Complete Guide to Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park 

Entirely encircled by vast national forests, the Rocky Mountains National Park is a part of the US that sits high above the others. That gives its visitors plenty of snow, hiking trails, and extensive intelligence on the springy and elusive mountain caribou – if you were to visit one of its many museums.

The Rocky Mountain National Park has a lot of history and some of the most impressive animal species in the US. Add to that breathtaking mountainous landscape for as far as the eye can see.

Truly a perfect place to pitch your tent or park your RV. (Minus the grizzly bear peril, of course.)

In this detailed guide to camping in Rocky Mountain National Park, I’ll talk about its best-developed camping spots and what to bring if you plan to camp there. Also, I’ll list some of the best-dispersed camping spots for those looking for a camping experience akin to those old-timey pelt traders braving the trails of the vast and unpredictable Rocky Mountain. 

Overview of Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park

You will see it all at Rocky Mountain National Park – grizzly bears, elk, Canada lynx, mountain goats, and vast craggy hills. Add to that steep and winding mountain path some of the most scenic campgrounds you can find anywhere in the US.

A big part of the appeal of this national park is its unique elevation. At 7,000 as its most basic elevation level, many of the campgrounds on the lists below can be excellent starting points for adventurous mountaineering expeditions.

Maybe you’re not that much into scaling the rugged trails and slippery rocks while getting looked at askew by the many mountain goats inhabiting these lands. Simply parking your RV in a mountain road pullout can still be a fantastic experience.

Observing the surrounding area, you can see the Roosevelt National Forest to the north and east. The Routt National Forest to the north and west, and the Arapaho National Forest to the south.

You can count on evergreen trees, impressive woodland critters, and some of the most astounding photo-worthy landscapes you’ve ever seen. 

Best Developed Campgrounds in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park sign
Photo by Ken Lund via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

You start from long, winding woodland roads where you navigate between tall, evergreen trees and upwards into the mountains. Then continue to small lakeside clearings with fantastic views of the nearby hills and forests. Rocky Mountain National Park has some impressively developed campgrounds.

There are five of them in total. Of the five, only one is open year-round, while the rest are available seasonally.

The park is spacious, and these five spots sit away from one another throughout its vast territory. Depending on where you pitch your tent, you can get the best access to some of its essential points of interest. You can count on driving down Trail Ridge Road, visiting Bear Lake, or checking out the impressive cascading Alberta falls.

Aspenglen Campground 

Tent under the stars at Aspenglen Campground.
Photo by daveynin via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
  • Number of campsites: 52
  • Charge: $30 a night
  • RV-friendly: Yes
  • Reservation: Booking required
  • Season: Open seasonally (summer months only)

Open seasonally during the warm summer months. You can find the Aspenglen campground in the northern section of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Thanks to its unique location, this camp can be a great starting point for exploring local points of interest such as Deer Mountain, Lawn Lake, or the old and scenic Old Fall River Road.

Compared to similar campgrounds such as the one adjacent to the Beaver Meadows entrance, the sites at Aspenglen campground have fewer visitors. Hence, it offers a somewhat more private camping experience than the other campgrounds of similar size.

There are 52 campsites here. Out of these, 13 are tent-only, while 5 are walk-in. Maybe you’re a cozy camper who likes to bring everything and the kitchen sink. Or, you want to arrive at your preferred destination on foot, unpack your large backpack, and extract its contents – this place has it.

Once you’ve unfolded your sleeping bags, placed your mini camping fridge next to your camping chair, and cracked open a cold beer, you will see why so many visitors flock here.

The giant ponderosa pines and the Douglas fir will provide plenty of shade during the summer, so you get to both enjoy the sunny weather and get away from it when it gets too hot.

Amenities here include metal fire grates, food storage lockers, as well as constant access to restrooms and potable water.

A word of warning, though: Close encounters with the park’s roaming herds of elk are relatively commonplace in this park, so do mind where these animals are in your vicinity.

Glacier Basin Campground

Tent at Glacier Basin Campground
Photo by Fred Inklaar via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
  • Number of campsites: 150 (73 tent-only, 13 group sites)
  • Charge: $30 a night | more for group sites 
  • RV-friendly: Yes (maximum length of 35’, though)
  • Reservation: Booking required 
  • Season: Open seasonally (summer months only)

Representing one of the most popular and thus tough-to-get-into campgrounds in the Rocky Mountain National Park, booking a reservation well in advance is the only way to secure a spot.

