Rocky Mountain National Park 

It's super convenient having Rocky Mountain National Park, the fourth most-visited park in the US, just two hours from home.  I can easily head up for a day of hiking but I still love spending multiple days camping and exploring the park.  Here are my tips for visiting the park:

Camping in RMNP

There are three campgrounds in RMNP that take reservations two that are first-come, first-served.  The three reservable campgrounds are Moraine Park, Glacier Basin and Aspenglen, all located on the east side.  Recreation.gov is the place to reserve your campsite six months in advance of your arrival date.  Want to camp on July 20th?  You need to be online at 8am EST on January 20th to book a spot!  Longs Peak Campground is a great home-base for those hiking starting at the Longs Peak trailhead.  Timber Creek campground, on the west side of the park, has not announced its reservable dates for 2022 yet, due to the East Troublesome and Cameron Peak fires last year. 

Where should you camp?  Realistically, wherever you can get a spot!  Sites are difficult to get and although I love to get the best site in the campground, in RMNP I feel happy to be able to spend the night there anywhere!  I personally prefer Moraine Park, but Glacier Basin's location is hard to beat.  For planning ahead, you will want to look at the NPS campground maps (linked below)  for the campground you want and then see what you can get!  

Moraine Park Campground Map 

Moraine is a large campground with different types of camping: walk-in tent sites, car camping, trailer sites.  The D loop doesn't allow generators and is my favorite loop for that reason.  It is worthwhile to look at campsites on campsitephotos.com to get an idea of how close the site you are choosing is to the neighboring sites.  Some can be close and some have a lot of privacy.  Regardless of the site you get, however, you'll probably see wildlife in your site and it is just a short walk to spectacular views.  Although Moraine is a large campground, I don't usually feel like it is too noisy unless you are unlucky and end up next to someone with a loud generator.  There are flush toilets in the bathrooms and shower stations, where you can hang your solar shower and shower in a private enclosure.  This protects the space around the campsites from all that running water! 

    

Winter Camping in Moraine B Loop (~site 195)
Moraine Park A Loop (~site 30)
Moraine Park D Loop site 168
Moraine Park D Loop (~site 149)
Moraine Park A loop (Site 49)_edited
Moraine Park

Glacier Basin Campground Map

Glacier Basin was hit hard by the pine beetle so parts of it have little shade, although the trees are growing! The inside of the A and B loops have trees but the outside is pretty bare.  The D loop and the upper C loop are also relatively barren of trees, but that leads to spectacular views.  The sites on the inside of the loops are sometimes awkwardly placed and lack privacy even if you have trees in your site.  The biggest advantage of Glacier Basin is its location!  You can walk out the campground and across the road is the park and ride to Bear Lake.  This is super convenient in the summer when the shuttle parking lot fills every day.  

Glacier Basin D Loop site 149
Glacier Basin check-in station
Glacier Basin - entrance to A loop on right of image
Glacier Basin B Loop (site 44)
Glacier Basin B Loop (site 46)
Glacier Basin (view from ranger station in campground)

Aspenglen Campground Map 

Aspenglen is a pretty campground great for tents and some trailer sites.  It has been closed for the last two seasons due to Covid, but it is a really pretty place to camp.  There is a stream in the campground and it is smaller than the other two campgrounds, so the lack of crowds is noticeable.  The sites are small, but the majority of them don't back up to other sites.

Stream in Aspenglen Campground
Aspenglen Campsite
Aspenglen Campsite 2
Dish station in Aspenglen

Can't get into Rocky Mountain National Park Campgrounds? 

If you aren't lucky enough to get a spot in the park, try these campgrounds nearby:

Hiking in RMNP

There are so many amazing hikes in Rocky, but before you start picking out a trail, it's important to know how to get to the trailhead. 

 

Timed Entry Reservations:

This started during Covid and continues during the busiest summer months.  You should always PLAN AHEAD and check the park website for updated information about whether or not a timed entry reservation is required.  Go to recreation.gov to reserve a two hour entry window; once you enter the park during that two hour window you can stay as long as you like! The Bear Lake Road is the most popular in the park, so timed entry reservations are required from 5am - 6pm.  If you don't have a timed reservation and want to drive on that road, you will have to go early or late!  75% of the entries are reservable in advance and 25% are available the day before at 5pm, so if you need to reserve the day before you need to be somewhere with internet or cell service and be logged in before 5pm.  Reservations are made a month in advance following this schedule (posted January 2022; always check the park service page for the most up-to-date info)

  • May 1st: reserve entry for May 28 - June 30

  • June 1st: reserve entry for the month of July

  • July 1st: reserve entry for the month of August

  • August 1st: reserve entry for the month of September

  • September 1st: reserve entry for the month of October

Shuttles & Parking:

Just because you have a timed entry or have made it into the park doesn't mean you will get a great parking space.  I highly recommend taking the shuttle if at all possible.  There are shuttles from Moraine Park to the other areas of the park and the park and ride across from Glacier Basin takes hikers up to Glacier Gorge and Bear Lake.  One nice thing about the shuttle service is that you can start and end your hike in different locations and easily get back to your car/camp!    Consult the park shuttle bus routes for times and stops.  

 

Where to hike in RMNP

Where to hike?  Every trail has something great about it.  Over the past four years I have hiked in the park 20 times and countless times before that.  Each time I go there is a new hike to try and no matter what your hiking level is there is something for you!

  • Sprague Lake Loop .8 miles (you can hike here from Glacier Basin campground!)

  • Bear Lake Loop 0.6 mile loop

  • Lily Lake 0.8 miles

  • Adams Falls 0.8 miles (west side) 

  • Alberta Falls 1.6 miles 

  • Alluvial Fan ~1 miles (choose your own adventure!)

  • Gem lake 3.1 miles at the lumpy ridge trailhead

  • Nymph, Dream and Emerald Lakes 3.2 miles (add on Lake Haiyaha 3.6 miles total)

  • Ouzel Falls 5.9 miles (continue to Ouzel Lake and Bluebird Lake)

  • Bierstadt Lake 3.2 miles

  • Cub Lake 6 miles

  • Deer Mountain 6 miles 

  • Mills Lake 5.4 miles (continue to Black Lake and Frozen Lake 11 miles)

  • the Loch 5.4 miles (continue to Lake of Glass and Sky Pond 9.4 miles)

  • Odessa Lake and Lake Helene (depends on trailhead)

  • East Inlet to Lone Pine Lake and Lake Verna 13.4 miles(West Side)

  • Chasm Lake 8.8 miles

  • Flattop Mountain 8.2 miles

 

Alluvial Fan (in 2011)
Lake Haiyaha
Dream Lake (in June!)
The Loch
Sky Pond
Emerald Lake
Overlooking Bear Lake
Lake Verna
Flattop Mountain
Ouzel Falls
Bluebird Lake
Chasm Lake
Lake Helene
The Loch in winter
Above Black Lake
Black Lake
Mills Lake
Cub Lake
Bierstadt Lake
Dream Lake
Deer Mountain
Lily Lake
On the way to Gem Lake
Gem lake
Sprague Lake
Sprague
Alberta Falls
Dream Lake