Rocky Mountain National Park’s 415 square miles encompass and protect spectacular mountain environments. The park provides exceptional access to wild places for visitors to recreate and experience solitude and outstanding scenic beauty. Roads and over 300 miles of trails bring visitors to the doorstep of a variety of wilderness-based recreational opportunities and ability to enjoy viewing wildflowers, wildlife, mountain scenery and starry nights.
Congress has set aside 95% of Rocky Mountain National Park as designated wilderness. Rocky Mountain National Park is managed in a way to preserve its wilderness character for future generations.
*WILDERNESS CAMPING ALERT* Due to extensive construction occurring throughout Estes Park this summer we encourage our backpackers needing to rent bear canisters from in town to do so before heading to the office to pick up their permit. The Wilderness office is open daily from 7:00 AM – 3:30 PM (MST).
In order to preserve the extraordinary wilderness character of Rocky Mountain National Park, you must have a Wilderness Permit for a backpacking overnight camping trip in the park. A wilderness camping permit is required year-round. Your permit must be picked up at the Headquarters Wilderness Office (beside the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center on Highway 36 west of Estes Park, CO) or at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center (Highway 34, north of Grand Lake, CO).
Advance Reservation window opens for the Wilderness Camping Season every year on March 1st at 8 a.m. MT. Online only.
Our park has a proud culture of backpackers who Leave No Trace while camping here in Rocky Mountain National Park. Thank you for joining us in the Leave No Trace ethics of minimal impact camping.
A commercial hard-sided carry-in/carry-out bear-resistant food storage canister is required from April 1 through Oct. 31. Canister must be placed 70 adult steps away from campsite. Canisters may be rented or purchased at local sporting goods stores in Estes Park and Grand Lake. Plan ahead to leave no food or scented items in your vehicle at the trailhead that might attract bears. Arrive early for parking.
To minimize impact on the park's precious wilderness, the number of permits issued is limited.
Wilderness Designated Sites
Individual sites: For parties of 1 to 7 people.
Each party is assigned 1 campsite. Groups over 7 persons may not camp in neighboring individual sites but must use group sites or split up and camp at least 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) apart.
Group sites: For parties of 8 to 12 people.
Groups must camp at special sites. Because of impact caused by group interaction in and between sites (site spread, social trails, etc.), groups over 7 persons may not camp in neighboring individual sites but must use group sites or split up and camp at least 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) apart.
Sites are limited to 3 consecutive nights in 1 camp area.
Campfires are prohibited in most of the wilderness backcountry campsites
Sprague Lake Accessible Camp
This is a special wheelchair-accessible wilderness campsite near Sprague Lake. It is 0.5 miles (1 kilometer) from the trailhead to the campsite. The camp accommodates up to 12 campers including a maximum of 5 wheelchair users.
Wilderness Stock Sites
There are special campsites and rules for overnight wilderness camping with stock (horses or llamas.) Some trails are closed to stock use.
Wilderness Winter Camping
There are special rules for overnight wilderness winter camping.
Wilderness Technical Climbing Bivouac Zones
A Wilderness Technical Climbing Bivouac is a temporary, open-air encampment (with no erected tent or shelter) for technical climbers on routes of 4 technical pitches or more. If you plan to bivouac, you must identify your technical climbing route and must obtain a Bivy Permit.
Wilderness Technical Orienteering Cross-country Zones (No Trails)
Technical Orienteering Cross-country Zones are the least accessible and least traveled and places in Rocky Mountain National Park. The zones are reached through technical orienteering with required orienteering and off-trail navigation skill with map, compass/GPS while bushwhacking off trail, in remote areas characterized by rugged terrain, dense forests, wet bogs and icy streams.
There are no developed trails, no developed campsites and no pit toilets. The Technical Orienteering zones are below treeline. It takes considerable additional time utilizing technical orienteering and navigation skill along the way to reach your destination than if you were on a trail. Off-trail navigation skill required.
Those who travel here must be skilled with a map and compass/GPS and must be proficient in and dedicated to Leave No Trace camping and hiking ethics and techniques.
Important Permit Details
Wilderness Office Hours: 7:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. daily.
Please see your Wilderness Campsite Reservation Confirmation and make sure your campsites and dates are correct.
Permits must be picked up at the Wilderness Office at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center on Hwy 36 just west of Estes Park or at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center on Hwy 34 just north of Grand Lake. You must furnish the license plate number(s) of any vehicles that will be parked at the trailhead(s).
Permits may be picked up as early as 30 days before your trip. Because parking lots fill early, we recommend picking up your permit a day or two before your trip begins so that you can get an early start on the first day of your trip.
Reservation Fee: $6
Wilderness Administrative Fee: $30
Note: Park entry requires a separate fee or pass. Your wilderness permit will serve as your timed-entry permit for the duration of your trip.
Once a permit reservation is created, the permit holder may modify the campsite locations, group size, entry & exit points, vehicle information, stock numbers and emergency contact.
The permit start date may not be modified. The existing reservation must be canceled and a new reservation must be booked.
The permit holder may cancel their reservation at any point prior to it being issued. The $36 Wilderness Administrative Fee is non-refundable and non-exchangeable.
As a courtesy, visitors often notify the Wilderness Office as soon as possible if they decide not to use their reservation so that the sites may be made available for others.
1000 HWY 36 Estes Park CO 80517
(970) 586-1206 (HOURS: 8AM - 4:30PM MDT ON WEEKDAYS AND 8AM - 12PM MDT WEEKENDS)