Hi. My family has car camped and day hiked.  We want to try a 1 or 2 night backpacking trip. We live in the Denver area so Arapaho and Roosevelt NF seems an obviously s choice, it looks like some permits are still available. Does anyone have recommendations for a first backpack trip? And my follow up question is how do I know what permit area my hike would be in ? Should I do this work backwards, find available permit then see if there’s an appropriate hike? Thanks!


My advice: Go where permits are not required.


Hi @Tianna - It's great to hear y'all are planning your first backpacking trip!

While there are many amazing backpacking opportunities that require a permit in your area, @Former community member's suggestion of potentially choosing an area that doesn't require one might simplify things for your first trip. 

One route that could be a good fit is Rogers Peak and Heart Lakes in James Peak Wilderness. Hopefully some other community members familiar with Colorado will have some additional suggestions for you as well. @MattyP@johnt@ccrenshaw - do y'all have any ideas to pass along for a first backpacking trip in the Front Range? 

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Thanks. I’ll look into James Peak Wilderness.

I always camped in Rocky Mountain National Park since it was in my backyard (40 min from Boulder).  Problem here is that even if you have a camping permit which will be awesome and guarantee you seclusion in the evening and night, the park is SO packed that your day hikes will be pretty populated. 

When we had more time my friends and I would drive to Utah and camp on public land and hike in the national and state parks during the day.  Lots of fun to wake up in the middle of a herd of cattle too.  But that is a drive and would need at least two or three nights of camping. 

Thanks.  We talked briefly about going to Utah because we have camped on public land there before when visiting Arches. 


I agree completely with @Former community member to go where permits aren’t required.

Just a few ideas:

From the East Portal of Moffat Tunnel you can hike in to Forest Lakes, Arapaho Lakes, Crater Lakes or Heart Lake.  Beautiful area, lots of mosquitoes.

If you have 4x4, it’s a short road up to Chinns/Sherwin Lakes and backpack only 1/2 mile to Slater Lake.  From there you can dayhike to the Continental Divide and summit a few mountains on the ridge.  And there’s a great rock in the middle of the lake that’s great to lay out on whilst skinny-dipping.  Not that I’d know😉!

Brookside-McCurdy Trail in Lost Creek Wilderness.  Climb Bison Peak from base camp.

Any part of the Colorado Trail.

Further afield, Rich Creek or Tumble Creek in Buffalo Peaks Wilderness are really nice trails.

Surprise Lake on the Gore Range Trail.

Utah is beautiful, but hot in the summer.  I’d recommend the high country.

Have fun!

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Thank you for the tips. We were thinking about hiking part of the Colorado Trail. I’ll look into your other recommendations!