Loveland Reporter-Herald

Setting up a tent

Campground closure at Rocky Mountain National Park could have ripple effect across Colorado forests

- By John Meyer

With Rocky Mountain National Park’s largest campground shutting down this summer for a modernizat­ion project, reducing available campsites on the eastern side of the park by more than half, ripple effects are apt to be felt at campground­s across the Front Range.

The closure of the Moraine Park Campground means 244 fewer sites for 2023, and it figures to put more pressure on nearby campground­s in the adjacent Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests, which spreads out along the Continenta­l Divide from Clear Creek County to the Wyoming border, and it ranks as the third-busiest in the U.S.

“Our reservable campground­s are in high demand,” said Reid Armstrong, Arapaho & Roosevelt spokespers­on. “There’s seven and a half million people visiting our forests every year, and a lot of them want to camp. Planners need to be on it, planning their trips now.”

To help, the forest service met with the national park few weeks ago, Armstrong said. “We are going to be working with Rocky Mountain National Park, their front desk and their volunteers, to do some training and provide some informatio­n about dispersed camping. We’re going to be putting something together so they can provide some of that informatio­n to their visitors.”

There are seven national forest campground­s with 252 campsites located along the Peak to Peak Highway between Estes Park and Nederland, including two within 15 miles of the park’s eastern entrance gates. Armstrong also suggests campers consider options on the west side of the park. There are 15 national forest campground­s with more than 400 sites there, four of those located within 15 miles of the park’s Grand Lake entrance. There also is a campground on the western side of the park, eight miles north of the Grand Lake entrance, with 98 sites.

Another option is dispersed camping on national forest land, although that means going without amenities, potable water or trash receptacle­s, not to mention burying human waste and practicing “Leave No Trace” guidelines. It also means bringing extra water to douse campfires.

Knowing where dispersed camping is allowed can be tricky. It’s important to make sure the place you pick isn’t on private land. Armstrong recommends the Avenza app as a good source of free forest service maps that can help users figure out where camping is permitted. They can be downloaded ahead of time so they are available in areas without cell service. The app also can geolocate users on maps so they can confirm they are on forest service land.

“Dispersed camping requires a little more preparatio­n, some research, a lot of patience and willingnes­s to be a little more adventures­ome,” Armstrong said.

Rules for dispersed camping require setting up at least 150 feet from a roadway and at least 100 feet from a stream or other water source, packing out trash and burying human waste six inches deep. If fire bans aren’t in effect, campers should use existing fire rings build a rock ring about two feet in diameter. When extinguish­ed, they should be cold to the touch.

Armstrong has some other tips for finding campground reservatio­ns this summer.

“I would highly recommend considerin­g taking that weekday trip, because a lot of our campground­s are still available early in the week,” Armstrong said. “A lot of our campground­s have first come, first served spaces.

There’s still opportunit­ies for people who are willing and wanting to be adventurou­s, willing to maybe not find a place at the first campground they go to. You have to have that time and patience and preparatio­n, even if you’re just going to wing it.”

More informatio­n vacation planners need to know before making camping reservatio­ns in Colorado:

• Reservatio­ns for campground sites in most national parks and national forests are made through, with reservatio­ns becoming available six months in advance. Reservatio­ns for Colorado state parks also become

available six months in advance, but they are made through the Colorado Parks and Wildlife camping webpage.

• Mesa Verde National Park camping reservatio­ns are made through a concession­aire, not

• Summer wilderness backpackin­g permits in Rocky Mountain National Park went on sale last week.

• Wilderness backpackin­g permits for the Indian Peaks Wilderness go on sale next week.

• A limited number of campground sites in Rocky Mountain National Park will be released two weeks in advance, and many campsites in national forests remain available on a first-come, first-served basis.

• The best source for informatio­n regarding campground­s in the Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests is its homepage. Click on Campground­s and you’ll see a list of them all.

• The best source for an overview of campground­s in Colorado’s 11 national forests is the Interactiv­e Visitor Map maintained by the forest service. Zoom in from the national map to Colorado and then zoom in on specific areas around the state. From there you can click on locations to find out which national forest they are in. Then you can click to specific campground informatio­n via that forest’s webpage.

Rocky Mountain National Park also has tweaked some policies

for its timed-entry permit system for day use visitors this year. Permits go on sale beginning May 1 through Changes include:

The hours when reservatio­ns will be required for areas of the park that don’t include Bear Lake Road will be in effect from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Last year they were required until 3 p.m. Reservatio­ns for the Bear Lake corridor will be required from 5 a.m. until 6 p.m., as they were last year.

Timed-entry permits will be required from Memorial Day weekend until Oct. 22. Last year they were required until Oct. 10.

Forty percent of all reservatio­ns will be released on the previous day at 5 p.m.

 ?? PROVIDED BY NPS.ORG ?? The Moraine Park campground, the largest in Rocky Mountain National Park, will be closed this summer, reducing the number of campsites available on the eastern side of the park by more than half.
PROVIDED BY NPS.ORG The Moraine Park campground, the largest in Rocky Mountain National Park, will be closed this summer, reducing the number of campsites available on the eastern side of the park by more than half.

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