Discover the Best Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park

What will you love most about camping in Rocky Mountain National Park? It’s a tough choice between waking up to an amazing mountain view or easy access to some of the best hikes in the world. This guide is here to help you find the best campground in Rocky Mountain National Park that is exactly what you need for an amazing trip. There are 5 campgrounds in the park, each with a unique view and access.

Rocky Mountain National Park is the perfect place to touch nature. Here you are surrounded by mountains and it feels like you are far away from the cares of the world. The park is filled with wildlife (who may even visit you in camp). And many of the best hikes in the whole United States are just steps from your campsite.

Although it is possible to only spend a day in Rocky Mountain National Park and have an amazing experience, why would you! The average visitor takes 2-4 days to enjoy the park and all that nature offers. If you love hiking, it’s pretty easy to fill up a full week.

There are no hotels in Rocky Mountain National Park. You’ll find a plethora of hotels, cabins, and rentals in and near Estes Park on the East side of the park. And on the West side there are many unique lodging options near Grand Lake.

However, camping is the best lodging to be found in and around Rocky Mountain National Park. Most of this article is about the five beautiful campgrounds in the park. At the end we also share a listing of some campgrounds nearby worth exploring if you can’t find a site in the park or have special needs that the park campgrounds can’t meet.

 

Do you need reservations to camp in Rocky Mountain National Park

The answer is that it depends. If at all possible you should make reservations. Rocky Mountain National Park is RMNP is the 3rd most popular National Parks so from June through mid-September you’ll likely find every campsite filled.

Of the 578 campsites in Rocky Mountain National Park, 454 are reservable and 124 are first come first serve (FCFS). Almost every reservable site will be booked ahead during those peak months. So if you know you will arrive early in the day, then you can take a reasonable risk for a FCFS site. Also arriving on a weekday rather than the weekend increases your odds of getting a FCFS site.


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Tips if you don’t have a reservation on a busy day:

On one of our trips, we couldn’t get reservations for the full stay. So we made a reservation for the first night. That meant we were the first in the campground the next morning to claim a FCFS site for the balance of our stay. It worked perfectly!

Keep checking back for reservations. Since reservations can be canceled up to a couple of days before your visit, it is highly likely something will open up.

Timber Creek Campground on the west side of the park with 98 sites is all FCFS, and it is usually more likely to have an open campsite later into the day because there is less traffic in that area of the park.

The good news is there are a lot of nearby camping options outside the park that can be your backup plan. We’ve included a list of those at the end of this article.

How to make reservations:

You can make reservations online at recreation.gov  or by calling (877) 444-6777. Reservations are accepted up to 6 months in advance on a rolling calendar.

When are Rocky Mountain National Park Campgrounds Open?

Moraine Park is the only campground open all year. For this campground, you will only find water and flush toilets during the summer season that generally runs from Late May until mid-October. After that, the water is shut off for the winter, with vault toilets available.

The other four campgrounds in Rocky Mountain National Park are only open during the summer season.

Amenities for Rocky Mountain NP Campers

The best camping in Rocky Mountain National Park is really about unplugging and embracing your surroundings. For that reason, amenities are pretty limited in RMNP.  Tent camping in Rocky Mountain National Park is very popular because there are large sections designated only to tents. You’ll also find generous campsites that are very comfortable for campers and RVers.

All about Water, Toilets and Showers

The good news is that all the campgrounds have potable water. That also means that all, except Longs Peak Campground, also have the luxury of flush toilets.

However, there are no showers in Rocky Mountain National Park. For a hot shower check out Dad’s Laundry and Showers in Estes Park, behind the Safeway. Other campgrounds outside the park often also offer showers for a small fee including Mary’s Lake Campground or Mt. Meeker Lodge.

About Electricity and Sewer Hookups

There are no electric or sewer hookups in any of the campgrounds in Rocky Mountain National Park. And generator usage is pretty limited to a few hours a day and to specific loops. So if you want to use a generator, make sure you have checked the limitations of the specific campsite you have chosen.  The good news is that at the high altitudes of the campgrounds you usually won’t find a need for air conditioning in your RV. Just make sure you have refrigeration and cooking plans that don’t require an electric hook up. The larger campgrounds, Moraine Park, Glacier Basin and Timber Creek also have dump stations for campers making it pretty easy to enjoy your stay.

