The Over the Hill Backcountry Campsite is a single campsite in an open lodgepole pine woodland north of Wind River on the eastern edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. The site, along with nearby Wind River Bluff and Upper Wind River campsites, is often used by backpackers in the Glacier Basin area. The campsite, located at 8,870 feet, is 1.3 miles southwest of East Portal Trailhead at the park boundary southwest of Estes Park. Hiking time from car to site is one to two hours and the trail gains 550 feet. The site, located on a hill, has a privy. Drinking and cooking water is available from Wind River, although it often dries up by mid-July. Boil or treat all water before using and practice a Leave No Trace ethic. The site can also be access from the Sprague Lake Trailhead by hiking 2.2 miles and having a net gain of 160 feet since it gains 320 feet but loses 160 feet.

Pro Tips

  • Access the East Portal Trailhead from U.S. 36, 0.7 miles east of the Beaver Meadows Entrance, by turning south on CO 66 and driving south about three miles to a small lake at the road’s end. Park in a parking lot on the east edge of a loop at the road’s end, not at the picnic area. Hike southwest up Wind River for 1.3 miles, gaining 480 feet. Turn right at a wooden sign and follow an uphill path to the campsite north of the creek. Camp near a silver metal arrowhead and don’t set up your tent beneath dead trees. The site is also approached by hiking southeast 2.2 miles from Sprague Lake Trailhead. Allow just over an hour to hike to the site from East Portal Trailhead.
  • A backcountry permit is required for all overnight camping in Rocky Mountain National Park’s backcountry. Obtain a permit 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 all 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 you to park overnight at trailheads without being towed.
  • Use a Leave No Trace ethic when using Over the Hill Backcountry Campsite. Pitch your tent in a designated area and don’t dig a trench around it. Secure your food and garbage. Black bears are in the park so bring your food in a bear-resistant canister, which is required May to October in all campsites below timberline. Keep all food, trash, and scented items in the container and store it 200 feet from the campsite. Don’t camp below dead trees; wind storms blow branches off them. Use the pit toilet at the campsite, otherwise dig a six-inch deep hole and bury your waste and toilet paper. Make sure you’re at least 200 feet from the campsite, water sources, and trails. Fires are not permitted.
  • Recommended season(s): Year-round. Summer and autumn are best.

    —Stewart M. Green


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