Author: TMBtent

The Complete Guide to Camping in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is one of America’s most unique national parks. Located in southeastern California, the park covers nearly 800,000 acres and includes two distinct deserts: the Mojave Desert…

Joshua Tree National Park is one of America’s most unique national parks. Located in southeastern California, the park covers nearly 800,000 acres and includes two distinct deserts: the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert. These beautiful desert landscapes provide the stunning backdrop for the park’s namesake Joshua treeWe think the best way to experience everything Joshua Tree has to offer is to spend a few nights sleeping under the stars (which are spectacular by the way!) in your tent or RV and experiencing this incredible environment firsthand.

Joshua Tree National Park and the surrounding areas have plentiful options for camping. From the nine campgrounds located within the national park, tons options for backcountry camping, and nearby campgrounds ranging from RV sites to dispersed camping on BLM lands you’ll be spoiled for options.

Keeping reading to get all the details to plan your perfect camping trip in Joshua Tree National Park.

Sunset in Joshua Tree

Enjoying the stunning sunsets in just one reason to camp in Joshua Tree National Park.

 

In this Post

Joshua Tree National Park Campgrounds

There are nine established campgrounds within Joshua Tree National Park. The majority of these are located in the north-west portion of the park with the Cottonwood Springs Campground the lone exception located in the south of the park. These campgrounds are all accessed via one of the three entrance stations to Joshua Tree, located on the west, north, and south of the national park.

The map below gives you a general sense of where each of these campgrounds are located in Joshua Tree National Park as well as their relation to the surrounding area. 

Map of campgrounds in Joshua Tree National Park

Campgrounds in Joshua Tree National Park. Map courtesy of NPS. (Click to enlarge)

 

Campgrounds in Joshua Tree are generally open year round, although they are sometimes closed during the hottest days of the summer. Peak season for camping in Joshua Tree is from October – May, when temperatures are more moderate. Keep reading to learn more about reserving your campground in Joshua National Park.

Reservations & Permits

Six of the campgrounds in Joshua Tree National Park require advance reservations during the peak camping season from the end of August through the first part of June. This includes Indian Cove, Black Rock, Cottonwood, Jumbo Rocks, Ryan and Sheep Pass Campgrounds. Note that the Ryan Campground recently transitioned to a reservation system during the peak season.

The remaining campgrounds of White Tank, Belle, and Hidden Valley do not accept reservations and are available on a first-come, first-served basis throughout the year.

Camping in the park is very popular during the peak season, so we highly recommend making a reservation 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!

Campground in Joshua Tree National Park

Expect campgrounds in Joshua Tree to be full during peak season.

 

During the summer off-season from May-September all of the campgrounds are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The exception to this are the group campsites located at Indian Cove, Cottonwood, and Sheep Pass which require reservations year round. Keep in mind that campgrounds can close during the hottest weather of the summer and many of the campgrounds operate under reduced capacity, so you can expect that there will be fewer campsites available.

To make a reservation for the campgrounds in Joshua Tree National Park you’ll need to visit the Recreation.gov website, which manages campground reservations for the National Park Service.

Reservations for Joshua Tree National Park Campgrounds can be made here via Recreation.gov

For those planning to explore Joshua Tree National Park by foot there are countless opportunities for backcountry camping in the park. There is no permit or reservation required for backpacking in Joshua Tree, but you are required to register any overnight visit at one of the 13 backcountry registration boards in the park. This ensure the NPS and park rangers know who is in the backcountry at any given time. Learn more about backcountry camping in Joshua Tree in this section.

Car camping sites

There are nine unique campgrounds for those looking to car camp in Joshua Tree 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 Joshua Tree. Details for all nine campgrounds are below.

Belle Campground

Number of Sites: 18 sites
Fee: $15/night
RVs: Yes. No hookups available.
More Information
Reservations: First-come, first-served

Campsite at the Belle Campground in Joshua Tree.

Belle Campground, Joshua Tree National Park. Photo credit NPS.

The Belle Campground has only 18 campsites, making it ideal for those looking for a quieter experience in Joshua Tree. The campground is located a short drive from the north entrance to the national park and is recommended for its tremendous star gazing. It is located adjacent to the California Hiking and Riding Trail so makes a great place to spend the night before exploring this beautiful trail.

The campground does not accept reservations, so it is a great option if you end up planning a camping trip in Joshua Tree but aren’t able to secure a campsite in advance. The majority of the campsites here can only accommodate a few tents, but there are several that would be suitable for RVs up to 35′.

There is no running water at the Belle Campground so be sure to bring all the water that you’ll need for your stay with you. The campground does have trash and recycling facilities and drop toilets. The campsites all feature a picnic table, fire ring, and grill.

Night sky from the Belle campground

The Belle Campground is the perfect place to take in the stunning night sky in Joshua Tree.

 

Black Rock Campground

Number of Sites: 99 sites, include 20 equestrian sites
Fee: $25/night
RVs: Yes, up to 35′. No hookups available, but potable water and a dump station are available.
More Information
Reservations: Required during peak season and for equestrian sites. First-come, first-served during off-season
Click Here to Reserve

A tent in Black Rock Campground in Joshua Tree National Park

Black Rock Campground in Joshua Tree National Park. Photo credit NPS/Hannah Schwalbe

 

The Black Rock Campground is one of the larger campgrounds in Joshua Tree and is easily accessed given its located just on the edge of the national park. Located only a few miles from the town Yucca Valley, CA in the northwest corner of the park, Black Rock Campground is perfect for those looking for convenience and ease of access. Black Rock Campground has multiple hiking trails that leave directly from the campground including the California Hiking and Riding Trail, High View Trail, and Warren Peak.

Reservations are required at the Black Rock Campground during the peak season from the end of August through the beginning of June. Outside of this season the campsites are first-come, first-served with the exception of the 20 equestrian sites which require a reservation year round. The campsites accommodate tents as well as RVs up to 35′. A bonus for RV campers is that there is potable water and a dump station nearby.

Black Rock does receive some negative reviews for noise, but this tends to come with the larger sites in any national park.

Joshua Tree hiking trail

There are tons of hiking trails that leave from the Black Rock Campground.

 

Cottonwood Campground

Number of Sites: 62 sites, including 3 group sites (15 – 25 people depending on site)
Fee: $25/night for individual sites, $40/night for group sites
RVs: Yes, up to 35′. No hookups available, but potable water and a dump station are available.
More Information
Reservations: Required during peak season and for group sites. First-come, first-served during off-season.
Click Here to Reserve Individual sites
Click Here to Reserve Group sites

Cottonwood Campground in Joshua Tree National Park

Cottonwood Campground in Joshua Tree National Park. Photo credit NPS/Kurt Moses.

 

The Cottonwood Campground is perfect for those looking to explore the southern section of Joshua Tree National Park. The campground is convenient for those coming from I-10 or any of the towns south of the park and is a just a short drive from the southern entrance station. Cottonwood is the perfect jumping off point for visiting the Lost Palms Oasis, as the trail leaves from the campground.

Reservations are required at the Cottonwood Campground during the peak season from the end of August through the beginning of June. Outside of this season the campsites are first-come, first-served with the exception of the 3 group sites which require a reservation year round. The campsites accommodate tents as well as RVs up to 35′. There is potable water and a dump station at the campground, a big convenience in the dry desert!

Cottonwood Campground also has a beautiful amphitheater where you can check out a ranger presentation and learn a bit more about Joshua Tree.

Palm tree in Lost Palm Oasis Joshua Tree

A visit to Lost Palms Oasis is highly recommended for those staying at the Cottonwood Campground. Photo credit NPS/Robb Hannawacker.

 

Hidden Valley Campground

Number of Sites: 44 sites
Fee: $15/night
RVs: Yes, up to 25′. No hookups available.
More Information
Reservations: First-come, first-served

Camper van at the Hidden Valley Campground in Joshua Tree

Hidden Valley Campground is perfect for tents and small camper vans. Photo credit NPS/Hannah Schwalbe.

 

The Hidden Valley Campground is located in the heart of Joshua Tree National Park. The campground is on the smaller side with 44 campsites, all of which are available on a first-come, first-served basis throughout the year. The campground is located near the Hidden Valley Nature Trail as well as several popular climbing spots in Joshua Tree.

The campsites at Hidden Valley are smaller than what you’ll find at many of the other campgrounds in Joshua Tree. This is great for car campers as you’ll feel a bit more secluded, but it does limit the size of RVs that can be accommodated to 25′. It is important to note that there is not potable water at the Hidden Valley Campground so you’ll need to plan on bringing all the water you’ll need with you.

Sunset in Hidden Valley

Exploring Hidden Valley in Joshua Tree is a highlight for many. Photo credit NPS/Hannah Schwalbe.

 

Indian Cove Campground

Number of Sites: 101 sites, including 13 group sites (15 – 60 people depending on site)
Fee: $25/night for individual sites, $35 – $50/night for group sites
RVs: Yes, up to 35′ for the majority of sites. No hookups available.
More Information
Reservations: Required during peak season and for group sites. First-come, first-served during off-season.
Click Here to Reserve Individual sites
Click Here to Reserve Group sites

Tents at the Indian Cove Campground

The Indian Cove Campground in Joshua Tree National Park. Photo credit NPS/Lian Law.

 

The Indian Cove Campground is located in the northern section of Joshua Tree National Park and just a short drive from either Joshua Tree Village or Twentynine Palms. Indian Cove is located along a dead end road within the park, just north of the famous Wonderland of Rocks and also near the Boy Scout Trail. The campground is perfect for climbers, with tons of pitches near the campsite to explore. 

Reservations are required for all the campsites at Indian Cove during peak-season in Joshua Tree, and are always required for the 13 group sites. Outside of the peak season, individual campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The sites accommodate tents and RVs up to 35′. The group sites at Indian Cove can accommodate between 15 – 60 people depending on the site, so are a great option for those looking for camping options for a larger group in Joshua Tree.

There is no water available at the campground, so plan to bring in what you plan to use. The campsites all provide picnic tables and fire rings and the campground features pit toilets.

Keep an eye out for the elusive Desert Tortoise when staying at the Indian Cove Campground as they are known to frequent the area!

Wonderland of Rocks in Joshua Tree National Park.

Wonderland of Rocks, Joshua Tree National Park. Photo credit NPS/Brad Sutton.

 

Jumbo Rocks Campground

Number of Sites: 124 sites
Fee: $20/night
RVs: Yes, up to 35′. No hookups available.
More Information
Reservations: Required during peak season. First-come, first-served during off-season.
Click Here to Reserve

Tent in the Jumbo Rocks Campground

Jumbo Rocks Campground in Joshua Tree National Park. Photo credit NPS/Hannah Schwalbe.

 

Centrally located to many of Joshua Tree’s main attractions, the Jumbo Rocks Campground is one of the most popular in the park. Situated along the main road through Joshua Tree and just south of Twentynine Palms, Jumbo Rocks provides for a quintessential Joshua Tree camping experience. The campground is nestled within an iconic Joshua Tree landscape of beautiful boulders, Joshua Trees, and stunning desert surroundings.

During peak season from late-August to early-June reservations are required for the Jumbo Rocks Campground. As with the other campgrounds within Joshua Tree, the sites are first-come, first-served outside of this timeframe. Jumbo Rocks campsites feature picnic tables and fire grates and all have access to vault toilets. There is no potable water available at the campground, so be sure to bring what you plan to use.

Many reviews note that mice can sometimes be a nuisance at Jumbo Rocks, so be sure you’ve securely stored your food and cleaned up after any meals.

Criss Cross Rock in Joshua Tree

Classic Joshua Tree rock formations near the Jumbo Rocks Campground. Photo credit NPS/Robb Hannawacker.

 

Ryan Campground

Number of Sites: 32 sites, including 4 equestrian and 3 bicycle campsites.
Fee: $20/night
RVs: Yes. No hookups available.
More Information
Reservations: Required during peak season. First-come, first-served during off-season.
Click Here to Reserve

Ryan Campground

Ryan Campground, Joshua Tree National Park. Photo credit NPS/Hannah Schwalbe.

 

The Ryan Campground is one of the smaller campground in Joshua Tree National Park with just 32 campsites. The campground is very well located with easy access to several excellent hiking trails from the campground. This includes the California Riding and Hiking Trail and the Lost Horse Mine Loop Trail, as well as access to some excellent climbing spots.

The Ryan Campground has recently transitioned from being available on a first-come, first-served system throughout the year to now requiring a reservation during the peak season from the end of August to first part of June. The four equestrian sites at the Ryan Campground require a reservation year round.

The campsites at the Ryan Campground all feature picnic tables, fire rings, and grills. There is not a water source at the campground, so be sure to bring all that you’ll need. 

California Riding and Hiking Trail

Access to the California Riding and Hiking Trail from the Ryan Campground. Photo credit NPS/Brad Sutton.

 

Sheep Pass Group Campground

Number of Sites: 6 group sites (20 -25 people per site)
Fee: $50/night
RVs: Not permitted.
More Information
Reservations: Required.
Click Here to Reserve

Tents at the Sheep Pass campground

Sheep Pass Campground is perfect for larger groups. Photo credit NPS.

 

Perfect for larger groups, the Sheep Pass Campground is centrally located in Joshua Tree National Park. The campground has 6 sites and can accommodate groups size of between 20-25 people depending on the site. Reservations are required for the campsites year-round and can be made through Recreation.gov. An excellent hiking trail leaves directly from the campground and climbs to the top of Ryan Mountain.

The campsites all feature fire pits, grills, and picnic tables. RVs are not allowed at Sheep Pass, so if you’re planning a group camping trip with an RV you’ll need to check out one of the other group sites in Joshua Tree. The campground does not have potable water, so be sure to bring what you need. 

Ryan Mountain trail sign

The hike to the top of Ryan Mountain leaves directly from the Sheep Pass Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

White Tank Campground

Number of Sites: 15 sites
Fee: $15/night
RVs: Yes, max 25′ length. No hookups available.
More Information
Reservations: First-come, first-served

Sign for the White Tank Campground

The White Tank Campground in Joshua Tree National Park. Photo credit NPS/Hannah Schwalbe.

 

The smallest campground in Joshua Tree National Park, White Tank Campground is located along Pinto Basin Road south of Twentynine Palms, CA. The campground provides excellent access to the Arch Rock Trail and California Riding and Hiking Trail.

White Tank Campground is available on a first-come, first-served basis throughout the year. This makes it a great option for a last minute camping trip in Joshua Tree. RVs are welcome at White Tank, although the maximum length is 25′ and there are no hookups available.

As with many of the campsites in Joshua Tree, White Tank does not have any potable water available. However, campsites do feature picnic tables, fire grates, and basic grills. The White Tank Campground is also a great location for stargazing, so be sure to bring those telescopes!

Arch Rock Trail sign

The Arch Rock Trail starts in the White Tank Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

Backcountry camping in Joshua Tree National Park

For those looking to get off the beaten path, backcountry camping in Joshua Tree National Park is the perfect adventure. The nearly 800,000 acres in Joshua Tree National Park provide countless opportunities for backpacking and backcounty camping, provided you follow the national park guidelines and are prepared for this unique environment. Learn everything you need to know to plan a backpacking trip in Joshua Tree National Park below.

Backcountry camping in Joshua Tree National Park

Be sure you are prepared before venturing into the Joshua Tree backcountry.

 

Backcountry Camping Registration

The first thing you must know when planning a backcountry trip in Joshua Tree is that you’ll need to register your trip at one of the 13 backcountry boards located throughout the national park. By registering, you’re letting the NPS and rangers know about your trip length, approximate camping locations, and who is in your group should something go wrong.

We can’t overemphasize how important this step is! If something were to go wrong, it is essential that the Park Service has this information about your trip. Check out the list and map below for locations of the 13 backcountry registration boards in Joshua Tree.

Backcountry registration boards are located at:

  • Black Rock Canyon
  • Cottonwood Spring
  • Covington
  • Geology Tour
  • Indian Cove
  • Juniper Flats
  • Keys West
  • North Entrance
  • Pine City
  • Pleasant Valley
  • Porcupine Wash
  • Turkey Flats
  • Twin Tanks

These locations are shown on the map below (click to enlarge):

Map of backcountry camping registration boards in Joshua Tree National Park.

Joshua Tree National Park has 13 backcountry registration boards. Map courtesy of NPS. (Click to enlarge)

 

Each of the 13 registration boards provide access to different trails and parts of the park. Be sure to check out the NPS website here to get a sense of the different trails that each registration board has access to. In addition, you are welcome to leave your car overnight at the registration boards.

Backpacking trails in Joshua Tree National Park

As you’re planning your backcountry camping trip in Joshua Tree you’ll want to spend some time thinking about which trail you’ll plan on hiking and your planned route. While there are countless options, two of the most popular trails are listed and described below:

California Riding and Hiking Trail
The California Riding and Hiking Trail is an approximately 37-mile trail that crosses a huge swath of Joshua Tree National Park. The trail is typically completed over 2 – 4 days starting in the west at the Blackrock Campground and finishing at the north park entrance.

The route is a point-to-point hike meaning you’ll have to shuttle a car between the start and finish to ensure you have transportation back to where you started. One of the big perks of the California Riding and Hiking Trail is how often it visits campgrounds and crosses park roads. This makes it easy to cache water along the trail, which you’ll definitely want to do.

Check out this excellent guide from Hikingguy.com for detailed information.

Boy Scout Trail/Willow Hole Trail
The Boy Scout Trail is an approximate 8 mile hiking trail that connects from just north of the Indian Cove Campground to Park Boulevard adjacent to the Quail Spring Picnic Area in the south. The hike can be extended into an overnight backpacking trip by taking the Willow Hole Trail, a 2.2 mile out and back to Willow Hole.

Backpacking site in Joshua Tree

 

Where to camp in the Joshua Tree Backcountry

Unlike many other national parks, there are no designed backcountry campsites in Joshua Tree National Park. Rather, backpackers are asked to camp on durable surfaces, camp away from other groups, camp an adequate distance from roads, and not camp in day-use only areas. The full list of regulations is below:

  • Do not camp within 1 mile of a park road
  • Do not camp within 500 ft. of a trail or water source
  • Do not camp in day-use only areas (these will be marked)
  • Camp at least 1 mile from any trailheads
  • Limit your group size to the smallest possible.

In practice, this means you should seek out a secluded campsite that is on a durable surface. Rocks and sandy washes make perfect backcountry campsites in Joshua Tree. Please be very careful not to camp or hike on the ‘living soil’ in Joshua Tree. This can be recognized by the dark crust that forms on top of the soil and should be avoided to help protect this sensitive ecosystem.

Joshua Trees in front of mountain landscape.

 

Caching food and water in the Joshua Tree backcountry

Given the lack of water in this fragile desert environment, backcountry campers are permitted to cache food and water in the Joshua Tree backcountry. Caching simply means that you’ll store a supply of food or water somewhere along your planned route. This is incredibly important as you won’t be able to carry all of the water you’re likely to need. Plan on at least 3 liters of water per person per day for backpacking trips in Joshua Tree. Here are a few tips for caching food and water:

  • Plan out your route and caching locations ahead of time
  • Contact the NPS to get a sense of where a good caching location may be for your preferred route
  • Mark your cache with your name, trip dates, and contact information
  • Caches can be left for up to 14 days

You’ll want to store your cache somewhere that is out of the way, but still easy for you to find. We highly recommend utilizing a GPS app on your phone, such as Gaia GPS, in order to record a waypoint for the location of your cache.

Backcountry water cache

Caching water is essential for any backpacking trip in Joshua Tree National Park.

 

Joshua Tree National Park Camping Must Know

The following sections contain all the basic information you need to ensure you have a great time camping in Joshua Tree National Park. First a few basics:

  • The Maximum group size for individual campsites is six people, three tents, and two vehicles. Note that not all campsites can accommodate this many people/cars.
  • Do not attach any type of rope to the vegetation in Joshua Tree. This means no camping hammocks!
  • You are not permitted to camp in Joshua Tree for more than 30 days/year. Of these, only 14 days may be within the peak season from late-September to early-June.

Fires

Fires are generally permitted at the nine developed campgrounds within Joshua Tree National Park. The fire must be contained within the provided fire pit/grate or grill and should never be left unattended. It is also important to ensure that any wood you bring into the park is properly sourced, as firewood can introduce invasive pests that can cause irreparable damage.

Do not gather any wood from the national park!

Campfires are not allowed in the backcountry of Joshua Tree, so if you’re planning a backpacking trip be sure to bring a camp stove.

Campfire in Joshua Tree National Park.

 

Wildlife

A highlight for many visits to Joshua Tree is the chance to encounter some of the incredible wildlife that calls the park home. The desert adaptations of many of these animals are truly incredible and it is important to limit your impact on their fragile ecosystem. Most animal life is active during the night, although you’re likely to encounter lizards, plenty of birds, a possibly a few mammals during the day. Campers should be especially aware of the following in Joshua Tree:

  • Ground squirrels: This is mammal you are most likely to encounter on a camping trip in Joshua Tree. Be sure to securely store all food, especially in the backcountry to limit your impact.
  • Snakes: Joshua Tree is home to a wide variety of desert snake species. Snakes are most active at night, but be sure to always be scanning the trail for them. For backcountry campers you’re biggest danger is twisting an ankle in a snake hole or burrow!
  • Birds: Joshua Tree National Park has a very active population of birds. Keep an eye out for the iconic roadrunner!

