

Southern Loop
The Southern Loop is probably the more popular way to finish the walk as it takes walkers along the White Cliffs of Dover. From Boughton Lees you’ll head south to Etchinghill before heading to the coast and finishing in Dover.

White Cliffs of Dover.

The Southern Loop of the North Downs Way finishes with a spectacular walk along the White Cliffs of Dover.

 

Northern Loop
The Northern Loop is a good option for history buffs or anyone who wants to visit the stunning cathedral at Canterbury. From Boughton Lees you’ll head northeast and overnight in Canterbury before continuing on to Dover. This option adds approximately 11-kilometers to the walk.

Canterbury Cathedral

The Northern Loop allows walkers to visit the stunning Canterbury Cathedral.

 

Below is the standard 10-day itinerary for the North Downs Way:

  • Stage 1: Farnham to Guildford
  • Stage 2: Guildford to Westhumble
  • Stage 3: Westhumble to Merstham
  • Stage 4: Merstham to Oxted
  • Stage 5: Oxted to Otford
  • Stage 6: Otford to Rochester
  • Stage 7: Rochester to Hollingbourne
  • Stage 8: Hollingbourne to Boughton Lees
  • Stage 9: Boughton Lees to Etchinghill (Southern Loop)
  • Stage 10: Etchinghill to Dover (Southern Loop)

For those who opt to complete the Northern Loop, the final two stages will look like this:

  • Stage 9A: Boughton Lees to Canterbury
  • Stage 10A: Canterbury to Dover

Check out the North Downs Way map below for a detailed overview of the walk. 

North Downs Way Map

Map of the North Downs Way. Click to enlarge.

 

Interactive North Downs Way map

The interactive North Downs Way map below will allow you to zoom in on the various stages as well as view the traditional stops along the route.

 

How long is the North Downs Way?

When researching the North Downs Way you’re likely to find any number of distances given for the walk by the various guidebooks and websites covering the topic. The distance of the walk is of course highly dependent on whether you opt for the northern or southern loops, as the two have a difference of about 11 kilometers.

We measure (via GPS), the North Downs Way to be 203-kilometers long for those completing the Southern Loop and 214-kilometers long for those opting to take the Northern Loop through Canterbury.  

While this exact measurement provides little practical value to anyone planning a walk on the North Downs Way, it is important to have a general understanding of the distances involved. The two maps below provide the stage distances for each of the 10-stages on the North Downs Way in both kilometers and miles. Use these to help get a sense of the walk and also plan your own itinerary.

Keep in mind that the distances provided here assume no detours, side trips, or other diversions off of the main route. Given this fact, you will certainly end up walking further than the distances we’ve provided.

Map of the North Downs Way with stage distances

Stage distances on the North Downs Way in kilometers. (Click to enlarge).

 

North Downs Way map with stage distances in miles

Stage distances on the North Downs Way in miles. (Click to enlarge).

 

North Downs Way Elevation Profile

The North Downs Way is not known for its difficulty or significant elevation gain. The route has modest hills, making it an ideal first National Trail to walk for someone new to hiking or a great walk for the experienced hiker looking to take things a bit easier.

For those taking the Southern Loop through Etchinghill the route gains 2,535 meters over the course of 203 kilometers. This equates to approximately 253 meters of elevation gain per day, which should be manageable for most walkers. For those who opt to take the Northern Loop via Canterbury, you can expect to gain 2,467 meters over the routes 214 kilometers.

Much of this elevation gain is evenly spread out along the undulating route providing a nice cadance the the walk. The most notable climb on the North Downs Way is the walk up St. Martha’s Hill and Newlands Corner which occurs on day two. 

The high  point of the North Downs Way sits at Titsey Plantation (263m above sea-level) which you encounter after a steep climb to start stage 5 out of Oxted.

View from the Surrey Hills on the North Downs Way

 

The elevation profiles below, displaying both the Northern and Southern Loops, will give you an overview of what each stage of the North Downs Way entails in terms of total elevation change and distance. Elevation is shown on the left side while distance is shown on the bottom. Each blue dot represents a stop along the traditional 10-stage walk, with the stop name shown at the top.

The steepness of the line between any two points reflects the steepness of the trail for that particular stage. The distance between the two points shows the length of the stage. For instance, you can see that Stage 6 from Otford to Rochester is rather long in distance, while Stage 2 from Guildford to Westhumble has a lot of elevation gain.

