The Best Camping Near Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

The Best Camping Near Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Catch a glimpse of moose, elk, otters, and even bears from campgrounds near Rocky Mountain National Park. Whether from a hiking trail, a picnic bench, or out your car window, take in the beauty of the flora and fauna of Colorado’s famed mountain range.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
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About Camping Near Rocky Mountain National Park

Find high alpine lakes, countless wildlife species, and hiking trails with a wide range of difficulties from campgrounds near Rocky Mountain National Park. The stark colors of the evergreen trees and the sparkling high-mountain waters combine for picture perfect vistas. Buckle in for some altitude gain and, outside of warmer summer months, pack spikes for the hiking trail! Rocky Mountain high means snow, ice, and thin air – in exchange for jaw-dropping beauty.

Top Campgrounds Near Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

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Rocky Mountain National Park Camping FAQs

Find high alpine lakes, countless wildlife species, and hiking trails with a wide range of difficulties at the campgrounds near Rocky Mountain National Park. The stark colors of the evergreen trees and the sparkling high-mountain waters combine for picture-perfect vistas.

Buckle in for some altitude gain and, outside of warmer summer months, pack trekking poles for the hiking trail! Rocky Mountain high means snow, ice, and thin air, in exchange for jaw-dropping beauty.

Rocky Mountain attracts more than 4 million annual visitors, making it the fourth most popular national park. Rocky Mountain has always been popular, but the park has been sneaking its way up the list, beating out some of the big-name parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone, all while being within half a million annual visitors from Zion National Park. Suffice to say, it gets crowded during the summers.

What Is Rocky Mountain National Park Known For?

Well, the Rocky Mountains, for one. Rocky Mountain National Park is basically just everything that Colorado is known for in a nutshell. It’s famous for its mountains, wildlife, and, of course, the altitude. Rocky Mountain National Park has an astounding 60 peaks over 12,000 feet in elevation. Interestingly enough, of the 58 14ers (peaks over 14,000 feet), only one of them is actually located in Rocky Mountain National Park: Long’s Peak.

Rocky Mountain National Park is teeming with wildlife, with the bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain Elk being some of the park’s most recognizable residents. While conservation is often thought of in terms of increasing the number of animals, Rocky Mountain National Park actually has the opposite problem; there are more elk here than there should be, and they aren’t migrating effectively.

Top Sights to See in Rocky Mountain National Park

Bear Lake

Bear Lake is easily one of the most well-known sights in Rocky Mountain National Park. There’s a short loop hike around it that should absolutely be on your itinerary. While unpaved, the trail is flat, well-maintained, and accessible. Of course, Bear Lake is the starting point for several hikes, so it’s easy to up the degree of difficulty.

Forest Canyon Overlook

Nearly 12,000 feet up, you’ll find one of the park’s best views. As far as the eye can see is Colorado wilderness, with the nearby valleys and the Continental Divide being the biggest draws of this spot.

Trail Ridge Road

Sometimes called a highway to the sky, this 48-mile scenic drive goes from Estes Park on the park’s east side to Grand Lake on the park’s western boundary. There is quite literally no better drive in the area for experiencing the Colorado Rockies. Allow half a day at least, and take lots of pictures on the way.

Best Time to Visit Rocky Mountain National Park

You’ve got a limited number of days to work with when you’re up at this elevation, but every one of them is a gem. Most campers are going to want to be here during peak season between June and September. Days during this time are long and reasonably warm, all things considered. In an average year, daytime temperatures hover around 70 in the mid-summer, with overnight lows dropping into the low 40s. Of course, depending on the year, you might see much warmer summertime weather.

The best way to beat crowds here is by heading to the park during the shoulder seasons. During the late spring, temperatures are warm enough for most campers, especially if the area is having a warmer-than-average spring, as we’ve seen lately. You’ll still find snow in certain higher areas of the park, but by late April and into early May, most of the snow tends to be gone or manageable in general. Though, anyone venturing above 10,000 feet or so might still want to carry crampons with them as a backup.

The park sees a second mini-peak season when fall colors are in full swing. While the temperatures are chillier, the colors are enough to make people want to brave the cold at elevation, especially if they’re locals. Fall colors here are awesome, but just know you’ll have to share them with plenty of like-minded visitors.

Tips for Camping Near Rocky Mountain National Park

Prepare for Elevation

Yes, that’s sort of Colorado’s whole thing. You’ve probably already heard this, but it bears repeating. If you aren’t used to the altitude, you can quickly over-exert yourself and end up with altitude sickness. If you’ve never experienced that before, it’s not a lot of fun.

In an ideal world, you’d get in a day or two early and just start the acclimation process. It won’t make those hikes a breeze, but it will certainly help make things a bit more manageable. Above all, just take your time. If you’re fit at sea level, this is going to be easier, but you may be surprised at just how different hiking in Colorado is from other states.

Bring Layers

Colorado, especially in the summer, is warm, sunny, and dry. However, Rocky Mountain and the surrounding areas are notorious for afternoon rain showers during the summer. You want to prepare for spring, summer, and fall at any given point because you never know exactly what you’re going to get. If nothing else, you want a jacket for the evenings when the temperatures, even in summer, get reasonably chilly.