Learn more about the wildlife in Joshua Tree here.

A roadrunner in Joshua Tree National Park

A roadrunner in Joshua Tree National Park. Photo credit NPS/Hannah Schwalbe.

 

Pets

Joshua Tree National Park strikes a nice balance when it comes to bringing pets along on your trip. Pets are permitted at all of the developed campgrounds throughout the park, but are not allowed in the backcountry or on any hiking trails. 

If you do plan on bringing you pet with you, please follow these regulations:

  • Pets must be on a leash at all times
  • Pets are allowed within campgrounds, on park roads, and in picnic areas
  • Pets are not allowed in park buildings, on trails, or in the backcountry

Given the hot desert environment it is important to take proper precautions when bringing a pet to Joshua Tree. This includes bringing plenty of water for them and ensuring their paws do not get burned on the hot ground.

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

 

Where to get supplies

Stocking up on camping supplies before your trip to Joshua Tree is an important part of trip planning. It is especially important to be sure you’re well equipped with plenty of water given the lack of water sources in the national park. Luckily, there are several towns near all of the Joshua Tree National park entrances, making it easy to get supplies prior to your camping trip. Check out your options below:

  • North Entrance
    • Twentynine Palms: Twentynine Palms serves as the northern gateway to Joshua Tree National Park. It is a short drive from the North Entrance station and provides easy access to the Belle, Jumbo Rocks, White Tank, and Indian Cove campgrounds.  Twentynine Palms has most of the essentials you’ll need to stock up for your camping trip including a grocery store, liquor store, and gas station. The nearest outdoor store is in Joshua Tree Village.
  • West Entrance
    • Joshua Tree Village: Joshua Tree Village is located a few miles north of the West Entrance Station. From here you’ll have easy access to Hidden Valley, Ryan, and Sheep Pass campgrounds. Joshua Tree has a small health food store, gas station, and an outdoor shop. For more services you’ll want to head to Yucca Valley.
    • Yucca Valley: West of Joshua Tree Village, Yucca Valley is the largest town on the north side of Joshua Tree National Park. You’ll travel through Yucca Valley to reach the Black Rock Campground. Yucca Valley has multiple grocery stores and gas stations.
  • South Entrance
    • Indio, CA: Located a 30 minute drive from the Cottonwood Entrance Station on the south side of Joshua Tree National Park, Indio has tons of services. Here you’ll find everything you’ll need to stock up for a camping trip in Joshua Tree including grocery stores, gas stations, and outdoor stores.

Palm trees in Indio, California.

 

Camping near Joshua Tree National Park

Spending a few nights camping in Joshua Tree National Park is an experience not to be missed. However, the popularity of of camping in Joshua Tree means it is possible that you won’t be able to find a campground within the national park. Don’t let that deter you, though, as there are plenty of camping options outside of Joshua Tree National Park. Check out your best bets below.

RV campgrounds near Joshua Tree National Park

Those camping in an RV will have plenty of options just outside Joshua Tree National Park. Most of the RV campgrounds are located in the Palm Springs area, which provides convenient access to the national park. There is also a good option on the northern side of Joshua Tree for those looking for a great RV campground. Learn more below.

RV parked near Joshua Tree

 

Palm Springs/Joshua Tree KOA Campground

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $30 – $60/night
Capacity: Sites accommodate up to 8 people
RVs: Yes, up to 90′.
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Palm Springs/Joshua Tree KOA is located just north of Palm Springs in Desert Hot Springs, CA. This large site is well located for a visit to Joshua Tree and approximately 50 minutes from both the southern and western entrance stations. Here, you’ll find all the amenities that are typical of a KOA including a pool, dog park, mini golf, playground, and fitness room.

The Palm Springs/Joshua Tree KOA can also accommodate RVs up to 90′ in length, so nearly every camper should fit just fine.

 

Palm Springs RV Resort

Number of sites: 401
Fee: $50 – $80/night depending on season
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Palms Springs RV Resort is located just off of I-10 in Palm Desert, CA. This is an excellent location for those looking to explore the southern section of Joshua Tree National Park as the campground is only 30 minutes from the southern entrance station.

The campground is large, with over 400 campsites that can accommodate RVs of all lengths. Here you’ll get access to a pool, WiFi, a playground, dog park, and much more.

 

Twentynine Palms RV Resort

Number of sites: 168
Fee: $47/night
Capacity: Max of 5 people per site
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Twentynine Palms RV Resort is well located just a short drive from the northern entrance station to Joshua Tree. Every site at Twentynine Palms features electricity, water, and sewer hookups. The campground has tons of amenties as well, including a pool, fitness room, and small shop selling camping supplies.

Highly recommended!

 

Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $30 – $50/night depending on hookup size
Capacity: Price is for two adults. Additional guests are $10/night
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground is one of the closest RV campgrounds to the national park located just 20 minutes from the western entrance station in Joshua Tree Village. This independently run campground gets great review for its location and small pond. You won’t find the same amenities here as you’ll get at the other options (no pool!), but you will get a quieter site with tremendous views.

 

Little Pioneertown RV Campground

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: Call to inquire. (760) 362-2163
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Little Pioneertown RV Campground is located north of Joshua Tree National Park in Yucca Valley, CA. From here, you’re only a 20 minute drive from the western entrance station making this a great option for those interested in exploring the northern section of the park.

All sites at this campground feature electricity, water, and sewer hookups although you won’t find the same amenities as some of the other RV campgrounds listed above.

Car camping sites near Joshua Tree National Park

If you’re looking for car camping sites near Joshua Tree National Park you’ll have a few good options to choose from. 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 Joshua Tree.

Car camping near Joshua Tree

There are plenty of options for car camping near Joshua Tree National Park.

 

Mt. San Jacinto State Park State Park

Number of Sites: Idyllwild (28 sites) and Stone Creek (44 sites)
Fee: Varies, but plan on between $15 – $45/night depending on the campground and hookups.
Capacity: 8 people per campsite.
RVs: Yes.
Reservations: Required. Visit website here. 
Pets: Allowed.
More Information

Mt. San Jacinto State Park is located to the west of Palm Springs and between 1 – 1.5 hours from Joshua Tree National Park. Here, you’ll find two developed campgrounds perfect for pitching your tent. The Mt. Jacinto area stands in stark contrast to the desert landscape of Joshua Tree. Here you’ll be immersed in a high altitude mountain environment surrounded by pine trees.

The two developed campgrounds in Mt. San Jacinto State Park, Idyllwild and Stone Creek, both can accommodate tents and small RVs up to 24′. While not as close to Joshua Tree National Park as some of the other RV parks in the area, you’ll find a more basic campground that has a wilderness feel.

Dispersed campsites near Joshua Tree National Park

Your final option for camping near Joshua Tree National Park is to find a free, dispersed campsite on adjacent Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land located both north and south of the national park. This land is overseen by the BLM 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 on BLM land here.

A free dispersed campsite on BLM land north of Joshua Tree National Park.

Free dispersed camping is available near Joshua Tree National Park on BLM land.

 

The two camping areas below are both overseen by the Barstow Field Office of the BLM, so be sure to contact them with any questions.

North Joshua Tree Dispersed Camping

Located a short drive from the western entrance to Joshua Tree, the BLM land located north of the national park is a popular free campground near Joshua Tree National Park. The camping area is between Joshua Tree Village and Twentynine Palms, giving you access to plenty of services in these two towns.

To get to this area you’ll take Highway 62 (the Twentynine Palms highway) to Sunfair Road. Turn north on Sunfair Rd and continue to Two Mile Road. Turn east here and continue until the road ends. Click here for directions.

The camping area is located on a dry lake bed and there is plenty of space to accommodate all campers. Given that this is not an established campsite, there is no water available and fires are not allowed. Please be sure to practice Leave No Trace principles when camping here.

As always, Freecampsites.net also has good information on the North Joshua Tree Dispersed camping area.

South Joshua Tree Dispersed Camping

The dispersed camping area located on the south side of Joshua Tree National Park is located just off of Cottonwood Springs Road. This location couldn’t be better if you’re looking to explore the southern section of the park, as you’re mere minutes from the Cottonwood entrance station. The campsites are located just north of I-10, giving you easy access to Indio for supplies.

To get here, take I-10 to Cottonwood Springs Road and head north towards Joshua Tree National Park. After approximately 1 mile of driving along Cottonwood Springs Road you’ll begin to see campsites located to the west. Click here for directions.

There is no water available here and the campsites do not have any services. Check out the Freecampsites.net description for more information.

Have a great trip!

That’s it! We hope you’ve found all of the information on camping in Joshua Tree National Park 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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The Complete Guide to Camping in Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park, located in western Virginia, is one of America’s most iconic National Parks. The Blue Ridge mountains create a stunning backdrop for the incredible Skyline Drive, a 105-mile…

Shenandoah National Park, located in western Virginia, is one of America’s most iconic National Parks. The Blue Ridge mountains create a stunning backdrop for the incredible Skyline Drive, a 105-mile roadway that runs through Shenandoah National Park. We think the best way to experience everything that Shenandoah has to offer is to spend a few nights in your tent or RV where you’ll experience this beautiful part of the country first hand.

Shenandoah National Park and the surrounding areas have plenty of options for camping from the five campgrounds located within the park to an abundance of backcountry camping options and plenty of nearby campgrounds only a short drive from the National Park.

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

Sunset in Shenandoah National Park.

Enjoying a stunning sunset from your tent in Shenandoah National Park is an experience not to be missed!

 

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Shenandoah National Park Campgrounds

The first step in planning your perfect camping trip in Shenandoah is to first understand a bit about the geography of the park. Shenandoah National Park is over 105 miles long, but quite narrow across. Skyline Drive runs the length or the park and is used to access the majority of campgrounds and trailheads within the park.

As such, most destinations within Shenandoah will have their location given by the mile marker they are located at along Skyline Drive. The mile markers begin at the northern entrance station at Front Royal (mile 0) and finish at mile 105 at the Rockfish Gap Entrance Station located at the southern end of the park.

Tunnel along Skyline Drive

Skyline Drive runs the length of Shenandoah National Park.

 

In between these two points you’ll have several options for camping within Shenandoah National Park. The five campgrounds within the national park provide plenty of options for everything from RV camping to secluded car camping, while over 500 miles of hiking trails provide endless opportunities for the adventurous to enjoy backcountry camping in Shenandoah.

The map below gives you a general sense of where each of the campgrounds are located in Shenandoah National Park as well as their relation to the surrounding area.

Map of campsites at Shenandoah National Park

Campground options in Shenandoah National Park. Map courtesy of NPS. (Click to enlarge)

 

All of the campgrounds within Shenandoah National Park are open seasonally beginning in the late-Spring through the late-Fall. This typically means that you can expect campgrounds to open in late-April or early-May and stay open through the end of October or early-November.

You can check the opening and closing dates for all the campgrounds in Shenandoah National Park here. 

Reservations & Permits

Reservations for campgrounds in Shenandoah National Park are only required for the Dundo Group Campground. However, we highly recommend making reservations for any of the campgrounds you hope to stay at during the peak summer season, and especially on weekends. The exception to this is the Lewis Mountain Campground, which does not accept reservations.

To make a reservation for the Mathews Arm, Big Meadows, Loft Mountain, or Dundo Group Campgrounds you’ll need to visit the Recreation.gov website, which manages campground reservations for the National Park Service.

Reservations for Shenandoah National Park Campgrounds can be made here via Recreation.gov

It is important to know that even if you don’t have a reservation in peak season you can still find a campground in Shenandoah. All of the campgrounds within the national park (with the exception of the Dundo Group Campground) have a small number of first come, first served campsites available. These can be a lifesaver when you plan a last minute camping trip to Shenandoah!

Shenandoah National Park camping

You’ll be glad to made a reservation if you’re hoping to camp in peak season in Shenandoah.

 

For those who are exploring the vast trail network and plan to spend a night (or two) at a backcountry campsite in Shenandoah National Park you’ll need to get obtain a backcountry permit. The permit is free and can be obtained at one of the self-registration stations located throughout the park or through the Shenandoah’s online permit system.

Online Permits for backcountry camping in Shenandoah National Park can be obtained here. 

 

Car camping sites in Shenandoah National Park

There are five options for those looking to car camp in Shenandoah National Park. These campgrounds are spread throughout the park and give plenty of options for those looking to explore different areas of Shenandoah. Details for all five campgrounds are below.

Mathews Arm Campground (mile 22.1)

Number of Sites: 161 individual (up to 6 people) and 3 group sites (up to 25 people)
Mile marker: 22.1
Fee: $15/night for individual sites, $50/night for group sites
RVs: Yes. No electric or water hookups available.
More Information
Click Here to Reserve

The Mathews Arm Campground is the most northern campground in Shenandoah National Park, just 22.1 miles from the Front Royal Entrance Station. This is a great place to spend the night before visiting Overall Run Falls, as the campground is short distance from the main trail leading to this spectacular waterfall.

Matthews Arms has 161 individual campsites which can accommodate up to 6 people and two cars in addition to three group sites, which can accommodate up to 25 people each. The campground has a significant number of campsites that are first-come, first-first served, making this a great option for those without reservations.

View a map of the Mathews Arm Campground here. 

The campground has five public restrooms, plenty of potable water spigots, utility sinks for cleaning up, and an RV dump station. The Traces Trail can be accessed directly from the campground, making for a lovely walk directly from your campsite.

Mountain view in Shenandoah National Park

Mathews Arm Campground makes a perfect jumping off point for exploring Shenandoah. Photo credit NPS/N. Lewis

 

Big Meadows Campground (mile 51.2)

Number of Sites: 222 individual (up to 6 people) and 2 group sites (up to 15 people)
Mile marker: 51.2
Fee: $20/night for individual sites, $45/night for group sites
RVs: Yes. There is a dump station, but no electric or water hookups available.
More Information
Click Here to Reserve

Sign for Big Meadows campground in Shenandoah National Park

 

The Big Meadows Campground is centrally located in Shenandoah National Park, and is located at mile marker 51.2. The campground is well situated and makes for a perfect place to camp before visiting Dark Hollow Falls, Lewis Falls, or the Fisher’s Gap overlook. The Appalachian Trail pass just north of the campground, so you can expect to see a few through hikers!

Big Meadows has 222 individual campsites and 2 group sites, which can accommodate up to 15 people. Most of the campgrounds at Big Meadows require a reservation, although there are still several that are always available on a first-come, first served basis. Big Meadows Campground also has a number of ‘walk-in’ campsites where you’ll park your car and then carry your camping gear to your site. These offer a bit more privacy and are a great option for those looking for more solitude and a true wilderness experience.

View a map of the Big Meadows Campground here. 

The campground has nine restrooms, plenty of water spigots, showers, laundry, firewood for sale, and an ice machine. There is also a dump station for those traveling in an RV.

Dark Hollow Falls in Shenandoah National Park

Dark Hollow Falls is a short distance from the Big Meadows Campground. Photo credit NPS/N. Lewis

 

Lewis Mountain Campground (mile 57.5)

Number of Sites: 30 individual sites
Mile marker: 57.5
Fee: $15/night
RVs: Yes. No dump station, water or electric hookups available.
More Information
No reservations accepted

Lewis Mountain Campground is the smallest campground in Shenandoah National Park, and is located just off the Appalachian Trail at mile marker 57.5. The campground is well located for those looking to do a bit of hiking on the AT, hiking to South River Falls, or visiting the ruins of the Upper Pocosin Mission.

View a map of the Lewis Mountain Campground here. 

Lewis Mountain Campground only has 30 campsites, and they are spaced relatively close together. This can cause the campground to feel a bit noisy and crowded despite its small size. Facilities include restrooms, water spigots, showers, firewood for sale, and an ice machine. There is no dump station available for RVs.

Loft Mountain Campground (mile 79.5)

Number of Sites: 207 individual sites
Mile marker: 79.5
Fee: $15/night
RVs: Yes. There is a dump station, but no electric or water hookups available.
More Information
Click Here to Reserve

The Loft Mountain Campground is perennially a favorite among campers in Shenandoah National Park. Although one of the largest in the park many of the campsites feel very private and the views looking out over the Blue Ridge Mountains are truly spectacular! The site is located at mile marker 79.5, making it a great option for those coming from the southern entrance station at Rockfish Gap.

View a map of the Loft Mountain Campground here. 

Loft Mountain features 207 campsites, most of which are available on a first-come, first served basis. The campground has five restrooms, which can feel a bit crowded given the size of the campground, plenty of water spigots, showers, and a camp store selling essentials. The edges of the campground feature several tent only campsites which are a good option to get a bit more privacy. Nearby hikes include the Blackrock Summit hike and Doyles River Falls.

Loft Mountain makes the perfect campground if you plan on visiting Doyles River Falls. Photo credit NPS.

 

Given the popularity of the Loft Mountain Campground, reservations are recommended during peak summer weekends. If you don’t have a reservation be sure to arrive as early as possible to give yourself the best change to secure a campsite.

Dundo Group Campground (mile 83.7)

Number of Sites: 3 group sites (up to 20 people)
Mile marker: 83.7
Fee: $45/night
RVs: Not permitted.
More Information
Click Here to Reserve

The Dundo Group Campground in Shenandoah National Park is exclusively for groups, with each of the three campsites accommodating between 7-20 people. Although a group campground, the fact that there are only three campsites makes this a pleasant place to spend the night. The campground is located at mile 83.7 and is close to many of the highlights of the southern section of Shenandoah such as Blackrock Summit and Sawmill Run Overlook.

View a map of the Dundo Group Campground here. 

Given that there are only three campsites and the Dundo Group Campground, all sites must be reserved in advance.

It is also important to note that there are no RVs allowed at Dundo, so if you’re traveling in your RV you’ll need to camp at one of the other campgrounds in Shenandoah.

Fire pit at a campground in Shenandoah National Park

 

Backcountry campsites in Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is a backcountry campers dream. The park features over 500 miles of trails that wind their way throughout this stunning landscape and provide countless options for your perfect backpacking trip. However, there are some rules and regulations you’ll need to keep in mind as you plan your backcountry camping trip in Shenandoah National Park, outlined below.

Hiking trail in Shenandoah National Park

Backcountry camping is an incredible way to experience Shenandoah National Park.

 

Backcountry Camping Permits

All backcountry campers in Shenandoah National Park are required to obtain a free permit before starting their trip. This can be done at one of the eight self-registration stations conveniently located throughout the park. You can also obtain a permit through the National Park Service’s online permit system for Shenandoah, accessible here.

Regardless of where you obtain your permit you’ll need to have the following details:

  • Trip leader name and contact information
  • Itinerary including planned stopping points for each day
  • Number of people in your group
  • Number of nights at each campsite
  • Planned start and finish date

Where to camp in the Shenandoah backcountry

Unlike many National Parks, Shenandoah does not have designated backcountry campsites. Rather, the NPS recommends that backcountry hikers camp at obvious campsites which have been developed by previous users. These should be fairly obvious on the trail as you’ll generally be able to see where tents have been placed, logs arranged for seating, etc.

Regardless of where you decide to pitch your tent you’ll need to be at least 1/4 mile from the nearest road,  and avoid close proximity to water sources, other campers, structures, and trails.

You can view all of the backcountry campsite regulations for Shenandoah National Park here.

In addition to mapping out a successful itinerary it is imperative to carry a detailed map and know how to navigate utilizing a map and compass. We highly recommend bringing a copy of the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Topo Map for Shenandoah National Park on any backpacking trip in Shenandoah.

Additionally, trekkers need to be prepared to treat their own water. We recommend bringing a small, packable filter like the Sawyer Squeeze.

River in the Shenandoah backcountry

Be sure to treat the water in Shenandoah National Park.

 

Planning your Itinerary

The expansive trail network in Shenandoah can make planning a backcountry camping trip seem a bit overwhelming. If you’re not familiar with the National Park it can be difficult to know how to start even thinking about what a good itinerary might be. Luckily, the National Park Service has put together comprehensive list of backcountry camping itineraries in Shenandoah. Check it out below.

Check out a comprehensive list of backcountry camping itineraries in Shenandoah here. 

Leave No Trace

Given the sensitive ecosystem of Shenandoah National Park it is essential that you practice Leave No Trace principles when backpacking in the National Park. This includes packing out all of your own trash and property disposing of your waste. Fires are not permitted in the backcountry. 

Properly storing your food is also essential as bears and other wildlife are common throughout the National Park. We recommend bringing a bear canister for any trip into the backcountry.

Black bear in Shenandoah.

Be sure to properly store your food when backpacking in Shenandoah!

 

Shenandoah National Park Camping Must Know

The following sections contain all the basic information you need to ensure you have a great time camping in Shenandoah National Park.

Campfires in Shenandoah

Fires are generally allowed at each of the five campgrounds in Shenandoah National Park. The fire must be contained within the provided fire pit/grate and should not be left unattended. It is also important to ensure that any wood you bring into the park is properly sourced, as firewood can introduce invasive pests that can cause irreparable damage.

Campfires are not allowed in the backcountry of Shenandoah, so if you’re planning a backpacking trip be sure to bring a camp stove.