When thinking about how many days or stages you’ll take to complete the North Downs Way be sure to reference these elevation profiles. They’ll give you a sense of how hard each day is and will let you see which stages may make sense to combine or split up on your walk.

 

Elevation profile of the North Downs Way.

Elevation profile of the North Downs Way.

 

Elevation profile of the North Downs Way.

Elevation profile for the North Downs Way, Northern Loop.

 

Which maps should I carry on the North Downs Way?

As the North Downs Way is a National Trail, walkers can expect the path to be very well sign posted and easy to navigate. However, as with many walks in England, it can be quite easy to get turned around or generally off the correct track.

There are countless trail intersections, bridleways, and footpaths that can be easy to confuse with the North Downs Way. For this reason, we always recommend that walkers bring a few map resources when walking the route.

Our preference is generally to rely on GPS maps on our smartphones when out on a multi-day walk, and we can highly recommend this method for the North Downs Way. All you’ll need is a GPX file for the route (available for free on the National Trails website here) and a GPS app. We like Gaia GPS, although there are many great options available.

In addition to digital navigation methods, we also recommend you bring a paper map or map booklet along. There is simply no replacement for a physical map, afterall you never know when you may find yourself with a dead battery rendering your GPS app useless!

There are several excellent physical maps available for the North Downs Way, outlined below:

The North Downs Way Guide & Map Booklet – Cicerone Guides
In our opinion, your best bet will be to pack this excellent resource from Cicerone Guides. Their North Downs Way guide and map booklet contain Ordnance Survey maps for the entire route, neatly organized into a small and portable packet.

North Downs Way Adventure Atlas
Another convenient and highly recommended option is the North Downs Way Adventure atlas. This map consists of OS Explorer maps for the entire North Downs Way route, but saves you the hassle of assembling all of the Ordnance Survey maps yourself. It is also a bit larger and easier to read when compared to the Cicerone Map Booklet, which many walkers will prefer.

Ordnance Survey Explorer Maps
Finally, no article on maps for the North Downs Way would be complete without referencing Ordnance Survey maps. These North Downs Way maps provide an excellent level of detail , although you’ll need to carry several maps to cover the entire route:

In addition, a weatherproof carrying case like this one wouldn’t hurt to have either.

Stage-by-stage maps for the North Downs Way

The North Downs Way is traditionally completed in ten stages, with a wide variety of accommodation options available at each point along the walk. The maps below provide a general outline for each of these ten stages and include distance and elevation change. Also included are maps for the Northern and Southern Loops, the two options for the final two stages to Dover.

Stage 1: Farnham to Guildford

Distance: 17.33 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +324 m / -353 m

North Downs Way Stage 1 map

Stage 1 – Farnham to Guildford

 

Stage 2: Guildford to Westhumble

Distance: 21.77 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +426 m / -422 m

North Downs Way Stage 2 map

Stage 2 – Guildford to Westhumble

 

Stage 3: Westhumble to Merstham

Distance: 15.89 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +580 m / -521 m

North Downs way Stage 3 map

Stage 3 – Westhumble to Merstham

 

Stage 4: Merstham to Oxted

Distance: 13.5 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +541 m / -475 m

North Downs Way Stage 4 map

Stage 4 – Merstham to Oxted

 

Stage 5: Oxted to Otford

Distance: 19.31 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +488 m / -586 m

North Downs way Stage 5 map

Stage 5 – Oxted to Otford

 

Stage 6: Otford to Rochester

Distance: 28.65 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +751 m / -788 m

North Downs Way Stage 6 map

Stage 6 – Otford to Rochester

 

Stage 7: Rochester to Hollingbourne

Distance: 24.13 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +758 m / -700 m

North Downs Way Stage 7 map

Stage 7 – Rochester to Hollingbourne

 

Stage 8: Hollingbourne to Boughton Lees

Distance: 20.72 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +373 m / -393 m

North Downs Way stage 8 map

Stage 8 – Hollingbourne to Boughton Lees

 

Southern Loop Stage 9: Boughton Lees to Etchinghill

Distance: 22 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +513 m / -460 m

North Downs Way Stage 9 map

Stage 9 – Boughton Lees to Etchinghill

 

Southern Loop Stage 10: Etchinghill to Dover

Distance: 19.6 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +514 m / -628 m

