The Hunters Creek Backcountry Campsite hides in a dense fir and spruce forest by Hunters Creek just east of Sandbeach Lake in southern Rocky Mountain National Park. The one-site campground is 0.2 miles east of the point where Sandbeach Lake Trail crosses the creek. The site, sitting at 9,760 feet, is usually not clear of snow until mid-June. There is no pit toilet at the site so you need to bring wag bags for human waste. Get water from Hunters Creek, but always treat or boil the water before use. The campsite is 3.3 miles from the Sandbeach Lake Trailhead. The trail gains 1,450 feet from car to camp. Allow three to four hours to hike to the site.

Pro Tips

  • Find Sandbeach Lake Trailhead by driving south from Estes Park on Colorado Highway 7 to Wild Basin Road. Turn right or west on Wild Basin Road and continue to the park entrance station. The trailhead is beside the station. Hike up the trail for 3.3 miles to a wooden sign on the left. Follow a short path south 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, at Kawuneeche Visitor Center north of Grand Lake, or 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.
  • Practice a Leave No Trace ethic when camping at Hunters Creek. Pitch tents in designated areas near a silver arrowhead. Secure all food and garbage. Black bears live here so stow 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 at least 200 feet from the campsite. Don’t camp below dead trees; wind storms blow branches off them.
  • There is no privy at the campsite. It’s best to bring at least two RESTOP wag bags for human waste to avoid site contamination. Otherwise 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 to September.

    —Stewart M. Green


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