Campfire in Shenandoah National Park

 

Wildlife

A wide variety of wildlife calls Shenandoah National Park home. For campers in the park there are a few you’ll want to be especially aware of. These include:

  • Black bears: Be sure to properly store your food in either the park provided bear bins or in a bear canister. This is especially important for backcountry campers in Shenandoah.
  • Snakes: Shenandoah is home to a diversity of snake species. Most of these are non-venomous and all of them are likely to try and avoid contact with visitors. However, there are several venomous snakes including timber rattlesnakes in the park. Be aware of your surroundings and always keep an eye out!
  • Birds: The stunning landscapes of Shenandoah make a perfect habitat for several species of birds to thrive. Keep an eye out for the stunning peregrine falcon and the elusive scarlet tanager.

For those camping, you’ll primarily want to be vigilant about keeping food properly stored and keeping a close eye out for snakes.

Bear in Shenandoah National park.

A black bear in Shenandoah. Photo courtesy of NPS.

 

Pets

If you’ve spent much time in National Parks you’ll know that pets are typically not permitted on any of the trails. Shenandoah is one of the few exceptions, and you are welcome to bring your pets along on your Shenandoah National Park camping trip. 

Pets are permitted in all of the campgrounds within the park, as well as on backcountry camping trips. However, there are several trails where pets are not allowed, and the National Park Services lists those here.

If you do plan to bring your pet on a camping trip in Shenandoah, keep these regulations in mind:

  • Pets must be on a leash at all time. This includes at the campgrounds.
  • Please pick up your pet waste. Do not bag it and leave it on the side of the trail.
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles.

Where to get supplies

Given the length of Shenandoah National Park the best place to get camping supplies is highly dependent on where in the park you are camping. Our recommendations for each section are listed below:

  • Northern section (Matthews Arm Campground)
    • Front Royal, Virginia: The northern gateway town to Shenandoah, Front Royal has all the essentials you’ll need to stock up for your camping trip including a grocery store, outdoor store, liquor store, and gas stations.
    • Elkwallow Wayside: This small eatery is located at mile 24.1 on Skyline Drive. You’ll be able to pick up some basic groceries, camping supplies, and even takeout food here.
  • Middle section (Big Meadows Campground, Lewis Mountain Campground)
    • Luray, Virginia: Luray is smaller than some of the other towns near Shenandoah, but you’ll still find a grocery store, gas station, and outdoor store.
    • Big Meadows Wayside: Larger than Elkwallow Wayside, Big Meadows (mile 51.2) stocks basic groceries, camping and hiking supplies, has a small restaurant, and also sells gas and diesel.
  • Southern section (Loft Mountain Campground, Dundo Group Campground)
    • Waynesboro, Virginia: Waynesboro is near the southern entrance to Shenandoah and has gas stations, groceries stores, and an outdoor shop.
    • Loft Mountain Wayside: Similar to the other options in the park, you’ll be able to get simple groceries, some camping essentials, in addition to the small restaurant on site.

 

Big Meadows Wayside in Shenandoah National Park

Big Meadows Wayside is a perfect place to pick up a few essentials for your Shenandoah camping trip. Photo courtesy of NPS.

 

Camping near Shenandoah National Park

Given the popularity and scarcity of options, it is always possible that you won’t be able to find a campground within Shenandoah National Park. However, don’t give up as there are plentiful camping options just outside the National Park boundary! Check out your best options below:

RV campgrounds near Shenandoah National Park

Those camping in an RV will have plenty of options just outside Shenandoah National Park. The best option for you will depend on which section of the park you’re planning to explore, and we’ve provided RV campgrounds near the northern, central, and southern sections of Shenandoah below.

Twin Rivers Campground – Northern section

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $40 – $45/night depending on electricity hookup size.
Capacity: Prices are for two people. Extra guests are $5/night. Kids 16 and under free
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Required. Visit website here or call (540) 636-6192
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Twin Rivers Campground is located north of Shenandoah in Front Royal, VA. A short drive from the Front Royal Entrance Station, this is the perfect place to camp if you’re looking to explore the northern section of the park. The campground features electricity hookups at every site, and river front access to the Shenandoah River.

Luray KOA Campground – Middle section

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: Varies depending on size of RV and hookups required.
Capacity: No stated limit.
RVs: Yes, up to 70′.
Reservations: Recommended.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The KOA Luray Campground is located just north of the town of Luray, VA. From here, it is an approximate 20 minute drive to the Thornton Gap Entrance Station. The Luray KOA can accommodate RVs up to 70′ in length and provides guests with access to WiFi, a dog park, snack bar, and pool.

Misty Mountain Camp Resort – Southern section

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $70 – $85/night
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Misty Mountain Camp Report is located south of Shenandoah National Park in Greenwood, VA. The campground is located just 10 minutes from the Rockfish Gap Entrance Station, providing excellent access to the southern section of Shenandoah. Misty Mountain can accommodate all types of RVs and also has tent sites and cabin rentals. Guests staying at the RV campground get access to tons of amenities including WiFi, a swimming pool, fishing pond, and multiple playgrounds. See their full list of amenities here.

RVs near Shenandoah National Park

There are plenty of RV campgrounds near Shenandoah National Park.

 

Car camping sites near Shenandoah National Park

If you’re looking for car camping sites near Shenandoah National Park you’ll have a few good options to choose from. 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 Shenandoah.

Car camping near Shenandoah National Park.

Car camping near Shenandoah National Park.

 

Shenandoah River State Park

Number of Sites: 71 sites
Fee: $25 – $46/night depending on hookups and residency. More info here. 
Capacity: 6 people per campsite
RVs: Yes, up to 60′.
Reservations: Recommended. Half of the site are also available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Pets: Allowed.
More Information

Shenandoah River State Park is a true gem that offers abundant camping options just outside of the National Park. This campground is perfect for those looking to avoid the feel of an RV park and also gives access to the beautiful Shenandoah River. The campground is open year round and offers sites with electric and water hookups, tent-only sites, restrooms with showers, and each site also features a fire ring.

This is a great campground for those traveling with their family.

Elizabeth Furnace Family Campground

Number of Sites: 35 sites
Fee: $16/night
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes.
Reservations: All sites are first-come, first served.
Pets: Allowed.
More Information

The Elizabeth Furnace Family Campground is located near the northern entrance to Shenandoah National Park in the adjacent George Washington National Forest. The campground features 35 sites that can accommodate tents and smaller RVs. All of the campsites are first-come, first-served, so be sure to get there early in the day if you’re hoping to snag a spot.

The campground features vault-toilets (flush toilets and showers available during warmer months) and a water source. Alcoholic drinks are prohibited at this family campground.

Dispersed campsites near Shenandoah National Park

Your final option for camping near Shenandoah National Park is to find a free, dispersed campsite in the adjacent George Washington National Forest. This national forest is overseen by the Forest Service/BLM 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 on BLM land here.

Dispersed camping near Shenandoah National Park

There are some fantastic dispersed campsites just outside of Shenandoah National Park.

 

Crisman Hollow Dispersed Camping

Located to the west of Luray, Crisman Hollow Road (also known as Forest Service Road 724) offers some excellent dispersed camping in George Washington National Forest. Many of the campsites are located along Passage Creek and have fire rings.

The campsites are located near the Scothorn Gap Trail and directions can be found here.

Freecampsites.net also has good information on Crisman Hollow Dispersed Camping.

Slate Lick Fields Dispersed Camping

Located north-west of Harrisonburg, VA the Slate Lick Fields offer great dispersed camping near Shenandoah National Park. The campsites are located along Hog Pen Road and directions can be found here. Keep in mind there is not a good water source here, so you’ll need to bring plenty of drinking water with you.

BLM regulations on dispersed camping allow you to camp for up to 14 days in a 28 day period, so be sure to observe that limit at both of the sites above.

It is especially important to practice Leave No Trace principles when dispersed camping.

Have a great trip!

That’s it! We hope you’ve found all of the information on camping in Shenandoah National Park 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!

Sunset in Shenandoah

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Routeburn Track | Maps & Routes

The Routeburn Track on New Zealand’s South Island is a classic walk with one of the best alpine crossings in this spectacular country. Over the course of three days the…

The Routeburn Track on New Zealand’s South Island is a classic walk with one of the best alpine crossings in this spectacular country. Over the course of three days the route connects Mt. Aspiring National Park and Fiordland National Park with jaw dropping scenery throughout. A network of Department of Conservation huts and campsites provide accommodation along the tramp and the walk is well served with plentiful transportation options at both ends. This post will give you an introduction to the incredible Routeburn Track by providing in-depth maps, navigational resources, and much more!

In this post

Views from Harris Saddle on the Routeburn Track.

Stunning views from Harris Saddle on the Routeburn Track.

 

Where is the Routeburn Track?

The Routeburn Track is located in the southwest corner of New Zealand’s South Island. The route is accessed from the Routeburn Shelter on the eastern end and The Divide on the west. The Routeburn is typically walked from east to west, beginning at the Routeburn Shelter and finishing at the Divide, although it is possible to walk in the opposite direction as well. In between these two points the track crosses the Harris Saddle, with spectacular views of the surrounding high mountains and verdant valleys.

Map showing the Routeburn Track in New Zealand

The Routeburn Track connects Mt. Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks on New Zealand’s South Island.

 

The nearest town to the traditional starting point of the Routeburn Shelter is Glenorchy, located on the far shores of Lake Wakatipu. Glenorchy is a beautiful place to spend a night before your trek and has a much quieter vibe than nearby Queenstown. You’ll find plenty of transport options to the Routeburn Shelter from either Glenorchy or Queenstown, so deciding between the two is a matter of personal preference.

The Routeburn finishes on its western end at what is known as The Divide, which is little more than a car park with a few restrooms. From here most walkers book onward transportation to Te Anau, just south of the Divide, back to the Queenstown area, or north to Milford Sound for a bit of sightseeing. There are plenty transportation providers who will pick you up at the Divide, but be sure you’ve arranged it ahead of time as buses can be full during peak season. 

Hiking alongside Lake Harris on the Routeburn.

 

Between the start and finish points, the Routeburn Track provides some of the best walking in New Zealand. The highlight is the crossing of the Harris Saddle, with its stunning views of the Hollyford Valley, Lake Harris, and the rugged mountains beyond. However, you’ll also experience beautiful beech forest, high-alpine meadows, and a spectacularly situated trail.

There are four Department of Conservation Huts along the route as well as three campsites, giving you plenty of options for accommodation. Given that the Routeburn Track is one of the most popular Great Walks advance bookings for the the huts and campsites is required.

The route is typically completed in three days with overnight stops at the Routeburn Falls Hut and Lake Mackenzie Hut, both located in spectacular settings. For those interested in camping your best bet for a three day itinerary is to camp at the Routeburn Flats campsite and Lake Mackenzie campsite. Below is the standard itinerary for the Routeburn Track:

  • Stage 1: Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Falls Hut
  • Stage 2: Routeburn Falls Hut to Lake Mackenzie Hut
  • Stage 3: Lake Mackenzie Hut to The Divide
Routeburn Track Map

Map of the Routeburn Track.

 

In addition to completing the main trail, trampers will have the option to complete a few worthwhile side trips along their trek. The first is the climbing of Conical Hill from the Harris Saddle. If the weather is clear, we highly recommend it as the views are truly outstanding. However, if there is bad weather it is best avoided as conditions at the top can be quite severe.

You’ll also have the opportunity to hike to the top of Key Summit on what will most likely be your last day. This is a shorter hike than Conical Hill, but still boasts stand out views. You can view the trails to the top of Conical Hill and the Key Summit on the maps below.

Map of Conical Hill on the Routeburn Track.

If the weather is pleasant, we highly recommend a hike to the top of Conical Hill from the Harris Saddle.

 

Map of Key Summit on the Routeburn

If you just can’t get enough of the tremendous views on the Routeburn be sure to take a side trip to the top of Key Summit.

 

Interactive Routeburn map

The interactive Routeburn 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 Routeburn?

The Department of Conservation website lists the Routeburn track as 33 kilometers long. While certainly a very accurate estimate, we measure (via GPS) the Routeburn to be 31.45 kilometers (19.5 miles) from the Routeburn Shelter to The Divide. 

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. Most walkers will at a minimum want to take a side trip to the top of Conical Hill, weather permitting, which adds an additional 2 kilometers. Add in the 1.7 kilometer round-trip hike to the top of Key Summit and you’ve already walked over 35 kilometers total.   In addition, evening explorations to stretch the legs, countless opportunities to take in view points, and short side trips to trail side lakes will make the distance actually walked vary from person to person.

However, it is still helpful to have an idea of the distances of each stage of the Routeburn 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.

Map of the Routeburn Track with stage distances shown.

Distances for the traditional three stages of the Routeburn Track.

 

Routeburn Track Elevation Profile

At its heart the Routeburn Track is an alpine crossing as walkers make their way over the Harris Saddle. As discussed above, this takes approximately 31.5 kilometers and gains 2,130 meters. Averaged over the traditional three stages this equates to an average of 710 meters of elevation gain each day. The majority of this elevation gain occurs on the first stage as walkers begin the long ascent towards the Harris Saddle.

Harris Saddle is near the high point of the Routeburn Track and sits at 1,254 meters above sea level. For those who trek to the top of Concial Hill you’ll reach an elevation of 1,515 meters. Since The Divide sits at a slightly higher elevation than the Routeburn Shelter, those walking in the traditional direction will gain a bit more elevation than they lose.

The elevation profile shown below will give you an overview of what each stage of the Routeburn Track in like in terms of total elevation change as well as distance covered. 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.

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 the stage. For instance, you can see that the stage from the Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Falls Hut has a lot of elevation gain, while the stage from Lake Mackenzie Hut to The Divide covers quite a bit of distance.

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

Elevation profile of the Routeburn Track.

Elevation profile of the Routeburn Track.

 

Which maps should I carry on the Routeburn Track?

As with all the Great Walks, the Routeburn 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 backcountry trip. 

The best physical map to bring on the Routeburn is the NewTopo Routeburn/Greenstone-Caples Track map. This map covers the tramp at a 1:40,000 scale and also includes the nearby Greenstone-Caples Track. 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 Routeburn have some type of GPS navigation on their walk. The Routeburn is notorious for thick fog/cloud cover that can set in on the track, making navigation difficult. A GPS app on your phone can greatly help with this issue, as the signal can typically penetrate the cloud cover to show you where you are on the trail at any given point. Since there is limited to no cell phone service on the Routeburn 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 Routeburn Track GPS digital download should give you a solid foundation to navigate from while on the tramp.

Stage-by-stage maps for the Routeburn Track

The Routeburn is typically walked over three days, with each stage finishing at a Department of Conservation Hut/Campsite. Maps for the traditional three day Routeburn itinerary are shown below.

Stage 1: Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Falls Hut

Distance: 9.1 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +800 m / -304 m

Map of Stage 1 of the Routeburn Track from Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Falls Hut

Stage 1 of the Routeburn Track from the Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Falls Hut.

 

Stage 2: Routeburn Falls Hut to Lake Mackenzie Hut

Distance: 10.85 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +702 m / -787 m

Map of Stage 2 of the Routeburn Track from Routeburn Falls Hut to Lake Mackenzie Hut

Stage 2 of the Routeburn Track from Routeburn Falls Hut to Lake Mackenzie Hut.

 

Stage 3: Lake Mackenzie Hut to The Divide

Distance: 11.49 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +629 m / -996 m

Map of Stage 3 of the Routeburn Track from Lake Mackenzie Hut to The Divide

Stage 3 of the Routeburn Track from Lake Mackenzie Hut to The Divide.

 

Routeburn 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 Routeburn Track GPX file for only $4.99. When you download the GPX file, you’ll get route data for each stage of the Routeburn Track, way-points for each of the Department of Conservation huts and campsites along the route, and route data for the Conical Hill and Key Summit side trips.

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

Routeburn Track Map

BUY NOW

Apps and offline mapping

As mentioned above we utilized offline downloadable GPS maps on our smartphones to navigate while walking the Routeburn 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 Routeburn.

Have a great Routeburn Adventure!

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

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Milford Track | Maps & Routes

The Milford Track is one of New Zealand’s most stunning Great Walks and is commonly referred to as the ‘finest walk in the world’. The route starts along the shores…

The Milford Track is one of New Zealand’s most stunning Great Walks and is commonly referred to as the ‘finest walk in the world’. The route starts along the shores of Lake Te Anau and finishes in Milford Sound at Sandfly Point. The Milford track is completed in four days with overnight accommodation at well run Department of Conservation huts. This article will introduce you to this incredible trail, give an overview of the Milford Track route, as well as provide in depth maps, navigational resources, and much more so you can be sure you’re ready to tackle the finest walk in the world!

Hikers along New Zealand's Milford Track

Hikers along New Zealand’s Milford Track.

 

In this post

Where is the Milford Track?

Located in the far southwest of New Zealand’s South Island, the Milford Track explores the stunning valleys, high mountain passes, and untouched rainforest of Fiordland National Park.

Map of New Zealand showing the Milford Track

The Milford Track brings walkers to the stunning Fiordland National Park on New Zealand’s South Island.

 

The walk begins at Glade Wharf along the shores of Lake Te Anau, which is only accessible via boat from Te Anau Downs. The nearest town to the start of the walk is Te Anau, where there is ample accommodation for both before and after the walk. On the northern end of the track walkers will finish at Sandfly Point, a short boat ride from Milford Sound village. While not exactly a town, here you’ll find overnight accommodation, transportation links, and plenty of tour operators. Walkers may be in for a bit of shock when they encounter the vast number of visitors in Milford Sound for a boat tour, kayak trip, or sightseeing flight after four days in the wilderness!

Milford Sound at the end of the Milford Track.

The Milford Track finishes with a boat ride through Milford Sound.

 

In between Glade Wharf and Sandfly Point, walkers will spend most of their trek exploring two glacially carved valleys (the Clinton and Arthur River valleys) separated by the stunning Mackinnon Pass. You must stay in the designated Department of Conservation huts along the way (unless you have booked a private, guided trek) and you must complete the walk in four days during the Great Walk season from the end of October through the end of April. This is to help manage the total number of walkers on the track at any point and ensure trampers stay reasonably spread out along the trek. The stages of the Milford Track are as follows:

  • Stage 1: Glade Wharf to Clinton Hut
  • Stage 2: Clinton Hut to Mintaro Hut
  • Stage 3: Mintaro Hut to Dumpling Hut
  • Stage 4: Dumpling Hut to Sandfly Point
Milford Track Map

The Milford Track must be completed in four stages.

 

Unlike many long-distance walks, there are no alternate trails along the Milford Track. However, there is the opportunity to take in a few side trails along the way, with the most notable example being a visit to Sutherland Falls, shown on the map below.

Map of Sutherland Falls in New Zealand

Sutherland Falls can be visited via a short detour off the Milford Track.

 

Interactive Milford Track map

The interactive Milford 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 Milford Track?

Most sources list the Milford Track as being 53.5 kilometers or 33.2 miles long from Glade Wharf to Sandfly Point. While this is certainly very accurate, we measure (via GPS) the Milford Track to be 54.5 kilometers long. But what’s a single kilometer!

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. Most walkers will at a minimum want to take a side trip to see the spectacular Sutherland Falls, which is approximately 4.5 kilometers round-trip. In addition, evening explorations to stretch the legs, countless opportunities to take in view points, and short side trips to trail side lakes will make the distance actually walked vary from person to person.

However, it is still helpful to have an idea of the distances of each stage of the Milford Track. The map below shows just that, with the approximate distances of each stage provided. These distances don’t include a trip to Sutherland Falls so be sure to factor that in as well.

Map of the Milford Tack with stage distances

Distances of the four stages of the Milford Track in kilometers.

 

What is the elevation profile of the Milford Track?

Over the course of the Milford Track’s 54.5 kilometers the trail gains approximately 1,755 meters! Averaged across the four stages this equates to around 440 meters of elevation gain each day. Of course, the majority of this elevation games comes on Stage 2 and 3 of the Milford Track which brings the crossing of Mackinnon Pass.

Mackinnon Pass is the high point (literally and figuratively!) of the Milford Track at 1,154 meters above sea level. Given that you finish at sea-level you can at least appreciate the fact that you’ll ultimately lose more elevation than you’ll gain on the Milford Track.

Mackinnon Pass on the Milford Track

Mackinnon Pass is the high point of the Milford Track.

 

The elevation profile shown below will give you an overview of what each stage of the Milford Track in like in terms of total elevation change as well as distance covered. 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 along the route where each stage finishes.

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 the stage. So for instance you can see that the stage from Mintaro Hut to Dumpling Hut has a lot of elevation gain, while the stage from Clinton Hut to Mintaro Hut covers quite a bit of distance.

Elevation profile of the Milford Track in New Zealand

Elevation profile for the Milford Track in kilometers and meters.

 

Which maps should I carry on the Milford Track?

The Milford Track is a remarkably well marked and easy to follow trail. There is little opportunity to take a wrong turn and most trampers will have no problem navigating on the trail. However, we always recommend carrying a map with you on any backcountry or wilderness excursion and the Milford Track is no exception.

When we walked the Milford Track we did not rely on a physical map, instead preferring to utilize GPS navigation on our phones. Given that there is limited to no cell phone service on the Milford 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.