North downs way stage 10 map

Stage 10 – Etchinghill to Dover

 

Northern Loop Stage 9: Boughton Lees to Canterbury

Distance: 20.39 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +502 m / -548 m

North Downs Way Stage 9 Northern Loop map

Stage 9A – Boughton Lees to Canterbury

 

Northern Loop Stage 10: Canterbury to Dover

Distance: 31.95 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +513 m / -523 m

Stage 10A – Canterbury to Dover

 

North Downs Way GPS/GPX

If you are interested in getting access to the GPS data for the North Downs Way head on over to the National Trails website. You’ll find a free GPX download for the walking route.

Click here to access the free GPS data for the South Downs Way

You’ll be able to load the GPX file into the mapping software or GPS phone app of your choice!

Apps and offline mapping

As mentioned above we highly recommend utilizing offline downloadable GPS maps on our smartphones to navigate while walking the North Downs Way. This is a great way to navigate on the trail as it allows you to see your progress for the day and also doesn’t require a cell phone signal (which you may not have) to display the map.

Our How to Navigate on the Tour du Mont Blanc post has all the information you need to get set up using an app for your map. Although written for a different hike, this step-by-step article will teach you how to quickly and easily turn your phone into a GPS device for the North Downs Way.

Have a great North Downs Way adventure!

We hope this post has given you all the information you need to get a basic overview of the North Downs Way. Let us know your questions or comments below. Happy trails!

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The Best Hikes in Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park Weather Badlands is a land of extremes, and that certainly holds true when it comes to the weather. Temperatures can peak in the triple digits in the…

If you’ve never been to Badlands National Park before, you are in for an experience like no other. The 240,000 acres of protected land are home to some of the country’s most stunning rock formations, sweeping grassland prairies, and the kind of wide-open spaces that can really put everything in perspective. Additionally, Badlands National Park is home to more than 300 archeological sites dating back thousands of years, and more recent sites from the regions’ current inhabitants, the Arikara and the Oglala Lakota tribes. From fascinating fossils to dramatic rock spires to wildlife viewing, there’s no shortage of things to see and do in Badlands National Park.

One of the best ways to enjoy all that Badlands National Park has to offer by exploring it on your own two feet. There are many incredible hikes in Badlands, ranging from beginner and family-friendly to longer, more strenuous outings. We’re confident that there’s a trail for everyone in Badlands National Park, and that hiking it will be a highlight of your visit.

In this post, we’ll share the best trails and everything you need to know to have your best possible adventure hiking in Badlands National Park.

In This Post:

A hiker sits and enjoys the views in Badlands National Park
Hiking in Badlands National Park provides endless ways to enjoy the magnificent scenery. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Badlands National Park Basics

Before any trip to Badlands, it is a good idea to get familiar with some important information about the national park so you know what to expect when you visit. The next two sections will provide some essential background that you’ll need for planning your Badlands National Park hiking adventure.

Permits, Entrance Fees, and Opening Times

Permits are not required for any hikes in Badlands National Park, including overnight backpacking and off-trail hiking.

Entrance fees must be paid to access any part of the national park, including all of the hikes described in this post. There are a variety of passes available, depending on the length of your visit and your mode of entry. Details can be found on the NPS website.

Badlands National Park is open 24/7, although fee stations and visitor centers have limited hours. Opening times for the park’s visitor centers can be found here.

Additionally, some roads may be closed in wintery or other hazardous conditions. If traveling in the park during inclement weather, be sure to check current road conditions.

Entrance sign for Badlands National Park
One of the quieter entrances to Badlands National Park.

Badlands National Park Weather

Badlands is a land of extremes, and that certainly holds true when it comes to the weather. Temperatures can peak in the triple digits in the summer months and they can get down to -40 in the winter!

Be prepared for sudden and dramatic changes in the weather, as conditions can be variable and unpredictable. Dress in layers, pack sunscreen, and carry plenty of water. It’s always a good idea to check current conditions and talk to the ranger before setting out.

June is typically the rainiest month in Badlands National Park, while December and January are the driest. For monthly averages, including temperatures and precipitation, check out this webpage.

A stormy sky over rocks in Badlands National Park.
The weather can change quickly in Badlands National Park. Photo Courtesy of NPS/Shaina Niehans.