With some 150 sites, this campground is not exactly small. It represents a great vantage point for exploring the several cool places surrounding this park.

Most notably, Sprague Lake is close to this developed campground. To reach the scenic and no-less exciting Bear Lake trailhead, you must follow the road leading to the campsite a bit further.

At the campground, each site comes with sturdy fire grates and food storage lockers to discourage the local hungry and curious animals.

Add to that readily-available RV dumps, easy and safe access to potable water, and pleasant summer breezes (this campground is only opened seasonally during the summer). You have a camping opportunity you don’t want to miss.

Moraine Park Campground

Tent at Moraine Park Campground
Photo by Dave Dugdale via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
  • Number of campsites: 244
  • Charge: $30 a night in summer | $20 a night in winter
  • RV-friendly: Yes (maximum length of 40’, though)
  • Reservation: Booking required
  • Season: Open year-round

Imagine a large campground with breathtakingly beautiful nature. Imagine plenty of content appreciators of the surrounding scenery and wildlife nearby. Would these features prove an excellent camping experience for you? In that case, you’ll find this and much more at Moraine Park Campground.

The main reason why a multitude of visitors is an ever-present feature at this campground mainly comes down to the sheer size of this place. With no less than 244 sites, you will never feel bored or out of place here.

Interestingly, though, as spacious as this campground is, it gets filled with steady streams of campers and tents. This high visitor frequency is the norm year-round, as well.

Other than featuring 101 tenting sites, this campground features excellent views of stunning natural beauty all around the site. What’s more, this place can be a superb lobby for heading to Beaver Meadows Entrance Station.

An important note: During the winter, the number of available services here is considerably smaller, so come prepared for a camping trip with fewer amenities. 

Longs Peak Campground

Nature at Longs Peak Campground
Photo by Dave Dugdale via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
  • Number of campsites: 26 tent-only
  • Charge: $30 a night
  • RV-friendly: No
  • Reservation: Booking required
  • Season: Open seasonally (summer months only

With only 26 tents and no RVs allowed due to insufficient space, the Long Peak campground can be the perfect spot for a more private camping experience with tents, backpacks, and fantastic surrounding nature.

Imagine a dense pine forest with the healthiest-looking trees and vibrant fauna inhabiting its branches. This site, combined with an altitude of some 9,500 feet, makes for a unique camping experience that makes you think you’re in Switzerland.

As far as the location of this camp is concerned, it’s just south of the main park entrance – just off Highway 7 between Estes Park & Allenspark.

This location is only a short drive away from some incredible places, including well-known local gems like Chasm Lake, Estes Cone, and Longs Peak.

In terms of amenities, this place has some fire grates, storage lockers, and easy and secure access to potable water.

Longs Peak is a campground that functions on a first-come, first-served principle. So, arrive earlier if you plan to get here during the peak summer months.

Timber Creek Campground 

Timber Creek Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Number of campsites: 98 | 30 tent-only 
  • Charge: $30 a night 
  • RV-friendly: Yes (maximum length of 30’, though)
  • Reservation: First come, first-served
  • Season: Open seasonally (summer months only)

Providing 98 fantastic campsites that can accommodate regular tents and RVs, the Timber Creek campground is undoubtedly not a place you’d want to miss. It is a must-visit on your Rocky Mountain to-visit bucket list.

This place is on the west side of the Rocky Mountain National Park, just off Highway 34 and at the base of the famous Trail Ridge Road.

If you’d like to try hiking up the Timber Lake Trail, embarking on that fun expedition will be significantly more accessible and convenient, with Timber Creek campground as the starting point.

However, one thing to pay attention to is the potential wildlife encounters. All kinds of animals more heavily inhabit the western part of the parks, so tread lightly and cautiously.

This campground is open throughout the summer, and you can access it without needing a reservation beforehand. That said, to take advantage of the first-come, first-served rule, be sure to arrive early.

Lastly, the amenities at Timber Creek campground include storage lockers (handy against wild and hungry animals), fire grates, and RV dump stations for those planning to arrive here onboard their trusty camping four-wheeler.

Access to potable water is readily available throughout the season. 

For more developed campgrounds in Colorado, check out our guide to Pikes Peak camping as well.

