Intro to Backpacking Rocky Mountain National Park

Destination: Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

| Activities: Backpacking and Hiking

On this wilderness backpacking trip we travel along one of the best introductory routes in Rocky Mountain National Park. We'll travel through waterfalls, subalpine wildflowers, and see the iconic Thunder Lake. On this trip, you will learn new backpacking skills, practice them in the field, and have time to explore. This is an ideal backpacking trip for novices and moderate backpackers that are prepared for high elevation backpacking. Maximum group size: 10

Please note: Trip dates are tentative and based on permit availability.

Permits are typically acquired in March for the same year.


  • Backpacking and hiking to some of the most beautiful lakes within Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Discover beautiful wildflowers, waterfalls, and wildlife along the trail
  • Learn and practice backpacking skills in a high elevation environment
  • Sleep under a blanket of stars among towering lodgepole and ponderosa pines

Departures and Prices

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  • 2 AGC guides
  • 5 nights of double occupancy camping and lodging
  • Backpacking equipment: shared tent, cooking stoves, water filters, bear canisters, bear spray (guides only).
  • All meals noted on the itinerary
  • All transportation to/from Denver International Airport.

Not included: Transportation to Colorado, alcoholic beverages, optional gratuities for the AGC guides, optional activities not on the itinerary, any meals not included on the itinerary, and personal camping gear (sleeping pad, sleeping bag, personal clothing, trekking poles, etc.)
Note: You are welcome to bring your own tent (Ultralight required). Please inquire with your Program Manager in regards to specifics and for confirmation.

Trip Documents

Trip Info

This trip is an excellent choice for women in very good physical condition with no prior backpacking experience, but some backpacking experience preferred. Be prepared to carry a pack ranging from 30-40 pounds, with some group gear split amongst the group. We have rated this trip a 4 as we will hike 5 to 8 hours a day with significant elevation gain and loss, uneven and rocky terrain, and within the elevation of Rocky Mountain National Park. We will be backpacking above 9,000ft to 10,000 feet, on average. Rating: 1 2 3 [4] 5

This is a backpacking trip, in a backcountry setting. We will learn the skills necessary to effectively backpack in an alpine environment. You can learn new skills if you've never backpacked before, or refine skills previously learned. If you have taken the "Intro to Lightweight Backpacking on the Appalachian Trail," this would be a a good extension trip.

We will spend the first two nights at a nearby Front Country Site to the Wild Basin Trailhead. From here, we will spend the next two nights in the backcountry at the Thunder Lake Group sites, amongst the Lodgepole and Ponderosa Pines. On the last night, we will enjoy our slumber in a comfy bed at the University Inn in Boulder, where we can get a feel for the college-mountain town.

Below is the proposed itinerary for the trip. As is true on any adventure travel trip, plans for any specific day may be modified due to weather considerations, unforeseen circumstances, new opportunities, and group interests.


Welcome to Colorado! Your guides will greet you at the Denver International Airport at 12PM. After introductions and orientation, we’ll drive 1.5 hours to be greeted by the Rockies. We’ll arrive at our charming front-country campground to set up camp and gather our gear. After we set up camp, we’ll enjoy a welcome dinner at the nearby town of Lyons. Once our bellies are full and excitement sparked, we’ll return to camp for our first night of our camping adventure!

Overnight: Front Country Campsite (D)

Please note: Trip dates are tentative and based on permit availability. Permits are typically acquired in March for the same year.


The sun will beckon us from our cozy tents and we'll have a camp breakfast and begin learning about backpacking in the Rockies. Our guides will provide a full day of hands-on instruction. Topics will include: backcountry cooking, gear and packing, water filtration, shelter set up, Leave No Trace principles and safety topics. In the afternoon we'll continue practicing these skills, go through a 'pack shake down' and enjoy our lunches. We’ll gather for dinner before heading to bed early for an early morning; looking forward to the adventure ahead!

