Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) is an unforgettable experience that allows you to connect with nature and explore the park’s stunning landscapes. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about camping in RMNP, from the park’s official campgrounds to backcountry camping and permit processes. Follow our tips and information to make the most of your visit and enjoy the beauty of RMNP.
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Official Campgrounds in Rocky Mountain National Park
There are five official campgrounds within Rocky Mountain National Park:
1. Moraine Park Campground
Situated in a picturesque valley surrounded by towering pines and majestic mountains, Moraine Park Campground offers a serene and tranquil camping experience. Wildlife, including elk and deer, can often be spotted meandering through the meadows nearby. With its central location in the park and easy access to hiking trails like the Fern Lake and Cub Lake Trails, this campground is an excellent choice for those seeking a true Rocky Mountain National Park experience.
2. Glacier Basin Campground
Nestled at the foot of the iconic Longs Peak and surrounded by lush meadows, Glacier Basin Campground is a nature lover’s paradise. With the added convenience of shuttle access to various trailheads, this campground serves as an ideal base camp for hikers and backpackers looking to explore the park’s stunning landscapes. The nearby Sprague Lake provides a lovely spot for picnicking, fishing, or simply taking in the breathtaking mountain views.
3. Aspenglen Campground
Tucked away among stands of aspen and ponderosa pines, Aspenglen Campground offers campers a peaceful and secluded retreat. The soothing sound of the nearby Fall River adds to the serene atmosphere, making it a perfect spot for relaxation and reflection. With easy access to several hiking trails, including the Deer Mountain Trail, Aspenglen is an excellent choice for both outdoor enthusiasts and those seeking a quiet escape in nature.
4. Timber Creek Campground
Located on the park’s quieter west side, Timber Creek Campground is a haven for campers seeking a more off-the-beaten-path experience. The campground is situated along the Colorado River, offering a unique camping experience with the soothing sounds of rushing water. With close proximity to the scenic Trail Ridge Road and the nearby Kawuneeche Valley, campers at Timber Creek can enjoy easy access to a variety of hiking trails and breathtaking vistas.
5. Longs Peak Campground
As the gateway to the iconic Longs Peak, this campground offers a more rustic, backcountry-style experience. Surrounded by dense forests and rugged terrain, Longs Peak Campground provides a sense of solitude and immersion in the park’s wilderness. For those who are up to the challenge, the nearby Longs Peak Trailhead offers access to the thrilling Keyhole Route, which leads to the summit of the park’s tallest peak, while other nearby trails provide options for less strenuous hikes.
Comparing RMNP Campgrounds
Each campground in RMNP offers a unique experience and caters to different preferences. Here is a brief comparison to help you decide which one is best for you:
- Moraine Park: Best for its proximity to popular park attractions and larger size, accommodating more campers.
- Glacier Basin: Ideal for campers who want to be close to Bear Lake and its many hiking trails.
- Aspenglen: Perfect for those looking for a smaller, quieter campground near the Fall River entrance.
- Timber Creek: Great for campers seeking a less crowded experience on the park’s west side.
- Longs Peak: Best suited for experienced campers and hikers seeking a more rustic, high-elevation camping experience near the Longs Peak trailhead.
Backcountry Camping in RMNP
For visitors seeking a more remote and immersive experience, backcountry camping is an excellent option. RMNP offers over 120 designated backcountry campsites, allowing you to explore the park’s pristine wilderness. A backcountry permit (called a wilderness camping permit) is required for all overnight stays in the park’s backcountry.
Reserving Wilderness Camping Permits
If you’re planning a backpacking camping trip in Rocky Mountain National Park this summer, it’s essential to reserve your wilderness camping permits in advance. Reservations for summer season backpacking permits open on March 1, 2023, at 8:00 a.m. MT, and can be made through the Recreation.gov website or by calling their call center at 877-444-6777.
When planning your wilderness backpacking trip, it’s helpful to have multiple itineraries and backup dates ready, as the park’s popularity means campsites fill up quickly. To increase your chances of securing your desired campsite, log in to your Recreation.gov account, select your dates, enter your group size, and build your trip itinerary. Keep in mind that the itinerary is not held until you click the “Book Now” button, and you’ll have 15 minutes to complete the order details and payment.
If you need assistance or have questions about a specific campsite or route, the park’s Wilderness Office is available to help. Additionally, if you experience errors while booking, try refreshing the Recreation.gov website and attempting the process again.
Be sure to review the wilderness campsite map and read the wilderness camping guide to familiarize yourself with the park’s regulations and trail descriptions. You’ll also find useful information in the FAQs and the designated site details sections.
Seasonal Considerations for Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park
The ideal time for camping in Rocky Mountain National Park is from late May to early September when the majority of campgrounds are open, and the weather is generally mild. Be prepared for afternoon thunderstorms and cool nighttime temperatures, even in the summer months.
Some campgrounds remain open during spring and fall but with limited services. Expect cooler temperatures, possible snow, and fewer crowds during these seasons. Be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions and check with the park for current trail and campground status.
Moraine Park Campground is the only campground open year-round, with limited sites available on a first-come, first-served basis. Winter camping can be a unique and peaceful experience; however, visitors should be prepared for extreme cold, heavy snow, and limited access to park facilities.
RV and Trailer Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park
If you’re planning an RV or trailer camping adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park, there are a few things you should know. Three campgrounds in the park – Aspenglen, Glacier Basin, and Moraine Park – can accommodate RVs and trailers, but it’s crucial to check the maximum vehicle length for each campground before making a reservation. Keep in mind that there are no electrical, water, or sewer hookups in the park’s campgrounds, but a dump station is available at Moraine Park Campground during the summer season for a fee.
