My Backpacking / Flyfishing trip to Rocky Mountain National Park: Planning Phase

I love to dream and plan big!  In August of 2013 I read another blog post about a group of guys who did a backpacking trip to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) to fly fish for Greenback Cutthroat Trout.   I was immediately captivated by this idea and shifted into research mode.   I knew this would be a man-sized adventure of epic proportion for my son and I.

Just to set the stage, I haven’t actually taken this trip to RMNP yet.  We don’t leave till August 1st, 2015 but I thought this would be a great time to start this blog so I could share what I have learned over the past 2 years and all my final preparation that will lead up to our departure.   After I return, I can share lessons learned and adjustments I would make if /when I do a similar trip.   I have devoted countless hours reading, watching YouTube videos, talking to Park Ranges and exercising to prepare as thoroughly as possible.  My hope is that the planning I have done will save you some time and assist you in your planning process if you consider doing a trip to RMNP.

The purpose of this first post will be to detail the preliminary planning considerations that that I took and what I deem to be essential purchases for anyone planning a trip to RMNP.

  1. Go to or your favorite book seller and buy a copy of Steve Schweitzer’s authoritative book on fly fishingFly Fishing Bookthe park.  You should be able to find it for $30.   I consider this must-reading for any adventurer planning on fly fishing the park.   If you are only backing in the park and not fly fishing, then this won’t be relevant for you.     I personally got out a highlighter and read this book as if it were a college reading assignment.  I took notes and read some sections multiple times.  NOTE:  If you are fishing for Greenback Cutthroats, they only live on the East side of the park.   The park contains 6 species of trout:  Brook, Brown, Rainbow, Greenback Cut, Yellowstone River Cut, and Colorado River Cut.  Read the book to find the zone that contains the type of trout you want to catch.   This book is fantastic at pointing out the barren lakes in the park that don’t even contain fish.   This is a huge bonus so you don’t waste time / energy hiking to a lake without fish.
  2. Trails IllustratedHere is purchase #2.  I got mine for $8 or so on E-bay but there are other places to purchase these maps.   These maps are tear-proof and waterproof.   They fold out nice and large with a 1:50,000 scale like most military maps.   The park is broken up into zones with the small “click” grid for measuring distance between points.   This is the best map I have found for understanding where the backcountry camp sites are in relation so the lakes and streams.   NOTE:   You can’t just camp wherever in the park.   There is a strict process that you must follow in order to reserve one of the 269 campsites through the RMNP Backcountry Office  970-586-1242.   I’ll talk more about this in an upcoming post.
  3. The final investment really is TIME.  Spend the time to study this book and map.  Keep in mind, unless you live in Colorado and can drive to the park on short notice, you will need to plan your visit months ahead.  The backcountry camp office opens for reservations on March 1st each year.   You will need to have your plan established and be prepared to pay the $26 administrative fee for each campsite you reserve.   As a “Regular Guy”, I needed plenty of time to save money for my plane tickets and some of the camping and backpacking gear I didn’t already own for a trip like this.

In my upcoming post, I will breakdown the gear list my son (12 years old) and I will be sharing between our two packs.  I’m also excited to share some of the adjustments I have made to cut weight in my pack.   I hope to have my final pack weight down in the 31 -32 pound range.   I may try making this post into a video..   Until next time, Make it happen!


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