Category: Rocky Mountain National Park

Complete Guide to Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park

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

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

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

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

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

Rocky Mountain National Park camping

 

In this Rocky Mountain National Park Camping Guide

 

Rocky Mountain National Park Campgrounds

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

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

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

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

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

Map of camping in Rocky Mountain National Park

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

 

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

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

Enjoy!

 

Reservations & Permits

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

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

Make a camping reservation in Rocky Mountain National Park here.

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

Bridge over a creek in RMNP

 

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

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

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

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

Tent at a backcountry campsite in Rocky Mountain National Park.

 

What to Bring Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park

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

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

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

When to Camp in Rocky Mountain National Park

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

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

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

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

Bear Lake in the winter

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

 

Developed Campgrounds in RMNP

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

Aspenglen Campground

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

Aspenglen Campground, Rocky Mountain National Park

Aspenglen Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

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

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

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

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

Click here to make a reservation at the Aspenglen Campground

Old Fall River Road in RMNP

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

 

Glacier Basin Campground

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

Glacier Basin Campground, Rocky Mountain National Park

Glacier Basin Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to make a reservation at the Glacier Basin Campground

Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

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

 

Moraine Park Campground

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

Moraine Park Campground, Rocky Mountain National Park

Moraine Park Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

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

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

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

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

Click here to make a reservation at the Moraine Park Campground

Moraine Park Campground Amphitheater

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

 

Longs Peak Campground

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

Longs Peak Campground, Rocky Mountain National Park

Longs Peak Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

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

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

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

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

Chasm Lake hike from Longs Peak Campground

The hike to Chasm Lake is a RMNP classic.

 

Timber Creek Campground

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

Timber Creek Campground, Rocky Mountain National Park

Timber Creek Campground. Photo credit NPS.

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

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

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

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

 

Backcountry camping in Rocky Mountain National Park

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

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

Backcountry Camping at Designated Campsites in RMNP

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

Map of backcountry campsites in Rocky Mountain National Park.

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

 

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

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

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

Get more information on Backcountry Wilderness Permits in RMNP here.

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

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

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

East Inlet, Rocky Mountain National Park

 

Winter Wilderness Camping

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

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

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

Technical Orienteering in Rocky Mountain National Park

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

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

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

Technical Climbing Bivouac in RMNP

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

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

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

A tent in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rocky Mountain National Park Camping Must Know

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

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

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

Campfires in Rocky Mountain National Park

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

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

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

Pets

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

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

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

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

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

Where to get supplies

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

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

 

Camping near Rocky Mountain National Park

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

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

RV campgrounds near Rocky Mountain National Park

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

RV in Rocky Mountain National Park

 

RV Campgrounds on the East side of RMNP

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

Elk Meadow Lodge & RV Park

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

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

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

 

Manor RV Park

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

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

 

Estes Park KOA

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

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

 

Spruce Lake RV Park

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

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

RV Campgrounds on the West side of RMNP

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

Elk Creek Campground & RV Resort

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

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

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

 

Winding River Resort

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

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

 

Car camping sites near Rocky Mountain National Park

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

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

Campsite near Rocky Mountain National Park

 

Car camping sites on the East side of RMNP

Estes Park Campground at East Portal

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

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

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

 

Estes Park Campground at Mary’s Lake

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

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

 

Hermit Park Open Space Campgrounds

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

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

 

Olive Ridge Campground

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

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

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

 

Meeker Park Overflow Campground

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

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

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

 

Peaceful Valley Campground

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

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

 

Camp Dick Campground

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

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

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

 

Car camping sites on the West side of RMNP

Green Ridge Campground

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

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

 

Sunset Point Campground

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

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

 

Free dispersed camping near Rocky Mountain National Park

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

 

Dispersed campsite near Rocky Mountain National Park

 

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

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

Coyote Hill Road

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

Parachute Hill/Johnny Park Road

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

Pole Hill Road

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

Stillwater Pass Dispersed Camping

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

 

Have a great trip!

That’s it!

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

 

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The Complete Guide to Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park

  If you’ve read any of our other posts on this blog, you’ve probably figured out by now that we really love to hike.  If you ask me, there’s only…

A frozen and snow covered Dream Lake, seen while snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park

Dream Lake in all of its frozen beauty.

 

If you’ve read any of our other posts on this blog, you’ve probably figured out by now that we really love to hike.  If you ask me, there’s only one thing more fun than hiking…hiking in the snow! And the only thing better than hiking in the snow? Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park! You might be thinking, “Well, no… It’s cold and difficult and boring.” Or maybe you’re thinking, “She’s crazy. Skiing is WAY better.” Before you click over to one of the six other tabs you have open right now, hear me out. 

Snowshoeing allows you to see familiar trails in a completely new way, it’s a challenging and rewarding workout, and it gives you the opportunity to experience popular hikes without the crowds. Oh, and unlike skiing, you don’t have to get up at 4am to battle traffic for hours just to get there. You can rent or buy snowshoes for a very reasonable cost, especially when compared to skis.  Snowshoeing for the win!

As I’ve gotten into the sport in recent years, I’ve found it surprisingly difficult to find good information about snowshoeing near the Front Range, especially snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this post, I’ll share everything you need to know in order to have a fantastic snowshoe outing in one of our favorite places: Rocky Mountain National Park.