Camping Near Rocky Mountain National Park

Camping Near Rocky Mountain National Park
Photo by Andrew Mace via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Camping within the bounds of the national park proper will give you easy access to some of its most remarkable features. It is also true that there are some fantastic camping spots just outside of the park, too.

Since Rocky Mountain is one of the most popular US camping destinations, people often fail to book a campsite on time. If this happens to you, an alternative of camping just outside the park can nevertheless be just as good.

Maybe you prefer RV camping, car camping, or some good old dispersed camping. You can rest assured you will find something for you along the perimeters of this national park.

In the passages below, I’ll describe four excellent RV campgrounds. Thanks to the rich network of roads with scenic views everywhere, RV-ing and car camping are top-rated options.

There are beautiful RV campsites on both the east and west side of the Rocky Mountain National Park. These have considerably more visitors than the spots on the west side, making the area more crowded and with more parking and camping options.

The four entries below are for the sites east of the national park.

There are two camping options that I want to talk about that are on the west side of the park. These are Elk Creek and Winding River Resort, and they both get fewer visitors than the four entries I will place above them.

Elk Meadow Lodge & RV Park 

Elk Meadow Lodge & RV Park entrance sign
  • Number of campsites: Plenty of sites
  • Charge: $40 – 46 a night for tents; $75 for RVs
  • RV-friendly: Yes, with full hookups available
  • Reservation: Booking recommended
  • Pets: Allowed

Plenty of space, and full hookups available, this RV haven is a place you don’t want to miss.

Just a short drive from the famous Beaver Meadows entrance to the national park, this place will offer you more than just a wide-open space where you can park and hook up your RV.

Traditional tent camping is the main feature attracting backpackers and RV full and part-timers. This place is not without its curiosities, allowing you a unique camping experience that you’d struggle to find elsewhere.

Suppose you want to experience this place the way ancient people did. In that case, teepee rentals are a thing, and you can access them at affordable prices. (Booking spots well in advance is the best way to do it, though.)

There are also cabins you can rent and several valuable amenities for glamping-inclined folks.

Facilities such as laundromats, a swimming pool, and entertainment at the lodge provide a break from an otherwise exciting and challenging camping experience.

While this RV haven offers a blend of modern amenities and traditional camping vibes, free camping spots near Breckenridge present a more rustic and intimate connection with nature. Nestled amidst the mountains, these spots offer a serene escape from the usual campgrounds, allowing campers to truly immerse themselves in Colorado’s wilderness. For those seeking a balance between solitude and breathtaking landscapes, the free camping spots near Breckenridge are a must-visit.

Manor RV Park 

RVs in Manor RV Park
  • Number of campsites: 110 sites
  • Charge: Varies
  • RV-friendly: Yes, with full hookups available
  • Reservation: Booking recommended
  • Pets: Allowed

To get to Manor RV park, you must pull off highway 36 just after you’ve passed the town of Estes Park. (This small community can be a great stop to get supplies before you head to your camping site.)

Regarding the spaciousness of this region, you can count on 110 sites, so there is more than enough room here for a complete RV family camping trip.

What makes this campground even more family-friendly is its pet-friendliness. If you have a four-legged or however many-legged companion, you want to acquaint yourself with the beauty of this park.

If you plan to bring your kids along, there is a playground present, so they will have plenty of entertainment to keep them busy.

Other exciting amenities at this RV campground include free Wi-Fi, convenient laundry facilities, and readily-available propane tank refills.

On top of it all, the park administrators offer complimentary breakfast on Saturdays.

Full hookups are available throughout this campground for all of your other RV-related necessities. You can be sure that these hookups will provide all your water and electricity-related needs.

Estes Park KOA

RVs in Estes Park KOA
  • Number of campsites: 110 sites
  • Charge: Varies
  • RV-friendly: Yes, with full hookups available
  • Reservation: Booking recommended
  • Pets: Allowed

Just east of the town of Estes Park and above Lake Estes, there is the Estes Park KOA – a campground just 5 minutes away from the Rocky Mountain National Park.

This campground is suitable for RVs and small trailers and can be a fantastic place to stop by en route to the national park.

As is the case with other KOA campgrounds, you can get the supplies you need for camping and quite a few services. You can get some of the stuff here: firewood, propane tank refills, pavilions, cable TV, Wi-Fi, and tour shuttles.

If you’d like to learn more about the amenities at this national park, visiting their official amenity-related page can be a great place to learn more.

