The Glacier Gorge Backcountry Campsite offers a single site on the west side of Glacier Creek between Mills Lake and Black Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park’s Glacier Gorge. The campsite is perfect for hikers and climbers who want to scale peaks above the valley, including Chiefs Head Peak, Spearhead, and McHenrys Peak. The site, located at 10,000 feet, is reached by a short trail marked with a wooden sign. There is no privy at the site so the park requires you to pack in and out at least two RESTOP wag bags for human waste. Water is available from Glacier Creek. Boil or treat all water before drinking. The Glacier Gorge campsite is 3.8 miles from Glacier Gorge Trailhead. The hike, gaining 760 feet, takes three to four hours. This campsite, along with Andrews Creek campsite in Loch Vale, is very popular so make early reservations, especially for weekends, or you’ll be out of luck.
- Find the campsite by hiking 3.8 miles on Glacier Gorge Trail from Glacier Gorge Trailhead on Bear Lake Road. The approach is on a good, popular trail with little elevation gain. To reach the site, continue past Mills Lake and Jewel Lake to a marked side path. Turn right and follow the path across the creek to the site in thick woods. Look for red arrowheads on trees to mark the path. Camp near a silver metal arrowhead, but avoid camping below dead trees. The park’s website has a map of the campsites.
- A backcountry permit is required for all overnight camping in Rocky Mountain National Park’s backcountry. Obtain a permit at the Park Headquarters Backcountry Office next to Beaver Meadows Visitor Center west of Estes Park or at Kawuneeche Visitor Center north of Grand Lake, and at the park website.
- To obtain a permit you agree to obey all National Park regulations for backcountry camping. The Backcountry Use 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 you to park overnight at trailheads without being towed.
- Use a Leave No Trace ethic when using Fern Lake Backcountry Campsite. Pitch your tent in a designated area and don’t dig a trench around it. Secure your food and garbage. Black bears are in the park so bring your food in a bear-resistant canister, which is required May to October in all campsites below timberline. Keep all 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. Use the pit toilet at the campsite, otherwise 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. Fires are not permitted.
Recommended season(s): Year-round.
—Stewart M. Green