BEST AREAS FOR WILDERNESS CAMPING
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
265,000 acres. Located high in the Rockies of north-central Colorado, this superb National Park has no less than 59 peaks over 12,000 feet, with 14,255-foot Long’s Peak the highest. A section of the Continental Divide is included. Substantial areas are above timberline, meaning almost unlimited vistas.
Most of the park is wilderness. There are deep canyons and cliffs, some small glaciers, many lakes, streams, and rivers, and forests of spruce and fir, juniper and ponderosa pine. Wildlife includes elk, moose, black bear, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and mountain lion.
Activities: About 355 miles of trails are available for backpacking and hiking, including a section of the Continental Divide Trail (see entry page 122), as well as a trail to the top of Long’s Peak. Difficulty ranges from easy to extremely strenuous.
Some trails receive heavy use. Higher trails may only be snow-free from July through September. Allow extra time to adjust to the very high altitudes. Horseback riding is possible on some trails, as is cross-country skiing during the snow season.
Technical climbing is available, with a bivouac permit required to remain overnight. Fishing is another option along streams and some lakes. Hunting is prohibited in the park.
Camping Regulations: A free permit is required for backcountry camping. Permits are available by mail or in person from visitor centers or ranger stations, and must be picked up in person. Phone reservations are accepted from September-May only.
Between June and September visitors may camp a maximum of seven nights, or three nights at any one site. Campfires are prohibited except at small number of designated sites, so a stove should be brought for cooking. Pets are prohibited.
There are some 198 designated campsites located along many of the trails. Dispersed camping is also permitted in 23 trail-less cross-country zones in more remote parts of the park. Here tents must be set up at least 100 feet from water sources, and campers may only stay a single night at each site, with a two-night maximum for each zone. Group size in these zones is limited to seven.
For Further Information: Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, CO 80517; (303)586-2371.