If you’re interested in learning more about what you can do in this place, you can take a quick look at this map made by the officials at Rocky Mountain National Park.

Spruce Lake RV Park

Big Thompson River near Spruce Lake RV Park
Photo by G. Lamar via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
  • Number of campsites: 123 sites
  • Charge: $73 – 79 a night
  • RV-friendly: Yes, with full hookups available
  • Reservation: Booking recommended
  • Pets: Allowed

The banks of the Big Thompson River are the ground on which this RV park rests. Thanks to its quiet surroundings and beautiful scenery, this place can be a perfect pullout to set up a camp before heading into the Rocky Mountains.

If you plan a challenging and demanding trek into the national park mountains, setting up a camp here for a couple of days can be a good idea. Gathering your supplies and replenishing your energy can be a great way to amp yourself up for the challenge ahead.

Besides the supplies you can acquire, this place offers quite a few amenities. These facilities include free Wi-Fi, access to the Angler’s cottage, bathhouse, laundry facilities, and a large outdoor heated swimming pool for relaxation.

Add to that the fun activities, including mini-golf, bean bag toss games, fishing, and other yard games. Suppose you want to learn more about the full range of amenities and recreational activities you can engage in in this place. In that case, you can check out this website.

Elk Creek Campground & RV Resort

RV at Elk Creek Campground & RV Resort
Photo by Adam Zolyak via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
  • Number of campsites: 48 RV sites + ten tent sites
  • Charge: $42 – 62 a night
  • RV-friendly: Yes, with full hookups available
  • Reservation: Booking recommended
  • Pets: Allowed

Situated just across Highway 34 from Grand Lake, the Elk Creek Campground & RV Resort represents a fantastic starting point for exploring the East Inlet. Also, there are many restaurants and shops in Grand Lake.

This campground offers both RV and tent sites, so there are options for both types of camping.

The amenities you can find here include free access to Wi-Fi, a general store, and a playground. Last but not least, plenty of animal species roam these parts, so there’s always a chance of encountering some unique and beautiful specimens.

Winding River Resort

Grand Lake near Winding River Resort
  • Number of campsites: 48 RV sites + ten tent sites
  • Charge: $42 – 62 a night
  • RV-friendly: Yes, with full hookups available
  • Reservation: Booking recommended | The number for reservations: 970-627-3215
  • Pets: Allowed

North of the town of Grand Lake, you will find a tranquil and secluded location called the Winding River Resort.

Adjacent to the mighty Colorado river, this campground can be an excellent solution for RVs and tents. It also comes with some pretty nifty cabins for rent. So, this campground can be a perfect option whether you’re in it because you want a simple camping trip with some good old tents or more of a glamping solution with on-the-spot cabins.

Horseback riding represents a significant attraction in this resort. Horse-riding-related activities include trail rides, pony rides, and hay and sleigh rides.

Also, other than these, you can count on a proper animal farm, an all-time kids’ favorite. This farm will never fail to entertain your kids by sporting lovely specimens such as burros, miniature horses, baby rabbits, boats, calves, piglets, and chicks.

Adult activities include some of the world’s most fantastic wildlife viewing opportunities with animals such as moose, elk, bears, and coyotes, as well as a range of incredible birds for ornithology enthusiasts.

One activity, in particular, stands out as a cultural and outdoor challenge – covered wagons. You can experience this area the way wagon-dwelling pioneers of yore did back in the day of the Old West. No pets are allowed on board these, though.

You can engage in this resort if you want to check out the entire list of activities. For more great camping spots in the state, check out our ultimate guide to dispersed camping in Colorado.

Best Car Camping Sites near Rocky Mountain National Park

A line of cars wait at the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, on an autumn morning
Photo by Tony Webster via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

For the record, car camping is possible and even encouraged at all RV campsites I listed above.

Car camping is where you load all your camping gear in your car. The whole point of car camping is that you can arrive at your destination in your vehicle instead of having to get there on foot and carrying a large backpack.

The entries below represent the campgrounds that are specifically suitable for car camping but typically not for RVs. Usually, the problem with RVs and some camping spots is the sheer size and length, in particular, of the vehicle. This long vehicle problem is especially true of mountainous campsites. Wherever there are a lot of winding roads and narrow dirt trails that are tough to negotiate for long and cumbersome vehicles.

