RMNP #1: Winter Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park

After thru-hikes of the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and a thru-ride of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, what’s a guy to do? Ultralight solo winter-camping in Rocky Mountain National Park–why not? 

“Wait,” Porter said, studying routes and vital info in Snowshoeing Colorado
by Claire Walter, “was this written by our Claire Walter?” Indeed it was, so with consummate trust, we set out for Rocky Mountain National Park with full confidence that our friend Claire would not lead us astray. With a pack base weight of 18 pounds plus food, and snowshoes strapped to his pack, Porter set out from the Wild Basin Trailhead.  Snowshoes with steel cleats enabled him to negotiate both ice and snow on the trail.

He camped first above Finch Lake, and later above Ouzel Lake. It was so cold that the famous flowing Ouzel Falls was frozen solid! He had adapted his winter tent by designing and sewing an ultralight cuben fiber vestibule to the front for protection from wind and blowing snow.

After tamping down the deep snow with his snowshoes to make a campsite level enough to pitch his tent, he dug a snow pit in front of the vestibule to protect his stove from the wind. Didn’t work for cooking, though, because the cold kept the fuel canister from warming up enough to keep the fire going. Cold supper, but his stove is a work-in-progress, so stay tuned.

Gail hung out in Estes Park to do a solo meditation retreat by the river, and to be ready to pick up Porter as a big snowstorm moved in. Water ever-flowing beneath the stillness of the ice is a great teacher. 

Winter-camping to Amber means meditating on cold pints of peppermint ice cream.

May winter warm your heart with your own heart’s desire!


40 comments on “RMNP #1: Winter Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park

    • Thank you, Jerrie, and yes, it’s vital to be careful and live to tell the tale. I’m always impressed with Porter’s good judgment, though, or I wouldn’t be able to support him in these endeavors!

  1. I am with Amber! Rest your weary self on a tub of ice cream, and winter camping accomplished. You two are soooooooo amazing. Adventure on steroids.

    So excited to see you in person soon…❤️

  2. Hey,
    A sweet reminder that there’s more to winter than huddling by the fake fireplace. 🙂 Thanks for the book reference; I usually snowshoe on Grand Mesa. Currently following the Sounds True free mindfulness series; lovely.
    Keep adventuring!

  3. Oh my goodness. I just can’t imagine camping in this cold! But your meditation spot looks perfectly lovely. And there is a great lesson in the flow of water. Amber, you’re a hoot!

  4. Oh my gosh, Ouzel Falls frozen solid and you meditating by a frozen river! Good that you were at the ready if Porter needed, but I hope you had some hot cocoa or something at some point!

    • LOL, Marian! Stay tuned for our upcoming adventure, which we hope will be taking it easy and not turn into more adventure than we planned. But if it does, we hope we’re up to it. We love your spirit too!

  5. Know those trails from the heat of the summer. You really like to try new adventures. Gave me a vicarious
    trip old trails with new conditions. Too old to try it now so thanks for the experience.

    • Julianne, yes, we know you know those trails well, and we thought of you while we were there! It’s true, Porter barely finishes one adventure before he’s cooking up the next one, along with the new gear it entails!

  6. Porter’s adventures and ingenuity when it comes to equipment allow me some great reads from my cozy armchair wrapped in a velvet throw! What an amazing healthy lifestyle you two pursue–and with all the preparation and safety concerns addressed. Thanks for sharing– xo Rosita

    • Thank you, Rosita! We love the vision of you wrapped in a velvet throw in your cozy armchair. You understand adventure past and present, physical and emotional, so we very much appreciate your perspective. XO

  7. Lovely! You two continue to inspire. Getting ready to head out on the big CDT adventure in April from the south. I still think about that delicious meal. Best! Dean

  8. Gail, you and Porter are incredible! What a magnificent Post!! I truly believe Porter 29yrs. old and “holding!” He seems so young at heart and I love hearing about his multiple (and your multiple) challenges. Being from Wisc., I cherish sunny, warm, spring skiing. Porter must have very thick skin Ha. I actually call my hubby “my heat generator.” Maybe, it’s a genetic thing. Your photo’s are fantastic Gail. I especially loved seeing you meditating by the river, Porter zippered up to his eye balls by his camp, and Amber chillin’ on the peppermint ice cream :). It’s always a joy opening your posts and I am so grateful to have you as a friend!! Take care and enjoy. With Lots of Love, Andrea

  9. Wow Gail, RMNP is so huge, but I thought it was closed in the winter…. bet he is having a ball solo hiking. Are you staying at the Stanley?

    • Bryan, RMNP has a few campsites open in the winter, and Porter registered in advance for the sites he wanted, then we picked up his permit at the Ranger Station at Beaverhead outside Estes Park. The Ranger said Porter was the only one camping out there, so he had it all to himself (except for a few day hikers and rock climbers). I stayed at the Silver Moon Inn by the creek, wonderful. And I pretty much had Estes Park to myself, so different from the crowds in the summer! Thanks for asking, and we keep you and your and Cheryl’s family in our hearts always!

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