But first, a few reasons why you should showshoe in Rocky Mountain National Park…

-It has a pretty consistent snowpack throughout the winter months.

-It is significantly less crowded in the off-season, allowing you to enjoy its natural wonders in peace and solitude.

-It has a wealth of trails of varying lengths, difficulty levels, and terrain types, making it a great destination for snowshoers of every ability and experience level.

Also, be sure to check out our Snowshoeing Packing List to be prepared for any winter adventure!

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Guide to Hiking Chasm Lake

Length: 8.5 Miles. Moderate to Strenuous. Approximate Time: 6-8 hours. Nestled against the granite wall that forms the Eastern face of Longs Peak, pristine Chasm Lake is a truly spectacular…

Length: 8.5 Miles. Moderate to Strenuous. Approximate Time: 6-8 hours.

Nestled against the granite wall that forms the Eastern face of Longs Peak, pristine Chasm Lake is a truly spectacular sight to behold. Getting there is pretty incredible too.  The trail climbs gently through varied terrains, offering spectacular views, waterfalls, and plenty of marmot sightings. This hike is only steep and moderately technical in the last half-mile or so; the rest of it should be quite manageable for most fit(ish) hikers.

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike starts at the Longs Peak Ranger Station in Rocky Mountain National Park, which is accessed via CO-7, either from Estes Park or Allenspark. If you are coming from the Front Range, head to Lyons, then turn left onto CO-7. Stay on that road past Allenspark, and keep an eye out for signs for the Longs Peak trailhead.  When you see the turn-off (just after you enter into Larimer County), take a left. You’ll follow this road until it reaches the ranger station and trailhead. If you are hiking on a busy weekend or holiday in the summer, expect to park along the road, as the lot fills up very early. Although the hike is within Rocky Mountain National Park, visitors do not need to pay an entrance fee at this location.

The Hike

Begin your hike by following the East Longs Peak Trail.  You’ll be on this trail for most of the hike, and all of the junctions are very well marked. For the first mile or so, you’ll climb at a mellow grade through lovely pine forests. At the first junction, follow the signage and veer left.  From here, you’ll traverse a few switchbacks as you start to see and hear a stream that courses alongside the trail in several places.  A bit higher up, you’ll cross the stream (there is a bridge), and the views open up towards the forest below.  This peaceful, shady spot is a great place to stop for a snack or a short break. As you keep hiking past the stream crossing, the pine forest dwindles until the only trees left are krumholz, the short, wind-sculpted trees found at higher elevations. As you get above treeline, the views really open up.

The first stream crossing en route to Chasm Lake.

Looking to the east, you get big vistas of the entire Front Range, and to the west Longs Peak looms large. The rest of the hike winds through alpine tundra. Make sure to keep an eye out for the wide array of delicate and colorful wildflowers that dot this landscape in the summer months. The trail continues to climb steadily (and a bit more steeply) until it reaches the next junction at about mile 2.5.  The right-hand fork will take you up Battle Mountain, while the left will continue towards Longs Peak and Chasm Lake. After another mile, you’ll reach a rocky ridge.  There’s an outhouse here, and this is another nice spot to take a break. This is where you’ll leave the Longs Peak Trail (that’s an adventure for another day), and make your final push towards Chasm Lake.

From the junction, the trail hugs the side of the ridge, narrowly in some places, as it curves towards the lake. We hiked in late June and encountered a small amount of snow in this section. While it wasn’t too difficult, traversing the snow on this narrow section of trail might be a bit unsettling for some hikers.  Use hiking poles and keep your weight leaned in towards the mountain, and you should be just fine.  As you approach Chasm Lake, you’ll be treated to stunning views of Peacock Pool and Columbine Falls.  Just before reaching the lake, you will encounter a steep section that contains large boulders.  You’ll need to do some scrambling in a few places, but this tricky section is very short (and very fun!).  Spectacular Chasm Lake is waiting for you at the top.  Grab a seat on one of the many large rocks ringing the lake, relax, and enjoy this beautiful little pocket of  earth. Make sure to head down early enough in the day to avoid being above tree line when afternoon thunderstorms roll in. We capped off this perfect summer day with a post-hike ice cream outing, and we’d highly recommend you do the same.

The final approach to Chasm Lake.

Enjoy the breathtaking views of Longs Peak!

Considerations:

  • If hiking in June, check the snow conditions before you go.  July and August are the best months to complete this hike.
  • The alpine section of this hike is quite exposed, which makes it a dangerous place to be in the event of a thunderstorm. Start early to avoid getting caught up there when weather moves in.
  • If hiking on a weekend, plan for an extra mile or so of walking along the road, as the parking lot fills up very early with hikers attempting to summit Longs Peak.
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Guide to Lake Verna/East Inlet Backpacking

Lake Verna, located on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park and accessible via the East Inlet trailhead, offers some of the most spectacular backpacking in the region. Less…

Lake Verna, located on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park and accessible via the East Inlet trailhead, offers some of the most spectacular backpacking in the region. Less crowded than other areas of Rocky Mountain National Park, Lake Verna and the East Inlet trail make for a fantastic backcountry adventure in Colorado’s most famous national park. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know to plan your own Lake Verna backpacking trip.

Lake Verna

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