Hiking Trails in Badlands National Park

Trails in the Cedar Pass Area of Badlands National Park (North Unit)

The vast majority of hikers will spend their time in the NPS-operated North Unit of Badlands National Park, specifically in the Cedar Pass Area. This area has easy access from I-90 and includes the park headquarters, the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Most of the park’s best hikes are in the Cedar Pass Area, and the well-marked trail network has something for every ability level. Since many of these hikes are quite short and close together, you can easily knock out a few in one day. Keep reading to find the perfect hike in the Cedar Pass Area.

Map of Cedar Pass area
Detailed Map of the Cedar Pass section of Badlands National Park. NPS Map.

Door Trail

Distance: 0.75 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Easy
Trailhead: Door and Window Parking Area

This easy walk follows a boardwalk for the first 0.25 miles, making it a great option for wheelchairs, strollers, and anyone who enjoys less rugged surfaces. Despite its short distance, you’ll gain access to spectacular views through the Badlands Wall and to the unique badlands landscape beyond. This is a great place to watch the sunrise!

The Door Trail following a boardwalk that leads between two parts of the Badlands Wall.
The Door Trail. An easy boardwalk leads visitors through a natural “door” in the Badlands Wall. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Window Trail

Distance: 0.25 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Easy
Trailhead: Door and Window Parking Area

This family-friendly trail takes hikers to a spectacular natural window that has eroded into the Badlands Wall. The window provides a unique vantage point to view some of the Badlands’ most dramatic scenery, and it’s a photographer’s dream!

Views of rock formations from the Window Trail in Badlands National Park.
Views from the Window Trail. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Notch Trail

Distance: 1.5 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Moderate/Strenuous
Trailhead: Door and Window Parking Area

This hike begins as a mellow canyon walk, but ends with a dramatic flourish. After traversing within the canyon, hikers will climb a ladder out of its depths. The trail then follows an exposed ledge to reach “the Notch,” an incredible viewpoint overlooking the White River Valley. Keep in mind that this hike involves some very exposed and steep sections, and it is dangerous during periods of heavy rain.

The Notch Trail traverses an exposed ledge on the side of the canyon in Badlands National Park.
The Notch Trail traverses an exposed ledge on the side of the canyon. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Castle Trail

Distance: 10 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
Trailhead: Door and Window Parking Area

Hikers looking for a longer outing will enjoy the Castle Trail. Not only does this 5-mile out-and-back trail boast great views of Badlands rock formations, but it ends at the Fossil Exhibit Trail, allowing hikers to explore the informative exhibits and replicas in that area. There are many options for customizing your hike on the Castle Trail. Those only wanting to hike one way can shuttle a vehicle to the Fossil Exhibit Trailhead. Additionally, there are options for making a loop by connecting with the Medicine Root Trail or the Saddle Pass Trail.

The eastern trailhead of the Castle Trail in Badlands National Park with green grassland in the foreground and rock formations in the background.
The Castle Trail begins by winding through prairie grasslands on its eastern end. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Cliff Shelf Trail

Distance: 0.5 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Moderate
Trailhead: Cliff Shelf Parking Area

Don’t be fooled by the short distance of this hike- it is quite a workout! The trail follows a series of boardwalks and stairs up along the Badlands Wall. The Cliff Shelf hike allows walkers to experience a rare oasis in the heart of the Badlands. The trail weaves through a Juniper forest and past a seasonal pond. This area is a great place to see wildlife, such as bighorn sheep.

The Cliff Shelf Trail passes through juniper trees in Badlands National Park.
The Cliff Shelf Trail is unique because it passes through juniper forests. Trees are a rare sight in the Badlands. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Saddle Pass Trail

Distance: 0.25 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Strenuous
Trailhead: Saddle Pass Trailhead

This is another hike that packs a lot of climbing into a short distance. The Saddle Pass Trail steeply winds its way up the Badlands Wall before reaching a viewpoint overlooking the White River Valley. It ends at a junction with the Castle and Medicine Root Trails, providing lots of options for extending your hike. Use caution coming down the Saddle Pass Trail, as some sections are very steep and loose.

A steep section of trail along the Saddle Pass Trail in Badlands National Park.
The Saddle Pass Trail is very steep the entire way! Photo courtesy of NPS.