Overnight: Front Country Campsite (B, D)


The early bird gets the worm and the early backpacker gets outstanding sunrise views (and more coffee!). After breakfast we’ll pack up our camping gear and take a drive to the Wild Basin trailhead. As we grab our gear, we’ll say goodbye to civilization for a few nights! Following the rushing waters of the North St. Vrain River, we'll hike 6.8 miles to our group campsite. Along the way, we’ll be greeted by the nearby wildflowers, poking their heads out along the trail. Admire the hurry scurry of the golden-mantled ground squirrel and the call of the mountain chickadee as we hike slowly and surely up the mountain. Along the way, we’ll take breaks for water, snacks and lunch, and photo-ops. We’ll also practice those skills we learned yesterday on-trail today! Once arriving amongst the lodgepole and Ponderosa pines, we’ll set up camp, do camp chores, and have our dinner together as a group, reflecting on the most challenging hiking day of the trip! You'll be amazed at how delicious a rehydrated meal can be when savored in the forest with new friends.

Hike: 6.8 miles, 2,230 feet elevation gain (Max Elevation: 10, 748 feet, Min Elevation: 8,518 feet), approx 6-8 hours.
Overnight: Thunder Lake Group Site at 10,570 feet (B, D)


Today we get to leave our gear at camp to explore nearby attractions. After breakfast, we'll hike up to the subalpine forest and get our first views of Thunder Lake. After we’ve soaked it all in, we’ll make our way up to the trio of Lion Lakes (Lion 1, Lion 2, Snowbank, and Trio Falls). We’ll take our daypacks with us and eat lunch at one of the pristine lakes, only to be charmed by the views of the nearby Tanima Peak, Pilot Mountain, and Mount Alice. In the afternoon, we'll descend back to camp to rest our feet and have a warm dinner together. Soak up the alpenglow before snuggling into your sleeping bag for one final rest in the backcountry.

Hike: 4-10 miles, 2,386 feet elevation gain (Max Elevation: 11,536 feet, Min Elevation: 10,036 feet), approx 5-7 hours.
Overnight: Thunder Lake Group Site (B, D)


After breakfast, we'll pack up our group campsite and prepare for another gorgeous day of scenery and greenery. Today is mostly downhill, giving our legs a slight break and our arms a chance to hone our trekking pole skills. Taking a slightly alternative route,, we’ll be greeted with our friendly forest critters, subalpine flowers, and many waterfalls! Before we witness the waterfalls, we’ll have an option for an extended 5 mile hike to Ouzel Lake, where we can see Copeland Mountain in the distance. After the optional extension hike, we’ll pass along four waterfalls: Hidden Falls, Upper Copeland Falls, Lower Copeland Falls, and Copeland Falls. Along the way, we’ll have leisurely spots to soak in the views of the mountains, take photo-ops, and enjoy an early lunch. Renourished, we’ll make our way back to the trailhead, only to thank the Rockies for a wonderful few days of hiking. We’ll gather our gear, and drive to Boulder for a short, 1-hour drive. We’ll check into our hotel, enjoy a lovely shower, and reflect on our adventure at the farewell dinner.

Hike: 6.8 miles, 2,223 feet elevation loss (Max Elevation: 10,750 feet, Min Elevation: 8,527 feet), approx, 5-7 hours. Extension Hike: additional 4.2 miles, elevation gain/loss: 921 feet.
Overnight: University Inn, Boulder (B, D)


If you have the time, we highly recommend staying and playing longer in Rocky Mountain National Park on your own. If you are departing today after breakfast, your guides will have you to the airport by 12PM and you can book your flights anytime after 2PM.


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  1. What dietary preferences or restrictions can you accommodate on this trip?

    We can easily accommodate dietary restrictions. Please call to discuss your dietary needs.
  2. I will be coming by myself. Do I need to pay a single supplement?

    You only need to pay a single supplement if you want to be guaranteed you have your own room on the first and last nights. Otherwise we'll pair you up with someone in a shared tent.
    1. Can I bring my own tent?

      If you have a single tent that you would like to bring, please let us know as not all campsites can accomodate unlimited numbers of tents. Your tent must weigh 2.5 pounds or less to qualify.