The Best Backpacking Guide – Rocky Mountain Edition

“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.”

John Muir
Heading back to the “Bierstadt Lake” trailhead.

A Beautiful Introduction

The sun is rising as you wake to the sound of elk calls just outside of your tent. Birds are singing in the trees as they watch for their early grub, and the soothing sounds of a fire crackle next to you while you warm up some morning coffee. You hear the ‘snap’ of a twig behind you as one of the most curious elk walks closer to your tent. The two of you exchange a moment of wonder. The aroma of coffee fills the air around you while the elk silently walks away to graze.

On the “Trail Ridge” of the Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Getting There

Instead of flying in for this trip, we decided to road-trip. When I travel by vehicle, I like to stay a night at a different location and rest up before arriving to my destination. That way, I feel refreshed and ready to explore as soon as I get there. I recommend staying somewhere within three hours of arrival. For our visit to the RMNP, my wife and I chose a small cabin with thousands of acres of solitude in Stratton, CO before finalizing our drive. This cabin was an old-fashioned farm house, very cozy, and surprisingly budget-friendly. It’s really only for a two-person stay (because it’s small), but if you’re looking for some time away from the rat-race, or the busy city life, this is your place. If you’d like to know more about how you can book this cabin, let me know in the comments.

The perfect little farmhouse getaway.
Lightning danced in the clouds all night for us in Stratton! This looks photoshopped, it’s not!

You’re going to need reservations to enter the park. If you need help “Navigating the National Park’s Permits, Timed-Entry System, and Transportation”, click here!

In the morning, we completed the last 3 1/2 hours to Estes Park, CO (just outside of the national park). Mornings call for breakfast, so this is probably a good time to give you some insider tips on meal prep.

Meal-Prep of Champions

I don’t want to brag here, but I kind of have an amazing chef as my trail partner (my wife). She spent a lot of time planning an entire week of breakfast, lunch, dinner, after-hike snacks, and even electrolyte reserves. So, when it comes to fuel, I was never running on empty. The good news is that I get to share this meal prep plan with you, pro-hiker!

First, you’re going to need a cooler that seals well. We used an Igloo brand. So long as you’re replacing your ice each day, the cooler should keep these meals over the course of a week. Be sure to eat it in the order listed, though.

Overnight oats, yogurt, blueberries, and granola. Add peanut butter or almond butter to make it sweet!


Cooking by the campfire
The best order to eat your foods will be color-coded. This should ensure you make it through your trip without having foods spoil. 

Color for foods to eat first.

Color for foods to eat second.

Color for foods to eat third.

Breakfast Menu

1) Over night oats with yogurt, almond butter, blueberries and granola

2) Eggs, bacon, orange juice, toast and jelly (cooked on a Coleman propane burner stove)

3) Bagels w/ cream cheese

Lunch or Brunch Menu

1) Egg salad sandwiches w/ chips

2) Tuna sandwiches and chips

Snack Menu

1) Baby bell peppers with cream chz and everything bagel seasoning

2) Cherries

3) Bananas

4) Strawberries and chocolate

5) Graham crackers, marshmallows, hersheys

6) High Sugar Snacks (Luna, Cliff, Etc.)

Dinner Menu

1) Meatballs with rice

2) Broccoli sausage rice

3) Salmon w/ white rice and broccoli

4) Shepherds pie

5) Ramen & Neguri

6) Red beans and rice

Hydration and Electrolytes

1) Water

2) Gatorade powder

For this, we grabbed a five gallon water and put it in the car to keep filling our Osprey bladders with. Then, anytime we needed mixing water for the powder we had it available.

We used the Osprey bladders, they have a better mouthpiece in my personal opinion.

Utensils You’ll Need


• Large Frying pan

• Spatula

• Plastic and metal forks

• Spoons

• Knife

• Can opener

• Stove burner

• Small Propane x2

• Lighter

• Tongs

Cleaning Materials

• Wet ones

• Trash bags

• Laundry detergent

• Dish soap

For the Table

• Table cloth

• Folding chairs

• Folding table

• Paper plates

• Plates

• Paper Towels

For the Fire

• Fire starter sticks

• Lighter fluid

• Firewood

• Lighter

For Storage

• Ice chest

• Frozen water bottles

• Tupperware and foil pack meals and ingredients

Another option to cook with is the MSR burner.

Brunch, Anyone?

Though, our meal prep was amazing, there were a few places we wanted to try in Estes Park.
Seasoned Bistro in Estes Park for brunch.
Brunch Dessert!

The Places To Stay

We ended up booking three different sites during the week, which gave us the chance to experience different areas of the park.
Glacier Basin Campground
Glacier Basin

If you enter the park, setup your tent, and decide you’re ready for a hike right away (like I did), then you’ll want to check out the Glacier Basin campground first. This is what we did and Glacier Basin has access to the main drive. From the drive, you can get to the entryways to all of the campsites. Take the drive slowly, there’s tons of great scenery along the way.

Bierstadt Lake Hike Path
At Bierstadt Lake

From Glacier Basin, you can take the main corridor road down to the Glacier Basin Trailhead. It’s a nice trail, though heavily travelled. If you want to hike with less tourism vibe and more of the “get out there” feel, I recommend the trail pictures above instead. It’s the trailhead to Bierstadt Lake. It’s less travelled, gets you into that wilderness feel and if you go after 5pm on a weekday it’s unlikely you’ll run into more than two or three people. At the top, is one of the nicest mountain lakes in the park (in my opinion). It looks like a painting you’d want to hang on a wall. The clouds in the Rockies can really look airbrushed.

