Wilderness Camping

At left, a tent and campsite in rocks with a peak behind. On right, a field of windblown snow below the summit of Longs Peak.
Longs Peak from the Boulderfield in late summer (left) and early summer (right).

NPS Photos

 

There are a wide range of wilderness camping experiences available in Rocky Mountain National Park. Those new to wilderness travel have ample opportunity to break their boots in slowly, while those with many miles under their belt can find new areas that test their mettle.

2022-2023 Winter Wilderness Backpacking Camping Permits

Wilderness Permits are required to camp in the backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park year-round. Winter wilderness campsites are plentiful in the park. Permits are issued on a first-come, first-served basis. Advanced reservations are not required.

Anyone interested in winter backcountry camping is required to pick up a wilderness backpacking camping permit IN PERSON from one of Rocky Mountain National Park's Wilderness Offices. There are no exceptions to this requirement.

  • It is not possible to print a permit from home.
  • It is also not possible to download and save an electronic copy of a permit onto a mobile phone or other electronic device. Electronic copies saved on a mobile device are not recognized as a valid wilderness permit.

A physical paper permit must be picked up at one of the Wilderness Offices during business hours. This permit must be carried with you into the backcountry. Your wilderness permit is an officially issued, hard copy, printed permit that must be picked up in person from one of the Wilderness Offices before you begin any backcountry trip.

The administrative fee for winter wilderness permits is $10 per permit. This fee is payable by credit card only at the time the reservation is made.

Self Registration Boxes are no longer used for Winter Wilderness Backpacking Permits.

Wilderness Office Business Hours

Wilderness Office near
Beaver Meadows Visitor Center
(East Side of the Park)
Year-Round: Open 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Seven days a week
Closed Thanksgiving Day, Chrismas Day, and New Years Day.

To pick up your permit on these holidays, please call ahead to make arrangements.
Wilderness Office at
Kawuneeche Visitor Center
(West Side of the Park)
Winter Hours (November 1-Memorial Day): Open 9:00 am to 3:30 pm, Wednesday-Sunday. Closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Planning for Summer 2023 Wilderness Backpacking Trips?


Interested in going on a backpacking camping trip in Rocky this summer? All reservations for summer season backpacking wilderness camping trips must be booked via www.recreation.gov. Reservations for all summer backpacking camping permits will open on March 1, 2023 at 8:00 a.m. MT

Some helpful tips for wilderness backpacking camping trip planning:

  • The most efficient way to book your wilderness backpacking trip is online via Recreation.gov. Don't have access to a computer? You can also call the Recreation.gov call center at 877-444-6777.
  • Rocky is a very popular national park and wilderness backpacking camping is an activity in high demand. Meet with members of your trip party before booking your reservation and be prepared with 3 or 4 different trip itineraries.
  • If a desired campsite has already been booked by someone else, Recreation.gov will prompt you to complete a new itinerary.
  • If you are ready to book your wilderness trip, log into your Recreation.gov account.
  • You may begin to select your desired dates, enter the number of people in your group, and build your trip itinerary. This trip itinerary is not held until the “Book Now” button is selected. Remember, others will be competing for these same campsites and dates, so users are asked to be ready with multiple itineraries and back-up dates.
  • Once “Book Now” has been selected, the inventory is held and you have 15 minutes to complete the remaining Order Details and pay for the reservation.
  • If you receive an error once the “Book Now” button is selected, this indicates that the inventory is no longer available, which means that your desired wilderness campsites are already reserved and no longer available. At this point, you will have to adjust your campsite selections and/or desired camping dates and try again.
  • Have specific questions about a wilderness campsite or route? Call our Wilderness Office and park staff will be happy to assist you.
  • If you experience errors while booking your wilderness trip, try to refresh your screen in Recreation.gov and try again.

The www.recreation.gov site includes important links to detailed information about Rocky Mountain National Park's wilderness backcountry camping, including camping regulations, trail descriptions and maps.

To book wilderness backpacking camping trips for small groups (1-7 people) and large groups (8-12 people), you will click on the "Check Availability" button and begin building a trip itinerary.

To make sure you are ready to book your wilderness backpacking camping trip, take time to review the wilderness campsite map and determine what campsites you would like to book. Make sure to read through all of the available information about Wilderness regulations and trail descriptions prior to booking your trip.


 
 
 
East side backcountry office
East side Wilderness Office

NPS

Wilderness Offices

Overnight travel in the wilderness requires a permit. Permits and information are available at two Wilderness Offices within Rocky Mountain National Park. Please contact the Wilderness Office for updated information on the status of Wilderness campsites (970-586-1242). For status of wilderness campsites on the west side of the park, call the Kawuneeche Visitor Center Wilderness Office at (970-586-1521).

On the east side of the park, the Wilderness Office is adjacent to the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center.

On the west side of the park, the Wilderness Office is located inside the Kawuneeche Visitor Center.

 

Hours

Wilderness Office near
Beaver Meadows Visitor Center
(East Side of the Park)
Year-Round: Open 7:00 am to 3:30 pm, Seven days a week

Closed Thanksgiving Day, Chrismas Day, and New Years Day.

To pick up your permit on these holidays, please call ahead to make arrangements.
Wilderness Office at
Kawuneeche Visitor Center
(West Side of the Park)
Winter Hours (November 1-Memorial Day): Open 9:00 am to 3:30 pm, Wednesday-Sunday.

Closed on Monday and Tuesday.

 

Current Notices

  • There will be temporary closures in some wilderness campsites. Please contact the Wilderness Office for updated information on the status of wilderness sites.
  • Park staff are removing some dead trees that have been killed by an outbreak of native pine beetles. The removal reduces risk associated with falling trees. Always be aware of your surroundings, particularly during times of high winds.
  • We recommend that you visit the following topics:



 
Find a listing of all designated wilderness sites in Rocky here.
Cross-country Zones allow you to connect to far off places in the park.
Technical climbers can obtain permits to set up temporary camps near climbing routes.
Horses are welcome at a selection of wilderness sites around the park.
A helpful list to make sure
your backpack has everything
you need.
The wilderness can be just
as adventurous in winter, just
a little bit colder.

 
bear canister at a backcountry site
A bear canister

NPS

Wilderness Food Storage

Between April 1 and October 31, all food items and garbage must be secured inside a hard sided commercially-made carry in/carry out bear-resistant food storage canister.

This is required for park wilderness areas below tree line and in the Boulder Field of Longs Peak, due to recurring wildlife incidents. Other methods of food storage are not permitted in the wilderness during this period.

 
mountain sunrise
Alpine sunrise

NPS

Last updated: November 23, 2022

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

1000 US Hwy 36
Estes Park , CO 80517

Phone:

970 586-1206
The Information Office is open year-round: 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. daily in summer; 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Mondays - Fridays and 8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Saturdays - Sundays in winter. Recorded Trail Ridge Road status: (970) 586-1222.

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