Camp at Boulder Field in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rate this Adventure Longs Peak Trailhead, Estes Park, Colorado, United States

  • Activities:

    Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Summer

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    12 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    3360 Feet

Scenic

Camp at one of RMNP’s most unique backcountry sites, where the vast expanse of rocks feels almost other worldly. Boulder Field is one incredible way to experience Longs Peak.

Boulder Field is a high alpine backcountry site on Longs Peak, and is a popular camp for backpackers attempting to summit Longs Peak via the Keyhole route. At an impressive elevation of 12,760 feet, Boulder Field is a vast wasteland of rocks that sits 500 feet below the famous Keyhole feature, and 1,500 feet below the summit. At this altitude, you are well above the tree line, so you’ll enjoy epic views of the mountain.

There are 9 tent sites (4 individual tent sites, 5 multi-tent sites) that are each surrounded by rock rings that provide some shelter from the wind. The sites include a nearby privy, and water is usually available for filtering in a few small openings between boulders not far from the first couple tent sites. Be sure to check with the backcountry office on water availability before your trip.

Camping at Boulder Field requires a backcountry wilderness permit. As Rocky Mountain National Park’s only 14er, Longs Peak sees a lot of traffic during the summer months, which means camping permits for Boulder Field go quickly. For a better chance of getting a permit, book your reservation several months out and choose a weekday if possible.  

This is definitely one of the park’s most unique backcountry sites, and camping here can be an incredible way to experience Longs Peak. But before you plan your trip, be sure you are well prepared and consider the following risks:

1. Exposure. Camping high in the alpine means you are incredibly exposed to wind and weather. Boulder Field can be very windy, even inside the rock rings. Thunderstorms can develop quickly and with little warning, especially in the afternoon. Be aware of lightning danger and have a plan for what to do during a storm.

2. Altitude. Camping at 12,760 feet means you will spend much more time at high altitude than day hiking Longs Peak. It is important to acclimatize well before camping here overnight. It is absolutely crucial to stay well hydrated. Altitude can also significantly affect your sleep, and as a result may make your summit climb much more challenging the next day. Be aware of the risks of altitude sickness.

3. Difficulty. If the total distance and elevation of doing Longs Peak in a day intimidates you, you may be tempted to think that camping at Boulder Field will be an easy way to break up the hike. But keep in mind that hauling overnight gear to and from Boulder Field (including required bear canisters along with all your normal camping gear) may not actually make your overall climb easier. The shortest route to Boulder Field is a 6-mile hike from Longs Peak Trailhead, where you’ll ascend 3,360 feet.    

Pack List

  • Backpack
  • Warm sleeping bag 
  • Sleeping pad 
  • Insulating layers
  • Rain jacket
  • Warm hat and gloves
  • Hat to keep you out of the sun
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Headlamp (extra batteries)
  • Camera and tripod
  • Trekking poles
  • Hiking boots
  • Bear canister (food and other odorous items)
  • Water and water filter
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