Medicine Root Trail

Distance: 4 miles (does not inlcude the distance required to access the trail)
Difficulty: Moderate
Trailhead: Saddle Pass Trailhead

This lovely trail can only be accessed via one of the other trails in the Cedar Pass network. The most direct (and also most strenuous) way to reach the Medicine Root Trail is by climbing up the Saddle Pass Trail, although it can also be accessed by starting on either end of the Castle Trail. Once you’re on the Medicine Root Trail, the terrain is mostly flat, winding its way through prairie grasslands. A nice loop can be made by connecting with the Castle Trail. There are some gorgeous wide-open views of the surrounding rock formations.

The Medicine Root Trail extends through dry grasslands towards the horizon under a blue sky in Badlands National Park.
Wide open views on the Medicine Root Trail. Photo courtesy of NPS/Ed Welsh.

Fossil Exhibit Trail

Distance: 0.25 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Easy
Trailhead: Fossil Exhibit Parking Area

It is a bit of a stretch to call this a “hike,” as the trail follows a level boardwalk for its entirety. That being said, it is worth a visit to see the fascinating exhibits and replicas of the prehistoric creatures that once roamed the area. Additionally, the trail can be a nice starting point for accessing the Castle Trail and the rest of the Cedar Pass trail network.

A parking lot and a trailhead sign at the Fossil Exhibit Trail in Badlands National Park.
The trailhead for the informative and interactive Fossil Exhibit Trail. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Popular Back Roads Hikes (dog-friendly)

Sheep Mountain Table Hike

Distance: 5 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Easy
Trailhead: Sheep Mountain Table Overlook

This hike offers a great way to explore this scenic area without having to navigate the very rugged road in your vehicle. Park at the Sheep Mountain Table Overlook and walk along the dirt road for about 2.5 miles. This is an easy, scenic walk that makes for a great pet-friendly option. It also provides a unique opportunity to explore the remote middle section of the Badlands, straddling the North and South Units of the park.

The dirt road stretches ahead towards Sheep Mountain Table in Badlands National Park.
Sheep Mountain Table makes for a great back roads hike. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Old Northeast Road

Distance: Varies
Difficulty:Easy
Trailhead: Parking area located 0.25 miles along the road after turning off Badlands Loop Road. 

This quiet gravel road is a great option for hiking with your four-legged friend or for anyone seeking a mellow excursion. Old Northeast road is easily accessed from the Badlands Loop Road and you can customize the length of your trip to fit your preferences. The road passes through active ranchland, so keep in mind that you may encounter cattle grazing nearby. Hikers will enjoy sweeping Badlands scenery and some fascinating rock formations.

Rock formations seen while hiking along Old Northeast Road in Badlands National Park.
There are plenty of interesting rock formations to see while hiking on Old Northeast Road. Photo courtesy of NPS/Cathy Bell.

Open Hiking (Unofficial Trails)

Badlands is an “open hike” National Park, meaning that hikers are permitted to venture practically anywhere into the backcountry, regardless of if they’re on one of the designated trails. Beyond the well-marked paths, there are quite a few unofficial “social trials” in Badlands National Park. These vary from being frequently-trafficked and relatively easy to follow to being vague tracks that require advanced navigation skills. Given that these trails can lead to remote areas with little or no waymarking, it is essential that you come prepared with a navigational device and some backcountry experience. It’s a good idea to download gpx data for the trails into your phone or other device and bring a paper map as a backup.

More information about Badlands National Parks Maps is provided in this post.

Here are our two favorite unofficial trails in Badlands National Park:

Deer Haven Trail

Distance: 6-7 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
Trailhead: Conata Picnic Area

This out-and-back hike is popular with backpackers, but it also makes a great day trip. The trail begins at the Conata Picnic Area, which is easily accessed from the Badlands Loop Road and the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Hikers will follow a well worn social trail through quintessential Badlands scenery. Upon rounding a corner a couple of miles in, the grassy oasis of Deer Haven will come into view. This is a dramatic swath of green set amid endless miles of rocky, barren Badlands. The trail is generally easy to follow but becomes vague or nonexistent at points so it’s important to bring a map and GPS.

A trail sign next to the start of the Deer Haven Trail in Badlands National Park.
The beginning of the Deer Haven Trail is very well defined as it leads away from the Conata Picnic Area. Photo courtesy of NPS/Ed Welsh.