Most Campgrounds Are Easily Accessible

While some parks require a decent drive or dirt roads to access campgrounds, Rocky Mountain is (for the most part) accessible. While not every part of the park is going to be accessible to everyone, Rocky Mountain has done a good job of making it easy for everyone to access most parts of the park.

The only campground you might have trouble getting into is Timber Creek, the singular campground on the park’s west side. Still, it’s reasonably accessible and best accessed from Grand Lake or the Trail Ridge Road.

Tips on Entering Rocky Mountain National Park

Beaver Meadows and Fall River Are the Most Popular Entrances

These are the most popular entrances to an incredibly popular park. Mathematically, that means you might have to wait a while to get in. That said, the Grand Lake entrance on the park’s west side, while more remote, is a quicker entry and offers a unique look at the park.

Timed Entry System Now in Effect

Because of the park’s increasing popularity, Rocky Mountain has started to implement a timed entry system during the season. You want to make sure you reserve your entry ahead of time. The entry itself doesn’t cost anything, though there’s a small service fee associated.

You Can Buy an Interagency Pass Upon Entry

Colorado has four incredible national parks. If you’re planning to see at least a few national parks (anywhere in the country, even) this year, buy an interagency pass when you get to the fee station upon entrance. If you’re seeing multiple parks, the pass quickly pays for itself.

How to Camp in Rocky Mountain National Park

The biggest thing you want to do is take your time when exploring and getting to your campground. There are a couple of reasons for that.

The first is that if you aren’t used to the elevation, even small tasks take more work than they should. You likely won’t get winded setting up camp or anything, but you want to allow that everything takes longer than expected at elevation.

The other reason you want to move slowly is wildlife. If you’ve ever been to a national park, you’ve seen someone driving way over the speed limit. It makes no sense. It’s not like this is your commute to work—it’s one of the most beautiful spots in the country. I digress. Stick to the speed limit because it’s in place for a reason. You can turn a blind corner and suddenly meet a bear at high speed. That ends well for no one. Take your time and enjoy the drive.

Best Campspot Campgrounds Near Rocky Mountain National Park for Tent Campers

Sun Outdoors Rocky Mountains

Sun Outdoors Rocky Mountains made its way into the top five of the competitive Best Glamping Campgrounds category, taking fourth place at the 2023 Campspot Awards. Sun Outdoors Rocky Mountains is certainly no stranger to top honors either, taking home awards in previous years.

One look at the amenity list here, and it’s easy to see why it has this pedigree. The list of creature comforts, activities, and essentials is about a mile long. If you want it, it’s here or it doesn’t exist. This is the perfect blend of outdoor adventure and relaxing resort getaway, offering kayaking, mini-golf, and hot tubs (among many other things) all in the same location.

Best Campspot Campgrounds Near Rocky Mountain National Park for RV Campers

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park™ Camp-Resort: Estes Park

In a state known for its views, campgrounds here operate in a highly competitive category. To say, then, that Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park: Estes Park has absolutely spectacular views should mean something. With its proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park, you won’t have to leave the nature views beyond when you exit the park for the day. Estes Park, Colorado, is also about as close as you can get to the park without being in it, meaning you can beat the traffic.

While a great spot for RVers, really any sort of camper can find something enjoyable here. Lodging is plentiful, and tent spots offer water and electric hookups. However, the RV spots here are some of the best you can get in proximity to the park. They’re the perfect synthesis of beautiful scenery and luxurious amenities, with wide spaces, full hookups, and great tree cover.

Base Camp at Golden Gate Canyon

Base Camp at Golden Gate Canyon offers something a little more relaxed and remote. The campground features 40 total sites, with 19 of them designated as RV spaces. You’ll be further from Rocky Mountain than Estes Park is, but you’re trading drive time for a more remote and secluded camping experience.

Just because you’re secluded doesn’t mean you’re without amenities, though. The campground features an on-site general store, playground, and laundry services. If you want to get away from it all while retaining just enough creature comforts, Base Camp at Golden Gate Canyon strikes a perfect balance.

Best Campspot Campgrounds Near Rocky Mountain National Park for Lodging

Winding River Resort

Winding River Resort offers much of the same benefits that Base Camp at Golden Gate Canyon does, but it orients itself more towards lodging than anything else. The resort still leans heavily on providing a simple stay that provides enough comfort without taking away from your experience in nature. With Conestoga wagons and camper cabins, you’ve got some options to make your stay unique.

All your needs are covered here with a general store, internet access, and playground on-site. Beyond that, the biggest draw is your ease of access to the wilds of Colorado. While you’re here for the national park, the Grand Lake area also offers great hiking and fishing.

Poudre River Resort

The Poudre River Resort offers a sort of classic camping experience. There’s nothing quite like a log cabin along the river to immerse you in the outdoors. Whether you’re an avid fishing enthusiast or not, you’ll be delighted to have the Cache La Poudre River right in your front yard. The resort combines the rugged aesthetic of the classic camping cabin with comforts like a hot tub, internet access, and even live music during the season.

Even as national parks go, Rocky Mountain National Park is rugged and wild. Millions of visitors come here to experience the Rocky Mountains and their wildlife every year, and hopefully, you’ll be one of them!

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