Our Staff Knows Camping!
There are few experiences as serene as waking up to only the sound of birds and a mountain stream, watching the sunrise slowly give an orange glow to the highest of peaks. No motors, no voices. Carrying everything you need on your back, backcountry camping can give you a sense of self-reliance and courage. Colorado is one of the most beautiful places to experience it.
Rocky Mountain National Park offers over 200 backcountry campsites. Permits are required for any overnight trip in the National Park. Visit the Backcountry Office next to the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center just before the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station on Highway 36 (Moraine Ave) for a permit or help planning your trip. The park service's website is also a great source of information of planning a backcountry trip.
Bear Canisters are now required for all backcountry camping in Rocky Mountain National Park. We rent them for just $3 a night! Check out all of our rentals.
A backcountry camping trip requires more planning than frontcountry camping since you will not be able to quickly get to a store for supplies, or contact help in case of an emergency. Here are a few things to consider:
Where to go?
Obtain a topographical map of RMNP and consult guidebooks such as Lisa Foster's Complete Hiking Guide (available at the Estes Park Mountain Shop). These resources will help you determine where you want to go, what the difficultly of the trail will be, what elevation you will be camping and hiking at, and how many miles between the trailhead and your destination. Consider the experience levels of everyone in your group when deciding how many miles to hike in a day and what elevations to camp at. Altitude sickness is very common if you don't give yourself a few days to acclimate. Most trails here begin above 8,000 ft. and quickly climb higher. Once you have figured out your plan you can contact the backcountry office at (970) 586-1242 for a permit. Have a backup plan as there are limited numbers of permits per campsite.
Always give someone a detailed route description and timeline for your trip. That way if you don't get back, they can alert the Park Service rangers. You may get some cell phone service above treeline and you may see rangers on your hike, but you can't count on these possibilities in an emergency.
Mountain weather is changeable and afternoon thunderstorms occur almost daily in the summer months. Plan to be below treeline by the early afternoon and off any peaks by noon. Lightening is a very real danger at altitude. Take clothing for a wide range of weather. Temperatures can changes drastically even durning daylight hours. It can snow any month of the year!
Altitude Sickness (aka Acute Mountain Sickness)
Be aware of developing altitude sickness in yourself and in others. Altitude sickness is a strange thing. It can happen to anyone regardless of how many times they have been at high altitudes and not had problems or how fit they are. The only treatment is descending in altitude. For more severe forms of altitude sickness, you should see a doctor even if symptoms improve after descending.
- Drink plenty of fluids and eat plenty of nutritious food
- Acclimate. Give yourself a few days to adjust to the altitude before heading higher. Estes Park sits at 7500 ft. and most of the trailheads sit above 8000 ft and climb higher from there.
Signs and Symptoms of Mild to Moderate Altitude Sickness
- Difficulty Sleeping
- Dizziness or Light-Headedness
- Loss of Appetite
- Nausea or Vomiting
- Rapid Pulse
- Shortness of Breath with Extertion
Signs and Symptoms of More Severe Altitude Sickness
- Bluish discoloration of the skin (cyanosis)
- Chest tightness or congestion
- Coughing up blood
- Decreased consciousness or withdrawal from social interaction
- Gray or pale complexion
- Inability to walk in a straight line, or to walk at all
- Shortness of breath at rest
Learn more at: WebMD.com
Alpine tundra plants are hardy and can stand up to extreme temperatures but not repeated trampling. When above treeline, stay on established trails where they exist. If you are in an area with no established trails, rock hop to avoid stepping on the plants. Spread your group out so that one area does not receive more use than it has to.
Treat all water before drinking. No matter how clear and clean it looks and tastes, you never know what might be upstream from you. Water filters, iodine tablets, and other methods of water purification are available at our store.
Many backcountry campsites have pit toilets in order to minimize the impact of waste. These are for pooping only. No trash! When a pit toilet is not available and the need arrises, the park service offers these guidelines:
- Urinate in rocky places that won’t be damaged by animals who dig for salts and minerals found in urine.
- Dig a hole, 6 inches (15 centimeters) deep, for fecal waste using a small trowel or pack out waste and paper.
- Be sure that you defecate at least 70 adult steps (200 feet/60 meters) from water or trails.
- Do not bury sanitary napkins or tampons. Dispose them in an airtight container and pack them out.
- Wash hands with biodegradable soap. Giardia and other diseases are frequently spread by unsanitary habits.
Leave No Trace
Familiarize yourself with the Leave No Trace practices and how to employ them when you are in the backcountry. It is up to us to preserve our wilderness lands so that these special places may be enjoyed for years to come.
- Plan ahead and prepare.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
- Dispose of waste properly
- Leave what you find.
- Minimize campfire impact
- Respect wildlife.
- Be considerate of other visitors.
Learn more at: LNT.org
What to Take?
We have plenty of knowledgable staff and a fully stocked store and rental department to help you with getting outfitted whether this is your first backcountry trip or your ninetyfirst! This is a list of the basics:
- Sleeping Bag and Pad
- Rain Gear
- Warm Clothing
- Water Bottles
- Water Treatment
- Matches or Lighter
- Stove, Fuel, and Cooking Pot
- Food and a way to protect your food from critters
- Map and Compass
- First Aid Kit
- Pocket Knife
Every backpacker is different when it come to the gear they take with them. For a more in depth discussion of gear, call or stop by the Mountain Shop to speak with one of our professional staff.
Let us help you...
Here at the Estes Park Mountain Shop we love the outdoors and get outside as much as we can to enjoy the beauty of our surroundings and lead that healthy, active lifestyle we love so much.
To help you enjoy that same great lifestyle, we offer a selection of rental equipment to get you into the outdoors!