Camping Near Estes Park Around Rocky Mountain National Park
Estes Park is one of Colorados favorite mountain towns, in no small part thanks to its neighbor, Rocky Mountain National Park. Between the national forest and national park surrounding Estes Park, theres a plethora of campgrounds to accommodate travelers.
Due the popularity of Estes Park, there are campgrounds, many open year round, suitable for everything from long RVs to primitive tent sites. In addition to the great hiking and sightseeing within Rocky Mountain National Park , the nearby Roosevelt National Forest provides even more outdoor recreation. Bring your ATV, fishing rod, trekking poles, or whatever youre into, because you can find it here in Larimer County.
If youre coming in spring or summer be sure to check out the amazing waterfalls by Estes Park, many of which are in RMNP. Theres no shortage of fun, adventure and camping around Estes Park..
List of campgrounds by Estes Park and RMNP, CO, in order of proximity:
Annual And Lifetime Entrance Passes
Annual and Lifetime passes purchased online take 24 weeks to arrive by mail. If you’re planning to visit us in the next month, please wait and purchase your Annual or Lifetime pass when you arrive.
Free Entrance for U.S. Armed Service Veterans and Gold Star Families
Effective Wednesday, November 11, 2020 and every day onward, all U.S. armed service veterans and Gold Star dependents shall be granted free entrance to all Department of the Interior managed lands and waters. A visitor may prove their status as a veteran or a gold star dependent by presenting one of the following:
- Department of Defense Identification Card
- Veteran Health Identification Card
- Veteran ID Card or
- Veterans designation on a state-issued drivers license or identification card.
Additional guidance regarding veterans and Gold Star dependents will be forthcoming.
Rocky Mountain National Park: More Reservations
Due to COVID, RMNP campgrounds are still only operating at 40% capacity. This means several loops and areas of Glacier Basin and Moraine Park Campgrounds are closed. Other campgrounds within the park have not yet opened.
In 2020, Rocky Mountain National Park was the fourth most visited national park in the country, the NPS wrote. So, if youre planning a visit to the Rocky Mountains this summer, make sure to snag a reservation first!
Rocky Mountain National Park in Early May: Snow and Seclusion
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Finding A Campsite Last Minute
Ok, so you didnt or couldnt plan your summer trip ahead of time, and now youre in Estes Park how can you find a campsite at the last minute?Park Campground check-out time is noon, and check-in is 1 pm. Sometimes sites will become available at the last minute if you wait in line for them. Check with the campground office to see if your chances look good that day.
Head for one of the Estes Park area campgrounds outside the Park they are often less crowded.Finally, you can camp further away from the Park at one of the national forest campgrounds in the area. www.reserveamerica.com lists them all. Note: though they may look close on a map, it can be a long drive up and down mountain canyons to get into the National Park.
Safety Precautions With Wildlife
Rocky Mountain National Park is not home to grizzly bears, although black bears and other wildlife dwell in the backcountry. To help prevent bears, mice, marmots and other animals from becoming a problem, the National Park Service requires all parties to use carry-in/carry-out bear resistant containers for food and other items with scent. These containers are required from April through October for any backcountry camping below the treeline, or at Boulderfield on the Longs Peak Trail. You can buy your own bear resistant container, or you can rent one in Estes Park. Bear-resistant containers must be placed 200 feet from campsite.
Also, avoid leaving excess food in your car at the trailhead black bears have been known to break in to cars for food. Many trailheads have food storage lockers where you can leave any food or scented items that you are not taking with you.
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Your Campsite Is Just 5 Miles From Rocky Mountain National Park
Our campground is suited for small RV’s and Trailers. At 7,500 feet, this campground is an ideal base camp for exploring the town of Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. During peak summer months, take a free shuttle to the town, and to the national park. Spend a day at the national park, with its pristine wilderness, hiking trails and plenty of elk, moose, bear, coyote and mule deer. Drive Trail Ridge Road for panoramic views from 12,000 feet. Across the street from the campground, you’ll find Lake Estes and the Big Thompson River with world-class fly-fishing. Rent pontoon boats, paddle boards, or bikes at the marina. Go horseback riding at Sombrero Ranch next door. Just down the road is a family fun park, with mini golf, bumper cars, bumper boats and rock climbing. During peak season, enjoy on-site pancake breakfasts, ice cream socials and free marshmallow roasts. There’s free Wi-Fi, and the store is stocked with supplies and souvenirs. Camp in a Tent, RV, Rustic Cabin or Deluxe Cabin.Your hosts: Greg & Peri Ann Query with adult children, Jamie and Mark.
Colorado At Forefront Of Timed Entry
Last year, Rocky Mountain National Park was the first national park to implement a timed entry reservation system as a pilot program to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Park officials, in conjunction with the gateway town of Estes Park, were concerned about opening the gates to the park, which was completely shut down for two months due to the pandemic.
The park drew a record 4.6 million visitors in 2019, making it the third-most visited park in the national park system.
