Granite Falls Campsite

Granite Falls Campsite. Photo Credit: soperrific – OutThere Colorado.

Granite Falls Backcountry Campsite is a two-site area northwest of Granite Falls, a 50-foot-high slide waterfall, on Tonahutu Creek in western Rocky Mountain National Park. The quiet campsites lie on the western side of a broad sedge meadow about 0.2 miles past the waterfall. The sites are reached by separate side-paths from Tonahutu Creek Trail. Reach the sites by hiking 5.4 miles from Green Mountain Trailhead on U.S. 34 or eight miles from Tonahutu Trailhead farther south. The Green Mountain Trail approach is shortest, gaining 1,040 feet from the trailhead. Allow five or six hours to backpack from car to camp. There is no privy at the site, so bring wag bags for proper sanitation. Get water from the creek, but boil or treat before use. The campsite is usually snow-free by June 18.

Pro Tips

  • Start by driving north from Kawuneeche Visitor Center on U.S. 34/Trail Ridge Road for 3.1 miles to a parking lot and the Green Mountain Trailhead on the right or east side of the highway. The 5.4-mile hike climbs Green Mountain Trail to a junction with Tonahutu Creek Trail. Go left and hike across Big Meadows then up the creek to the campsite, passing Lower Granite Falls Campsite below the waterfall. Wooden signs on the left mark two short paths to the sites. Alternatively, hike eight miles 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.
  • Use a Leave No Trace ethic when camping at Granite Falls. 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): Mid-June through September.

    —Stewart M. Green


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