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Photo Credit: © 2019 James Frank

Backpacking

Backpacking and Wilderness Camping

Camping in the backcountry means leaving the crowds of campgrounds and civilization behind to experience nature and solitude.

Explore Rocky Mountain National Park’s cross-country areas.  Camp and hike off-trail in 416 square miles of spectacular mountains, lakes, waterfalls, and tundra.  That’s almost 250,000 acres of wilderness permanently protected within the Park.

Carry everything you need to be safe and comfortable with you in your backpack – clothing, shelter, food, and essentials.  Planning and preparation are key!

If you’re a beginner at backpacking, learn and practice some basics because knowledge and skill are just as important as gear in the backcountry.

If you have new gear, try it out at home before you go.   Mountain weather can change rapidly, and you need to be prepared and self-sufficient.  Afternoon thunder storms are common in summer.

Permits

To protect the Park, wilderness camping along popular trails means camping in designated backcountry sites.

A $36 backcountry overnight travel permit is required between May 1 and Oct 31.  Reservations are available starting March 2 at www.recreation.gov, or call the Recreation.gov call center at 877-444-6777.   Popular dates and spots go quickly so it’s important to plan ahead.

Choose your route to match your group’s skills.  Find information on multi-day backpacking hikes and weekend  trips in this popular hiking guidebook – Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park by Erik Stensland.  Remember  to consider elevation gain in how far you’ll go each day because there’s a lot of “up” in RMNP!

Check the site details for first average snow-free date if you don’t plan to camp on snow.

Wilderness Campsite Reservation Requests are only submitted online.    In person, phone, email, and mail reservations are not accepted at the Park.

Maximum party size is 7 before being considered a group, requiring a group site,  and maximum stay at one site is 3 nights.

You have to pay the Park Entrance Fee in addition to your backcountry permit, but a Timed Entry Permit is included with your backcountry permit.

Permits must be picked up in person at a Wilderness Office located in the Beaver Meadows and Kawuneechee Visitor Centers.

Walk up Permits for day of trip are available on a limited basis at the Wilderness Offices – no guarantees of availability – so it’s best to reserve ahead if possible.