For those who live in the Colorado High Country, and those who wish they did, being able to snag a coveted back country camping spot is a dream, especially in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). The assignment of some 267 back country camping permits in the Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness continues to be done the way it’s always been done; by drawing names out of a hat. but the beginning of the end of this rustic tradition is in sight.
For those hoping to score a prime camping spot in places like Glacier Gorge, here’s how the process has gone for generations: Get up before dawn. Drive in the dark. Arrive at the RMNP Wilderness Office near Estes Park. Put in your name, and wait for the hat pull for a chance to get a wilderness camping permit.
But as of March 1, the RMNP Wilderness Office, began allowing people to apply for permits not just in person, but online, and by phone.
So many people showed up Sunday, March 1 for the permit draw, that Wilderness Office Manager Barry Sweet had to hold the drawing outside the building. The crowd of more than 100 back country enthusiasts was patient.
There are only 267 back country sites spread thinly across 120 designated areas of the park. The back country process is different than the process used for the park’s more traditional campgrounds and camping areas.
But according to a recent news story in The Denver Post, the permit selection process is changing slightly. While those there in person had names drawn from the hat beginning at 8 a.m., by 8:20 a.m. the first online names were drawn.
Sweet told the group that while the permitting process won’t necessarily change next year, that it will eventually change to an online permit selection. He thanked the dedicated back country enthusiasts “for sharing their love of wilderness.”