Sage Creek Loop

Distance: 23 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Very Strenuous
Trailhead: Conata Picnic Area

This adventurous hike should only be attempted by hardy, experienced walkers who are confident in their navigational abilities. Most hikers complete the Sage Creek Loop in three days, allowing for a challenging but manageable pace. In addition to the somewhat strenuous physical exertion required to complete the Sage Creek Loop, hikers must also contend with route-finding (which is very unclear in places) and volatile weather conditions. It is essential that you bring enough water, as there is none available along the trail. In the summer heat, that means carrying a gallon per person, per day. The payoff for all of your hard work? Solitude, dynamic and beautiful landscapes, and abundant wildlife viewings, such as bison and pronghorn.

A rocky butte beneath blue sky with green prairie in the foreground in the Sage Creek Wilderness area in Badlands National Park.
The colorful Sage Creek Wilderness Area. Photo courtesy of NPS/Larry McAfee.

Hiking in Badlands National Park: Need to Know

What to Bring

There are a ton of variables that need to be taken into account when packing for a hike in Badlands National Park. You’ll need to consider the weather conditions (and forecast), length of your hike, and availability of nearby services.

That being said, there are a few universal items that are essential for all Badlands hikers:

  • Water: 1 quart per person per hour is recommended. We like carrying water in a hydration bladder for better weight distribution and easy access.
  • Sturdy Boots: The Badlands are very rugged, and it’s important to have supportive footwear that is up to the task and protects your feet and ankles. The terrain can also get extremely muddy, so waterproof footwear is a good idea.
  • Layers & Sunscreen: The weather changes quickly in the Badlands. It’s important to dress in layers so you can quickly adapt to the elements. Additionally, the sun is strong in the Badlands, even in the winter, making it a good idea to pack sunscreen.
  • Backpack: Most hikers will need a comfortable backpack for their outing in Badlands National Park. This is especially important for hikes like the Notch Trail and Saddle Pass Trail, where hikers will need their hands free to climb ladders and navigate steep terrain.

If you plan on backpacking in Badlands National Park, this gear list is a great starting point.

Hikers walk in the snow on the Door Trail in Badlands National Park.
You can hike year-round in Badlands National Park, provided you pack the appropriate gear. Photo courtesy of NPS/Dudley Edmondson.

Safety

  • As with any hike, notify someone of where you’re going and when you’ll be back.
  • Be prepared with extra food, water, and layers.
  • Talk to the ranger and check the weather forecast before you set out.
  • Carry and map and GPS device with you.
  • Don’t approach wildlife.
  • Wear proper footwear to protect against rocks and cacti.
  • Watch for rattlesnakes.
A bison stands in green grasslands in Badlands National Park.
There are many incredible animals that call Badlands National Park home, but it’s important to view them from a safe distance. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Time

For safety and convenience, it’s important to be able to accurately estimate how long a given hike will take you. Everyone hikes at a different pace, and your pace can be greatly affected by the terrain, weather, your hiking companions, and navigational challenges. It’s a good idea to be generous in your time estimates so you can be properly prepared. Additionally, if you want to hike at sunrise or sunset, keep in mind that you’ll travel significantly slower in the dark.

Sunset over rock formations in Badlands National Park.
Hiking at sunrise or sunset can be very rewarding, but keep in mind that you’ll cover ground more slowly in low light conditions. Photo courtesy of NPS/Mackenzie Reed.

Navigation

Even some of the official hikes in Badlands National Park can be a little tricky to follow at times. The landscape lends itself to navigational challenges because trails can easily blend into the rocky, scrubby terrain, and the canyons and washes can feel like labyrinths. It’s a good idea to use your phone or another navigational device and carry a compass and a map.

This article provides more information about Badlands National Park maps.

An aerial view of rock formations in Badlands National Park.
Navigating in Badlands National Park can be very difficult so it’s important that hikers bring a map and/or GPS.

Conclusion

Whether you’re looking for a quick family-friendly walk or a multi-day backcountry adventure, Badlands National Park has plenty of great options. The dramatic scenery, varied landscapes, and unique wildlife can be enjoyed from any of the trails in the park and there’s no better way to experience the magic of the Badlands than to get out for a hike.

Got questions or experiences you want to share? Let us know in the comments below.

Happy Trails!

Rainbow over the Badlands Wall.
Have a great trip! Photo courtesy of NPS/Larry McAfee.