Campfires and Firewood

Campfires are generally allowed in the campgrounds as long as the campsite has a metal fire grate. It’s unusual for there to be a campfire ban. To reduce insect infestations, all campgrounds (except Long’s Creek) sell firewood. Firewood gathering is not allowed in the park.


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Groceries and Snacks

There are no camp stores in Rocky Mountain National Park so make sure you plan your meals ahead. You will be able to find firewood and ice sold during peak season at the larger campgrounds.

The only restaurant in the park is a small cafe near the Alpine Visitor Center on the top of Trail Ridge Road. It’s generally really busy. We always keep a packed cooler in the car and picnic our way through the park.

Wildlife is Abundant

Black bears and roaming elk are common in the park and often wander into campgrounds. You might also encounter moose, mountain lions, and a variety of other wildlife. The most important rule is to keep your distance if you encounter wildlife.

I’m pretty obsessive about campsite cleanliness. A ground squirrel or raccoon can do a lot of damage too! Our personal rules when camping are that all food stays in the car trunk or in the designated food storage boxes except when actually cooking.

After a meal, all cooking areas including the picnic table are wiped down to reduce any temptations. Dishwater is disposed of in the locations assigned by the campground, in this case usually near the restrooms. Trash is also stored in the car until we can take it to a bear proof dumpster. If you leave a cooler or food out when you are away from camp, park rangers will confiscate it. Take keeping your camp safe seriously.

Can I Bring my Dog Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park?

Dogs are allowed in the campground as long as they are on a leash no more than 6’ long. However, you can’t take dogs on hiking trails so keep that in mind as you plan your trip with your fury friend. For a full day itinerary for enjoying the park with your dog, check out our article Are Dogs Allowed in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Enjoy the Free Ranger Programs at the Amphitheaters

We love Ranger Programs and attend as many as possible. Topics range from the history of the park to geology lessons to nature studies. Each time we enjoy the enthusiasm in which the rangers share the park with visitors. Generally, all the campgrounds, except Long’s Creek, will have Ranger Programs in their amphitheater during the week on a rotating schedule. Check the newspaper for the actual schedule when you arrive.

Group Campgrounds

Glacier Basin has 13 Group Campsites. These are for groups of 9-15 people in no more than 3 vehicles. The group sites are tent only and would be the perfect place to meet up with family for a great stay in RMNP. If you have a larger group, you will need multiple sites. Group campgrounds open for reservations a year in advance and fill up fast so using these requires quite a bit of advance planning.

Back Country Camping

Rocky Mountain National Park is a great place for wilderness camping with over 150 campsites. If you are new at going back country there are camp sites that don’t require a long hike. That’s the perfect way to see if you really want to haul all the gear on a long, multi day hike.

Most of the backcountry campsites in Rocky Mountain National Park are close to major trails so you won’t be totally alone. However, if you want to get away from almost everyone push yourself to one of the far in locations.

All overnight hikers must have a permit. You can get your permit online through the Wilderness Office starting in March of each year. You can get all the detail of back-country camping in Rocky Mountain National Park on the NPS website.

Driving through Rocky Mountain National Park in your RV

Rocky Mountain National Park is very RV friendly. Except for rustic Old Falls River Road, most roads are open to RVs. Trail Ridge Road, the incredibly scenic road that passes through the whole park from East to West is wide and smooth traveling. That said, if you are driving an RV or towing a camper you should keep in mind a few things.

Most trailheads will not have room for extra large vehicles. You are better off parking at the Park and Ride lot and hopping on the shuttle. (Actually, that’s true even if you aren’t in an RV to reduce congestion.) Glacier Basin Campground and Moraine Park Campground have shuttle stops that are easy to walk to so no need to move your vehicle when camping there.

Trail Ridge Road may be wide and easy to drive but be aware of your vehicle’s engine limitations. You will be driving on the highest paved road through any National Park at over 12,000 feet. So if your vehicle is not liking high elevations, it’s definitely not going to like this road. For more information on driving Trail Ridge Road check out our detailed post.