“We asked, ‘How are we going to open the park safely?’ ” park superintendent Darla Sidles said. “We started talking about we can’t just cant fling open the door because we have such a huge increase in visitors the last seven, eight years. So we said, ‘Why dont we give timed entry a trial an opportunity?’ ”
The permit system limited visitation to about 60% of parking capacity. This year’s system has loosened to 75% to 85% of parking capacity.
Rocky Mountain National Park began addressing crowding issues in 2016 after seeing huge increases in visitation. The park started with travel restrictions in the popular Bear Lake corridor and shuttle services.
Spokesperson Reid Armstrong said the forests saw a 200% increase in visitation last year as those cooped up by COVID-19 restrictions flocked to public lands to escape.
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Trail Ridge Road And Other Roads
Trail Ridge Road is 48 miles long and connects the entrances in Grand Lake and Estes Park. Running generally eastwest through many hairpin turns, the road crosses Milner Pass through the Continental Divide at an elevation of 10,758 ft . The highest point of the road is 12,183 feet , with eleven miles of the road being above tree line which is approximately 11,500 feet . The road is the highest continuously paved highway in the country, and includes many large turnouts at key points to stop and observe the scenery.
Most visitors to the park drive over the famous Trail Ridge Road, but other roads include Fall River Road and Bear Lake Road. The park is open every day of the year, weather permitting. Due to the extended winter season in higher elevations, Trail Ridge Road between Many Parks Curve and the Colorado River Trailhead is closed much of the year. The road is usually open again by Memorial Day and closes in mid-October, generally after Columbus Day. Fall River Road does not open until about July 4 and closes by, or in, October for vehicular traffic. Snow may also fall in sufficient quantities in higher elevations to require temporary closure of the roads into July, which is reported on the road status site.
How To Make Reservations For A Campsite At Rocky Mountain National Park
You’ll find six campgrounds at Rocky Mountain National Park.
Sweeping views, sparkling mountain lakes and plenty of wandering wildlife helped Rocky Mountain National Park make “Sunset” magazine’s list of 18 best campgrounds in the Rocky Mountains, so it’s no wonder this national park often fills up with campers. If you want to camp at the park in summer, making reservations ensures you have a place to pitch your tent.
Plan to camp at one of the park’s three campsites that allow reservations: the Aspenglen campground at 8,200 feet elevation has 54 campsites the Glacier Basin campground at 8,500 feet elevation has 150 campsites or the Moraine Park campground at 8,160 feet has 245 campsites. Typically they are open from late May to late September/early October.
Determine how many campsites you need. At Rocky Mountain National Park, you can’t have more than eight people and two tents in one campsite or more than one vehicle and camping unit, including tents, RVs or trailers, in one campsite.
Expect to pay $20 per night per site. Note that at the time of publication this is in addition to the $20 entrance fee, or $10 bike, motorcycle or pedestrian fee you’ll pay for park admission when you arrive at Rocky Mountain National Park.
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How To Get A Campsite In Rocky Mountain
Most campgrounds in the park accept reservations. If youre hoping to reserve something, click over to Recreation.gov to find a site. Reservations open up six months in advance of the first day of your reservation. Youll want to sign in and pick out your site in advance so that you can be ready to hit reserve as soon as the clock strikes 10 a.m. EST.
Some campgrounds in the park are first-come, first-served and fill by early afternoon.
If the registration kiosk is not staffed when you arrive, grab an envelope and then proceed into the campground to find an available site. The sites that are available will not have a tag on the post, and youll want to choose one of those. If you see an empty campsite that still has a paper stub on the post, it likely is still paid for and occupied by someone elseso dont set up there!
After finding a suitable site, immediately fill out the envelope and insert payment, put the stub on the post for your site, and drop the envelope in the slot at the registration kiosk.
To choose your ideal campground, take a look at the in-park options below:
Backpacking Permits In Rocky Mountain
Learn about the permits you’ll need for backpacking in the Rockies
Backpacking in Rocky Mountain is world-class the park contains approximately 355 miles of trailsthis includes perfect trails for those who have recently developed a passion for backpacking, and also trails for those who have many, many miles under their boots. When planning a backcountry trip in the park, it is important to know the itinerary you are aiming for, but to be flexible as well, in case the sites you desire are unavailable. You can look at the Wilderness Campsite Map and the Wilderness Site Details to help plan your itinerary. You can also check out Wilderness Campsite Availability List to see if any of the sites you desire are available for the dates of your trip.
Wilderness Permits are required for all backcountry trips in Rocky Mountain National Park. Reservations can be made in advance for campsites below we will outline when, where and how to apply. However, walk-ins are also available, if there is space. There is a $30 fee for all permits, both reservations and walk-ins alike, for trips between May 1st and October 31st. You can pick up your permits at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, or at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center.
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Rocky Mountain National Park Reinstates Timed Entry System For Summer
May 20, 2021 | By
This just in youll need a reservation to get into this popular national park.