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Abel Tasman Coast Track | Maps & Routes

The Abel Tasman Coast Track is New Zealand’s most popular Great Walk and a true classic. One of the more approachable Great Walks, the Coast Track follows the spectacular coastline…

The Abel Tasman Coast Track is New Zealand’s most popular Great Walk and a true classic. One of the more approachable Great Walks, the Coast Track follows the spectacular coastline of Abel Tasman National Park with stunning beaches and beautiful scenery throughout.

The walk is well serviced by a network of Department of Conservation huts and campsites, as well as a few privately run accommodation options. We think this is a great trek for the first-time tramper all the way up to the most experienced backpackers out there.

This post will provide an introduction to the incredible Abel Tasman Coast Track by providing in-depth maps, navigational resources, and much more!

Let’s get started.

In this post

Anchorage Bay, New Zealand

 

Where is the Abel Tasman Coast Track?

The Abel Tasman Coast Track is located in the northwest corner of New Zealand’s South Island. The walk begins just outside the small town of Marahau and finishes in Wainui. However, many walkers do not finish at Wainui, opting instead to finish at Totaranui given its better transportation connections back to Marahau.

Overview map of the Abel Tasman Coast Track

The Coast Track is located in the far north of New Zealand’s South Island.

 

Getting to Marahau from the rest of New Zealand is generally a straightforward affair as a result of the popularity of the walk. Bus services connect the town of Nelson to Marahau multiple times per day during the peak season from December – March.

For the return trip upon completing the walk, we recommend taking a water-taxi from Totaranui back to Marahau and catching an onward bus from there. 

Find complete details on getting to and from the Coast Track here.

Between the start and finish points, the Abel Tasman Coast Track provides some of the best walking in New Zealand. The highlight is certainly the golden beaches and crystal clear waters that this section of the country is famous for. Yet don’t overlook the beautiful rainforest and unique tidal estuaries that complement the beach views of the Coast Track.

The route is incredibly well served with a huge array of accommodation options. This includes four Department of Conservation huts and 19 campsites. In addition, there are several private lodges along the walk that offer a more luxurious experience. There is even a floating backpacker’s hostel!

Given that the Coast Track is the most popular Great Walk advance bookings for the the huts and campsites is essential. 

Get complete details on accommodation on the Coast Track here.

The route is typically completed over five days, although countless alternative itineraries exist. Below is the standard itinerary for the Abel Tasman Coast Track:

  • Stage 1: Marahau to Anchorage
  • Stage 2: Anchorage to Bark Bay
  • Stage 3: Bark Bay to Awaroa Bay
  • Stage 4: Awaroa Bay to Whariwharangi
  • Stage 5: Whariwharangi to Totaranui (via Gibbs Hill Track)

See the map below for additional detail:

Map of the Abel Tasman Coast Track.

Map of the Abel Tasman Coast Track. Click to enlarge.

 

In addition the main route, there are a few alternate routes that trampers can choose to complete. These include short detours to see stunning waterfalls, or the alternate finish in Wainui.

In addition, there are some portions of the route that will only be walkable during low tide.

This include the Awaroa Inlet, which is only passable between 1.5 hours before and 2 hours after low tide. At Torrent Bay, just past the Anchorage Hut, you can only be cross the bay within two hours of low-tide. Fortunately, there is a high-tide track that circumnavigates the bay and allows walkers to cross at anytime.

Learn more about tides on the Coast Track in our Complete Guide here.

 

Interactive Abel Tasman Coast Track map

The interactive Abel Tasman Coast Track map below will allow you to zoom in on the various stages as well as view the traditional stops along the route.

 

How long is the Coast Track?

The official Department of Conservation website lists the Coast Track as 60 kilometers long. However, in reality it will vary greatly depending on a number of decisions and factors, as described below.

The two most common ways to complete the Abel Tasman Coast track involve either finishing in Totaranui by taking the Gibbs Hill track at the end of the walk, or by finishing in the Wainui car park.

For those who opt to finish in Totaranui, we measure the walk to be 62 kilometers long. If you opt instead to finish at the Wainui car park, plan on 58 kilometers.

Of course, measuring the exact distance of the walk has very little practical value as you’ll certainly end up walking a bit further than any exact distance we provide. Evening explorations to stretch the legs, countless opportunities to take in view points along the walk, and short trips to trail-side waterfalls will make the distance actually walked vary from person to person.