In addition to GPS navigation, we recommend all trampers also carry a physical map. In the event the famous Fiordland rain renders your phone unusable you’ll be glad you brought it! There are a few options for Milford Track topographic maps out there, and we recommend the NewTopo map available here. The 1:40,000 scale is sufficient for basic navigation along the route.

Given the high probability of rain during your trek we also recommend bringing a weatherproof carrying case like this one.

Stage-by-stage maps for the Milford Track

The Milford Track is broken into four distinct stages with each stage finishing at a designated Department of Conservation hut. Maps for each of the four stages of the Milford Track are shown below.

Stage 1:  Glade Wharf to Clinton Hut

Distance: 4.8 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +140 m / -150m

Map of Stage 1 of the Milford Track.

Stage 1 from Glade Wharf to Clinton Hut.

 

Stage 2: Clinton Hut to Mintaro Hut

Distance: 17.75 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +854 m / -430 m

Map of Stage 2 of the Milford Track

Stage 2 from Clinton Hut to Mintaro Hut.

 

Stage 3: Mintaro Hut to Dumpling Hut

Distance: 13.7 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +753 m / -1248 m

Map of Stage 3 of the Milford Track.

Stage 3 from the Mintaro Hut to Dumpling Hut.

 

Stage 4: Dumpling Hut to Sandfly Point

Distance: 18.3 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +560 m / -672 m

Map of Stage 4 of the Milford Track.

Stage 4 from the Dumpling Hut to Sandfly Point.

 

Milford 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 Milford Track GPX files for only $4.99. When you download the GPX file, you’ll get route data for each stage of the Milford Track, plus way-points for each of the Department of Conservation huts along the route.

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

Milford Track Map

BUY NOW

 

Apps and offline mapping

As mentioned above we utilized offline downloadable GPS maps on our smartphones to navigate while walking the Milford 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 Milford Track Offline Mapping post has all the information you need to get set up using an app for your map. This step-by-step article will teach you how to quickly and easily turn your phone into a GPS device.

Sandfly Point at the finish of the Milford Track.

 

What’s Next?

Check out our other great Milford Track Resources:

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Abel Tasman Coast Track: The Complete Guide

The Abel Tasman Coast Track is one of New Zealand’s 10 Great Walks, treks that are designed to showcase the best of this stunning country. The Coast Track highlights the…

The Abel Tasman Coast Track is one of New Zealand’s 10 Great Walks, treks that are designed to showcase the best of this stunning country. The Coast Track highlights the incredible beaches, tropical forests, and turquoise waters of the Abel Tasman National Park on the northwest corner of New Zealand’s South Island. Over 60+ kilometers, the Abel Tasman Coast Track follows the often rugged coastline and is serviced by a series of Department of Conservation huts and campsites along the route. The track is the easiest of all the Great Walks due to its easy grades, well maintained trail, and ease of access.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know to plan your perfect adventure on the Abel Tasman Coast Track!

Map of the Abel Tasman Coast Track

The Abel Tasman Coast Track covers 60+ km from Marahau to Wainui.

 

Abel Tasman Coast Track: In this post

Abel Tasman Coast Track: Must Know

The Abel Tasman Coast Track is the most popular of the Great Walks. It follows the shoreline from the car park just north of the town of Marahau to its end point at Wainui. However, due to the lack of transportation options at Wainui, many walkers opt to finish at Totaranui by completing the Gibbs Hill track at the end of the walk. Completing the entire walk will take you along 60+ kilometers of this beautiful coastline with overnight accommodation options frequent along the walk. Keep reading below for some essential information as you begin to plan your Abel Tasman Coast Track adventure!

Beach along the Abel Tasman Coast Track

You’ll visit countless stunning beaches along your walk.

 

How long is the Coast Track?

The short answer: it depends!

In general, trampers should expect to cover around 60 kilometers on the Abel Tasman Coast Track. This will of course vary depending on your chosen itinerary, if you’re able to take low-tide routes, side trips to see points of interest, and countless other factors. However, we’ve provided some general distances for planning purposes below:

  • For those completing the Coast Track in its entirety and finishing at the Wainui car park you’ll cover approximately 58 kilometers.
  • If opt to complete the Gibbs Hill Track to connect back to Totaranui (which we recommend!) you should plan on covering 62 kilometers.

In addition to the main track, there are countless opportunities to take short detours along the walk to stunning viewpoints, waterfalls, and sandy beaches. These will surely add a bit of distance to your total walk, but we highly recommend exploring while on your walk!

Map of the Abel Tasman Coast Track

 

How difficult is the Coast Track?

The Abel Tasman Coast Walk is considered by many to be the easiest of New Zealand’s Great Walks. The trail is very well maintained and you’ll rarely encounter a tough section. Most trampers opt to walk in just running shoes given the ease of the trail and the likelihood of getting your feet wet. However, walkers should still be well prepared as any multi-day trek is a serious undertaking.

Many of the challenges of walking in Abel Tasman National Park are related to heat, bugs, and the highly variable tides. Be sure to bring plenty of water, a good hat, insect repellent, and be aware of tidal crossing. Keeping these tips in mind, most reasonably fit hikers should have no problem completing the Abel Tasman Coast Track. 

A section of trail on the Coast Track.

You can expect well maintained trails and easy walking on the Abel Tasman Coast Track.

 

Abel Tasman Coast Track Reservations

Advance reservations are required for all of the huts and campsites along the Abel Tasman Coast Track. Given the popularity of the walk, it is recommended that you book your accommodation as far in advance as possible. You can book your huts/campsites directly through the Department of Conservation at the link below:

Book Accommodation for the Abel Tasman Coast Track

It is important to think through a few key details prior to making your booking, all of which we cover in this post:

  • How many days will you take to walk the Coast Track?
  • How do you plan to get back to Marahau from the end of your walk?

If possible, it is good to have some flexibility in the number of days you’ll spend on the track and/or the day you plan to start. You may discover that a specific hut or campsite is fully booked for your ideal day, in which case you may need to get creative to plan your walk. Camping alleviates some of this issue as there are 19 campsites along the route compared with only four huts.

Advance reservations are required for all huts and campsites along the Coast Track.

 

When to hike the Coast Track

The Abel Tasman Coast Track can be walked year round. This part of New Zealand is renowned for its abundant sunshine and mild climate, making the Coast Track the perfect adventure for any time of year. A breakdown by season is below:

Summer (December, January, February):

During New Zealand’s summer months the track will be at its most crowded. However, in exchange for these crowds you’ll get reliably sunny weather, plenty of transportation options, and might even be able to brave the chilly waters for longer than a few minutes!

Sandy beach on the Abel Tasman Coast Track

Summer brings near perfect weather to the region.

 

Fall (March, April, May):

Many consider fall to be the best time to walk the Abel Tasman Coast Track. The crowds start to thin out, but you’re still likely to be treated to warm and sunny weather. If you have your pick, this is the time to walk!

Fall may be the best time to walk the Coast Track.

 

Winter (June, July, August):

Come the winter months you’ll be more likely to encounter cooler temperatures and rain along the walk. However, accommodation should be easy to reserve and you can expect to have many sections of trail to yourself!

Abel Tasman National Park

Winter brings cooler temperatures and more rain to Abel Tasman National Park, but also plenty of solitude along the Coast Track.

 

Spring (September, October, November):

As winter turns to spring the weather in Abel Tasman National Park starts to improve. While you can expect to see a few more rain showers, this is generally a great time to walk the Coast Track before the summer crowds arrive.

Cloudy day in Abel Tasman National Park

 

Tides on the Coast Track

Given the fact that the Coast Track closely follows the shoreline, walkers will need to be aware of tides, especially in the two sections described below:

Awaroa Inlet
You’ll encounter the Awaroa Inlet immediately after the Awaroa Hut, on what will likely be your third or fourth day of the walk. The tides here are dramatic, varying by up to 6 meters depending on the time of day and season. For this reason, you are only able to cross the Awaroa Inlet between 1.5 hours before and 2 hours after low tide. This is important to plan for as the low tide time will dictate how far you are able to walk that day. The Department of Conservation publishes low tide times here. 

High tide at the Awaroa Inlet on the Coast Track

High tide at the Awaroa Inlet.

 

Low tide at the Awaroa Inlet

Low tide at the Awaroa Inlet – much easier to cross!

 

Torrent Bay
Torrent Bay is just past the Anchorage Hut and most walkers will need to cross here at the start of their second day. Similar to the Awaroa Inlet above, Torrent Bay can only be crossed within two hours of low-tide. Fortunately, there is a high-tide track that circumnavigates the bay and allows walkers to cross at anytime. See the map below for more detail. Our best advice is to plan on taking the high-tide track around Torrent Bay, but you just may get lucky and be able to cross at low-tide.

Torrent Bay tide

There is a high-tide and low-tide option for crossing Torrent Bay on the Coast Track.

 

Bugs & Pests

There are few things that could spoil the splendor of your surroundings while walking the Coast Track in Abel Tasman National Park. The few that you should be prepared for are sandflies and wasps. You’ll encounter sandflies throughout New Zealand and those who have been in the country for more than a few days will likely be all too familiar with them. These tiny, biting insects swarm you covering any exposed skin with itchy bites! It’s not all doom and gloom though as sandflies are mostly only around during the dawn and dusk hours. Be sure to bring some insect repellent for when they do come out though!

The other nuisance to be aware of in the Abel Tasman region is the prevalence of wasps. Their nests are common throughout the park, though you are likely to go your entire trek without encountering any. Still, if you are highly allergic be sure you have any needed allergy medication. For other trampers, it is best to pack some Benadryl or other antihistamine just in case of a sting. The Department of Conservation undertook a control program in 2015 to reduce their prevalence in Abel Tasman National Park.

Beach in Abel Tasman

The beautiful beaches of Abel Tasman can harbor some unwanted pests!

 

Abel Tasman Coast Track: Logistics

The Coast Track is remarkably well connected and easy to access. However, there are a few key pieces of information outlined in the following sections that you should keep in mind when planning your trek.

Getting to and from the Abel Tasman Coast Track

Most walker’s will access the Coast Track from the town of Nelson, which sits on the other side of the Tasman Bay from Marahau and Abel Tasman National Park. There is frequent bus service connecting Nelson to Marahau (the traditional starting point for the Coast Track) with most services also stopping in Motueka en route. Some popular service providers include:

  • ScenicNZ: Offers a daily bus connection between Nelson and Marahau via Motueka.
  • Trek Express: This tramper focused provider offers transport to/from the Coast Track and Nelson.

Depending on your chosen itinerary you’re likely to finish your walk in either Wainui or Totaranui. While Wainui is the official end point of the Coast Track, transportation options are limited. As a result, it is more common for trampers to finish their walk by taking looping back to Totaranui via the Gibbs Hill Track. Your best options for getting back to Marahau from each potential finishing points are below:

Getting from Wainui to Marahau
Trek Express operates the most reliable service between the end of the Coast Track in Wainui and Marahau. Expect on the journey taking approximately 1.5 hours. In addition, Golden Bay Coachlines operates a bus service between Wainui and Nelson, with a stop at the car park in Marahau.

Getting from Totaranui to Marahau
Most trekkers opt to finish their walk in Totaranui where you’ll have many more transport options back to the start of the track available. One of the big appeals of finishing here is that you’ll be taking a water taxi back to the Marahau, a fantastic way to cap off your time in Abel Tasman National Park! Your best bets for water taxis from Totaranui to Marahau are below:

  • Abel Tasman Aqua Taxi: A reliable and popular operator, they offer a multitude of transport options.
  • Marahau Water Taxis: This service provides efficient transportation back to Marahau and also has options to connect you back to Nelson via bus.
Water taxis in Bark Bay

Water taxis are plentiful along the Abel Tasman Coast Track.

 

Where to leave your car when walking the Coast Track

If you’ve driven your own car or campervan to Abel Tasman you’ll want to know where to park it. Luckily, the Department of Conservation provides free overnight parking at three locations along the Coast Track: Marahau, Totaranui, and Wainui. The car parks are not covered, but at least give you an easy place to leave your vehicle. Keep in mind that you are not allowed to camp overnight at any of the three car parks!

Transportation on the Abel Tasman Coast Track

Many walkers on the Coast Track will opt to only walk a specific section of the Coast Track (more on that below!) and may need transport from other points along the route. If this is the case you find yourself in, your best bet will almost certainly be to take a water taxi back to Marahau. All of the water taxi providers listed above will be happy to accommodate and will pick you up from any of the following access points:

  • Apple Tree Bay
  • Anchorage
  • Medlands Bay
  • Bark Bay
  • Tonga Quarry
  • Onetahuti
  • Awaroa
  • Totaranui

It is important to note that no motorized boat traffic is allowed past Totaranui in Abel Tasman National Park. This is to maintain the natural state of the northern section of the park, so you’ll want to be sure you take that into account when planning your walk.

Kayakers in Abel Tasman National Park

There is no motorized traffic allowed past Totaranui in Abel Tasman National Park.

 

Accommodation on the Abel Tasman Coast Track

The Coast Walk is well served by a network of Department of Conservation huts and campsites. These huts and campsites make it easy for walkers to plan a variety of itineraries and provide excellent accommodation options. In addition to the Department of Conservation options there are also a few private accommodation options along the track that give the weary walker options other than pitching their tent or settling for a noisy bunk room. Keep reading below to see what sleeping quarters await you on the Coast Track.

Department of Conservation Huts & Campsites

The Department of Conservation provides a network of 19 campsites and 4 huts along the Coast Track. The four huts along the walk are evenly spaced to make for an easy five-day itinerary for those who don’t want to sleep in their tent. These huts are located at Anchorage, Bark Bay, Awaroa Bay, and Whariwharangi. Each of the huts also has a campsite adjacent to it, so campers can also enjoy the simplicity of stopping at these locations.

In addition to the four campsites located next to the DoC huts along the Coast Track there are 15 other sites scattered along the Coast Track. Many of these won’t make sense for trampers given their location, but several provide a great alternative for those who prefer a quieter campsite. We describe your best options in the itinerary section below.

Abel Tasman Coast Track Huts
As mentioned above, the DoC provides huts at Anchorage, Bark Bary, Awaroa Bay, and Whariwharangi. All of these huts are quite basic and provide a common room, sleeping quarters with basic mattresses, potable water, and bathrooms. You’ll need to bring cooking supplies and a camp stove as none of the huts feature cooking facilities, a sleeping bag, and a headlamp as many of the huts do not have lighting.

The huts must all be reserved in advance and have varying rates depending on the time of year and whether or not you are a Kiwi or international tourist.

You can book your Abel Tasman Coast Track Huts here. 

Abel Tasman Coast Track Campsites
There is a network of 19 DoC campsites along the Coast Track. All of the campsites along the route provide toilets and potable water, while some of the larger ones provide a cooking shelter, picnic tables, and seating areas. It is important to note that if camping outside one of the four huts along the route you are not allowed to use the hut facilities. You’ll need to bring all of your own camping equipment, including a stove and cooking supplies, as none of the campsites are equipped with stoves.

You also are not allowed to use a hammock at any of the campsites in Abel Tasman National Park, so be sure you’ve packed your tent, bivvy, or other sleep system.

As with the huts along the route you are required to reserve your all of your campsites along the Coast Track in advance. The fee for these campsites varies depending on the time of year and depending on if you are a local New Zealander or not.

You can book your Abel Tasman Coast Track Campsites here. 

 

Tent at Anapai Bay Campsite.

Camping mere steps from the beach at Anapai Bay along the Coast Track.

 

Private Accommodation

In addition to the Department of Conservation huts and campsites along the route there are also a handful of private accommodation providers along the Coast Track. If you’re looking for something unique (see Aquapackers), a little more luxurious (check out the Awaroa Lodge), or something with a bed and breakfast feel (the Meadowbank Homestead) the following options will surely meet your needs!

Aquapackers
The Aquapackers Hostel is a truly unique accommodation in Abel Tasman National Park. This floating hostel is anchored in Anchorage Bay has dorm beds as well as private cabins. Your room rate includes dinner, breakfast, and bedding for your stay. The vibe is typically a younger crowd, although they do try to keep noise to a minimum.

Torrent Bay Lodge
The Torrent Bay Lodge offers luxurious digs just past Anchorage along the Coast Track. Unfortunately for trampers, they require a minimum two-night stay during peak season. Alternatively you can book a package Coast Walk experience that will have you staying at their other lodge along the route.

Awaroa Lodge
The Awaroa Lodge is located just up the trail from the main DoC hut and campsite at the Awaroa Inlet. This is the most luxurious option along the Coast Track and makes the perfect place to treat yourself to a night of luxury along the Coast Track.

Meadowbank Homestead at Awaroa
Similar to the Torrent Bay Lodge, the Meadowbank Homestead is geared toward those in search of a bit more luxury. During high season you’ll have to book a package stay that includes a night at the Torrent Bay Lodge.

 

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

We recommend hiking the Coast Track over 3 – 5 days depending on your hiking ability, pace preferences, and weather conditions. The classic itinerary described below takes five days to complete and will be the best option for the majority of hikers.

 

Stage 1: Marahau to Anchorage

Distance & Elevation: 11.7 km // +737 m, -728 m
Where to stay: 
Anchorage Hut & Campsite // Te Pukatea Campsite
Description:
The Abel Tasman Coast Track begins from the car park outside of Marahau and crosses a tidal estuary via a well-built wooden walkway. From here the track climbs gently and begins to open up to stunning views of the sea beyond. There are frequent side tracks down to the water if you fancy a dip at this early stage.

At approximately 7 km into the walk the track will turn inland and climb along the hillside. Near the top of the hill you’ll be presented with diverging trails. The trail on the right will lead you down to the Anchorage Hut and Campsite while the trail on the left continues on the Coast Track for those who are walking a bit further on their first day.

The Anchorage Hut can accommodate up to 34 people and has a large campsite adjacent. For those who are camping and would like a bit quieter accommodation we recommend continuing on a bit further past Anchorage to the Te Pukatea campsite.

Stage 1 of the Coast Track from Marahau to Anchorage

Stage One of the Coast Track from Marahau to Anchorage.

 

Tidal estuary near Marahau

The Coast Track starts by crossing a tidal estuary just outside of Marahau.

 

Stage 2: Anchorage to Bark Bay

Distance & Elevation: 11.2 km // +657 m, -660 m
Where to stay:
Bark Bay Hut & Campsite
Description:

From Anchorage Bay you’ll quickly reach Torrent Bay where you’ll have two options. The first option is to take the high-tide route which circumnavigates the bay and is passable at all times. A short detour off the high-tide route is Cleopatra’s Pool, a perfect swimming hole on a hot day!

The second option is to take the low-tide alternate (shown on the map below), which crosses directly across Torrent Bay. This route is only passable within 2 hours before and after low-tide, so it is best to plan on taking the high-tide route.

Once past Torrent Bay the track turns inland and gently climbs the coastal hillside. You’ll soon reach the Falls River and cross a long swing bridge over the river. Swing bridges are a staple of New Zealand tramping, so be sure to take in the view! From the swing bridge the trail returns to the coast and winds its way to the Bark Bay Hut & Campsite. The campsite at Bark Bay is located to the right, just off the main trail.

Stage Two - Anchorage to Bark Bay

Stage Two of the Coast Track from Anchorage to Bark Bay.

 

The Falls River Swing Bridge

Crossing the Falls River Swing Bridge on the way to Bark Bay.

 

Stage 3: Bark Bay to Awaroa Bay

Distance & Elevation: 12.2 km // +634 m, -635 m
Where to stay:
Awaroa Hut & Campsite // Awaroa Lodge
Description:

From Bark Bay you’ll begin your walk to Awaroa Bay by either crossing the tidal estuary at low-tide, or taking the high-tide track around the bay. The high-tide track only adds 10 minutes to your walk, so no need to plan in advance. From here the Coast Track once again turns inland as you make your way to the former Tonga Quarry. Continuing along the coast you’ll reach Onetahuti Beach, which the Coast Track walks along for nearly 1 km!

From the end of the beach you’ll climb through the bush before descending to Awaroa Bay. Here you’ll find the Department of Conservation run Awaroa Bay Hut & Campsite as well as the adjacent Awaroa Lodge. The Lodge is a great place to spend the night if you’re in search of a bit more luxury that what the DoC huts have on offer!

Remember that you cannot cross the Awaroa Inlet outside of 1.5 hours before and 2 hours after low-tide. If you plan to walk further on this day you need to consult the tide schedules to be sure it will be possible.

Stage 3 on the Coast Track from Bark Bay to Awaroa.

Stage 3 on the Coast Track from Bark Bay to Awaroa.

 

Boat on the Awaroa Inlet

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

 

Stage 4: Awaroa Bay to Whariwharangi

Distance & Elevation: 17.3 km // +805 m, -801 m
Where to stay:
Whariwharangi Hut & Campsite // Anapai Beach Campsite
Description:

After crossing the Awaroa Inlet to begin Stage 4 of the Abel Tasman Coast Track the route cuts across a forested headland before heading back to the coast. The trail continues on hugging the shoreline along Goat Bay before a short, but steep climb brings you to a viewpoint with spectacular views of Totaranui Beach. Heading down from the lookout you’ll eventually reach Totaranui with its huge campsite and busy dock. Many walkers opt to finish at this point and grab a water taxi back to Marahau. If you want to spend the night at Totaranui keep in mind that there is no hut here, so you’ll need to camp.

