Backcountry Camping

Camp overnight in red rock country! Colorado National Monument is the eastern gateway into the Colorado Plateau. Across the mesas or in the hanging canyons, your peaceful night will be shared with coyotes, stars, and the smell of sagebrush. The Milky Way can be seen on dark, clear nights. The natural soundscape can be loud with crickets, frogs, and birds, and still be one of the quietest nights of your year.

The monument has 46 miles of trails to explore. Choose one of the several backcountry trails for your overnight. We recommend Monument Canyon, Ute Canyon, Black Ridge, Upper Liberty Cap on Monument Mesa, or for the most experienced travelers, No Thoroughfare Canyon. Stop at the visitor center to register for a free backcountry permit. A ranger can give you updates on current trail conditions.


Come to Saddlehorn Visitor Center for your free backcountry permit.

Backcountry Camping Regulations

A backcountry use permit must be in your possession while traveling in the backcountry. Permits are free and must be picked up at the visitor center. Regulations are in effect to protect park resources and reduce visitor impacts. It is the responsibility of all trip participants to know and obey the following regulations (we know there are a lot, but stick with us) while in the backcountry:


  • Group size is limited to 7 people. If your group has more than 7, you can split them up into two groups and camp in different locations. Backcountry permits are free, so it won't cost anything to get two of them.
  • Bicycles, motorized equipment, and other intrusive devices such as radios, generators, etc., are not allowed in the backcountry. Drone use in the monument is prohibited.

Where/How to Camp

  • Campers must camp 1/4 mile or more from any road or developed facility and 100 feet or more from any trail or water source. Camping is not permitted in any streambed to help protect the ecosystem and because of flash floods.
  • All items, including trash, must be packed out. Campsites should be left in the natural condition as they were found.
  • Campers must carry out solid human waste in sanitary disposal bags or dispose of it in a hole 6-8 inches deep, and at least 300 feet from any water source. Pack out all toilet paper.
  • In any calendar year, backcountry campers are limited to 14 overnight stays, whether accrued consecutively or in any combination of separate visits. Single trips are limited to 7 nights.
  • Camping on top of Independence Monument is prohibited.
  • Camping on biological soil crust is not allowed. Damaged areas can take decades to recover.


  • Water is not available in the backcountry. Springs, streams, and seeps are unreliable and in some years may be completely dry. Visitors are not allowed to filter water that you may find - this ensures what little water there is will be enough for the animals and plants that call this place home. Springs, streams, and pools may contain harmful substances like selenium or bacteria like Giardia.
  • Backpackers must pack in their own water. One (1) gallon (4 liters) per person is recommended per day in the summer months. A water refilling station is located outside the visitor center and is open 24 hours per day.


  • No fires, with the exception of gas or alcohol camp stoves, are permitted in the backcountry.


  • Pets are not permitted on any park trails or on backcountry trips.
  • Horses and pack animals are not allowed overnight in the backcountry. Nearby BLM lands have opportunities for horse camping.
  • Wildlife may be attracted to food and other items with an odor, such as soap, lip balm, or deodorant. Storing food in a bear can or other secure container is recommended. Don't store food or items with an odor in your tent.
  • Scorpions and the midget faded rattlesnake can be found in the Monument. Sightings are rare, as they are mostly nocturnal. Don't put your hands or feet anywhere that you can't see them!


  • Be aware of temperatures in the summer, which can be in the low 100s. Hiking and camping in the bottom of the canyons can be extremely hot as heat radiates from the rocks. Plan trips for cooler weather to avoid heat injuries.

  • Please remember to Leave No Trace, and enjoy your trip! We love hearing from visitors, so feel free to come back to the visitor center and tell us about how your overnight went!
backcountry sites
Clockwise: Monument Canyon, No Thoroughfare Canyon, and Ute Canyon


Last updated: March 20, 2023

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1750 Rim Rock Drive
Fruita, CO 81521


970 858-2800

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