Details on Rocky Mountain National Park Campgrounds

Aspenglen Campground

Campsights in Aspenglen Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park
photo courtesy of NPS
TOTAL SITES: 52 (13 tent only)
RV Max Length: 30’
Potable Water: Yes
Flush Toilets: Yes
Dump Station: No
Firewood For Sale: Yes
Ice Available For Sale: Yes
Amphitheater: Yes
Season: Mid May-Late Sept

Make Aspenglen Reservation


Nestled in a grove of firs and pines, Aspenglen Campground is located near the Fall River Visitor Center. You’ll find spacious, partially shaded campsites here. The mountain views from the glen are amazing. What a great way to spend your morning coffee!
This campground appeals to people who want to unplug, both RVers and tent campers. Generators have very limited hours and are only allowed in loop C. Loop A is a small tent only loop with 5 drive up and 5 walk in tent sites.

Things to do Near Aspenglen Campground:

✔️ Fall River Visitor Center is just a few minutes from Aspenglen Campground. Here you’ll find great displays about the wildlife and nature in the park.

✔️ Old Fall River Road can be found just up the road. If you are up for a driving adventure check it out. Note this is a gravel road with tight hairpin curves so not suitable for campers.

✔️ Wildlife are abundant nearby with a great viewing spot at the Sheep Lake pull off.

✔️ For a great hike, check out Lake Ypsilon from the Lawnlake Trailhead. This fairly challenging hike is 9 miles round trip with a 2180 elevation gain. If you are looking for something a little more family friendly try the Aspenglen Loop right out of the campground. The open meadows on the easy 3-mile hike are a great place to find wildflowers.

Glacier Basin Campground

Campsites in Glacier Basin Campground in RMNP
photo courtesy of NPS
TOTAL SITES: 150 (73 Tent Only)
RV Max Length: 35’
Group: 13
Potable Water: Yes
Flush Toilets: Yes
Dump Station: Yes
Firewood For Sale: Yes
Ice Available For Sale: Yes
Amphitheater: Yes
Season: Mid May-Mid Sept

Make Glacier Basin Reservation


Glacier Basin is Brad’s vote for the best campground in Rocky Mountain National Park due to the easy access to some of the most amazing hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. You can easily walk to the park and ride shuttle pick-up location from the campground and explore to your heart’s content. The second largest campground in the park, it is located in the middle of Glacier Basin.

Sadly, due to pine beetle infestations, a lot of the trees have been removed which means many campsites are treeless. When you make your reservations, make sure you take a look at campsite photos because some sites are totally bare. However, even considering the limited trees I would highly recommend you start your campground search here. The amazing mountain views make up for the limited shade!

You’ll find a mix of RVs and tents in Glacier Basin. Generator usage is pretty limited so you’ll be able to enjoy every moment in nature.

Things to do Near Glacier Basin Campground:

✔️ This campground is all about hiking access. The Bear Lake Corridor has about 20 trails where you can find one to fit almost any skill level. Here are a couple of our favorites.

✔️ The trail to Alberta Falls is the perfect beginner’s hike. Stay on this trail all the way to our favorite stop at Sky Pond and you have a strenuous hike with views to remember.

✔️ The Bear Lake Trail head leads to several great hikes starting with the super easy Bear Lake Nature Loop. From there you can venture off on a moderate hike to Nymph or Dream Lake. If you are looking for a serious back country hike, there are many options from this trail head.

Moraine Park Campground

TOTAL SITES: 244
Tent Only: 101
RV Max Length: 40
Potable Water: Summer/Fall Only
Flush Toilets: Summer/Fall Only
Vault Toilets: Year Round
Dump Station: Summer/Fall Only
Firewood For Sale: Summer/Fall Only
Ice Available For Sale: Summer/Fall Only
Amphitheater: Summer/Fall Only
Season: All Year FCFS Winter & Resv Mid May-Late Oct

Make Moraine Park Reservation


Moraine Park Campground is the largest in Rocky Mountain National Park with 244 campsites. You’ll find a lot of lightly shaded campsites here. But most of all you’ll find amazing mountain views. It’s well located with the Moraine Park Discovery Center close by. The museum has many interactive nature exhibits to entertain all ages.

The hiker’s shuttle stops at the campground to take you to the many trailheads that you’ll find at Bear Lake and Sprague Lake. Moraine Park is also the only campground open all year, with limited services during the winter and spring seasons.

Things to Do Near Moraine Park Campground:

✔️ Horseback riding stables are located in Moraine Park. Tour the park like one of the original pioneers!

✔️ Moraine Park Discovery Center makes it home in a historic building. Explore the interactive exhibits and nature trail.

✔️ Hiking access is easy with a short shuttle ride that will take you to the Cub Lake and Fern Lake Trailheads. Or take the shuttle into the Bear Lake Corridor and enjoy one of those amazing trails.