For those continuing on you’ll follow the road through the Totaranui complex before turning right, walking past a parking area, and then picking up the main trail again as it heads into the bush. You’ll climb up and over another headland before arriving at the Anapai Beach Campsite. This is a great option for those looking to camp near Totaranui, but prefer a quieter site. Located on a lovely beach, this is a great place to spend the night!

From Anapai Beach the track climbs steadily before descending down to Mutton Cove. From here the main Coast Track heads inland, although we highly recommend taking the alternative route to Separation Point, with its beautiful views of the sea beyond. The main Coast Track and Separation Point track meet again at a high point and then descend to the Whariwharangi Hut & Campsite. This is the last hut along the Coast Track and a lovely place to spend you last evening.

Stage 4 on the Coast Track from Awaroa Bay to Whariwharangi.

Stage 4 on the Coast Track from Awaroa Bay to Whariwharangi.

 

View of Totaranui Beach.

Taking in views of Totaranui Beach on the Coast Track.

 

Stage 5: Whariwharangi to Totaranui (via Gibbs Hill Track)

Distance & Elevation: 9.8 km // +677 m, -679 m
Where to stay:
Totaranui or onward travel accommodation
Description:

The final stage of the Abel Tasman Coast Track presents walkers with two options. The first is to finish the walk on the traditional route by descending to the carpark at Wainui, just over 5 km from the Whariwharangi Hut. The problem with this option is that there is not frequent transportation from the end of the walk in Wainui, with only a few bus operators serving the car park and official end of the Coast Track. The second option, and what we recommend, is to take the Gibbs Hill Track back to Totaranui. This makes for a 10km walk from Whariwharangi, but you’ll have many more transportation options back to Marahau and Nelson from Totaranui. Plus, you’ll get to see a bit more of the mountainous interior of Abel Tasman National Park.

Regardless of your choice, you’ll begin by leaving the hut or campsite at Whariwharangi and climbing steadily up to the junction with the Gibbs Hill Track. For those heading to Wainui, it’s a short 3 km descent to the car park and finish of the Coast Track. For those continuing on to Totaranui, you’ll join the Gibbs Hill track as it ascends towards a high point at, you guessed it, Gibbs Hill. From here the track begins its descent to Totaranui and you’ll soon come to a junction where you’ll take a left. From this point it is approximately 4.5 km back to Totaranui.

Regardless of which option you choose you can celebrate in the fact that you’ve just completed the Abel Tasman Coast Walk! Get your transportation out of Abel Tasman sorted out and be sure to enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes with completed one of New Zealand’s Great Walks!

Stage 5 of the Coast Track from Whariwharangi to Totaranui or Wainui.

Stage 5 of the Coast Track from Whariwharangi to Totaranui or Wainui.

 

Taking the Gibbs Hill Track back to Totaranui will let you see a different side of Abel Tasman National Park.

 

Alternative Itineraries for the Coast Track

The five day itinerary described above can be broken into almost countless alternative itineraries for walking the Coast Track. If you’ve only got time for a few days, we suggest the following itineraries:

3-day Abel Tasman Coast Track
For those with only three days to spare in Abel Tasman we recommend starting with a big first day to from Marahau to Bark Bay. From Bark Bay you’ll head to Awaroa, where you’re likely to need to spend the night in order to time the tidal crossing correctly. On your final day, head along the coast to Totaranui to catch a water taxi back to the start.

  • Stage 1: Marahau to Bark Bay: 23 km
  • Stage 2: Bark Bay to Awaroa Bay: 12 km
  • Stage 3: Awaroa to Totaranui: 6.5 km

1-day Abel Tasman Coast Track
Even with a single day in Abel Tasman you’ll be able to enjoy some of the best parts of the walk. Our recommendation is to take a water taxi to Totaranui and then complete the northern portion of the walk by first hiking to Whariwharangi and then taking the Gibbs Hill Track back to Totaranui. This is the least crowded section of the trail and also has some of the most incredible views, including those from Separation Point.

Abel Tasman Coast Track: What to Pack

Packing for the Coast Track is a balancing act between ensuring you have everything you need while not over packing. In general, you should be able to get by with a 30L – 60L backpack and the following essentials:

Also, you won’t be able to buy any food along the trail. Thus, you’ll need to be sure you’ve packed all you’ll need for the entire walk. In general, we recommend backpacking staples such as ramen, freeze-dried backpacker meals, trail mix, and instant oatmeal. Be sure and think through each day of your walk when meal planning as you want to ensure you’ve brought enough food!

Abel Tasman Coast Track packing list

Campers will need to bring a bit more on the Coast Track.

 

Baggage Transfer on the Coast Track

Taken all of our packing advice above, but still have too much gear? No problem! All of the main water taxi operators will be more than happy to shuttle your packs from beach to beach along the Coast Track. However, remember that there are no water taxis allowed past Totaranui, so you’ll have to carry your own pack past there!

We recommend the following companies for baggage transfer on the Coast Track:

 

What’s Next?

If you’ve read our Complete Guide to the Abel Tasman Coast Track above, you’re well on your way to having an incredible experience on the hike. However, you still have lots of preparation before you’re truly ready! Be sure to read our entire series on the Coast Track to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!

Beach in Abel Tasman, New Zealand

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The Complete Guide to Mt. of the Holy Cross

Mt. of the Holy Cross is one of Colorado’s most iconic mountains. Situated deep within the Sawatch mountain range it is renowned for its northeast face, which features two deep…

Mt. of the Holy Cross is one of Colorado’s most iconic mountains. Situated deep within the Sawatch mountain range it is renowned for its northeast face, which features two deep couloirs form a near-perfect cross when filled with snow. The peak barely meets fourteener status, with a summit elevation of 14,005′ above sea level. Located just outside the town of Minturn, Colorado and with multiple routes carrying Class 2 difficult rating according to 14ers.com, the mountain makes for a popular 14er to bag. Keep reading to learn everything you’ll need to know to have a great adventure climbing Mount of the Holy Cross!

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Mt. of the Holy Cross Elevation

The summit of Mt. of the Holy Cross sits at 14,005 feet above sea level. As with many mountains, you’ll see a variety of elevations given depending on the source. We chose to utilize the elevation shown on the USFS map below, which gives the official elevation as 14,005′. Regardless, you can count on the air being thin at the top!

The summit of Mt. of the Holy Cross sits at 14,005′. Map courtesy of USFS.

 

The summit is surrounded by several prominent 13,000′ peaks, including Notch Mountain located to the northeast.

 

Mt. of the Holy Cross trailheads

Mt. of the Holy Cross is accessed via the Half Moon Trailhead, which sits at the end of Tigiwon Road (sometimes spelled “Tigwon” and also known as Forest Service Road 707). For those hiking Mt. of the Holy Cross via the standard North Ridge Route you’ll take the Half Moon Trail which will be on your right-hand side when looking at the trailhead. Hikers attempting the Halo Ridge Route should take the Fall Creek Trail which leads to Notch Mountain and/or Lake Constantine in the adjacent drainage. Get directions to the trailhead below:

To reach the Half Moon Trailhead you’ll take I-70 to exit 171 towards Minturn. From the highway exit, it is a five-mile drive past the town of Minturn to Tigiwon Road, which you’ll take to reach the trailhead.

From Highway 24 you’ll want to keep an eye out for Tigiwon Road, which leads to the trailhead.

 

It is an approximate 8.3-mile drive up Tigiwon Road to the Half Moon Trailhead. The dirt road is rough in some places but can be driven in a passenger car with care. If possible, we recommend a 4WD, AWD, or vehicle with higher clearance to ensure you don’t have any issues reaching the trailhead.

Keep in mind that Tigiwon Road is closed to motor vehicles annually from May 1st – June 21st. This generally shouldn’t impact those looking to hike Mt. of the Holy Cross, as the trail is unlikely to be free from snow until later in the summer anyways.

At the end of Tigiwon Road there is a small parking area that serves the trailhead. On busy summer weekends, you can expect this parking area to be at capacity given the popularity of the trail. However, there is abundant overflow parking available along Tigiwon Road leading up to the trailhead. If you do have to park along the road be sure to leave enough space for other cars to pass!

If the Half Moon trailhead parking lot is full, there is overflow parking available along Tigiwon Road.

 

Hiking Mt. of the Holy Cross

There are several different routes all leading to the summit of Mt. of the Holy Cross. For most hikers, your best bet is to take the North Ridge Route described below. This is the standard route up Mt. of the Holy Cross and by far the most popular. For those looking for alternative routes (with significantly more difficulty), you can also complete the Halo Ridge Route with its spectacular views of the cross couloir. 

Map of different routes to hike Mt. of the Holy Cross

The North Ridge Route and Halo Ridge Route are the most popular options for hiking Mt. of the Holy Cross. Map courtesy of USFS.

 

The North Ridge Route and the Halo Ridge Route up Mt. of the Holy Cross.

 

Mt. of the Holy Cross North Ridge Route

Distance: 10.46 miles (round-trip)
Elevation Gain/Loss:
+ 5,616 feet / -5,616 feet
Starting point:
Half Moon Trailhead

The North Ridge Route up Mt. of the Holy Cross.

 

The North Ridge Route is the standard and most popular route up Mt. of the Holy Cross. The route has a Class 2 difficulty according to 14ers.com, and most hikers will find the distance and elevation gain make this a very challenging hike. The route crosses Half Moon Pass (elevation 11,650′) within the first three miles before descending down again to East Cross Creek, at which point the ascent to the top of Mt. of the Holy Cross begins. This results in a staggering total elevation gain of over 5,600 feet. For this reason it is popular to split the climb into two days and spend a night camping at East Cross Creek.

Keep in mind that you won’t get any views of the Cross Couloir on the North Ridge Route. If that is important to you we recommend completing the Halo Ridge Route described below, or hiking adjacent Notch Mountain.

Mount of the Holy Cross from Half Moon Pass

Mount of the Holy Cross from Half Moon Pass.

 

Description:

From the Half Moon Trailhead, you’ll begin with a gentle ascent on the Half Moon Trail through pine forest towards the top of Half Moon Pass. The top of the pass is at treeline, so you’ll enjoy some beautiful views of the Gore Range behind you. As you begin the descent, Mt. of the Holy Cross will dominate the horizon – you’ll struggle to believe you’re climbing all the way to the top!

Views of the Gore Range from Half Moon Pass.

Views of the Gore Range from Half Moon Pass.

 

Approximately 3 miles into the hike, you’ll reach East Cross Creek where you’ll set up camp if you’re splitting the hike into two days. From here, the climb to the top of Mt. of the Holy Cross begins in earnest. After a steady ascent through the trees, you’ll eventually reach treeline and the beginning of Mt. of the Holy Cross’ north ridge. The terrain from here on out becomes much more rugged, so be sure to tread carefully. At this point, the trail also disappears and you’ll need to closely follow the large cairns as you make your way up. It is not especially difficult to stay on course, but be sure to exercise caution as you are walking very near to the ridgeline.

Sunrise on the North Ridge Route – Mt. of the Holy Cross.

 

As you reach the end of the ridge, the ‘trail’ will turn to the southeast as you make your final approach to the summit. The area is covered in large talus so you’ll find the large wooden posts that have been erected to be helpful for navigation. The last 500 feet or so are difficult hiking, but the route to the summit should be straightforward.

Finish your last bit of climbing and you’ll be standing on the summit of Mt. of the Holy Cross!

Enjoy expansive views from the summit.

 

Mt. of the Holy Cross Halo Ridge Route

Distance: 15.2 miles (roundtrip, out-and-back) // 12.83 miles (descending via the North Ridge route)
Elevation Gain/Loss:
+ 4,658 feet / -4,658 feet (round-trip retracing the route)
Starting point:
Half Moon Trailhead

The Halo Ridge route to the top of Mt. of the Holy Cross adds another layer of difficulty to summitting this beautiful mountain. For this effort, hikers will be rewarded with stunning views of the Cross Couloir and the opportunity to visit the Notch Mountain Shelter, a truly beautiful structure. As with the North Ridge Route, this is a serious undertaking with between 13 – 15 miles of hiking depending on your chosen descent. It is advisable to start very early.

The Halo Ridge Route up Mt. of the Holy Cross.

 

Description:

The Halo Ridge Route begins at the Half Moon Trailhead where you’ll begin your hike along the Fall Creek Trail. It is important to note that this is not the same trail as those hiking via the standard North Ridge Route will take. The trail climbs gently through forest for the first 2.25 miles before coming to the junction with the Notch Mountain Shelter Trail.

From here, you’ll begin the ascent to the Notch Mountain Shelter via a steep, but well-maintained trail. The shelter sits at an elevation of 13,084 feet and was built in 1933 as a place to stay for those on a pilgrimage to see the famous Mt. of the Holy Cross. Unfortunately, you are no longer allowed to camp in the shelter. You can view the Forest Service information on the shelter here.

Take a moment at this point to soak in the incredible views of the Cross Couloir!

From the shelter, you’ll trace your way along the ridgeline towards the summit of Mt. of the Holy Cross. Take great care on this section as the route is very exposed. You’ll first climb to Point 13,248, which will allow you to claim to have summited a 13er and a 14er all in the same day! From here you’ll set your sights on another 13er, Point 13,373, before reaching a flatter portion of the ridgeline.

Continuing on, you’ll ascend to the summit of the Holy Cross Ridge at 13,830 feet above sea level. From here, you’ll descend slightly before tackling the final climb to the summit of Mt. of the Holy Cross!

We highly recommend reading the route description on 14ers.com for a more in-depth discussion on the Halo Ridge Route.

 

Mt. of the Holy Cross Camping

There are several options available for those looking to camp before, during, and after their hike of Mt. of the Holy Cross, all of which are described below. Be sure to check in with the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District prior to camping to check current regulations.

Camping near Mt of the Holy Cross

Camping options are abundant near Mt. of the Holy Cross.

 

Tigiwon Road Camping

The first option for camping near Mt. of the Holy Cross is to pitch your tent at one of the many dispersed campsites available along Tigiwon Road. These campsites are perfect for those who may arrive later in the evening and want to set up a base camp before setting out the next day. The campsites start a few miles along the road (be sure you are in the National Forest and not on private property) and continue most of the way up to the trailhead. The final 0.5 miles of Tigiwon Road does not allow camping, so be sure you’ve found a site before getting to the trailhead.

Campsite along Tigiwon Road.

Make sure you camp only at designated spots with a fire ring along Tigiwon Road.

 

You should only camp at designated campsites along the road, which will be indicated by the presence of a fire ring. Be sure and check local regulations before having a campfire, as this area of the state is often under fire restrictions. Also, keep in mind that there are no water sources available at the campsites along Tigiwon Road. It is very important to bring enough water not only for your camping needs, but also enough for your hike of Mt of the Holy Cross.

These campgrounds receive quite a bit of use, so we can’t stress enough how important it is to practice Leave No Trace principles when camping along Tigiwon Road. Be sure and leave your site in better shape than you found it!

 

Halfmoon Campground

The Halfmoon Campground is located adjacent to the trailhead at the top of Tigiwon Road. This is a formal campground operated by the Forest Service and features seven campsites, vault toilets, campfire rings with grates, and tables. The campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so be sure to get there early if you’re looking to snag a site. The fee is $15/night.

The campground is about as convenient as you can get for those who are looking to car camp the night before climbing Mt. of the Holy Cross, as you’ll wake up mere steps from the trailhead.

As with the campsites along Tigiwon Road, there is no drinking water available at the Halfmoon Campground, so be sure to bring all you’ll need.

Map of Halfmoon Campground near Mt. of the Holy Cross

Halfmoon Campground provides great access to Mt. of the Holy Cross.

 

East Cross Creek Camping

The backcountry campsites at East Cross Creek are utilized by those who are splitting their hike into two days. As described above, this allows hikers to avoid having to cross Half Moon Pass twice in a single day and spread out the elevation gain of the trek. We recommend anyone concerned about the length or difficulty of the North Ridge Route to overnight at East Cross Creek in order to make the hike more manageable.

The East Cross Creek campsites are located approximately 3 miles into the hike up Mt. of the Holy Cross.

 

East Cross Creek is reached by hiking approximately 3 miles in from the Half Moon trailhead and requires crossing Half Moon Pass. The area has 10 designated campsites that are all well-marked. If a campsite marker has a stone placed on top of it, it means the campsite is occupied. It is very likely that all 10 sites will be occupied on any given night. If this is the case, it is best to politely ask if you can share a site with one of the groups already there. Yes, this may mean getting cozy with a few fellow hikers, but it is a much better option than camping outside of the designated area. Given the popularity of Mt. of the Holy Cross it is important to minimize your impact as much as possible at East Cross Creek. 

Water can be taken from the creek, though do be sure to filter it before drinking. Also, there are no campfires allowed at any time at the campsites, so be sure to pack in stove fuel if you need it.

Map of campsites at East Cross Creek

There are 10 designated campsites at East Cross Creek.

 

Mt. of the Holy Cross Weather

As with all fourteeners, it is paramount to keep an eye on the weather when attempting to climb Mt. of the Holy Cross. Given the altitude, exposed nature of the hike, and significant length, we highly recommend starting very early in the morning to give yourself the best chance of avoiding afternoon thunderstorms.

mountain storm

Be prepared for storms to roll in at any time.

 

You can use the link here to get a sense of the weather forecast for Mt. of the Holy Cross. However, conditions can change at any time, so any forecast for a 14,000′ peak should be taken with a grain of salt. It is also advisable to check in with the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District to get current conditions.

Wrap-up & Resources

That’s it! We hope you found the information in this post useful for planning your Mt. of the Holy Cross adventure! As always, be sure to check out some of the helpful resources below for planning your hike:

Mount of the Holy Cross from Half Moon Pass

 

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How to Navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route | GPS Maps

We often get asked what is the best way to navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route? Given that the route spans multiple countries, crosses 11 mountain passes, and covers over…

We often get asked what is the best way to navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route? Given that the route spans multiple countries, crosses 11 mountain passes, and covers over 207 kilometers it’s no wonder that trekkers aren’t sure what maps to carry or the best way to be sure they are on the correct trail.

In this post we’ll explain exactly how we navigated during our own Walker’s Haute Route adventure utilizing offline GPS maps, and even provide some custom resources for your own trek! Let’s get started.

Overview map of the Walker's Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt.
The Walker’s Haute Route winds its way from Chamonix to Zermatt.

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Should I bring a map on the Walker’s Haute Route?

In order to fully cover the Walker’s Haute Route at a decent scale you’d need to bring no less than five Swiss Topo maps along your trek. For many, this is simply too much weight and hassle to pack. When we hiked the Walker’s Haute Route we did not rely heavily on these maps, instead choosing to utilize offline GPS maps on our phone for navigation. However, we always recommend that you bring some form of paper navigation. If you drop that handy phone in a puddle, you’ll be glad you did. The full list of Swiss Topo maps you’ll need for the route is below:

  • Swiss Topo 282T – Martigny
  • Swiss Topo 283T – Arolla
  • Swiss Topo 273T – Montana
  • Swiss Topo 274T – Visp
  • Swiss Topo 284T – Mischabel

A weatherproof carrying case like this one wouldn’t hurt to have either.

Be sure to check out our Walker’s Haute Route Packing List for a complete guide on what to bring!

Once you’ve got your maps for the Haute Route safely tucked away you can start to focus on our favorite way to navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route: GPS maps on your smartphone. No cell service required!

You’ll be glad you brought your handy maps when you encounter a trail section like this!

 

Offline GPS Maps for the Walker’s Haute Route

Offline GPS maps are quickly becoming the standard for backcountry navigation given their ease of use, accessibility, and the multitude of excellent smartphone apps available. Whether taking advantage of these maps on the Walker’s Haute Route or any other trek, you simply open your chosen GPS app (see our recommended apps below) and you’ll be able to view your location along the trail, see alternate routes, and all the stopping points on your trek.

We think this is far and away the most convenient way to navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route and want to help you successfully utilize offline mobile maps on your hike.

Keep reading below to learn more about how your phone can work as a GPS and how we can help you feel confident using this navigation method.

Using your phone as a GPS

Modern smartphones are incredible machines. You can send email, video chat with someone halfway around the world, and check your bank account all with a swipe of your finger. Another great feature of smartphones is their ability to act as a GPS device. You regularly use this feature when navigating with Google Maps, Apple Maps, or other mapping software that comes standard on most phones these days.

The problem is your phone relies on having an internet connection in order to download the background mapping data that needs to be displayed for you to know where you are. You see, the GPS in your phone only provides a location point, but the really valuable data is the background map that shows the various streets, businesses and even traffic conditions around you.  Without an internet connection to show the background map, your Google Maps app will look something like this: 

Blank TMB map

Not a very effective way to navigate.

Solving the background map problem

When you’re using your cell phone is a city, town, or anywhere with cell phone service getting the background map to download is no problem. Your phone simply displays the background map via the internet connection. However, once you’re out of cell phone service and without WiFi, your phone will not be able to display any of the critical background map information. This can be a huge issue when you’re standing on top of a high mountain pass on the Walker’s Haute Route and unsure which way to proceed.

The solution?

GPS navigation apps that allow for downloadable background maps.

