8 Things you should know about Backpacking in RMNP

I know I promised that my next post would include a comprehensive gear list that I will be taking with me on my upcoming trip to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP).   Due to my personal schedule, I probably won’t have time to spread everything out, take pictures and make a video till this coming weekend.   In the interim, I wanted to share this short post of rules any camper heading to RMNP should know:

  1. There are no open fires allowed anywhere in the park.  Don’t plan on sitting around roasting marshmallows over the fire in the evening.   Conditions can be very dry and we don’t want to risk starting a wildfire.    I often get the question, “Do you plan on eating any of the trout you catch?”   It is possible to cook a fish using your backpacking stove but would require bringing a small skillet of some sort.
  2. Greenback Cuts are the Colorado state fish and are listed as “threatened.”    I just want to see these beautiful fish in person and snap a few pictures before returning them to the water.  I take the time to say this so you don’t plan on trying to eat one.   Respect these fish and return them to the water as quickly as possible.
  3. All campers in the RNMP must store food and toiletries in a bear canister.    These canisters are pretty expensive if you go to buy one.  $60 – $100 depending on the size.   As a “regular guy”, I don’t plan on buying one but rather renting one from one of the many local fly shops in Estes Park.   Most shops will let you rent one for $5 or $6 per day.   Regular Guy TIP:  Kirk’s Fly Shop will give you one for free with any purchase in the store.  http://www.kirksflyshop.com/
  4. Don’t plan on bathing in the lakes or streams.   This water is so pristine, why blemish this habitat with soaps and suds from your shampoo?   Plan on gathering water in a personal sink and cleaning yourself back at camp.
  5. High elevation lakes don’t ice off till late June or even early July.   Plan your hike accordingly.   Don’t plan on fishing Thunder Lake June 1st since it will still be covered in ice.  As of last week, one of the guides at Kirk’s Fly shop told me Thunder Lake still has ice floating in it but can be fished.
  6. Don’t underestimate the altitude.   I will be coming to RNMP from Ohio.  Here in central Ohio, the altitude is 807′ above sea level.    Estes Park is approximately 8,800 feet.  If you are a “flatlander” like I am, build a day into your itinerary to acclimate to the altitude.   Don’t be a hero by trying to get off the plane, throw on your pack and take off to some 11,000 foot lake.   You may find yourself laying in the tent with a bad case of altitude sickness.
  7. Thunderstorms are common afternoon occurrences.   Strong storms roll in each day especially at the higher altitudes.   Plan on taking a good quality, packable rain jacket.
  8. Some backcountry camp sites have a privy but most do not.  If you don’t know what a privy is, do a Google  image search.   No, it’s not the old model Toyota minivan.    Be prepared to dig your own “cathole” for #2 bathroom usage.   I bring this up because some people just aren’t comfortable doing their business hovering over a hole in the ground.   Make sure this isn’t a deal breaker for any of your hiking buddies who may be doing this trip with you.
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