Rabbit Ears Backcountry Campsite is south of Cow Creek and Cow Creek Trail in the northeast corner of Rocky Mountain National Park. The one-site camping area lies in an open pine forest below the landmark Rabbit Ears, a pair of twin granite boulders sitting on a pedestal. The 8,100-foot campsite is a good stop if you’re backpacking to Bridal Veil Falls or doing the loop trek around Lumpy Ridge. It’s popular so reserve early. The site has a privy and water is obtained from Cow Creek. Treat or boil water before using. The campsite is 1.4 miles up a broad valley from the Cow Creek Trailhead at McGraw Ranch or by hiking 6.1 miles from Lumpy Ridge Trailhead. Allow an hour to reach Rabbit Ears from the ranch parking.
- Reach the Cow Creek Trailhead from Estes Park by driving north on MacGregor Avenue/Devils Gulch Road to McGraw Ranch Road. Go left and follow the dirt road for 2.5 miles to the trailhead near McGraw Ranch. For the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead, drive north from Estes Park on MacGregor Avenue/Devils Gulch Road to a sign for Lumpy Ridge. Turn left and drive 0.3 miles to the trailhead. Hike either the Cow Creek Trail or Gem Lake Trail to the campsite.
- A backcountry permit is required for all overnight camping in Rocky Mountain National Park’s backcountry. Obtain permits 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 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 overnight parking at trailheads without being towed.
- Use a Leave No Trace ethic when staying at McGregor Mountain campsite. Pitch tents in designated areas near a silver arrowhead. Secure food and garbage. Black bears are around 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 because windstorms can blow branches off them.
Recommended season(s): June to October.
—Stewart M. Green