Porcupine Backcountry Campsite lies in a mixed conifer forest on the south side of North Inlet Trail and Creek on the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Reach the two-site camping area by hiking 6.8 miles east on North Inlet Trail from the trailhead near Grand Lake. A wooden sign marks a side path that drops down and crosses the creek on a bridge to the campsite. The trail to the 9,360-foot campsite gains 820 feet from the trailhead and takes six or seven hours to hike from car to camp. Another option is to hike 9.9 miles from Bear Lake Trailhead on the east side of the park, climbing over the Continental Divide. There’s no privy at the site, so bring wag bags for proper sanitation. Get water from the creek but boil or treat before use. Porcupine Campsite is snow-free by June 25.

Pro Tips

  • North Inlet Trailhead is on the northeast edge of Grand Lake. From U.S. 34, head east on West Portal Road for about two miles to a left turn marked North Inlet Trailhead on gravel road #663. Follow the steep road to parking areas at its end. Head east on North Inlet Trail for 6.8 miles to the campsite on the south side of the trail and creek.
  • 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 obtain 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 the Porcupine Campsite. Pitch tents in designated areas near a silver arrowhead. Secure food and garbage. Black bears are here so stash 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 200 feet from the campsite. Don’t camp below dead trees; wind storms blow branches off them.
  • There is no privy at the site so the park requires that you bring at least two RESTOP wag bags for human waste. In an emergency, 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.
  • Recommended season(s): June to September.

    —Stewart M. Green

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