Guide to Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park

Guide to Camping in Rocky Mountains National Park

If sleeping under the stars near jagged peaks and alpine meadows is your ideal way to enjoy the great outdoors, then camping in Rocky Mountain National Park just might be what you’re looking for.

As one of the most popular places in Colorado to pitch a tent for the night, Rocky Mountain is an excellent locale for your next camping trip. Indeed, the park has a handful of designated campgrounds and plenty of backcountry sites for you to enjoy.

With so many great options to choose from, however, we know how difficult it can be to find the right campsite for your needs. So, here’s our guide to camping in Rocky Mountain National Park, complete with all the information you need to find the best place to spend the night during your upcoming trip.

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Campgrounds in the Rockies

Aspenglen Campground

  • Type : Tent / RV
  • Open : May 20 to September 20 (approximately)
  • Cost : $30 per night
  • Reservation : Yes

Nestled in the northern corner of Rocky Mountain near the town of Estes Park, Aspenglen Campground is a family-friendly camping area that provides plenty of seclusion, even in the busy summer season.

The campground is located within a grove of evergreen trees and it boasts 52 campsites for visitors to choose from. Most of the sites are suitable for both RVs and tents, though a handful are walk-in only, which is perfect for folks looking for some peace and quiet.

All sites at Aspenglen are reservable up to 6 months in advance. However, there is no cell phone reception in the campground, so a set of walkie talkies is a must if you want to be able to communicate with others in your group.

Glacier Basin Campground

  • Type : Tent / RV
  • Open : May 20 to September 10 (approximately)
  • Cost : $30 to $60 per night
  • Reservation : Yes

For campers looking to stay in the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park, Glacier Basin Campground is a solid choice. One of the larger campgrounds in the park, Glacier Basin offers over 150 total campsites, approximately half of which are tent-only and 13 of which are designated for group use.

The campground is very popular in July and August, so be sure to reserve your site 6 months ahead of time. Moreover, many of the trees in the campground were removed in recent years due to a pine beetle epidemic, so be sure to bring trekking poles and tent stakes to pitch a tarp for some shade during the summer months.

While at Glacier Basin, however, you have great access to some of the park’s best trails, including the trails to Emerald Lake, Hallett Peak, and Bierstadt Lake, which are located just at the end of the nearby Bear Lake Road.

Longs Peak Campground

  • Type : Tent
  • Open : May 20 to September 5 (approximately)
  • Cost : $30 per night
  • Reservation : No

Aptly named, the Longs Peak Campground is situated at the trailhead for Rocky Mountain National Park’s most formidable summit, Longs Peak. The campground is near the southeastern edge of the park, right off of Route 7 and Roosevelt National Forest.

As 1 of only 2 developed campgrounds within the park that offers campsites on a first-come, first-served basis only, anyone looking to stay at the 26 site Longs Peak Campground should arrive as early as possible. However, if you want to get an early start for a climb up Longs Peak or a hike to Chasm Lake, this tent-only campground is a prime place to stay.

Each site within the campground comes equipped with a picnic table and fire ring, so don’t forget your fire starters and tinders during your trip.

Moraine Park Campground

  • Type : Tent / RV
  • Open : All year
  • Cost : $20 to $30 per night
  • Reservation : Yes

The only year-round developed campground in Rocky Mountain National Park, Moraine Park Campground is your go-to option for summer and winter camping. It is by far the largest campground in the park and it is centrally located, which makes it a nice option if you’re looking to see as much of the area as possible.

With 244 campsites to choose from, including about 50 walk-up only sites, Moraine Park has a family-friendly atmosphere for all to enjoy. Each campsite has a fire ring, picnic table, and food storage locker, as well as access to potable water.

Plus, Moraine Park has its own Discovery Center visitor’s area, which is also a stop along the park shuttle. At the Discovery Center, you can buy firewood, books, and souvenirs, or get advice from park rangers about current trail conditions in the mountains.

Timber Creek Campground

  • Type : Tent / RV
  • Open : May 20 to September 30 (approximately)
  • Cost : $30 per night
  • Reservation : No

The second of the 2 first-come, first-served campgrounds in Rocky Mountain National Park, Timber Creek Campground is an ideal spot for anyone looking to stay on the western side of the park.

At Timber Creek, there are 98 campsites, approximately 30 of which are tent-only. However, all sites at the campground offer fire rings, picnic tables, and access to potable water. While there is potable water, though, there are no showers at Timber Creek, so be sure to bring your camping shower for your trip.

Since the campground doesn’t take reservations, it’s best to arrive fairly in the morning on a Thursday or Friday to claim your spot. Once you’re at the campground, you can enjoy quick access to the scenic Trail Ridge Road or to the Kawuneeche Visitor Center at Grand Lake, which is just 20 minutes to the south.

Fern Lake

  • Type : Tent
  • Open : All year
  • Cost : $30 per trip
  • Reservation : Yes

A highly popular backcountry campsite in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Fern Lake camping area is located approximately 3.8 miles from the Fern Lake Trailhead and 4.7 miles from the Bear Lake Trailhead.