These excellent apps allow you to access the map data without a cell phone connection and still know exactly where you are! Even though your phone is not connected to cell service or internet, the GPS will still work without incurring any “roaming” charges. 

Pretty cool, huh? I’ll show you exactly how we did this for the Walker’s Haute Route below.

 

Walker’s Haute Route Maps – What we provide

For those looking for Walker’s Haute Route GPS resources, we offer a complete GPS digital download for just $4.99. Included you’ll get access to both .gpx and .kml files for the entire Walker’s Haute Route along with common alternate routes and waypoints of all of the stops along the traditional, 13-day itinerary.

BUY NOW BUY NOW

These custom maps can be used on Android and Apple devices and works with both paid and free GPS navigation apps.

Which app should I use?

There are two main offline GPS navigation apps that we recommend for the Walker’s Haute Route:

Maps.me and Gaia GPS. The main difference between the two apps is that Maps.me is free to download and use, but has limited base maps. On the other hand, Gaia GPS requires a $19.99 annual subscription to use but has superior offline base maps and more robust navigational tools. Check out the comparison below to see how a specific section of the Walker’s Haute Route displays in each of the apps.

Comparison of Maps.me and Gaia GPS for the Walker's Haute Route

Comparison of Maps.me and Gaia GPS for the Walker’s Haute Route.

As shown above, Maps.me is great for displaying the route as well as the stopping points along the trek. However, when you look at the same section of trail displayed in Gaia GPS you can see much more information including adjacent trails, elevation shading, and a more detailed view of your surroundings. 

For this reason, we highly recommend you invest the $20 to use Gaia GPS. Of course, we certainly understand that many readers will prefer to use the free option of Maps.me instead. Given this, we’ve included instructions for downloading and accessing the Walker’s Haute Route GPS data for both Maps.me and Gaia GPS below. 

Gaia GPS for the Walker’s Haute Route

The instructions below provide a step-by-step guide for downloading and accessing the custom Walker’s Haute Route GPS data we’ve created in Gaia GPS.

Step One – Download the Walker’s Haute Route GPS file

When you purchase our Walker’s Haute Route GPS download, you’ll get a link for the GPS file included in your order confirmation email. You’ll want to be sure to open the email and download the .GPX file directly onto your phone (as opposed to on another device) to simplify the process. After completing the download you’ll be prompted to open the file in Gaia GPS, which you should do.

Gaia GPS will then import the data and you should see the Walker’s Haute Route and waypoints displayed on the map.

Success! You’ve imported the Walker’s Haute Route GPS data in Gaia GPS.

Step Two – Choose your map source

Next, you’ll want to select your base map. This will be the background map that you will eventually download and use to navigate while hiking, even without cell phone service. There are tons of background maps available for download, but we highly recommend the “Outdoor” layer for those hiking the Walker’s Haute Route. To choose this map source, simply select the layers icon in the top right corner and then select ‘Outdoors’.

Step Three – Navigate to the Walker’s Haute Route and download your background map

Once you have selected the “Outdoor” base map, you’ll need to download the entire area of the Walker’s Haute Route. Remember, without downloading this data you’ll have no way to know your exact location on the trail when you don’t have cell phone service. To download the background map data, follow the steps below:

  1. Navigate to the area of the Walker’s Haute Route in Gaia GPS
  2. Select the ‘Create’ button (circle with a plus sign in the upper right hand corner)
  3. Select ‘Download Map’
  4. Draw a rectangle with your finger that encompasses the entire trek
  5. Set the ‘Max Zoom’ to 17
  6. Name your map ‘Walker’s Haute Route’ and select ‘Save’
  7. Allow the download to complete and you’re done! (you’ll want to be connected to WiFi for this)

 

That’s it! Now you’re all set to navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route like a pro with an offline GPS map in Gaia GPS. You can now zoom in on specific sections, view trail segments, and see all of the stops along the route!

Using the Gaia GPS app on the trail

The final step to successfully navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route is to know how to utilize the Gaia GPS app when you are out on the trail. To view your current location, simply select the location button on the top menu. At this point your phone will activate its GPS, and (providing you have a fairly clear view of the sky) in a few moments it will show you exactly where you are by displaying a yellow arrow.

Use this feature whenever you want to see how far you’ve gone, how much further you have left until your next stop, or if a fork in the trail has you questioning the correct way.  

NOTE: The yellow arrow shows you where you are, but will not necessarily point towards the direction you are actually facing. This is important to remember when you are orienting yourself!

 

Maps.me for the Walker’s Haute Route

The instructions below show a step-by-step guide for downloading and accessing the custom Walker’s Haute Route GPS data we’ve created in Maps.me.

Maps.me is an excellent free navigation app that allows you to download offline background data. As we noted above, downloading background data is the the key to successfully utilizing GPS to navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route. The primary shortcoming of  using Maps.me for navigation while trekking is the limited base map data. You won’t find detailed topographic lines, terrain shading, or other helpful features. However, we know that many trekkers will be just fine with Maps.me and you can’t beat the price!

Here is your step-by-step guide to utilizing our Walker’s Haute Route GPS data with Maps.me:

Step One – Download the Walker’s Haute Route GPS file

When you purchase our Walker’s Haute Route GPS data, you’ll get a link for the GPS file included in your order confirmation email. You’ll want to be sure to open the email and download the .KML file directly onto your phone to simplify the process. After completing the download you’ll be prompted to open the file in Maps.me, which you’ll want to go ahead and do.

 

After opening the GPS file with Maps.me, the app will navigate to your current location and will also display a message stating that your bookmarks have successfully been loaded. You’ll need to move the map from your current location to the Walker’s Haute Route and verify that you see the track and waypoints displayed.

 

 

Step Two – Download the Walker’s Haute Route background maps

Once you have successfully loaded the Walker’s Haute Route GPS data, you’ll need to download the entire area surrounding the trek as a base map in Maps.me. Remember, without downloading this data you’ll have no way to know where exactly you are on the trail. To download the background map data in Maps.me, follow the steps below:

  1. Navigate to the area of the Walker’s Haute Route in Maps.me
  2. Zoom in on the trail until the app prompts you to download a map region
  3. You’ll need to download two distinct regions in Maps.me to cover the entire Haute Route. They are:
    1. Haute-Savoie
    2. Lake Geneva Region
  4. Continue to zoom in on different segments of the trail until you have downloaded both of these regions
  5. Verify that you’ve downloaded all of the required base maps by navigating to the ‘Download Maps’ menu.
  6. Once you’ve checked that both regions have been successfully downloaded you’re all done!

 

To verify that you’ve successfully downloaded both of the required base map regions in Maps.me follow these steps:

  1. Select the ‘Menu’ in the bottom right hand corner of the screen
  2. Select ‘Download Maps’
  3. Verify that you have downloads in France and Switzerland
  4. Select each country and verify that you have the following maps downloaded:
    1. Haute-Savoie (France)
    2. Lake Geneva Region (Switzerland)

That’s it! You’re all set to navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route like a pro with an offline GPS map utilizing Maps.me. You can now zoom in on specific sections, view trail segments, and see all of the stops along the route!

 

A note on battery life

One of the easiest ways for the app-navigation method to go awry is for your phone battery to die. I recommend two strategies to help prevent an unexpected dead battery from sabotaging your trip. The first is to ensure that you always exit the app before locking your phone. This will prevent the app from continually locating you, and thus draining your battery. You can also keep your phone on “airplane mode” to prevent it from wasting battery life while searching for cell service.

The second way to prevent a dead battery from causing problems is to carry a backup battery system. These are relatively inexpensive and are worth their weight in gold when you find yourself with a dying battery. I like the Anker PowerCore 20100, but any decent option should do.

Keep Reading

Be sure to check out all of our Walker’s Haute Route posts here.

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The Complete Guide to Camping in Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park, located in southwestern South Dakota, is one of the America’s most unique National Parks. The stunning landscape of sand colored buttes, towering rock formations, and one of…

Badlands National Park, located in southwestern South Dakota, is one of the America’s most unique National Parks. The stunning landscape of sand colored buttes, towering rock formations, and one of the United State’s largest areas of grassland prairie make this a truly unique place to visit. We think the best way to experience all that the Badlands has to offer is by spending the night in your tent or RV where you’ll feel as close to this stunning landscape as possible.

Badlands National Park and the surrounding area have tons of options for camping from the two campgrounds located in the park to remote backcountry camping and plenty of nearby campgrounds only a short drive from the National Park.

Keep reading to get all the details about camping at Badlands National Park!

Landscape of Badlands National Park

Pitching your tent in Badlands National Park is an experience not to be missed!

 

In this post

Badlands National Park Campgrounds

There are several options for those looking to camp inside Badlands National Park. The large and well equipped Cedar Pass Campground is perfect for those with an RV or who prefer more services, while more remote car camping is available at the Sage Creek Campground, and the entire National Park is open to backcountry camping for those with a sense of adventure!

The map below gives you a general sense of where each of the campgrounds are located in Badlands National Park as well as their relation to the surrounding area. Keep reading for detailed information on all your options.

Map of campsites at Badlands National Park

Car camping options in Badlands National Park. Map courtesy of NPS.

 

Reservations

Reservations are required only for the Cedar Pass Campground located adjacent to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center on the eastern edge of the park. While reservations are not required here, we recommend reserving your spot if traveling during the peak summer season. The campground is not managed by the National Park Service, so you’ll need to reserve directly through the Cedar Pass Lodge website below.

Reservations for the Cedar Pass Campground can be made here

For all of the other camping options in Badlands National Park you do not need to (and cannot) make a reservation. For backcountry/backpacking campsites you do not need a permit, but should contact the rangers at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center to notify them of your plans.

There is no permit or reservation required for camping at the Sage Creek campsite, but all of the sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Car camping sites in Badlands National Park

There are two options for those looking to car camp in Badlands National Park: the Cedar Pass Campground and the more basic sites at the Sage Creek Campground.

Cedar Pass Campground

Number of Sites: 96 campsites (four of which are group sites for up to 26 people)
Fee: $23/night for a tent site (2 people) // $38/night for RV site with electricity (2 people) // $40/night for a group site (10 people)
RVs: Yes
More Information
Click Here to Reserve or call (605)-433-5460

Cedar Pass Campground - Badlands National Park

The Cedar Pass Campground will give you great access to Badlands National Park.

 

The Cedar Pass Campground is part of the large Cedar Pass Lodge located just inside the Badlands National Park boundaries. The campground is adjacent to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, the main entrance to the National Park. The Cedar Pass lodge was established prior to the create of Badlands National Park, and is not managed by the National Park Service. 

Cedar Pass Campground has a total of 96 campsites that can accommodate tents and RVs in addition to four larger group sites that can accommodate up to 26 people each.  The campground is well organized with tremendous views of the surrounding National Park.

The campground is part of the larger Cedar Pass Lodge complex which provides campers with easy access to restrooms, a small souvenir shop, potable water, trash and recycling services and an on-site restaurant. The RV sites are electric only, although there is a dump site nearby. Fires are not allowed at the Cedar Pass Campground.

The Cedar Pass Campground is very popular given its excellent location at the entrance to Badlands National Park. Given the popularity of this campground, we highly recommend making a reservation here during the peak summer season. Since the campground is not affiliated with the National Park Service, you’ll need to make a reservation directly through the Cedar Pass Lodge website well in advance.

Sage Creek Campground

Number of Sites: 22 campsites
Fee: Free
Capacity: Not regulated
RVs: Yes, up to 18′. Horse trailers are exempt from 18′ limit.
Reservations: First come, first served
More Information

Bison near Sage Creek Campground in Badlands National Park.

You’re likely to have bison for neighbors at the Sage Creek Campground in Badlands National Park!

 

The Sage Creek Campground is located in the northwestern portion of Badlands National Park along the unpaved Sage Creek Road. The campground is approximately 15 miles from the closest town of Scenic, South Dakota. Camping at the Sage Creek Campground will appeal to those who are in search of a more solitude than you’ll find at the Cedar Pass Campground.

The 22 designated campsites at the Sage Creek Campground are all reserved on first come, first served basis, so be sure to arrive early in the day during peak season. The campground is free of charge and features pit toilets and picnic tables for your use and enjoyment.

The Sage Creek Campground does not have a water source, so you’ll need to bring all the water you anticipate needing with you. As with all of Badlands National Park, fires are not allowed due to the sensitive nature of the surrounding environment.

The Sage Creek Wilderness

The Sage Creek Campground makes a perfect jumping off point for exploring the surrounding wilderness.

 

Backcountry campsites in Badlands National Park

Number of Sites: Not restricted
Fee: Free
Capacity: Not restricted
RVs: No
Reservations: Not required, but please register with the NPS prior to setting out
More Information

Exploring the backcountry is an incredible way to experience Badlands National Park.

 

Badlands National Park presents the opportunity for a true adventure for those interested in backcountry camping and backpacking. The entire National Park is open to those looking for backcountry camping as long as you set-up camp at least 0.5 miles from a trail or road and are not visible from a road. While this presents a great opportunity to find some solitude, there are several factors to consider when planning a backpacking trip in Badlands National Park. 

First and foremost always contact the National Park Service at either the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, Pinnacles Entrance Station or White River Visitor Center prior to starting your trek. The rangers will be able to provide invaluable insights into the terrain, recommend routes, and advise you on the conditions you are likely to encounter. Additionally, it is important to notify them of your planned route in case an emergency arises and they need to find or reach your group.

It is very important to notify the NPS of your backpacking plans given the rugged nature of the terrain in Badlands National Park.

 

Given the wilderness nature of Badlands National Park it is imperative to carry a detailed map and know how to navigate utilizing a map and compass. We highly recommend bringing a copy of the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Topo Map for Badlands National Park on any backpacking trip in the Badlands. Additionally, trekkers need to be prepared to carry in all of their own water, as there are no suitable water sources available in the National Park. The National Park Service recommends backpackers plan to carry at least one gallon of water per person per day.

Given the sensitive nature of the grassland prairie and surrounding ecosystem of the Badlands it is essential that you practice Leave No Trace principles when backpacking in Badlands National Park. This includes packing out all of your own trash and property disposing of your waste. Fires are not permitted in the backcountry and you’ll need to leave your pets at home as they are not allowed in the National Park. 

Map of backcountry camping in Badlands National Park

The Deer Haven Trail and Sage Creek area are popular backpacking destinations. Map courtesy of NPS.

 

The National Park Service recommends two specific areas of Badlands National Park for backcountry camping: the Deer Haven Trail near the Conata Picnic area and the wilderness located adjacent to the Sage Creek Rim Road.

The Deer Haven Trail is not an official hiking trail, but rather a well worn path that leaves from Conata Picnic area. The route takes you a few miles into the backcountry were a number of camping areas are available. Along the Sage Creek Rim Road there are plenty of opportunities to head into the backcountry following social trails and wildlife paths. You’re likely to encounter bison in this area of the National Park so always be sure to give them their distance!

Here are some key things to keep in mind when planning to stay at any of these backpacking areas in Badlands National Park:

  • Pets are not allowed
  • No campfires
  • You must bring all of your own water
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles
  • Be aware of wildlife
  • Exercise caution when hiking since you will not be on a formal trail

If you follow these guidelines and plan accordingly you’re sure to have a great experience backpacking in this untamed wilderness!

Badlands National Park Camping Must Know

The following sections contain all the basic information you need to ensure you have a great time camping in Badlands National Park.

Fires

Fires are prohibited at all the camping options inside Badlands National Park. The ecosystem of the area is highly susceptible to damage and wildfires, so please respect this rule and do not have any type of campfire during your stay.

Campfires are not allowed at any of the campgrounds in Badlands National Park.

 

Wildlife

A diversity of wildlife inhabits Badlands National Park. This includes the iconic prairie dwelling bison, bighorn sheep, and the quintessential prairie dog. Badlands is also home to one of the most endangered animals in the world, the black-footed ferret. In addition to these mammals, you’ll also find rattlesnakes, turtles, and a variety of bird species. 

For those camping, you’ll primarily want to be vigilant about keeping a safe distance from roaming bison and keep a close eye out for rattlesnakes. If backpacking, be sure to wear long pants to and be on the lookout for prairie dog holes which can leave you with a nasty sprained ankle.

 

Bighorn sheep in Badlands National Park

Bighorn sheep in Badlands National Park.

 

Pets

Pets are allowed at both the Cedar Pass Campground as well as the Sage Creek Campground within Badlands National Park. You’ll need to have control over them at all times and they must be kept on a leash at all times. Also, be sure to pick up after them and properly dispose of their waste.

Pets are not allowed at any of the backcountry sites in Badlands National Park, so you’ll want to leave them at home if you’re venturing into the backcountry.

 

Where to get supplies

The best place to stock up on camping supplies before heading to Badlands National Park is Rapid City, South Dakota. Rapid City is about 1.5 hours from the Ben Reifel Visitor Center and about 1.25 hours from the Sage Creek Campground. While this isn’t especially close to the National Park, Rapid City has all the amenities and services you’ll need to prepare for a great camping trip including grocery stores, liquor stores, and outdoor stores. Here are your best options for where to stock up:

  • Groceries: Safeway (730 Mountain View Rd, Rapid City, SD 57702)
  • Outdoor store: Roam’n Around (512 Main St #140, Rapid City, SD 57701)

If you’re looking to stock up a bit closer to the National Park your best get will be the town of Interior, South Dakota. Interior is located only about a 10-minute drive from the Ben Reifel Visitor Center and has basic services such as a small grocery store and gas station.

 

Camping near Badlands National Park

Given the popularity and scarcity of options, it is always possible that you won’t be able to find a campground within Badlands National Park. However, don’t give up as there are plentiful camping options just outside the National Park boundary! Check out your best options below:

There are plentiful camping options near Badlands National Park.

 

RV campgrounds near Badlands National Park

Those camping in an RV will have plenty of options just outside Badlands National Park. These campgrounds will be your best bet when Cedar Pass and Sage Creek are full, or if your RV/trailer is longer than 18′ (the limit at Sage Creek). Here are our recommended options for RV camping outside of Badlands National Park:

Badlands Interior Campground

Number of Sites: 34 RV sites (with hookup), 27 tent only sites, 16 RV (no hookup)/tent sites, 4 group sites
Fee: RV sites ($23.61 – $37.07/night) // tent sites ($26.06/night)
Capacity: Max of 6 adults per site /  more for group sites
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Badland Interior Campground is just over 1 mile from the Ben Reifel Visitor Center and entrance to the National Park, making it the closet option. The large site features plenty of RV sites with multiple hookup options as well as tent sites, teepees, and camping cabins. The campground has tons of amenities such as a pool, free WiFi, a small shop, as well as an on-site restaurant.

Sleepy Hollow Campground & RV Park

Number of Sites: 57 RV sites, 20 tent sites
Fee: RV sites $43/night // tent sites $28/night
Capacity: Not stated
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Sleepy Hollow Campground & RV Park is located north of Badlands National Park in the town on Wall, South Dakota. This well-equipped campground makes a great place to camp for those looking to explore the Sage Creek area of the National Park, or who prefer to stay along Interstate 90. The campground has plenty of capacity for RVs and features a pool, dog park, playground, and basketball hoop. Wall has many amenities that are great for camping near the National Park including a grocery store.

 

Car camping sites near Badlands National Park

If you’re looking for car camping sites near Badlands National Park you’ll have a few good options to choose from. In addition to the French Creek Campground listed below, car camping is permitted and recommend at both of the campgrounds listed in the RV camping section above.  Keep reading below to see what your best bets are for car camping near the Badlands.

Car camping near Badlands National Park

Car camping near Badlands National Park.

 

French Creek Campground

Number of Sites: 7 sites
Fee: Free
Capacity: Not stated
RVs: Yes
Reservations: First come, first served
Pets: Allowed.
More Information

The French Creek Campground is located near the South Unit of Badlands National Park and provides for a great car camping experience. This is a semi-developed campground and features a vault toilet and a few picnic tables. The site does not have potable water, so you’ll want to be sure to bring your own.

 

Dispersed campsites

Your final option for camping near Badlands National Park is to find a free, dispersed campsite on the adjacent Buffalo Gap National Grassland. Buffalo Gap is managed by the Forest Service/BLM which manages hundreds of thousands of acres of land throughout the country and generally allows for ‘dispersed camping’ on it. You can find more information on dispersed camping on BLM land here.

There are some fantastic dispersed campsite just outside of Badlands National Park.

 

The Buffalo Gap National Grassland encompasses a huge area surrounding Badlands National Park, so you’ll want to have some idea of where you are headed. If you’re looking to camp on the west side of the National Park we recommend reaching out to the Fall River Ranger District in Hot Springs, SD to confirm current camping regulations. If you’re looking to spend a night or two on the north or east side of the National Park you’ll want to check-in with the Wall Ranger District.

You can’t go wrong with either locations, and here are your best bets for great dispersed camping near Badlands National Park:

Badlands Boondocking/Overlook Dispersed Camping

The so-called Badlands Boondocking dispersed camping area is located just north of the National Park on State Highway 240, which connects the Badlands to the town of Wall, SD. The camping area is approximately 3 miles north of the Pinnacles Entrance to Badlands National Park. From State Highway 240 there are plenty of options for great campsites, including the spectacular ‘Wall’ sites that overlook the National Park. Keep an eye out for a dirt road leading to three radio towers from Highway 240 and you’ll know you’re in the correct place. This site has some great intel on the area.

