Tonahutu Meadows Backcountry Campsite is a high-elevation, single site on the edge of an open meadow at 10,050 feet in western Rocky Mountain National Park. The remote site on Tonahutu Creek is a great place to camp if you’re backpacking the big loop up Tonahutu Creek Trail and down North Inlet Trail. The campsite offers rugged beauty and lots of wildlife, including elk, moose, and bighorn sheep. Reach the site by hiking 6.2 miles from Green Mountain Trailhead on the Green Mountain and Tonahutu Creek trails. The hike, gaining 1,250 feet, takes five or six hours. The site is also reached by an 8.5-mile hike from Bear Lake Trailhead on the eastern side of the park. No privy is at the site, so bring wag bags for proper sanitation. Obtain water from the nearby creek, but boil or treat before use. The campsite isn’t snow-free until early July.
- Find Green Mountain Trailhead by driving north from Kawuneeche Visitor Center on U.S. 34/Trail Ridge Road for 3.1 miles to a parking lot and trailhead on the right or east side of the highway. The 6.2-mile hike heads up Green Mountain Trail to a junction with Tonahutu Creek Trail. Go left and hike through Big Meadows then up the creek to the campsite. A wooden sign on the right marks a short path to the campsite. Alternatively, hike up Tonahutu Creek Trail from Tonahutu Trailhead on U.S. 34.
- 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 get 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 Tonahutu Meadows. Pitch tents in designated areas near a silver arrowhead. Secure food and garbage. Store food in a bear-resistant canister, which is required from May to October at all campsites below timberline. Keep food, trash, and scented items in the container and stash it 200 feet from your site. Don’t camp below dead trees; wind storms blow branches off them.
- There’s no privy at the campsite. Bring at least two RESTOP wag bags for human waste to avoid site contamination. In an emergency, dig a six-inch deep hole and bury waste and toilet paper. Make sure you’re at least 200 feet from the campsite, water sources, and trails.
Recommended season(s): July through September.
—Stewart M. Green