Here is a list of car camping sites near Rocky Mountain National Park.

Estes Park Campground at East Portal

Nature at East Portal near Estes Park Campground
Photo by Mark Collins via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
  • Number of campsites: 66
  • Charge: $45 – 55 a night
  • RV-friendly: Small RVs with trailers less than 22 feet
  • Reservation: Booking recommended
  • Pets: Allowed

Estes Park campground at East Portal represents a relatively secluded and tranquil area on the east side of the national park, towards the end of Highway 66.

The trailhead that starts at this campground leads away from it and toward popular hiking trails such as the Glacier Basin Loop. Getting well-rested and ready for a challenging hiking adventure up one of these trails can be a great option if you set up a tent on this campground. It can be a great starting point.

If you own an RV but are looking for a quieter place than the RV campgrounds we mentioned above, arriving at this campground onboard your vehicle can be a fantastic opportunity. The RV needs to be relatively small, though. Also, there are a couple of sites with hookups, but be sure to arrive before the other campers if you want to use them.

Other than the RV-related hookups, the other amenities include picnic tables and fire rings at every site. Guests are also welcome to use showers, drinking water, water, and electricity hookups. Wi-Fi is unavailable here, and the cell phone signal is dodgy and should not be relied on entirely. (If a phone signal is vital, bringing a satellite phone can be a solution.)

Estes Park Campground at Mary’s Lake

Estes Park sign
  • Number of campsites: 128
  • Charge: $45 – 65 a night
  • RV-friendly: Small RVs with trailers less than 22 feet
  • Reservation: Booking recommended
  • Pets: Allowed

Sitting snugly adjacent to Mary’s Lake, this campground represents another campground part of the Estes Valley Recreation and Park District jurisdiction.

Incredible natural beauty is one of the biggest attractions of this location. Throughout the camping season, this campground is sunny, with only small shady patches in tent camping areas.

As you’re looking over the lake, the Twin Sisters Peaks is a unique mountainous visual attraction. It represents a fantastic photo op and a backdrop for cracking open a cold beer and enjoying the fresh air sitting in your camping chair.

Regarding wildlife, elk and moose are sometimes wont to enter this campground, but as long as you keep a safe distance, no bad will come of it. To deter bears and other predatory carnivores, storing your food safely in locked containers is a must. (Tent-only sites already have bear-proof food storage lockers as a part of the standard gear.)

Amenities at this site include picnic tables and campfire rings. There are also full hookups available with both 50-Amp and 30-Amp services. Access to drinking water, propane refill stations, hot showers, laundry facilities, and flush toilets also represent commonly-found facilities in this area. 

Hermit Park Open Space Campground

Two hikers at Hermit Park Open Space
  • Number of campsites: Plenty of space
  • Charge: $30 a night
  • RV-friendly: Small RVs with trailers less than 22 feet
  • Reservation: Booking recommended
  • Pets: Allowed

Two miles southeast of Estes Park, Colorado, Hermit Park Open Space represents one of the best open-space campgrounds in the vicinity of the national park. Since this campground sits at an elevation of 7,880 – 8,964 feet, you can rest assured that you won’t have to do that much to get the most out of this area.

Hermit Park nests high up among beautiful ponderosa pine forests on one side and tranquil wetland meadows that spread beyond the campground as far as the eyes can see.

Some of the features in this area include RV and tent camping spots, horseback riding, mountain biking, and hiking trails, as well as cabins that you can rent. There are also group camping venues.

Open from March through December. This campground requires a reservation as well as an entrance permit.

Regarding group camping pavilions, the amenities include picnic tables, charcoal grills, and electricity available. (Since a generator provides this, this place can sometimes be a tad noisy.)

A volleyball court and a horseshoe pit are also available if you’re looking for an extra sporting activity to enjoy. If you want to learn more

Best Dispersed Camping near Rocky Mountain National Park

Campers at dispersed camping spot in Rocky Mountain National Park
Photo by Devin Stein via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Representing maybe the best way to experience Rocky Mountain National Park would be through dispersed camping. This type of camping enables you to pack your tent, load it into your backpack or car boot, and arrive at the camping location – no fees or charges involved.

When Rocky Mountain National Park is in question, dispersed camping is allowed on USFS (United States Forest Service) land to the east and west of the park. There are plenty of fantastic sites here, many easily accessible by car. (Though some may be only accessible by 4×4 vehicles.)