However, it is still helpful to have an idea of the distance of each stage of the Coast Track. The map below shows just that, with the approximate distances of each stage provided. The distances are calculated based on the classic itinerary outlined above.

Read More: Abel Tasman Coast Track Packing List

Map of the Abel Tasman Coast Track with stage distances

Distances for the traditional five stages of the Coast Track. Click to enlarge.

 

Abel Tasman Coast Track Elevation Profile

At its core, the Abel Tasman Coast Track is a mellow coastal walk. Famous for being able to be walked in running shoes, the route is approachable for even the newest trampers out there. However, it is still important to have a sense of what you’re getting yourself into in terms of elevation and distance.

Over the course the Coast Track’s five stages you’ll gain (and lose) just under 2,000 meters in total elevation. This averages out to about 400 meters per day, although as you can see below most of this occurs on the Gibbs Hill Track. While Gibbs Hill is the high point of the walk, you shouldn’t underestimate the undulating nature of the path as it winds along the coast. It can still be tiring!

We’ve put together the elevation profile for the Abel Tasman Coast Track below to help you gain and understanding of the various stages and plan your own walk. Elevation is shown on the left side while distance is shown on the bottom. Each blue dot represents one of the Department of Conservation Huts/Campsites along the route. For instance, you can see that the stage from Awaroa Bay to Whariwharangi covers quite a bit of distance, while the final stage from Whariwharangi to Totaranui (via Gibbs Hill Track) has a lot of elevation gain.

You can use the elevation profile below to help plan your own itinerary for the Abel Tasman Coast Track, taking into account distance and elevation between any two stopping points.

Elevation profile of the Abel Tasman Coast Track.

Elevation profile of the Abel Tasman Coast Track.

 

Which maps should I carry on the Coast Track?

As with all the Great Walks, the Abel Tasman Coast Track is a well marked and easy to follow trail. Given the number of hikers, clear path, and good signage, there will be little opportunity to take a wrong turn. However, we always recommend carrying a physical map with you on any tramping trip. 

The best physical map to bring on the Coast Track is the NewTopo Abel Tasman Topographic map. This map covers the tramp at a 1:40,000 scale and also includes the nearby Inland Track, which traverses less frequented parts of the national park.

Given that you are more likely than not to experience at least some rain on your walk, we also recommend bringing a waterproof carrying case like this one.

Beyond just a physical map, we highly recommend all hikers along the Coast Track have some type of GPS navigation on their trek.

Since there is limited cell phone service on the Abel Tasman Coast Track, it is very important to have a good offline mapping app, such as Gaia GPS, to ensure you’ll be able to access your location along the walk.

These apps combined with our Abel Tasman GPS digital download should give you a solid foundation to navigate from while on the tramp.

Stage-by-stage maps for the Abel Tasman Coast Track

We typically include stage-by-stage maps for all the walks and hikes we feature in our mapping articles. However, we’ve already covered that (and more!) in our complete guide to the Abel Tasman Coast Track. Check it out below:

TMBtent Guide to the Abel Tasman Coast Track

 

 

Abel Tasman Coast Track GPS/GPX

If you’re interested in getting access to the GPS data used to create all of the maps in this post, we are happy to offer our Abel Tasman Coast Track GPX file for only $4.99.

When you download the GPX file, you’ll get route data for each stage of the Coast Track, way-points for each of the Department of Conservation huts along the route, as well as alternate routes along the walk.

You’ll be able to load the GPX file into the mapping software or GPS phone app of your choice!

Click here to purchase the Abel Tasman Coast Track GPS files

Apps and offline mapping

As mentioned above we utilized offline downloadable GPS maps on our smartphones to navigate while walking the Abel Tasman Coast Track.

This is a great way to navigate on the trail as it allows you to see your progress for the day and also doesn’t require a cell phone signal (which you likely won’t have) to display the map.

Our How to Navigate on the Tour du Mont Blanc post has all the information you need to get set up using an app for your map. Although written for a different hike, this step-by-step article will teach you how to quickly and easily turn your phone into a GPS device for the Coast Track.

Have a great Coast Track Adventure!

We hope this post has given you all the information you need to get a basic overview of the Abel Tasman Coast Track. Let us know your questions or comments below. Happy trails!

Water taxis in Bark Bay

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