You’ll need to bring all of your own water and also be prepared to properly deal with your waste at this site, as there are no facilities. BLM regulations on dispersed camping allow you to camp for up to 14 days in a 28 day period, so be sure to observe that limit at this site.

It is especially important to practice Leave No Trace principles when dispersed camping.

Have a great trip!

That’s it! We hope you’ve found all of the information on camping in Badlands National Park 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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The Complete Guide to Camping in Great Sand Dunes National Park

The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is one of Colorado’s most iconic landscapes. The stunning sand dunes, some up to 700 feet tall (!), are set against the…

The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is one of Colorado’s most iconic landscapes. The stunning sand dunes, some up to 700 feet tall (!), are set against the spectacular backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. We think the best way to experience the dunes is to spend a night or two under the stars in your tent. There are tons of options for camping in the Great Sand Dunes National Park from RV spots and family-friendly car camping sites to beautiful backcountry sites and rugged sites that can only be accessed via 4WD roads.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about camping at the Great Sand Dunes!

 

In this post

Great Sand Dunes National Park Campgrounds

You’ll have several options available if you’re looking to camp inside the Great Sand Dunes National Park. There is the easily accessible Piñon Flats Campground for those looking to car camp or park their RV, camping for those with a well-equipped 4WD vehicle along Medano Pass Primitive Road, and hike-in backcountry sites in the dunes as well as the surrounding mountains.

Take a look at the map below to get a sense of where the different camping options are in the National Park and keep reading to learn more about each campground.

Map of campgrounds in Great Sand Dunes National Park

Car camping options in Great Sand Dunes National Park. Map courtesy of NPS.

 

Reservations & Permits

Reservations are required only for the Piñon Flats Campground located at the entrance to the park. If you’re thinking about camping here during peak summer season (or anytime Medano Creek is flowing) you’ll almost certainly need to have a reservation.

Reservations for Piñon Flats Campground can be made here via Recreation.gov

For all of the other camping options in the Great Sand Dunes you do not need to (and cannot) make a reservation. For backcountry/backpacking campsites you’ll need to obtain a free permit from the Visitor Center before setting out.  Note that all permits are made available on a first-come, first-served basis, so be sure to get there early!

There is no permit required for camping along Medano Pass Primitive Road, but all of the sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

 

Car camping sites

There are two options for those looking to car camp in Great Sand Dunes National Park: Piñon Flats Campground and the more basic sites along Medano Pass Primitive Road.

Piñon Flats Campground

Number of Sites: 88 individual (up to eight people) and 3 group (15-40 people)
Fee: $20/night (more for group sites)
Capacity: Up to eight people, two tents, and two vehicles at the individual sites
RVs: Yes, maximum length of 25′
More Information
Click Here to Reserve

Piñon Flats Campground in Great Sand Dunes National Park

Piñon Flats Campground. Photo credit NPS/Patrick Myers.

 

The Piñon Flats Campground is a large, sprawling campground located just past the visitor center when you first enter the National Park. The site sits adjacent to Medano Creek and makes a perfect option for those looking for easy access and plenty of nearby services.

Piñon Flats has a total of 88 campsites for small groups & RVs as well as three larger group sites that can accommodate between 15-40 people. The campground is well organized with two loops serving the 88 individual sites and another loop serving the three group sites.

The campground has plenty of restrooms, a small campground shop, potable water,  and trash and recycling services. There is also an RV dump station nearby in the summer months.

For those arriving in an RV, keep in mind that the Piñon Flats Campground can only accommodate RVs and trailers that are less than 25′ long. If yours is longer, you will be better off staying at one of the many nearby campgrounds that can accommodate larger RVs.

The Piñon Flats Campground is extremely popular during spring and early summer when Medano Creek is flowing, so reservations are essential. As with all National Park campgrounds, you’ll need to make a reservation through the Recreation.gov website well in advance.

The campground can be reserved up to six months in advance (which is recommended for popular times) and remember that Recreation.gov opens availability at 10 am Eastern Time six months out – so be sure you’re ready!

Piñon Flats Campground Great Sand Dunes National Park

Piñon Flats Campground in Great Sand Dunes National Park. Photo credit NPS/Patrick Myers.

 

Medano Pass Primitive Road 4WD campsites

Number of Sites: 21 campsites – please camp at designed sites only!
Fee: Free
Capacity: Not regulated
RVs: No
Reservations: First come, first served
More Information

Medano Pass connects the Great Sand Dunes National Park with State Highway 69. The road is only passable by well-equipped 4WD vehicles. It is important to note that AWD vehicles will not do well on this road! For those who have a properly equipped vehicle, Medano Pass Primitive Road offers some excellent campsites that provide more solitude than what you’ll find at Piñon Flats Campground.

Medan Pass Primitive Road Camping

Medano Pass Primitive Road opens yours options for camping in the National Park. Photo credit: NPS/Patrick Myers.

 

The 21 designated campsite along Medano Pass are all contained within the Great Sand Dunes National Preserve (as opposed to the National Park) and begin approximately 5.2 miles from where the pavement ends along the main road through the Park. Each campground is numbered according to how many miles it is from the entrance to the National Preserve.

Each of the campsites along Medano Pass road includes a bear box to store your food and many have fire rings. Fires are generally allowed, but be sure to check-in at the visitor center as fire bans can be in place at any time. There are no restrooms or trash facilities along Medano Pass, so always be sure to bury your waste (at least 100′ from the nearest water source!) and pack out all of your trash. Water can occasionally be drawn from Medano Creek, but must be treated. We recommend bringing all of the water you’ll need for your stay with you.

Medano Pass Primitive Road Camping - Great Sand Dunes National Park

Medano Pass Primitive Road Campsites. Map courtesy of the National Park Service.

 

Backcountry campsites

Number of Sites: 7 campsites + dunefield
Fee: Free
Capacity: 6 people per permit/group / 2 vehicles per group
RVs: No
Reservations: First come, first served – permit required
More Information

For those in search of a true wilderness experience, backpacking in Great Sand Dunes National Park is the way to go! The National Park has seven designated backcountry campsites and also allows camping anywhere in the 30 square mile dunefield for a maximum of 20 groups, with no more than six people per group.

Dunefield camping - Great Sand Dunes

Camping in the dunefield at Great Sand Dunes National Park is sure to be an unforgettable experience.

 

For both the dunefiled camping as well as the designated backcountry sites you’ll need to get a free permit from the Visitor Center upon arrival, beginning at 9am. Backcountry camping permits in Great Sand Dunes National Park are first-come, first-served so you’ll want to be sure you’re there early, especially on busy weekends.

Great Sand Dunes National Park Dunefield Backcountry Camping:

For those interested in backpacking in the Dunefield, you’ll have nearly 30 square miles to explore and camp. The dunefield is split into two zones by the National Park Service: Day-use areas and the backcountry zone. The map below gives you a sense of the different areas, and you’ll be able to camp in the backcountry zone only. The Park Service estimates it is an approximate 1.5 mile minimum hike into the dunefield. Some other important considerations:

  • Pets are not allowed
  • You’ll need to carry in all of your own water
  • No fires are allowed (except camping stoves)
  • Keep a close eye on the weather as you’ll want to avoid severe thunderstorms and high winds
  • Bring a bear canister or other food storage to protect your food from wildlife
  • The NPS recommends sand specific tent stakes.
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles

Great Sand Dunes National Park Backpacking

Backcountry dunefield zone in Great Sand Dunes National Park. Map courtesy of NPS.

 

Great Sand Dunes National Park Backcountry Camping – Mountains:

In addition the dunefield, you’ll also have the ability to camp at one of seven designated backcountry camping sites in Great Sand Dunes National Park. These seven campsites are all located along the Sand Ramp Trail and offer a more protected camping option for those who aren’t interested in the dunefield. The seven campsites range in distance from 0.5 miles to 11.5 miles from the Piñon Flats Campground and the start of the Sand Ramp Trail.

Great Sand Dunes National Park backpacking

Backpacking is an incredible way to experience Great Sand Dunes National Park.

 

Here are some things to keep in mind when planning to stay at any of these backpacking sites in Great Sand Dunes National Park:

  • Plan to bring a bear canister or other secure food storage
  • Pets are not allowed
  • No campfires (with the exception of the Sand Creek site)
  • Water can be scarce, plan to carry in what you need
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles

Great Sand Dunes National Park backpacking map

Map of backcountry campsites in Great Sand Dunes National Park. Map courtesy of NPS.

 

Great Sand Dunes National Park Camping Must-Know

The following sections contain all the basic information you need to ensure you have a great time camping in Great Sand Dunes National Park!

Fires

Fires are allowed at the Piñon Flats Campground as well as the sites along Medano Pass Primitive Road. Campfires are not allowed in the backcountry dunefield area or at the designed backcountry campsites with the exception of the Sand Creek backcountry site.

Campfire at Great Sand Dunes.

Campfires are generally permitted in the car camping sites in Great Sand Dunes National Park.

 

If you do decide to have a fire it is important to always use firewood that is sourced locally. This helps prevent the spread of disease and preserves the natural habitat of the National Park. Harvesting of firewood is not allowed in any National Park, Great Sand Dunes included.

Before having a fire, always be sure to check-in with the staff at the Visitor Center for current regulations.

Wildlife

A variety of wildlife calls the Great Sand Dunes National Park home. This includes commonly seen deer and elk as well as the more rare black bears, mountain lions, and the dune-dwelling kangaroo mouse. For those camping, you’ll primarily need to be concerned with protecting your food from small rodents such as mice and chipmunks. However, bears do visit the campgrounds occasionally, so it is imperative that you’ve properly stored your food.

The campsites along Medano Pass Primitive Road and at Pinon Flats all provide food storage lockers. Those camping in the backcountry will need to bring a bear canister or be prepared to properly hang your food in a tree.

It is also important to note that ticks are frequently found in Great Sand Dunes National Park. Be sure to always check yourself and pets after any time spent hiking, especially if you’ve been in tall grasses.

Elk herd in Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Elk frequent Great Sand Dunes National Park. Photo credit: NPS/Patrick Myers

 

Pets

Pets are allowed at both the Piñon Flats Campground as well as the sites along Medano Pass Primitive Road. You’ll need to have control over them at all times and we recommend that you keep them on a leash to avoid any issues. Also, be sure to pick up after them and properly dispose of their waste.

Pets are not allowed at any of the backcountry sites in Great Sand Dunes National Park, so you’ll want to leave them at home if you’re venturing into the backcountry.

As noted above, always be sure to check your pets for ticks as they are common in the Sand Dunes.

Where to get supplies

The best place to stock up on camping supplies near Great Sand Dunes National Park is in nearby Alamosa. This small town of around 11,000 people is approximately 30 minutes southwest from the National Park. There you’ll find major grocery stores such as Safeway and City Market as well as a few good outdoor stores. Here are your best options for where to stock up before your camping trip in Great Sand Dunes National Park:

 

Camping near Great Sand Dunes National Park

Given the popularity of Great Sand Dunes National Park, it is always possible that you won’t be able to find a campsite within the National Park. However, that doesn’t mean your trip is doomed! There are plentiful camping options just outside of the Great Sand Dunes that still provide easy access to the National Park. We’ve shared the best options below.

You’ll have easy access to Great Sand Dunes National Park from any of the camping options below.

 

RV campgrounds

Those camping in an RV will have plenty of options just outside the Great Sand Dunes National Park. These campgrounds will be your best bet when Pinon Flats is full, or if your RV/trailer is longer than 25′. Here are our recommended options for RV camping outside of Great Sand Dunes National Park:

Great Sand Dunes Oasis

Number of Sites: 20 RV sites, plenty of basic tent camping sites
Fee: RV sites ($38/night for two people) // tent sites ($25/night for two people)
Capacity: Up to 10 per site /  more for group sites
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended for RV spots, not required for tent sites.
Pets: Allowed.
More Information

Great Sand Dunes Oasis is the closest campground to Great Sand Dunes National Park that is not actually located within the park. This large campground is located along State Highway 150 as you approach the National Park, and is only about a 3-minute drive from the park entrance.

It features an on-site restaurant, small shop carrying basic groceries, gas station, as well as cabins and motel rooms for rent.

KOA Alamosa Campground

Number of Sites: Plenty!
Fee: $25 – $75/night depending on RV size
Capacity: No stated limit
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended
Pets: Allowed, but must be on a leash at all times.
More Information

The KOA Alamosa campground is located on the east end of Alamosa and about a 25-minute drive from the entrance to the Great Sand Dunes. This campground can accommodate large RVs and also provides guests with access to a pool, free WiFi, a dog park, and a small on-site shop.

The KOA is more expensive than Great Sand Dunes Oasis, but it has excellent reviews and plenty of nearby amenities.

Car camping sites

If you’re looking for car camping sites near the Great Sand Dunes National Park you’ll have a few good options to choose from. Some are more basic than others and you’ll even have the option for some full-on glamping! Keep reading below to see what your best bets are for car camping near the Sand Dunes.

Car camping

 

Zapata Falls Campground

Number of Sites: 23 individual  and 1 group site
Fee: $11/night for individual sites and $25/night for group sites
Capacity: Up to 6 people per individual site and up to 15 people for the group site.
RVs: No
Reservations: First come, first served
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Zapata Falls Campground is located east of State Highway 150 as it approaches the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The campground is around 30 minutes from the entrance to the National Park. The campground has a vault toilet and has access to several excellent trailheads. Keep in mind that there is no water at Zapata Falls, so you’ll need to bring your own water.

Rustic Rook Resort

The Rustic Rook Resort is unlike any of the other campgrounds included in this guide – it is a full-fledged glamping experience! The resort is located approximately 20 minutes from the entrance to the National Park. You won’t need your own tent here as you’ll instead be sleeping in your very own glamping tent with space for 2 – 4 people. Prices start at $150/night so this is definitely not for budget-minded travelers!

More Information

The Rustic Rook Resort offers a glamping experience just 20 minutes from the Great Sand Dunes.

 

Dispersed campsites near the Great Sand Dunes

Your final option for camping near the Great Sand Dunes National Park is to find a free, dispersed campsite on the adjacent Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. The BLM manages hundreds of thousands of acres of land throughout the country and generally allows for ‘dispersed camping’ on it. You can find more information on dispersed camping on BLM land here.

Dispersed camping near Great Sand Dunes

 

Before heading out with a plan to look for dispersed camping near the Great Sand Dunes National Park we recommend reaching out to the Conejos Peak Ranger District to confirm current camping regulations. They can be reached at (719) 480-9892.

Lake Como Road/Sacred White Shell Mountain – BLM sites

The Lake Como Road/Sacred White Shell Mountain dispersed camping area is located east of State Highway 150 as you approach the Sand Dunes. The campsite is located approximately 25 minutes from the entrance to the National Park. You’ll need to bring all of your own water and also be prepared to properly deal with your waste at this site, as there are no facilities. BLM regulations on dispersed camping allow you to camp for up to 14 days in a 28 day period, so be sure to observe that limit at this site.

It is especially important to practice Leave No Trace principles when dispersed camping.

Have a great trip!

That’s it! We hope you’ve found all of the information on camping in Great Sand Dunes National Park 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!

Piñon Flats Campground Great Sand Dunes National Park

Photo credit NPS/Patrick Myers.

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The Ultimate Guide to the Walker’s Haute Route

The Walker’s Haute Route offers the best of what the Alps have to offer. Incredible mountain passes, pastoral villages, jaw-dropping views, friendly locals, exceptional cuisine, and the sense of completing…

The Walker’s Haute Route offers the best of what the Alps have to offer. Incredible mountain passes, pastoral villages, jaw-dropping views, friendly locals, exceptional cuisine, and the sense of completing one of the world’s great hikes. Traversing from Chamonix in France to Zermatt in Switzerland by foot will give you an appreciation of these mountains that most can only dream of. From Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn you’re sure to have the adventure of a lifetime. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know to plan the perfect Walker’s Haute Route adventure!

In this post

About the Walker’s Haute Route

The Walker’s Haute Route is a classic alpine trek that connects the two mountain villages of Chamonix, France and Zermatt, Switzerland. The route traverses over 200 km and crosses 11 mountain passes on its journey from Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn. You’ll take in a wide variety of landscapes, from rugged mountain passes, to remote alpine villages and spectacular mountain huts. The trek is typically completed by starting in Chamonix and finishing in Zermatt, but it is certainly possible to walk in the opposite direction.

Jungen, Switzerland

Jungen, Switzerland. One of the many alpine hamlets you’ll visit on the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

The Walker’s Haute Route does not require any mountaineering skills, but it should be considered a very difficult trek. Over 13 stages you’ll gain nearly 1,000 meters each day and much of your time will be spent above tree line. That being said, the Walker’s Haute Route should be able to be completed by reasonably fit hikers who are adequately prepared for the trek (read more on that below).

Accommodation options on the Walker’s Haute Route are typical of most multi-day treks through the Alps with an excellent network of mountain huts, campsites, and hotels available to suit all preferences (learn more below).

Cabane de Moiry on the Walker's Haute Route.

Cabane de Moiry. One of the most spectacular places to spend the night on the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

How long is the Walker’s Haute Route?

The short answer: it depends!

The Walker’s Haute Route has many variations and route options as it winds it way from Chamonix to Zermatt. These variations include options to stay in unique accommodation (such as the Hotel Weisshorn) or to avoid difficult sections in bad weather (such as the Bovine Alp alternate).

All things considered, the most common route is approximately 207 kilometers long. Of course, many trekkers will opt to take several of the alternate routes, which will lengthen or shorten the total distance, depending on the routes chosen. You’ll have the option to walk less or more depending on the weather, your preferences, and the conditions encountered on the trail.

Walker's Haute Route elevation profle

The Walker’s Haute Route covers approximately 207 kilometers.

 

If you’d like to take a closer look at all the possible route options, check out our Walker’s Haute Route | Maps & Route article here. 

When should I hike?

The hiking season for the Walker’s Haute Route lasts from late-June through mid-September. Generally speaking, we recommend hiking between mid-July and late-August to have the best chance at good weather and to ensure most of the mountain passes will be free from snow. The trail will be at its busiest during this time, so we recommend booking as much of your accommodation in advance as possible. A breakdown by month is below:

June

Early in the season, you are likely to encounter snow on the trail. Depending on the snow levels, there could be sections that will be impassible and you may need to reroute. Be prepared with either micro-spikes or crampons and know how to safely navigate snow covered terrain.  Expect cool evenings, bright sunny days, and less crowded trails.

Snow on the Walker's Haute Route

Those who brave the Walker’s Haute Route in June are likely to encounter snow on the trail.

July

Hikers could still encounter some snow along the trail, but chances of significant snow will diminish as the month wears on. Expect beautiful warm days and abundant wildflowers. This is a popular month to hike the trail.

August

Another busy month on the trail, hikers can expect snow-free paths and warm, sunny weather. Accommodation will be busy so be sure to book ahead.

September

A lovely time to trek the Walker’s Haute Route. Expect shorter days and increasingly chilly weather. You’ll be rewarded with fewer people on the trail, although some accommodation may be closed for the season.

Zermatt, Switzerland in the fall.

September can be a lovely time to be in the Alps.

 

How difficult is the Walker’s Haute Route?

To put it simply, the Walker’s Haute Route is a challenging trek. The distance, elevation gain, exposure on many parts of the trail, steep ascents and descents, and weather conditions all contribute to the difficult nature of the trail. It is certainly more difficult than its popular cousin, the Tour du Mont Blanc.

All that being said we truly believe that most walkers who invest a bit of time in training and preparation can complete the Walker’s Haute Route and have a great time doing it! Our best advice is to be sure you are in good physical condition and also make sound decisions when you encounter bad weather or snow.

Pas de Chèvres on the Walker's Haute Route.

The hike up the Pas de Chèvres is one of the most difficult sections of the Walker’s Haute Route.

A Stage-by-Stage Itinerary for the Walker’s Haute Route

We recommend hiking the Walker’s Haute Route over 10 – 15 days depending on your hiking ability, pace preferences, and weather conditions. The classic itinerary described below takes 13 days to complete and will be the best option for the majority of hikers. Be sure to check out our interactive map and elevation profile for the route to get a comprehensive understanding of all of your options!

 

Stage 1: Chamonix to Trient

Distance & Elevation: 23.5 km // +1,355 m, -1,111 m
Where to stay:
Auberge du Mont Blanc
Description:

The first stage of the Walker’s Haute Route is a perfect introduction to trekking in the Alps. You’ll wind your way up the relatively undemanding Col de Balme before a steep descent down to the small hamlet of Le Peuty. From Le Peuty continue along the road for 10 – 15 minutes before reaching the town of Trient with its lovely pink church.

Stage One of the Walker's Haute Route from Chamonix to Trient.

Stage One of the Walker’s Haute Route from Chamonix to Trient.

 

Chamonix train station - the start of the Walker's Haute Route.

Chamonix train station – the start of the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

Stage 2: Trient to Champex

Distance & Elevation: 14.5 km // +1,489 m, -1,299 m
Where to stay:
Hôtel du Glacier
Description:

Stage two of the Walker’s Haute Route is one of the most demanding of the entire trek, but is also incredibly rewarding. You’ll cross the famous Fenêtre d’Arpette en route to Champex. Enjoy stunning views of the Trient Glacier and be sure to exercise caution on the initial descent from the top of the pass. Enjoy a relaxing evening in the lovely lakeside village of Champex.

