Green Mountain Backcountry Campsite hides in a lodgepole pine forest south of Green Mountain Trail in western Rocky Mountain National Park. The single site lies on the west side of Big Meadows, the largest montane meadow in the park. Tonahutu Creek, named for the Arapahoe name meaning “big meadow,” twists across the broad, flat grassland. It’s a great spot to see grazing elk, deer, and moose. The campsite, lying at 9,550 feet, is easily accessed by hiking 1.8 miles up Green Mountain Trail, gaining 750 feet from parking lot to tent site. Allow a couple hours to backpack to the site; longer if you hike 4.4 miles from Tonahutu Trailhead to the south. There is no privy at the site, so practice leave no trace by using wag bags. Get water from Tonahutu Creek. Treat or boil all water before use. The campsite is snow-free by June 13.

Pro Tips

  • 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. Hike up Green Mountain Trail for 1.8 miles to the campsite. Look for a wooden sign on the right just before the junction with Tonahutu Creek Trail that marks a short path to the campsite. Alternatively, hike 4.4 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.
  • Practice a Leave No Trace ethic when camping at Green Mountain Campsite. 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): June through September.

    —Stewart M. Green

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