Big Pool Backcountry Campsite is a two-site camping area near a big pool on North Inlet Creek before it drops down to Cascade Falls. The secluded campsites, lying at 9,160 feet in western Rocky Mountain National Park, sit on a wooded knoll above a spacious montane meadow. Look for moose in the willowy bottomlands along the creek. The campsites are reached by hiking five miles and gaining 620 feet on North Inlet Trail from the trailhead by Grand Lake. Allow yourself up to five hours to hike from car to campsite. No privy is found at the site so practice proper sanitation by using wag bags. Get water from the creek below. Boil or treat water before all use. The sites are snow-free by the second week of June.
- North Inlet Trailhead is on the northeast edge of Grand Lake. From U.S. 34, head east on West Portal Road for about two miles to a left turn marked North Inlet Trailhead on gravel road #663. Follow the steep road to parking areas at its end. Head east on North Inlet Trail for five miles to the campsite.
- A backcountry permit is required for all overnight camping in Rocky Mountain National Park’s backcountry. Get permits at the Park Headquarters Backcountry Office next to Beaver Meadows Visitor Center west of Estes Park, at Kawuneeche Visitor Center north of Grand Lake, or at the park website.
- You agree to obey National Park regulations for backcountry camping when you obtain a Backcountry Use Permit. The permit must be with you at all times and a tent tag must be displayed on your pack while hiking and on your tent. You must follow your planned itinerary so campsites aren’t overused or crowded. You also receive a tag to place on the dashboard of your vehicle, allowing overnight parking at trailheads without being towed.
- Practice a Leave No Trace ethic when camping at Big Pool campsites. Pitch tents in designated areas near a silver arrowhead. Secure food and garbage. Black bears are here so stash food in a bear-resistant canister, which is required May to October at all campsites below timberline. Keep food, trash, and scented items in the container and store it 200 feet from the campsite. Don’t camp below dead trees; wind storms blow branches off them.
- There is no privy at the site so the park requires that you bring at least two RESTOP wag bags for human waste. In an emergency, dig a six-inch deep hole and bury your waste and toilet paper. Make sure you’re at least 200 feet from the campsite, water sources, and trails.
Recommended season(s): July to September.
—Stewart M. Green