Rocky Mountain National Park
Estes Park, CO
Management: Rocky Mountain National Park
Size: 54 sites (13 are tent only, 5 are walk in, the rest are drive in, 0 electric)
Cost: $26/night (reservable online, day-of sites are rarely available)
Environment: On the mountainside, tucked in the trees. River next to the walk-in sites
Cell Phone Reception: Poor
Privacy: Fair. Walk-In sites had the most privacy
Dog Rules: Dogs on Leash. Dogs cannot be left unattended. Clean up all pet waste. NO dogs on park trails. No excessive barking or noise.
Amenities: Flush toilets, fresh water. No electric hookups. No showers. Host on-site. Waste receptacles. Food lockers.
Trails Nearby: There are several trails nearby, but none are dog-friendly.
This place was downright magical. I would have stayed at my perfectly perfect campsite for days if I could. As it was, I got the last campsite available. But it was the BEST campsite in the entire campground. To say I got lucky is an understatement. I placed my reservation a mere 4 days in advance of my stay, and the entire campground was booked up. On a Tuesday. The National Park website strongly recommended making a reservation well in advance of your trip as all campground fill up from June - September. Even on weeknights. Colorado is awesome! And everyone wants a piece of it.
I was in Walk-In Site C, one of five walk-in sites in this campground. I was in one of the furthest sites away from the parking area, so it was private and wonderful. Check out this video for a full tour!
We had a peaceful, uneventful stay. There were multiple scat piles near our campsite, but the park ranger informed me that they were from elk. I was hoping we'd see one in the morning, but no luck. There were plenty of elk in the park, though, and you're nearly guaranteed to see some during your time there.
The rushing water lulled me to sleep, and the pups and I were quite comfortable and cozy snuggled up in our tent. Be prepared for the hike in with all of your gear, particularly if you're not yet acclimated to the altitude. I was absolutely feeling it - out of breath, light-headed, and even dizzy at times. Take your time, drink water, rest. I appreciated the speed of boiling water for dinner, though! The crude fencing you see in the video was incredibly handy when it came time to dry out my gear while breaking camp the next morning. Condensation happens overnight, even inside the tent, so I simply hung my sleeping bag, tent, and tarp over the fencing in the morning sun for a half hour before packing up.
This particular campsite is very spacious. You can just see the neighbors at the next campsite over, but it still felt private. The views of the river rapids was wonderful as well. A note on bears: encounters are rare but sightings are fairly frequent. The park rangers strongly advised me to not keep anything in my campsite or my car but to instead make use of the food storage lockers. I kept the small amount of food I needed in the locker at my campsite and the rest of my supplies and dog food in the storage locker at the parking area. There are no human locks, so don't leave valuables inside. I had no troubles, though, and all of my gear was still there in the morning. Bears are attracted not only to food smells, but also personal hygiene products like shampoo or deodorant. Be sure to put all of it in a storage locker rather than your car. Bears have been known to break car windows. I didn't feel in any danger, and the park rangers were very reassuring.
Although I hated the lack of showers since I'd been traveling for a few days already without one, the flush toilets and running water were nice. Don't count on cell phone reception up in the mountains; you might find a tiny pocket here and there, but there was essentially zero service up here. I managed to get one small text message out to my safety buddy, but that was it. Forget about data. They do have wifi available at several of the visitor centers if you do need to get a message out. Also, if there were an emergency, I'm sure the park rangers or the on-site host would be able to radio out immediately.
I sincerely hope you get the opportunity to camp here. The nearby town of Estes Park was the perfect mountain town - stop there if you get a chance! If you have any questions about planning your trip, please contact me!
Photos From Camp