Aspenglen Campground
Aspenglen Campground
16 B-Loop Walk To

Aspenglen is such a great campground, but it’s even better if you get site 16 on B loop. 16B-loop is a “walk to” campsite. So, you park your car next to someone else’s car at 15B-loop, but then you walk a little into the brush to find your campsite (instead of it being near the road). This gave us a ton of privacy at our campsite, and the only thing to our north/west was the trees leading into the mountains. I highly recommend Aspenglen for a couple of reasons. The first being that the restroom is centrally located and not crowded. The next would be that everyone at this campsite has a little space in between their camp sites.

Timber Creek Campground
Elk are so peaceful! Those brown boxes are bear resistant food storage units.

Where Aspenglen had space for campsites, Timber Creek made up the difference by packing as many people as possible into a small section. Where Aspenglen had a centrally located restroom that wasn’t crowded, Timber Creek had quite a walk to the bathroom and it was crowded; bc sometimes a line. I was sure I wasn’t going to recommend this site to anyone, but then, I woke up the following morning with wildlife surrounding us. Elk everywhere! They were peacefully grazing through the campsites. I don’t know if this is the norm for Timber Creek, but if it is, then yes, I would recommend the site to camp at.

If you’d rather stay outside of the park, such as in cabins or hotels, Estes Park has some wonderful view cabins.
There are cabins lining the river that can be rented out in Estes Park. Kick back and relax on the back porch while watching the river roar by.

Hygiene Items To Bring

To each their own, but here are some suggested items to bring:

• 8 Towels & 2 small towels

• 2 Small towels

• Body Soap & Loofah

• Shampoo & Conditioner

• Facewash

• Flossers & Mouthwash

• Toothbrush & Toothpaste

• Biosilk

• Deodorant

• Makeup if you need it

• Chapstick

• Hair ties

• Hair brush

• Head band

• Ear plugs

• Shower caddies

• Period cup

• Visine

• Standing pee device

• Lotion

• Razer

• Tweezers

• Thread

Sunsets in the Rockies

Laundry & Showers

Village Laundry, Estes Park

There’s a place called Village Laundry in Estes Park that offers $7 showers as well. Estes Park is super close to the national park entrance so we drove to Village Laundry when we needed to freshen up and/or run a wash on some clothes. Also, if they ask whether you want to use some of their towels or use your own, there’s no up-charge for you using theirs. This means you can dry off after your shower and still keep your personal towels clean for later use.

More Delicious Food in Estes Park

Ed’s Cantina was a lot of, ‘Yum!’
Everything we tried here was so good! I doubt you can go wrong selecting from this menu.
From Ed’s Cantina
From Ed’s Cantina
Cinnamon’s Bakery, Estes Park

Fun City

Fun City slide. Warning, your wife may try to hold your arm while you both go down the slide at different speeds, be ready to be ejected.
So Fun!

Estes Park offers a lot of tourist attractions, but this is the main one we went to and it was really fun to go down the slide. Behind the slide you’ll find a mini golf course and inflatable bumper water boats. If you have kids, this is a good place to visit. If you’re adults and still like to act like kids, this is a good place to visit.

Clothing You’ll Want To Bring

The clothing can really make or break the trip.

• Shower shoes

• 8 Outfits

• Pajamas

• Hiking pants

• Warm clothes

• Dress

• Camp shoes

• Day shoes

• Socks

• Bras

• Underwear

• Swimwear

Comfort Items That Can Make Your Stay Even Better

Laughter provides the most comfort!

• Pillows

• Blankets

• Speakers

• Chargers for phones & watches

• 2 Solar lamps

• Welcome mat (to wipe shoes on)

• Tent mat

• Solar string lights

• Picnic screen popup

• Ultralight rainfly for hammock

• Ultralight blanket

• Hatchet

• Toolkit

• Tarp

Neat path on the way to connect to Dream Lake


Medical Kit Items

• Medical Kit, Ultralight

• Hydrocortisone Cream

• Snake Bite Kit

• Bear Spray

• Medicine

Twin Sisters Peak

To send off our third day in the mountain we decided to do a “full send”. We decided to climb the Twin Sisters Peak. The first “difficult” rated hike of The Rocky Mountain National Park for us. Talk about a journey. To start, the elevation gain is 13,300 ft., and the air gets thin enough to starve out the trees. The tree line stops and the final climb is all rocks until you reach the very top, where there is a small patch of meadow grass. We lie there for a bit while warming up to the sunlight, but it was short lived as the 4th, and final, thunderstorm brewed overhead. We knew that was our queue to start heading down the mountain and so, we did.

ENO jungle hammocks really make for a good rest on the way back down the Mountain.
Once you’re high enough up, it’s just rocks from there to summit.
Spectacular View.
We made it!


That wraps up my blog post about what it’s like to hike in The Rocky Mountain National Park and How To Plan The Trip. I look forward to posting more quality content for you, pro-hiker! Please, remember to follow the blog and like the post if you enjoyed the read.

Click here to return to the blog homepage.

Return Home