Since these parts are under the jurisdiction of the USFS, you will have to adhere to their camping rules and regulations. (These rules are the same for the entire US, by the way.) Here is the link to their official dispersed camping rules page.

For more information about the areas east and west of the Rocky Mountain National Park, you can contact these two USFS offices:

  • USFS office for land east of national park – 303-541-2500 or 970-295-6700
  • USFS office for land west of national park – 970-887-4100·

Below is a list of some of the best-dispersed campsites around the national park. 

Coyote Hill Road

Allenspark near Coyote Hill Road

Just outside Estes Park, you will find Coyote Hill Road, a road with many fantastic dispersed camping sites.

While this road is passable by most vehicles, arriving here with a high-clearance 4×4 is highly recommended since it’s a forest road. You might manage the ascent with a family car, but you may damage your tires and chassis this way.

As you reach the summit, the road gets progressively rougher, so prepare for a bumpy ride the last couple of miles.

Once you reach this campground, you will find some of the most stunning views in the whole area surrounding the national park. Also, this campground is reasonably peaceful and not frequented by that many visitors – especially during the winter months. (By the way, arriving here in a 4×4 during winter is a must.)

There is no water available in any of the sites, but there are fire rings that you can use.

Parachute Hill/ Johnny Park Road

Sunrise near the Parachute Hill in Rocky Mountain National Park
Photo by Michael Levine-Clark via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Open year-round and featuring no more than five campsites, the Parachute Hill campground is a free camping area only accessible by a high-clearance 4×4. This campground is close to Johnny Park Road, which offers additional campsites. Still, it is also not open during the winter months.

There are no gates here, so there is no need to worry about this place getting shut down by the USFS at any point throughout the season.

In addition to attempting to reach this place in a 4×4, having some off-roading experience is desirable. Besides that, it is essential to keep in mind that the road here can get rough. What’s more, if you plan to drag a trailer behind you, you must take extra precautions when visiting this place.

As with other campgrounds overseen by the USFS, you can camp here for no more than 14 days within a month. It’s up to you how you arrange these two weeks. You can camp for a fortnight in bulk or a few days here and there if the total is no more than fourteen days. 

Pole Hill Road

Vehicles at Pole Hill Road
Photo by Brett Levin via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A free campground you can easily access from Highway 36, just south of Estes Park, Pole Hill Road, offers some fantastic campsites.

The challenging part is – getting to these campsites can be pretty tough. A 4×4, high-clearance vehicle is a must. Also, consulting the most recently-updated MVUM (Motor Vehicle Use Map) is always a good idea. Regarding amenities, you will find none here, so packing everything from food to water is essential.

During the winter, heavy snowfall blocks the roads. Since the USFS authorities don’t plow the tracks, access to this campground can be difficult when the cold months come.

Once you reach the camping area, you will find a couple of fire rings and plenty of space. At about 8,600 feet, this campground offers fresh air and fantastic views of the surrounding area with evergreen trees and green mountains. Also, you might chance across a moose or two on your way upwards, navigating the rugged terrain. 

Stillwater Pass Dispersed Camping

Grand Lake trail near Stillwater Pass

A free campground at its core, Stillwater Pass offers much more to its visitors. Its vast territory and dirt roads make it a perfect spot for off-roading.

The trailhead at this place offers an extensive motorized trail system known as the Stillwater Pass and Grand Lake trail. This area is an excellent option for off-roading, mountain biking, and hunting as one related activity.

Regarding the natural sites here, you can count on gorgeous aspen groves that tend to get denser the farther you venture into the forest. This thick forest, combined with a plethora of fantastic off-road tracks and trails, make this area a high-frequency hunting ground and a favorite for many ATV and dirt-biking enthusiasts.

For this reason, be aware that camping here may not be the most tranquil experience. However, there are many other campgrounds surrounded by beautiful aspen groves in Colorado. For more info, see our guide to dispersed camping near Aspen.

When to Camp in Rocky Mountain National Park

A view of a meadow at the base of a wide sloping valley in-between peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park in summer
Photo by Penn State University Libraries Architecture and Landscape Architecture via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park during the winter is not for those faint of heart.

At elevations well over 7,000 feet, camping here can be quite taxing on your body if you come unprepared. For this reason, winter camping in this national park is only good if you have some previous cold-weather camping experience.