To ensure a smooth camping experience, reserve a campsite that suits your RV’s size, and be prepared for tight turns and steep grades on park roads, especially when towing a trailer. The park’s natural beauty and numerous outdoor activities make it a fantastic destination for RV and trailer camping, so plan ahead and enjoy all that Rocky Mountain National Park has to offer.
Campground Amenities and Nearby Services
Amenities at campgrounds in Rocky Mountain National Park typically include potable water, vault toilets, picnic tables, fire grates, and food storage lockers. Showers and laundry facilities are available at Moraine Park Campground during the summer season for a fee.
The nearby towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake offer a variety of services, including grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, and outdoor gear rentals. Be sure to stock up on supplies before entering the park, as there are limited services available within park boundaries.
Other Options for Camping Near Rocky Mountain National Park
If you missed your chance to reserve a campsite this season, there are still places to camp nearby in and around Estes Park to the east and Grand Lake to the west. Here are some options to consider.
Camping Near Estes Park, East Entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park
Just outside the eastern entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park offers a variety of campgrounds for visitors to choose from. Private campgrounds in the area boast amenities such as RV hookups, showers, and laundry facilities, making them a popular choice among campers. Notable options include Estes Park KOA, Manor RV Park, and Elk Meadow Lodge & RV Resort.
For those seeking a more rustic experience, Roosevelt National Forest, situated to the east and north of Estes Park, provides additional camping possibilities. Campgrounds like Olive Ridge and Meeker Park deliver a simple, back-to-nature experience with basic amenities such as vault toilets and picnic tables.
Camping Near Grand Lake, West Entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park
Located near the park’s western entrance, the town of Grand Lake offers an array of campgrounds catering to various camping preferences. Winding River Resort, Elk Creek Campground & RV Park, and Stillwater Campground feature a mix of tent and RV sites, equipped with amenities such as hookups, showers, and laundry facilities.
Arapaho National Forest, located to the west of Grand Lake, presents additional camping opportunities for those looking for a more primitive experience. Campgrounds like Green Ridge, Willow Creek, and Sunset Point provide basic facilities for campers to enjoy a more secluded stay.
Dispersed Camping Near Rocky Mountain National Park
For a more primitive and adventurous camping experience, both Roosevelt and Arapaho National Forests permit dispersed camping outside of designated campgrounds. This type of camping offers no amenities or services, and it is essential for campers to follow Leave No Trace principles to minimize their impact on the environment.
When engaging in dispersed camping, be aware that it is only allowed in specific areas of the National Forests, typically at least 100 feet away from lakes, streams, and developed recreation sites. Campers should stay informed about fire restrictions, practice proper food storage, and dispose of waste responsibly to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience in the great outdoors.
Get Ready to Go Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park
Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park offers an incredible opportunity to experience the park’s breathtaking landscapes and connect with nature. With a variety of campgrounds and backcountry sites to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect spot for your adventure. Plan ahead, obtain the necessary permits, and practice Leave No Trace principles to ensure a memorable and responsible camping experience.
Frequently Asked Questions: Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park
A: Reservations can be made online at www.recreation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777. Campgrounds that accept reservations are Aspenglen, Glacier Basin, and Moraine Park. Longs Peak and Timber Creek Campgrounds are first-come, first-served.
A: Yes, each campground has specific size restrictions for RVs and trailers. Check the campground information on the park’s website or Recreation.gov for details on maximum vehicle length.
A: There are no electrical, water, or sewer hookups in the park’s campgrounds. However, a dump station is available at Moraine Park Campground during the summer season for a fee.
A: Campfires are allowed only in designated fire grates at established campgrounds. Always check for fire restrictions before starting a campfire, as they may change due to weather conditions and fire danger.
A: Yes, pets are allowed in the campgrounds but must be on a leash no longer than six feet and under control at all times. Pets are not allowed on trails or in the backcountry.
A: Yes, Glacier Basin Campground has group campsites that can accommodate up to 40 people. Reservations can be made at www.recreation.gov.
A: Yes, there is a limit of 7 nights per stay at any one campground, with a maximum of 14 nights per calendar year.
A: Yes, bear-proof food storage lockers are available at all campgrounds in the park. It is essential to store all food, scented items, and trash properly to protect both wildlife and campers.
A: No. Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park is only allowed in designated campgrounds and backcountry campsites. There are five campgrounds within the park: Aspenglen, Glacier Basin, Moraine Park, Longs Peak, and Timber Creek. To camp in the backcountry, you must obtain a backcountry permit and stay at designated backcountry campsites.
A: Camping fees at Rocky Mountain National Park vary depending on the campground and the time of year. Generally, they are $35/per night in summer and $30/per night in winter.
These fees are subject to change, and it’s always a good idea to check the park’s official website for the most up-to-date information on camping fees: https://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/camping.htm
Sleeping in your car is not allowed within Rocky Mountain National Park, except in designated campgrounds where you have a reservation for a campsite. Overnight parking outside of campgrounds is typically restricted to trailhead parking lots for backcountry campers with a valid backcountry permit. In these cases, you are still not permitted to sleep in your vehicle; you must set up camp in the designated backcountry campsite specified in your permit.
If you wish to sleep in your car or RV, you will need to find a suitable campground, either within the park that accommodates RVs or outside the park boundaries. Be aware that the park’s campgrounds do not offer hookups for RVs.