The 3 individual sites and 1 group campsite at Fern Lake are all located in well-forested areas with good access to rivers, streams, and, of course, Fern Lake. Each of these sites offers excellent views of the park and they serve as a good starting point for more remote adventures into the mountains.

As there are no fires allowed at Fern Lake, anyone looking to camp in this area should come prepared with a backpacking stove and easy to cook camping meals for the night.

Additionally, if you’d like to stay at Fern Lake, you’ll need to get a wilderness permit from the park service by requesting a permit in advance.

Ouzel Lake

  • Type : Tent
  • Open : All year
  • Cost : $30 per trip
  • Reservation : Yes

Nestled on the northern edge of Ozuel Lake in the backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park, this campsite is an idyllic spot to spend the night if you’re an intrepid camper. The site is a 4.9 mile hike from the Wild Basin Trailhead, which brings you up to a beautiful meadow at about 10,000’ in elevation.

For folks looking for some solitude in the mountains, Ouzel Lake is a fantastic option because it has just 1 campsite. Wildlife is abundant in this area, so it’s a great place to immerse yourself in nature or enjoy some fly fishing on the lake.

Advanced permit reservations are a must if you want to stay at this site for the night, due to its popularity. Moreover, anyone staying at Ouzel lake needs to be fully self-sufficient as there are no amenities provided.

Campgrounds Near the Rockies

Arapaho National Recreation Area

  • Type : Tent / RV
  • Open : All year
  • Cost : $17 to $115 per night
  • Reservation : Yes

Located on the southwest corner of Rocky Mountain National Park, the Arapaho National Recreation Area has 6 camping areas for you to choose from, including Arapaho Bay, Sunset Point, Green Ridge, Stillwater, Cutthroat Bay Group, and Willow Creek.

All of these campgrounds are located on or near the shores of one of the region’s large, scenic lakes, which offer plenty of watersports opportunities when you’re not in the mountains. With the exception of Sunset Point and Willow Creek, which are first-come, first-served, these campgrounds accept reservations up to 6 months in advance for the summer season.

At each Arapaho National Recreation Area campground, you have access to picnic tables, fire rings, potable water, and restroom facilities. However, do keep in mind that you need a special recreation pass to access the recreation area or an annual interagency pass, the latter of which is also accepted within the rest of the national park.

Meeker Park Overflow Campground

  • Type : Tent / RV
  • Open : June 10 to September 10 (approximately)
  • Cost : $12 per night
  • Reservation : No

Simple, yet functional, the Meeker Park Overflow Campground is a first-come, first-serve campsite that’s perfect for folks who are planning a last-minute trip to Rocky Mountain National Park.

It’s technically located in the Roosevelt National Forest, Meeker Park is just a 10-minute drive from Rocky Mountain’s Wild Basin Trailhead and the Longs Peak Trailhead on the eastern side of the park.

Meeker Park has 29 sites that are best for tents, though small RVs are also allowed. The campground has limited amenities, though campers have access to picnic tables, portable toilets, and fire rings.

It’s worth noting, however, that there is no potable water at the campground. Therefore it’s best to fill up your water bottles at the Wild Basin Entrance Station located just a few minutes to the south.

Camping Tips for Rocky Mountain National Park

Camping at Rocky Mountain National Park is a popular pastime, so it’s important that you come prepared for your adventure. Here’s what you need to know to have a comfortable camping trip in the park.

  1. Bring a tarp for shade. Many of the park’s campgrounds have few trees due to a recent pine beetle epidemic that killed large stands of the forest. Therefore, shade is limited at most campgrounds and you’ll want to bring your own tarp for protection from the midday sun in the summer months.
  2. Book very early. Camping is exceptionally popular in Rocky Mountain and campsites tend to book quickly. If you want to stay at a reservable campsite, be sure to make your reservation 6 months in advance. That way, you can avoid disappointment during your trip.
  3. Arrive in the middle of the week. For stays at any of the region’s first come, first served campgrounds, try to arrive in the morning on a Thursday or Friday. These campgrounds fill quickly in the summer and weekend sites can be difficult to come by if you arrive on a Saturday morning.
  4. Be bears aware. Bears are very common in Rocky Mountain National Park, so you’ll need to properly store your food and follow the park regulations to prevent any mishaps during your stay. At all designated campgrounds in the region, you are required to put your food and scented items in the provided food storage lockers. Alternatively, while backpacking, a bear-resistant food canister is required for all campers between April 1 and October 31.
  5. Buy firewood at the park. As previously mentioned, Rocky Mountain National Park has had a number of problems with pine beetles in recent years, which have caused the death of some large stands of trees in the region. To prevent the introduction of more invasive diseases and pests, it’s best to buy your firewood within the park during your camping trip.

Gaby Pilson

Gaby is a professional mountain guide with a master’s degree in outdoor education. She works primarily in the polar regions as an expedition guide, though she can be found hiking, climbing, skiing, sailing, or paddling in some of the world’s most amazing places when not at work.