How to Backpack in Rocky Mountain National Park

How to Backpack in Rocky Mountain National Park
Backpacking in Rocky Mountain National Park offers some of the most stunning mountain vistas in the continental U.S., and close to 400 miles of hiking trails. Preparing for an overnight trip in Rocky Mountain National Park requires taking several steps, including securing permits, carrying enough water, and dealing with potential critter encounters.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Step 1
Set a realistic goal based on your fitness for how many miles you can travel in a day. Rocky Mountain National Park is all above 7,000 feet in altitude, and much of it is close to 10,000 or more, and altitude can affect your ability to hike if you are coming from sea level.
Step 2
Examine the park guidebook and decide on your goal. RMNP has several loop hikes as well as destination sites, and the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail goes through the park, providing a worthwhile challenge.
Step 3
Secure a permit from the National Parks Service at the entrance to the park, or by phone before arriving. All overnight stays require a camping permit, in both summer and winter. These fees are in addition to the entrance fee to the park.
Step 4
Carry a water filter and a backcountry stove to ensure an adequate supply of water. All water sources in the park should be treated before drinking, as giardia and other waterborne diseases can easily be transmitted. A stove can be used to melt snow from permanent snowfields.
Step 5
Carry a lightweight tent and a sleeping bag rated to at least 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures in the high country can drop quickly, even in summer.
Step 6
Hang your food from a tree when camping at night, or, if you are above treeline, try hanging it out over a branch stuck between two rocks so that voracious marmots don't eat it.
Step 7
Watch the weather conditions for afternoon thunderstorms, which hit almost daily during the summer, and make sure you are below treeline before they hit.
Step 8
Monitor your body for potential acute mountain sickness. Symptoms can include dizziness, nausea, and headaches. Be prepared to go down to lower elevations if you suffer from AMS.

Article Written By Candace Horgan

Candace Horgan has worked as a freelance journalist for more than 12 years. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications, including the "Denver Post" and "Mix." Horgan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and history.

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