Renegade Backcountry Campsite is a single, high-elevation site in woods above the junction of Tonahutu Creek Trail and Haynach Lake Trail. The 10,500-foot-high site is a perfect base camp for hiking to Haynach Lakes or climbing Nakai Peak and Sprague Mountain. The glacial cirque north of the campsite is gorgeous, with towering mountains surrounding the lakes. It’s a long haul to gain 1,700 feet from Green Mountain Trailhead to the campsite so allow eight or so hours to backpack to it. The 7.3-mile hike ascends Green Mountain Trail to Tonahutu Creek Trail in Big Meadows, then follows the trail past Granite Falls to the site. There’s no privy at the site; use wag bags for sanitation. Get water from Tonahutu Creek but boil or treat it before use. The campsite is snow-free by July 19.

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 a junction with Tonahutu Creek Trail, then go left and hike to the campsite by upper Tonahutu Creek. Look for a wooden sign on the left that marks a short path to the site.
  • 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 Renegade 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): Mid-July through September.

    —Stewart M. Green

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