How To Backpack in Rocky Mountain National Park 2020

I love sharing our Colorado adventures here on the blog! More of the “Fresh Air” part of Fresh Air and False Lashes! If you are thinking of a trip out here, you may want to know how to backpack in Rocky Mountain National Park 2020. I want to share everything you need to know to make your trip an awesome one!

How to Backpack in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Before You Go

Backpacking and camping in the Rocky Mountain National Park requires a backcountry permit. This is easy to get before you go, just go online here and pick your remote camp site and reserve it. HOWEVER these do fill up relatively fast in the summer time, so be sure to try to book a month or more ahead. Once you get confirmation, I highly recommend calling the Backcountry Office and discussing your trip with them. They are a wealth of information- especially if this is your first trip. They will be sure you have all of the information you need to be fully prepared. And they’ve always been SUPER nice! Print out your permit confirmation and have it with you. Print out the map of your site, with directions etc. And remember that as you travel through the park there will be a lot of places that you will not have cell service, so don’t rely on that.

*In 2020 the Park is operating on a “Timed Entry” system to better be able to gauge the number of people in the park at one time and make it easier to comply with social distancing measures. If you DON’T have a camping reservation- You will need to go here and register for your entry time.*

How to Backpack in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

What’s It Like?

Backpacking in the Rocky Mountain National Park is wild. Most of the trails are well marked even in the backcountry, but the average date that there won’t be ANY snow on the trail isn’t usually until July. The weather can be extreme even in summer. A typical June day might see you in the 30’s when you wake up, sunny 70’s by mid-day, a late afternoon thunderstorm and then cooling off again by bed time. You will typically see a lot of wildlife while you’re there. We’ve seen the biggest coyotes I’ve ever seen in my life in RMNP. We’ve had a massive elk herd that literally walked right by our tent, we’ve seen moose, bears, Big Horn sheep and once, some giant cat prints on the trail we were on. The camp sites and trails in the backcountry are dispersed so that even during the very busiest months you can typically be assured of a serene and fairly remote experience. To backpack in Rocky Mountain National Park is truly nature at its most spectacular. If I could gift every single person that experience, I would. To be in the backcountry in complete solitude with rivers, mountains, blue skies and the starriest nights you’ve ever seen will make you feel SO ALIVE. You’ll shed the “numbness” you didn’t even know you were feeling and exchange it for an excitement and a fresh perspective that you didn’t even know you needed. You’ll feel amazing and that scenery will stay with you the rest of your life.

How to Backpack in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

What To Pack

To do this type of backpacking and camping the trick is to be as prepared as possible, as comfortable as possible……all while keeping your pack as LIGHT as possible. We’ve been investing in gear for ourselves and our children for years. The gear continues to evolve and get lighter and smaller. I’ll link all of our tried and true favorites.

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Packing List

GEAR

  • Sleeping Pad
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Tent
  • First Aid Kit
  • Water filter + a backup way to treat water for drinking.
  • Water bottle
  • Rain cover for backpack (I’ve seen people use trash bags too!)
  • Coffee mug
  • Spork or other eating utensils
  • Backpacking stove- JetBoil
  • Fuel for backpacking stove
  • Waterproof matches + another source for fire (lighter etc)
  • Head Lamp
  • Extra Batteries
  • Cordless Charger
  • Map and Compass
  • Multitool
  • Plastic trowel
  • Patch Kit
  • Nylon cord
  • Bear Canister for food (Required in RMNP)

CLOTHING

  • Hiking Boots
  • Hiking Socks (enough so that you always have a dry pair on hand)
  • Blister Kit
  • Winter Beanie
  • Rain jacket
  • Neck gaiter
  • Lightweight gloves (summer)
  • Down jacket
  • Thin layering jacket
  • Sleeveless shirt
  • Light weight hiking pants
  • Silk base layer

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OTHER STUFF I TAKE

This is the PERFECT time to scour through your hotel and airline samples! They are small, light and perfect for backpacking.

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Baby wipes
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect Repellant Wipes
  • Lotion
  • Hairbrush
  • Chapstick
  • Small mirror

When You Get To The Park

When you enter the park, just show a printed copy of your permit confirmation- it is used as your entry ticket to the park.

We always enter during the summer months by the Grand Lake entrance because there are fewer crowds. Your other option for entry to the park is the town of Estes Park. We adore Estes Park too! But in the summer time, the sidewalks are packed with tourists, so we typically visit Estes in the fall. At either entrance you’ll want to head straight to the Backcountry Office. These are located right beside the Visitors Center no matter which entrance you choose. Here you will pick up your actual permit, talk to the rangers and get more details about your trip and get ready to head to the trailhead.

Hitting The Trail

After you park your car and place your dash tag on your dash, this is the time to make all of your last minute adjustments to your pack. Having to carry a bear canister always makes everything a challenge, but the best packs have lots of outside containment straps , pockets and loops so you just have to get creative on how to effectively carry what you’ve brought. Be sure your water bottle is within easy reach with your pack on.

I like to leave a few things in our car that we will be happy about when we return. I’ll leave a bag with fresh makeup wipes, mascara, snack bars and some extra water. We still have to seal everything tightly in plastic bags……bears will break into cars for food. At some trailheads there are food lockers, so you can leave things safely in those instead of your car. And now you’re ready to hit the trail! Stay tuned for Part 2 and why all of this is so worth it!

How to Backpack in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

And with that- we are about to hit the trail ourselves! I’ll finish up Part 2 as soon as we are back. I’ll be recording in stories on IG as long as we have cell service and if we lose service, I’ll record and upload them as soon as we are back. Thanks so much for reading! You can Pin this post on Pinterest to refer to later.

How to Backpack in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
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Melissa
Melissa

Melissa is an unrepentant shoe hoarder who is obsessed with travel, wine, good food and her family. (Not necessarily in that order!)

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Thanks so much for sharing!

2 Comments

    • melissa
      Author
      June 28, 2020 / 8:11 am

      It was so great Jennifer! Can’t wait to write a recap of the trip.
      ~Melissa xx

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