After a successful year of testing the system in 2020, Rocky Mountain National Park will reinstate its timed entry system on May 28, 2021, just in time for summer. Park officials hope the timed entry will not only help mitigate crowds in the park, but will help identify how else to disperse visitors across certain parking areas and trailheads.
Entry reservations will be required to enter the park all summer. Reservations for May 28 through June 30 are available to reserve now. The next big release will be on June 1 to reserve an entry permit to the park for the month of July.
On July 1, reservations will be available for the month of August, and so on and so forth, through October 2021.
Timed Entry Pros And Cons
Estes Park resident Dawn Wilson’s livelihood as a nature photographer depends on her regularly entering Rocky Mountain National Park and Mount Evans for images of elk and mountain goats that she sells in Estes Park shops and elsewhere.
She, like many, are torn between the balance of needing to limit visitation to enhance the human experience while protecting the resource.
She has seen trash piled up by tourists along trails and pullouts, visitors moving wooden barriers so they can park and people feeding wildlife.
“We do need to protect the park so the next generations can enjoy it, and I have seen the reservation system make an improvement,” she said.
Wilson, president of the North American Nature Photography Association, said she most often visits the park around sunrise and sunset, before and after the permits are required, because of ideal lighting. Still, she said conditions can change to where she would like to enter the park during the timed entry permit windows but the system squashes spontaneity.
That concern is a common theme among many visitors’ dislike of the system.
“As a local resident, it can be frustrating to live in a place where the reason I live here is to have access to the park,” said Wilson, who also pays for permits to take clients on photo tours in the park. “I’m now vying for the timed entry slot with every tourist, some of whom might not care what time they get up to the park.”
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Region : Moose And Big Meadows
Region 1 is known for moose and big meadows and is located on the west, or Grand Lake, side of the Continental Divide. Thirty miles of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail loop through the park and pass through alpine tundra and scenery.
The Big Meadows area with its grasses and wildflowers can be reached via the Onahu, Tonahutu, or Green Mountain trail. Other scenic areas include Long Meadows and the Kawuneeche Valley of the upper Colorado River which is a good place for birdwatching, as well as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in winter. The valley trail loops through Kawuneeche Valley which contained as many as 39 mines, though less than 20 of those have archived records and archeological remains.LuLu City is the site of an abandoned silver mining town of the early 1880s located along the Colorado River Trail. According to a 1985 report prepared for the NRHP, there were only three cabin ruins remaining along with remnants of six other buildings.
Skeleton Gulch, Cascade Falls, North Inlet Falls, Granite Falls, and Adams Falls are found in the west side of the park. The west side lakes include Bowen Lake, Lake Verna, Lake of the Clouds, Haynach Lakes, Timber Lake, Lone Pine Lake, Lake Nanita, and Lake Nokoni.
An Entrance Pass Is Always Required To Enter Rocky Mountain National Park
- All passes are available at all staffed park entrance stations.
- Several different entrance pass options are available. These include a vehicle entrance pass valid for 1 day only, a vehicle entrance pass valid for up to 7-consecutive days, the Rocky Mountain National Park Annual Pass, and theAmerica the Beautiful The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Series– including the interagency Annual Pass, the Interagency Annual Senior Pass, the Interagency Lifetime Senior Pass, the Interagency Access Pass, the Annual Military Pass, and the 4th Grade Pass.
- Did you know your park entrance pass can be purchased online before you arrive at the park?
- To Purchase a Daily Entrance Pass, click Here
To prevent the spread of infectious diseases, only credit and debit cardsnot cashare being accepted at park entrance stations
1-Day Pass – Automobile – $25.00
Valid for date of purchase. Covers single, non-commercial vehicle with capacity of less than 16 passengers.
1-Day Pass – Per Person – $15.00
Valid for date of purchase. Applies to walk-ins, bicycles, and non-commercial groups.
1-Day Pass – Motorcycle – $25.00
Valid for date of purchase. Covers one motorcycle.
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Father and son at Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park Photo: Marilyn Lambertz
In an effort to decrease epic traffic, improve the visitor experience and spread out the impact of millions of visitors to the park, Rocky Mountain National Park has announced it will launch a reservation system beginning Memorial Day.
In 2020, the park was the first in the National Park Service system to launch a reservation system that kept visitation at 60 percent of capacity. Even with the reservation system, reduced travel because of COVID-19 and two of Colorados largest wildfires burning into the park, Rocky Mountain National Park was the fourth busiest park in the nation in 2020.
Were expecting visitation this year to increase dramatically because of what were calling the COVID crush, Superintendent Darle Sidles told Estes Park town council in a March 29 meeting.
And a disproportionate amount of visitation in the past has been to the Bear Lake Road Corridor. To reduce the hordes of people flocking to Bear Lake at the same times, the park will have two different reservation systemsone for the entire park and one for the park minus the Bear Lake Road Corridor. The reservation system will keep visitation numbers at between 75-85 percent of park capacity.
Visitors with campground reservations may use those reservations for entry.