In addition to the Fenêtre d’Arpette route described above, the alternate ‘Alp Bovine’ route is also an option for Stage 2. This route shares the trail with the Tour du Mont Blanc and is a good bad weather alternative as it never reaches the heights or exposed nature of the Fenêtre d’Arpette. However, it is still a lovely walk and we highly recommend it should you have bad weather. The Alp Bovine route is shown on the map below as an alternate.

Stage 2 on the Walker's Haute Route from Trient to Champex.

Stage 2 on the Walker’s Haute Route from Trient to Champex. The Alp Bovine route is shown in purple.

 

View of the Trient Glacier on the Fenêtre d'Arpette.

View of the Trient Glacier on the Fenêtre d’Arpette.

 

Stage 3: Champex to Le Chable

Distance & Elevation: 14 km // +410 m, -1,060 m
Where to stay:
Hotel Le Giétroz
Description:

A welcome change after yesterday’s challenging walk, stage three is mellow throughout. You’ll leave Champex and wind your way downhill to the village of Sembrancher. From here, you’ll have a short walk adjacent to farmland before reaching Le Chable your stopping point for the evening.

Stage 3 of the Walker's Haute Route from Champex to Le Chable.

Stage 3 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Champex to Le Chable.

 

Stage 4: Le Chable to Cabane du Mont Fort

Distance & Elevation: 12.5 km // +1,824 m, -194 m
Where to stay: 
Cabane du Mont Fort
Description:

Stage four of the Walker’s Haute Route is perfect for those who don’t enjoy steep descents because it is straight uphill! You’ll gain over 1,800 meters of elevation as you make your way from the valley to the spectacularly situated Cabane de Mont Fort. Note that it is possible to utilize the cable car in Le Chable to Les Ruinettes via Verbier before continuing on to Cabane du Mont Fort. This will eliminate much of the hiking today if you are in need of an easier trek.

Stage 4 of the Walker's Haute Route from Le Chable to Cabane du Mont Fort.

Stage 4 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Le Chable to Cabane du Mont Fort.

 

View from Cabane du Mont Fort.

Stunning views from Cabane du Mont Fort.

 

Stage 5: Cabane du Mont Fort to Cabane de Prafleuri

Distance & Elevation: 14 km // +1,135 m, -932 m
Where to stay:
Cabane de Prafleuri (no website, call +027 281 17 80)
Description:

Stage five is a very difficult stage and the route often holds snow well into July. The primary route takes the spectacular Sentier des Chamois trail before crossing the Col Termin. From here walkers will hike across the hillside before reaching the Col de Louvie and the Grand Desert beyond. The Grand Desert is an especially isolated area of the trek and care should be exercised, especially when snow is present. Trekker must then navigate across the Col de Prafleuri before descending to the mountain hut by the same name.

It is important to note that there is a popular alternate route on Stage five that avoids the Sentier des Chamois trail altogether. This route, shown on the map below, is more direct and crosses the Col de la Chaux. Check-in with the warden at Cabane du Mont Fort before deciding which route to take.

Stage 5 of the Walker's Haute Route from Cabane du Mont Fort to Cabane de Prafleuri

Stage 5 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Cabane du Mont Fort to Cabane de Prafleuri. The Col de la Chaux alternate route is shown in purple.

 

Stage 6: Cabane de Prafleuri to Arolla

Distance & Elevation: 18 km // +795m, -1,440 m
Where to stay:
Hotel Aiguille de La Tza
Description:

Stage six brings another difficult day for those on the Walker’s Haute Route, this time with the crossing of the Pas de Chèvres and its famous ladders. In our experience, the hike up to the ladders over the boulder-strewn landscape is much more difficult than the actual ladders themselves. Either way be sure to take your time and exercise caution as you approach the top of the pass and on the ladders. The alternate option of crossing the adjacent Col de Riedmatten is often considered more difficult and we would recommend that most trekkers opt for the Pas de Chèvres.

Once over the pass you’ll enjoy a beautiful descent into the lovely Swiss village of Arolla.

Stage 6 of the Walker's Haute Route from Cabane de Prafleuri to Arolla.

Stage 6 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Cabane de Prafleuri to Arolla.

 

Ladder section on the Pas de Chevres

Ladder section on the Pas de Chevres.

 

Stage 7: Arolla to La Sage

Distance & Elevation: 11 km // +670 m, -1,007 m
Where to stay:
Hotel de la Sage
Description:

Phew! After several difficult stages trekkers can finally enjoy a relatively easy day on stage seven of the Walker’s Haute Route. The trail passes the idyllic Lac Bleu as it winds it was along the shoulder of the valley between Arolla and Les Hauderes. From Les Hauderes it is a short and pleasant climb to the endpoint for the day in La Sage.

Stage 7 of the Walker's Haute Route from Arolla to La Sage.

Stage 7 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Arolla to La Sage.

 

Looking back towards Arolla on the Walker's Haute Route.

Looking back towards Arolla on the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

Stage 8: La Sage to Cabane de Moiry

Distance & Elevation: 11 km // +1,724 m, -574 m
Where to stay:
Cabane de Moiry
Description:

As the elevation change suggests, Stage eight has lots of climbing! You’ll leave La Sage and immediately begin the long ascent up the Col du Tsaté which will bring walkers into the stunning Val de Moiry. After the initial descent from the Col into the valley you’ll then encounter a steep and somewhat exposed final section to bring you to Cabane de Moiry. The Cabane is certainly one of the most spectacular places to spend the night on the Walker’s Haute Route with its up-close views of the Moiry Glacier.

Alternatively, walkers can opt to take the Col de Torrent alternate route if they do not plan to stay at Cabane de Moiry as shown on the map below. In that case you’ll plan to stay either at the base of the Lac de Moiry at the Cabane Barrage de Moiry or continue on into the town of Grimentz where more accommodation is available. While this may be a good option for some, we highly recommend spending a night at the Cabane de Moiry with its spectacular views!

Stage 8 of the Walker's Haute Route from La Sage to Cabane de Moiry.

Stage 8 of the Walker’s Haute Route from La Sage to Cabane de Moiry. The Col de Torrent alternate route is shown in purple.

 

Stage 9: Cabane de Moiry to Zinal

Distance & Elevation: 16 km // +655 m, -1,806 m
Where to stay:
Hotel Le Trift
Description:

You’ll get a head start on the crossing of the Col de Sorebois on stage nine given that you’ve already done much of the climbing on the previous stage. The walk starts with tremendous views as you walk high above the Lac de Moiry as you approach the Col. Once you reach the Col de Sorebois you’ll be treated to some incredible views of the mountains beyond. Here, the descent winds its way through a ski-area (with the option of taking the cable car down) before arriving in the ski resort town of Zinal.

There is also an alternate route down from the Sorebois ski lift to Zinal that winds its way on much gentler paths than the traditional route. We highly recommend for anyone with tired legs!

Stage 9 of the Walker's Haute Route from Cabane de Moiry to Zinal.

Stage 9 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Cabane de Moiry to Zinal.

 

Stage 10: Zinal to Gruben

Distance & Elevation: 17 km // +1,239 m, -1,138 m
Where to stay:
Hotel Schwarzhorn  (option for an alternate route to stay at Hotel Weisshorn)
Description:

On stage 10 of the Walker’s Haute Route you’ll officially cross the ‘Rosti Line‘ – the unofficial boundary between French and German-speaking areas of Switzerland. The trek is strenuous, but certainly nothing compared to some of the more difficult stages you’ve already completed. The Forcletta pass marks the high point for the day and from there you’ll descend into the sleepy village of Gruben.

Stage 10 also brings the alternative option for those who wish to spend a night at the Hotel Weisshorn or Cabane Bella Tola. This adds a day to your Walker’s Haute Route itinerary, but many find it a worthwhile alternative. As shown on the map below, rather than crossing the Forcletta you’ll continue along the shoulder of the mountainside before reaching the Hotel Weisshorn. You can also continue on further if you wish to stay at the lovely Cabane Bella Tola. For those who opt to take this route, the following day (Stage 11) you’ll cross the Meidpass before rejoining the main Walker’s Haute Route in Gruben.

Stage 10 of the Walker's Haute Route from Zinal to Gruben.

Stage 10 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Zinal to Gruben. The alternate route via Hotel Weisshorn and the Meidpass to Gruben is shown in purple.

 

The views approaching Gruben on the Walker's Haute Route.

The views approaching Gruben on the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

Stage 11: Gruben to St. Niklaus/Gasenried

Distance & Elevation: 17.5 km // +1,167 m, -1,861 m
Where to stay:
Hotel La Reserve (for those staying in St. Niklaus) // Hotel Alpenrosli (for those staying in Gasenried prior to starting the Europaweg – see below)
Description:

Stage 11 brings trekkers on the Walker’s Haute Route over their final mountain pass and into the Mattertal valley, at the base of which sits Zermatt. The descent from the top of the Augstbordpass will bring incredible views of the Alps beyond. Upon reaching the quaint village of Jungen you’ll have the option of taking a cable car descent into St. Niklaus to rest tired legs.

If you plan to hike the Europaweg trail to finish your Walker’s Haute Route adventure we recommend either hiking or taking the local bus from St. Niklaus to the town of Gasenried, just up the hill. If you have trouble finding accommodation in Gasenried, head a bit further to the village of Grachen. This will save a very strenuous start to the next stage and set you up for a great final two days on the Europaweg to complete the Walker’s Haute Route!

Stage 11 of the Walker's Haute Route from Gruben to St. Niklaus/Gasenried

Stage 11 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Gruben to St. Niklaus/Gasenried.

 

Stage 12: St. Niklaus/Gasenried to Europa Hut

Distance & Elevation: 13.5 km // +1,352 m, -748 m
Where to stay:
Europa Hut (Europahütte)
Description:

The Europaweg trail is a two-day trek that completes the final section of the Walker’s Haute Route. It has several exposed sections, but also is an incredible way to finish your trek! Leaving Gasenried you’ll have a steep climb up to the shoulder of the Breithorn. As the trail climbs be especially cautious on the sections of loose rock and scree you’ll encounter. After reaching the high-point for the day you’ll wind your way down to a beautiful suspension bridge before arriving at the Europa Hut.

Stage 12 of the Walker's Haute Route from Gasenried to Europa Hut

Stage 12 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Gasenried to Europa Hut. The low-level alternate route from St. Niklaus to Zermatt is shown in purple.

 

Stage 13: Europa Hut to Zermatt

Distance & Elevation: 21 km // +1,102 m, -1,749 m
Where to stay:
Hotel Bahnhof
Description:

The final stage of the Walker’s Haute Route will take you across the famous and spectacular Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge, the world’s longest suspension bridge. While this is certainly a highlight of the trek, don’t forget to enjoy the stunning views of the Matterhorn as you make your way to Zermatt. As you approach the finish of the trek you’ll find yourself among Zermatt’s many ski slopes and the increased number of tourists they attract. Enjoy a final descent before celebrating an incredible achievement in Zermatt!

Alternate finish to the Walker’s Haute Route

For those who are not interested in completing the Europaweg trail to finish the Walker’s Haute Route, a mellow valley trail makes a great alternative. From St. Niklaus, walkers will follow a lovely valley path that travels through the villages of Randa and Tasch en route to Zermatt. This option can also be completed in a single stage, making for a great option for those short on time.

Stage 13 of the Walker's Haute Route from Europa Hut to Zermatt.

Stage 13 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Europa Hut to Zermatt. The low-level alternate route from St. Niklaus to Zermatt is shown in purple.

 

Walker's Haute Route

 

Weather

Weather on the Walker’s Haute Route can be extremely volatile. You may wake up to heavy rain in the valley, see snow on the mountain tops, and be hiking in the sun by the end of the day! However, generally speaking, the weather during the hiking season is quite enjoyable. You can expect warm, sunny days, cool evenings, and relatively little rain.

A cloudy day on the Walker's Haute Route

The weather on the Walker’s Haute Route can change in an instant!

 

However, you also need to be prepared for very hot temperatures, very cold temperatures, rain, and storms (and you could even see all of these in the same day!)  Getting caught high up in the mountains during a storm or without the right gear is extremely dangerous, but you can greatly minimize your risk by taking a few important precautions:

  1. The Meteoblue App is arguably the best resource for predicting the weather on the Walker’s Haute Route. It allows you to see the forecast for specific peaks or coordinates, plus it has excellent radar displays and wind predictions. Check it every time you have cell service.
  2. Start hiking early in the day! Not only will you enjoy gorgeous sunrises, get to your destination before the crowds, and avoid the heat, but you’ll also greatly reduce your risk of getting caught in afternoon thunderstorms.

Accommodation

There is no shortage of excellent accommodation options along the Walker’s Haute Route. The villages and towns along the route have a wide variety of hotels, gites, auberges. These will suit almost any taste from more luxurious hotels to simple bunk rooms catering to the budget traveler.

Hotel on the Walker's Haute Route

The Walker’s Haute Route has a wide variety of accommodation options.

 

Of course, many of the stops on the Walker’s Haute Route do not occur in alpine villages, but rather at spectacular mountain huts. For those unfamiliar with trekking in the Alps, these mountain huts will be a highlight of your trip.

n stark contrast to the simple mountain huts found in other parts of the world, the huts along the Walker’s Haute Route are downright luxurious. You’ll be treated to fresh-baked bread, excellent dinners, beer and wine, and simple sleeping quarters. Our can’t miss mountain huts along the Walker’s Haute Route are:

Camping on the Walker’s Haute Route

Camping along the Walker’s Haute Route is possible for the majority of the stages with a bit of creativity. Most of the valleys and villages along the route have fully serviced campgrounds, making an easy option for those carrying a tent. There will be a few stops that require a slight detour (Le Chable, for example), but local transportation makes for an easy adjustment here.

If you’re interested in camping along the Walker’s Haute Route we highly recommend you read our Guide to Camping on the Walker’s Haute Route here. 

Campsite on the Walker's Haute Route.

Camping at Le Peuty on the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

Wild Camping

Wild camping along the Haute Route is complicated and discouraged (and often illegal). The trail passes through two countries and several local municipalities, each with their own specific rules and regulations. Generally speaking, wild camping may be allowed in France at high altitudes between sunset and sunrise, but it is strictly forbidden in Switzerland. This website has helpful information on the specific legal codes for each country.

If you choose to wild camp outside of sanctioned areas, set up after dusk, pack up at dawn, and utilize leave no trace practices.

Food and drink

One of the many wonderful things about the Walker’s Haute Route is that you don’t need to worry about carrying two weeks’  worth of food. The trail passes through many towns and villages along the way, making resupply easy. Additionally, all of the huts along the route serve excellent meals and will often be able to pack a lunch for you for the following day.

Food and drink on the Walker's Haute Route.

 

For budget travelers, it is possible to self-cater and keep your food and drink costs quite reasonable. In this situation we’d recommend you bring your own camp stove and cooking equipment if you plan on fixing most of your own meals along the Haute Route. There are several outdoor stores that sell stove fuel in Chamonix and Zermatt.

Additionally (for those with deeper pockets), many of the hotels, gites, and refuges sell meals and offer the option of purchasing meals. You can just show up for lunch, but you’ll need to order ahead of time for dinner.

Whichever way you approach your food and drink strategy, we think you’ll find that trekking in the Alps is every bit as much a culinary delight as a natural one! 

Water

All of the hotels, gites, and campgrounds provide potable water. You will pass through many villages with public drinking fountains, but make sure to plan ahead and carry 1-2 liters of water each day. Due to the presence of agricultural activity near large swaths of the trail, we do not recommend drinking any water from natural streams without filtering it first.

Getting to and from the Walker’s Haute Route

Most international travelers starting the trek in Chamonix will arrive at the Geneva Airport. To get from Geneva to Chamonix, you can take a bus or use a private shuttle service. We recommend AlpyBus.  On the other end, Zermatt is easily accessed by train from Geneva, Zurich, and many other Swiss cities.

We wrote an entire article dedicated to giving you the best, most in-depth information on everything concerning Haute Route logistics. Check it out here. 

Maps & Guidebooks

Carrying a good map is essential on the Walker’s Haute Route. While the trail is generally well-marked and easy to follow, there are countless trail junctions, detours, and confusing sections that require some form of navigation.

When we hiked the Walker’s Haute Route we did not rely on traditional, paper maps that are available for the route. Instead, we preferred utilizing GPS maps on our phones to ensure we knew where the trail was as well as where we were in relation to it. Cell phone service is very limited along the route, so it is critical to have a good offline mapping app such as Gaia GPS to ensure you’ll be able to view the map at any point along the route.

GPS map for the Walker's Haute Route.

GPS map for the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

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 Walker’s Haute Route GPX files for only $4.99. When you download the GPX file, you’ll get route data for each of the traditional stages of the Walker’s Haute Route as well as all of the common alternate route, plus waypoints for each stop along the way.

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

Walker's Haute Route Alternates map

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With all this considered, we still recommend carrying a paper map, or map booklet. While technology has done a tremendous amount to make navigating while hiking easier, there is simply no replacement for carrying a physical map with you. If your phone runs out of battery you’ll be glad you had your handy paper map to rely on.

To cover the entire Walker’s Haute Route at a good scale (1:50,000) we recommend bringing the following Swiss Topo maps:

  • Swiss Topo 282T – Martigny
  • Swiss Topo 283T – Arolla
  • Swiss Topo 273T – Montana
  • Swiss Topo 274T – Visp
  • Swiss Topo 284T – Mischabel

You can purchase all of these maps on the Swiss Topo website here. In addition, Swiss Topo also has hiking maps at a larger scale (1:33,000), although it would be quite cumbersome to carry maps to cover the entire Walker’s Haute Route at that scale.

As for guidebooks, you’ll have several excellent options to choose from. The first, and the one we recommend is  Chamonix to Zermatt: The Classic Walker’s Haute Route published by Cicerone Trekking Guides. The author, Kev Reynolds, is extremely knowledgeable about the Alps and the Walker’s Haute Route in particular.

Another good option is Walker’s Haute Route: Chamonix to Zermatt published by Knife Edge Outdoors. The benefit here is that the guide includes Swiss Topo maps for the entire route.

Budgeting

Although Switzerland has a reputation for being extraordinarily expensive, it is still very possible to hike the Walker’s Haute Route on a tight budget (camping helps tremendously with this!) Furthermore, you can even eat delicious foods and drink some tasty beverages without breaking the bank.

In terms of food, the best thing you can do is to avoid eating meals at restaurants and refuges. Sure, stop for a coffee and a pastry, enjoy a post-hike beer, and definitely pick up some local cheese, but if you cook your own meals you will greatly, greatly reduce your overall spending.

Here are some general guidelines for what you can expect to spend on the Walker’s Haute Route:

  • Average Hut Price:  40 CHF (dorm only) or 80 CHF (half pension)
  • Average Campsite Price: 15 CHF (per person)
  • Meal at hut or restaurant: 20-30 CHF (per person)
  • Packed lunch from mountain hut: 10 CHF

Check out this thorough post in which we break down exactly what you can expect to pay for food, accommodation, transportation, and more. 

What to pack

Packing for the Walker’s Haute Route is a balancing act between ensuring you have everything you need and ensuring you aren’t carrying more than you need. For those staying in huts and hotels, you can avoid the extra weight of a sleeping bag, tent, and associated camping gear.

For a complete packing list, check out this article.

Our best advice for packing for the Walker’s Haute Route is to adopt the mantra less is more. Here’s a few tips for ensuring you pack weight is manageable:

  • You only need a couple of shirts. Same goes for underwear and socks. You’ll have plenty of time and sunshine to wash and dry laundry Second, clothes are heavy, so cutting out everything but the absolute essentials will make a huge difference.
  • Plan out when/where you’ll restock food provisions and don’t carry more food than you need. This is especially true for those camping along the route.
  • 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.

Hiking on the Walker's Haute Route.

Keeping your pack weight down will help immensely on the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

How to train for the Walker’s Haute Route

We can guarantee you’ll have a better experience on the Walker’s Haute Route if you invest some time before your trek ensuring you’re in good hiking shape. You’ll be gaining around 1,000 meters per day in elevation and be on your feet for between 6 – 8 hours. Given those facts, spending some time in the weeks and months before your trip will do wonders to help prepare you.

To be best prepared we recommend focusing on the following:

  • Building your physical endurance
  • Building your physical strength
  • Hiking with a fully packed backpack prior to your trip

Finally, beyond simply being physically fit it is important to make sure you are mentally prepared for the rigors of the Walker’s Haute Route. Long days, bad weather, and empty stomachs can significantly dampen your mood and wear on your mental strength. If you haven’t completed a long-distance trek before you’ll want to be sure you’re keeping a positive attitude and embracing the challenges as a part of the journey!

For more detail on how to best train for the Walker’s Haute Route, check out our post here. 

 

What’s Next?

If you’ve read our Guide above, you’re well on your way to having an incredible experience on the Walker’s Haute Rout. However, you still have lots of preparation before you’re truly ready! Be sure to read our entire series on the Haute Route to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!

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