Thousands of visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park each summer try to climb 14,255-foot Longs Peak, which with a 14.5-mile hike and 5,100 feet of climbing ranks among the toughest of Colorado’s fourteeners to tackle. More than half who try don’t make it to the top. Backpackers can improve their chances by spending the night before at this campsite high on the mountain. As the name implies, it’s in the middle of a boulder field at 12,760 feet. The campsite has nine sites in rock rings, with a bathroom and water to filter from Boulder Brook. It is six miles up the trail, so it’s only another 1.5 miles to the summit of Longs Peak.
- At 12,760 feet, there is little protection from the elements so definitely bring an extra-warm sleeping bag. A good rule of thumb is to bring a sleeping bag rated for five degrees colder than what the forecast calls for. Down bags are lighter and warmer but run more expensive. Don’t go cheap. A good night’s sleep is priceless for mountaineering.
- Even though you’ve already done much of the route up Longs Peak to reach the campsite, the remaining route will take you several hours in terrain that is very exposed to the weather, so still get an early start to avoid afternoon thunderstorms.
- There is a stone shelter a short way up the trail towards The Keyhole if the weather turns particular violent, but hikers are not allowed to spend the night in the shelter.
Recommended season(s): Mid-summer – mid-fall.
—R. Scott Rappold