✔️ Fall colors of the Aspen are amazing in the Moraine valley meadows so consider visiting in autumn when the days are usually sunny and the evenings cool.

Longs Peak Campground

Campers in Rocky Mountain National Park Longs Peak Campground
Photo courtesy of NPS
TOTAL SITES: 26 (all tent only)

RV Max Length: Tents Only
Potable Water: Yes
Vault Toilets: Yes
Dump Station: No
Firewood For Sale: No
Ice Available For Sale: No
Amphitheater: No
Season: Late June-Early Sept

Longs Peak Campground is primarily used by hikers planning to head out at the wee hours of the morning to summit Longs Peak. This is a small campground of only 26 tent only sites. In spite of the high elevation fo 9500 feet, there is some shade from pines and firs.

You’ll find vault toilets and potable water in this campground. It’s located about 20 minutes South of Estes Park right off Highway 7.

Things to do Near Longs Peak Campground:

✔️ This is also the trail head to the strenuous hike to Longs Peak. You’ll also find several other challenging hikes in this area.

✔️ For a light hike, pop back out to Highway 7 and just North of the campground you’ll find the trail head for Lily Lake. The Lily Lake loop is a fully accessible and easy hike under a mile long. It’s a perfect stretch for the whole family.

Timber Creek Campground

Mountains over Timber Creek Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park
photo courtesy of NPS
TOTAL SITES: 98

Tent Only: 0
Electric Hookups: 0
RV Max Length: 30
Potable Water: Yes
Flush Toilets: Yes
Dump Station: Yes
Firewood For Sale: Yes
Ice Available For Sale: No
Amphitheater: Yes

Season: Late May-Late Sept

As the only campground located on the west side of RMNP, Timber Creek Campground is pretty popular. It sits alongside the Colorado River. It’s just off Trail Ridge Road about 8 miles from the Grand Lake entrance. Currently, Timber Creek is a wide open field, lacking any shade. Because of the damage done by pine beetles most of the trees had to be removed.

All camp sites are First Come First Serve, with no reservations are available. Open all summer and early fall, you’ll find potable water and flush toilets here. The camp host sells firewood. No showers, electric or sewer hookups.

Things to do Near Timber Creek Campground:

✔️ Historic Site is well worth the visit. You’ll find several historic cabins that open for touring in the summer. This is a short, easy hike.

✔️ Just a little North of the campground is the Colorado River Trailhead. We loved fishing here and I saw the biggest moose ever wading in the river. Follow the river trail to Lulu City, an old mining site.

✔️ Nearby Beaver Ponds is a nice short nature hike for the whole family.

✔️ There are several great longer, full-day hikes that trail head near here.

 

List of Campgrounds Near Rocky Mountain National Park

We’ve not stayed at any of these campgrounds but I’m hoping that if you can’t get a reservation in the park one of these might just fit the bill for you. I’ll update this as the season approaches, but since some of these are privately owned changes can happen quickly. Check out their websites to be sure it’s what you need.

There are quite a few Roosevelt and Arapaho National Forest Campgrounds close to Rocky Mountain National Park.

East Side:

Meeker Park Overflow Campground – 29 FCFS sites 13 miles S of Estes Park

Olive Ridge Campground – 56 Reservable Sites 15 miles South of Estes Park

Peaceful Valley Campground – 17 partially Reservable sites about 20 miles South of Estes Park

West Side:

Green Ridge Campground – 78 Reservable Sites on Lake Granby

Sunset Point Campground – 25 FCFS Sites on Lake Granby

Willow Creek Campground – 35 Reservable Sites West of Lake Granby

State and County Campgrounds

Estes Park Campground at East Portal

Estes Park Campground at Mary’s Lake

Larimer County – Hermit Park 

Private Campgrounds Near Rocky Mountain National Park

Paradise on the River, Estes Park

Jellystone Park of Estes, Estes Park

Manor RV Park, Estes Park

Elk Creek Campground, Grand Lake

All these details aside, you will find the best camping in Rocky Mountain National Park no matter which campsite you chose. It’s a beautiful park and every RMNP campground has amazing views.


Check out our guides to camping in other National Parks:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Campgrounds

Glacier National Park Camping Things to Know

Best Campgrounds in Yellowstone National Park

 

Rocky Mountain National Park Campground guide with tent camping. #WalkingTheParks