Rocky Mountains Backpacking – East Inlet

Trip Length 4 Days
Group Size 4–10
Activity level
Starting from
$1,199 for REI Members
$1,299 for non-members
Departures Jun 2021-Sep 2022

Spend four days backpacking amongst stunning views and true tranquility in the Rocky Mountains.

Follow in the footsteps of ancient Native Americans on a challenging route that begins on the shores of Grand Lake and takes us all the way into a glacially carved valley dotted with many more crystal blue lakes. Along the way, we move past waterfalls, through meadows, along rushing creeks and over giant granite 'steps'. We keep our eyes peeled for moose, elk and fox, letting the soothing songbirds be the soundtrack to our journey.

We begin from our base camp, nestled near a clear wilderness stream filled with trout. It is only a short stroll up the trail to the first of five alpine lakes we explore. From there, weather permitting, we follow a primitive trail slope toward the Continental Divide, visiting up to five high crystal clear alpine lakes. Our itinerary passes near the Boulder-Grand Pass, a route used for centuries to pass from the Great Plains into the cool mountains. Our guides lead the way, giving us backpacking tips and tricks to hone our skills. Each evening after dark, we enjoy the abundant, star-filled skies, reveling in the day’s adventure with new friends.

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Trip Highlights

  • Backpack into one of the most beautiful valleys in Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Visit up to five alpine lakes and hike above 10,000 feet of elevation
  • Learn about local flora, fauna, and geology
  • Learn backpacking tips and techniques from expert guides

Activities

This trip is rated Moderate Plus [3–4]. Participants should be capable of hiking 5-10 miles (5-7 hours) daily carrying a backpack that weighs 35-40 pounds. The elevation change is moderate, varying from 1000' to 2200' of change per day. We will be traveling at high altitude where the thinner air can be challenging in terms of performance.

  • Backpacking

What's Included

Professional instruction and guiding; all meals as noted in the daily itinerary; snacks; group cooking gear; group first aid kit; water filter; transportation from store to trailheads; campsite and permit fees.

Accommodations

Group Camp 1 night, Backcountry Camping, 2 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Day 1

Meet at Denver REI for orientation before heading to the national park

Our trip begins today at 1pm at REI's Denver store. Here we meet our guides and fellow travelers, have a chance to go over the gear list and pick up any last-minute items. Be sure to bring your pack and gear, as we will depart in our van from here. Following a scenic drive up and over the Continental Divide to our site in the Rockies, we pitch our camp. Once the tents are up we gather for a rundown of the trip itinerary, distribution of group items, gear check, as well as packing tips and demonstration. While the guides prepare dinner, we get to know each other in eager anticipation of our adventure. After a delicious dinner we set off on a short sunset hike to explore Sprague Lake. Camp dinner and all camping fees are included tonight.

Hiking: 1.8 miles, Elevation gain/loss: Minimal

Day 2

Backpack up a valley to a mountainside bench where our campsite awaits

We depart our camp after breakfast for an iconic drive to the start of our backpacking adventure. Our drive takes us up and across the Rockies on Trail Ridge Road, nicknamed the Highway in the Sky. Stunning vistas of glacier valleys, Longs Peak, and immense alpine tundra fields open up as we savor every bend in this famous highway. Herds of elk, distant lakes, and endless views unfold along the way. We reach the trailhead at an elevation of 8,400' and start our hike by going past Adams Falls and along the East Inlet into the park's backcountry. After a brief period of rolling wooded hills, the trail overlooks a pristine meadow with a crystal-clear creek winding through the tall grass. In the distance, high peaks and cliffs frame the valley we will explore. Keep your eyes open for the plentiful wildlife that lives in this pristine area. At our lunch stop we are rewarded with incredible views down the valley and of Grand Lake, Colorado's largest natural lake. The trail alternates between climbing up large rock bands and gentle stretches along the stream in a series of giant stairs before reaching our campsite situated in a gentle bend in the river. All meals included.

Backpacking: 5 miles, Elevation gain: +1,400'

Day 3

Day hike to a series of alpine lakes, each one more stunning than the last

Today, with only the weight of our daypacks, we have options for all levels. Just a short distance up the trail is Lone Pine Lake, the first of five lakes accessible from our base camp. Weather and fitness levels permitting, it is possible to continue all the way to Fifth Lake, perched across a boulder field at an elevation of 11,000' above sea level. On the slopes of nearby Mount Alice look for a resident herd of bighorn sheep, drawn here by the rich grazing and unique mineral deposits. Fantastic displays of wildflowers, rising trout, and a parade of peaks, crags and cirques greet us along the trail. Those with an interest in fishing can try their luck in the lakes and creek for trout (licenses and equipment not provided). In the afternoon we return to our same spacious camp. While the guides prepare another tasty backcountry meal, take advantage of the large plunge pool next to camp for a refreshing dip or soothing foot soak before dinner. At night, this site is perfectly situated for awesome stargazing! Breakfast, lunch, and dinner included.

Hiking: 4–10 miles with multiple options, Elevation gain: +1,000'–2,200'.

Day 4

Backpack down to Grand Lake and return to Denver

Wake up to the soft murmur of the mountain stream and the serenade of songbirds. Take a last stroll to nearby Lone Pine Lake before enjoying a hot breakfast and coffee. After we break down camp and pack our packs, we head towards the trailhead. It is a whole new trail as we descend and perhaps see moose feeding among the willows. Arriving at the trailhead, we enjoy a picnic lunch near beautiful Grand Lake before setting off to Denver. We arrive back to Denver around 6pm where we bid our farewells to our newfound friends. If flying out tonight, flights out of Denver shouldn't be made earlier than 8pm. Breakfast and lunch included.

Backpacking: 5 miles, Elevation loss: -1,400'

Gear List

The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering. To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. Try to bring only what is necessary—this will help you and the field staff.

What to pack

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 800-622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.