The weather during the winter here gets pretty rough. There’s plenty of snow, it can get cold, and the wind often makes the already harsh climate even more challenging.

For this reason, the only developed campground open year-round in Rocky Mountain National Park is Moraine Park Campground.

The other campgrounds are open during the summer, from late May through to late September, when the weather gets colder.

As far as the peak camping season months are concerned, you can enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery in the summer and a tranquil and soothing environment come fall.

If you love exploring the vast American wilderness, be sure to read our guide to camping in Shenandoah National Park as well.

Rules & Regulations

Rocky Mountain National Park is not a volatile place that can easily catch fire or get damaged by littering. Even so, there are still some rules that all visitors are encouraged to observe. The rules themselves are fairly lax, so you don’t need to worry about having to jump through red tape hoops to camp here. The rules that are in place are easy to observe. 

Regarding the length of stay, you can only camp for seven consecutive nights from May 1st to October 15th. Around these dates, however, you can camp for another 14 days.

Within the national park, you can camp at the designated sites. There should be no more than eight people per campsite.

Given the rich wildlife diversity in this region, storing food well away from curious and hungry animals is a must. It could be your car, a specialized food storage locker, or an animal-proof container. Always keep your food safe and out of reach of black bears, gray wolves, and wolverines. Let’s not forget about the elusive Canada lynx.

Generally speaking, practicing the Leave No Trace camping principles might be the best overall camping strategy in these parts.


Campfire in Rocky Mountain National Park

Regarding Rocky Mountain National Park proper, campfires are permissible in developed campgrounds. (This is not the case in the backcountry.)

There are some rules to adhere to, though.

First, make sure not to source any of the wood locally. Instead, purchase firewood from a local store.

Also, ensure you fully extinguish the fire before leaving the area or going to sleep.


The town of Estes Park
Photo by seaview99 via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Speaking of buying firewood, as well as any other commodity you can think of, there are two places that you can visit to restock your supplies. These are the two towns sitting east and west of the national park.

Estes Park – is a place bustling with outdoor activity and commerce. Busy folks are getting their supplies for the many hikes, treks, camping, horseback riding, and trailing expeditions.

In Estes Park, you can find a gas station, a grocery store, restaurants, and an outdoor store where you can pick up the firewood we mentioned above.

The terrain in and around the national park can get quite challenging, even for the well-prepared camper. Punctured tires, damaged chassis, and getting stuck are all commonplace occurrences in these parts. The outdoor store can come in particularly handy.

Access to purchasing outdoor car parts, camping equipment, and navigational equipment can make your life more manageable. Add anti-bear sprays, mosquito sprays, and other essential equipment to help you ward off curious animals.

Grand Lake – On the west side, you will find the town of Grand Lake. This place offers lodging, food, supplies, and everything else you might need for a fantastic camping trip in the Rocky Mountains.

Besides supplies and restaurants, this place also hosts some extraordinary events. Some of them are recurring local classics such as Margarita Madness or the cheeky Beer and Brats at Sun Outdoors

If you are based in the state capital and would rather go camping somewhere nearby, see our list of the best free campsites near Denver.


Dog in national park

Similarly to campfires, pets are allowed in developed campgrounds under specific conditions. In addition to developed campgrounds, you can bring your pets in parking lots and on the main park roads.

In the backcountry, however, they are not allowed on any trail, tundra, or other areas within the Rocky Mountain National Park.

Due to the many predatory species in this region, the Rocky Mountain National Park authorities strongly discourage visitors from bringing their pets with them.

That said, if you do decide to bring them along, be sure to:

  • Keep them on a leash at all times,
  • Dispose of pet droppings appropriately,
  • Don’t leave your pet unattended in your vehicle,
  • Make sure not to bring the pet in a park building, on a trail, or elsewhere in the backcountry.

Here is a detailed list of rules for bringing your pet to the national park.


Maybe you’re in it for the breathtaking scenery. Or, if you like the awesome woodland pullouts, off-roading, endless hiking and mountaineering opportunity, or a simple leisurely camping trip – Rocky Mountain National Park will not disappoint.

The surrounding areas of this place are pretty impressive. Many high-elevation spots can offer you a peaceful camping experience and many additional activities you can enjoy.

Add to that some of the most stunning wildlife in the world, and you can see why so many visitors regularly flock to this national park every year.

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