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Old 09-02-2011, 12:49 PM
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
33 posts, read 186,747 times
Reputation: 103


Hello! I'm finally going up to Rocky Mtn. National Park the end of this month (Sept.) to go camping. I've lived in the Springs for about a year now and this is the first trip up there - super excited! Anyway, I was wondering which campground do you think is the best for:

1. Mtn. views
2. solitude/quiet/peace
3. not many children if any
3. proximity to good hikes

I would like to wake up and just walk to a trailhead, but if need be we can just drive. Numbers 1, 2 and 3 are most important. Or do you think backcountry camping would be best? We have a tent and only plan on staying for a night or two.

Also which hiking trails are a good choice for moderate-strenuous hike with awesome scenery?

Thanks for your opinions!

Last edited by sapphire904; 09-02-2011 at 12:51 PM.. Reason: grammar correction
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Old 09-02-2011, 07:27 PM
2,253 posts, read 5,834,746 times
Reputation: 2615
Wink True camping

In season the more popular campgrounds in RMNP fill up and tend to stay that way. The National Park Service accepts reservations at a number of different campgrounds in RMNP, and recommends them. After Labor Day your odds will improve, but probably still a good idea to book reservations, if accepted. Also bear in mind that some campgrounds, such as Glacier Basin Campground, which might otherwise be one of your better choices, close during September. So, among other aspects, check such details.

Other campgrounds, such as Moraine Park Campground, are open year-round. Although it is one of the more popular, largest, and congested. Among possible advantages would be a possible view of Longs Peak, as well as hiking directly from there up along the Big Thompson River. Although most more likely inclined to still drive from there farther along the road to the actual hiking trailhead. In September, it is far more likely one could actually secure a parking space there, if less so on any weekend.

The hike up along the Big Thompson River is lovely, marred only in being one of the most popular and busy. But it will be some distance before one climbs high enough to have much of a view beyond the immediate canyon, and what mountains visible in looking up. For something more directly up, one could veer to the south towards Cub Lake, with not long after it being afforded a good view of the Big Thompson canyon below, and surrounding peaks. From there one can branch farther up, or down to join the canyon trail near The Pool.

Another option in such a type of hike would be from Wild Basin, which is reliably less congested. Although, again, do yourself a favor and visit during the week if possible. As with the Big Thompson, the trail skirts the edge of the North Fork of the St. Vrain River (technically creek) as it ascends ever higher. It is a lovely hike, but one that will not afford great mountain panoramas until you are well beyond the trailhead.

One of the better options if you want mountain peaks visible right out the door is to depart from the trailhead at Bear Lake, and head from there up towards Nymph Lake and beyond. This will also put you at the highest elevation quickest, as the parking area near Bear Lake is an elevation of about 9,400 feet.

Established campgrounds will be most convenient, but all four of your prerequisites will be best met if you plan on backcountry camping. You can not only have a view of the mountains, but be on one; you'll have a far better chance of peace, quiet and solitude, as most of the 3,000,000 odd annual visitors to RMNP never get more than a few miles from their vehicle, if that; this also applies to children, with relatively few parents able and willing to camp with their kids in true wilderness, and if so likely better behaved; with of course great proximity to good hikes, as you're in the midst of one. You'll need a backcountry camping permit from RMNP for real camping, although however you happen to camp there you'll have to pay them something, aside from the standard entrance fee.

If unfamiliar with that, then know that RMNP charges an entrance fee of $20 per vehicle (good for 7 days). But if you think there is the slightest chance you'll use it, the better deal is to purchase an annual park pass for $80, which is good at not only RMNP but any other national park or monument in the nation. It might prove an inducement to get out more.

September should prove a lovely time to camp in RMNP, but do remember you'll be high in the mountains, no matter what. The weather is always changeable, so plan on clothing layers able to accommodate anything from hot sun to rain or snow. September is generally a fairly mild and pleasant month, if with cooler evenings. But if ever very far from your car you should be prepared for Nature on her terms.

On September weekends there will be more visitors present to enjoy the changing fall colors, and also the elk. But if really camping, they will prove incidental to your trip. Really getting out in the woods is more of an ordeal in planning, time taken and exertion, versus a tent five feet from your car, your neighbors just beyond, and but a few hours of a more leisurely walk. But as the saying, and true, that derived proportional to that expended.

Come October and the winter beyond, you may well have the fondest memories, and best pictures, if having truly ventured out into the wilderness that RMNP is.
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Old 09-06-2011, 06:16 AM
Location: Boulder, Co
49 posts, read 155,434 times
Reputation: 47
We have only camped there once and stayed at Moraine Park. The weekend we were there it was full, but quiet. Try and get site 230 or 232, they both have great views. We hiked Cub Lake trail from our campsite.

The parks pass is a good idea. We don't have the national parks pass, but purchased a RMNP pass for $40. So if you use it more than twice a year it pays for itself.
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Old 09-16-2011, 03:00 PM
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
33 posts, read 186,747 times
Reputation: 103
Talking Great hike

Thank you both for your replies.
We ended up staying at Longs Peak campground - perfect! Only 20-some campsites and it was quiet and beautiful. There's a trailhead around the corner that we explored the day we got there and went about 2.5 miles up towards Chasm Jct. and Longs Peak, then came back.

The next day, we went to Bear Lake, but hiked to Black Lake from the trailhead. We couldn't see either lake because the fog was so dense, but the rest of the 11 mile hike was spectaular, especially Alberta Falls!

We purchased a RMNP pass for $40 for the year and can't wait to go back this fall and next spring!
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