Backpacking in Colorado: One Night Trips

Two people hiking on a trail in the woods.

Looking for a quick and adventurous weekend getaway? Fall asleep under starry skies and wake up to a peak-silhouetted sunrise on a backpacking trip in Grand County. Spend the day hiking through wilderness areas or the national park, and then unwind at your chosen campsite. Get ready to elevate your hiking experience with these three one-night backpacking trips in Colorado, all less than two hours away from Denver.

Note: For trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, please read the current fire information and check to see if you require a timed-entry permit. For additional information, see the current conditions trail report by Headwaters Trails Alliance. Please review trail conditions and closures before heading out.

One-Night Backpacking Trips in Colorado

Watanga Lake via Roaring Fork Trail7.9 milesHard
Monarch Lake to Crater Lake14.8 milesModerate
Devil's Thumb Loop14 milesModerate – Hard

Watanga Lake via Roaring Fork Trail

Distance: 7.9 miles | Difficulty: Hard

Starting at the Roaring Fork Trailhead in the Arapaho Bay Campground near Granby, follow the 7.9-mile trail toward Watanga Lake. Beginning with a steep incline, Roaring Fork is a difficult hiking trail that rewards with rushing waterfalls, burbling streams and a reflective high-alpine lake. The scenic pathway winds through the Indian Peaks Wilderness which requires a permit for overnight camping between June and mid-September. Between mid-September and May, permits are not required for groups of seven people or less. There are no designated campsites at Watanga Lake; however, look for established sites to minimize impact.

Monarch Lake to Crater Lake

Distance: 14.8 miles | Difficulty: Moderate

The Monarch Lake Trailhead leading to Mirror Lake and Crater Lake is a popular backpacking hike in Colorado’s Indian Peaks Wilderness. Follow the Cascade Trail which features two shimmering lakes, steep waterfalls and stream-side walks. The moderately rated trail ends at Crater Lake with Lone Eagle Peak soaring above at 11,920’. Established campsites around both Mirror and Crater Lake welcome permitted backpackers for an overnight near the water.

Devil's Thumb Loop

Distance: 14 miles | Difficulty: Moderate - Hard

Located near Fraser, the Devil's Thumb Trailhead leads to a portion of the Continental Divide Trail known as the High Lonesome Trail. This trail connects the Devil's Thumb and King Lake trails to create a 14-mile backpacking loop. The route is rated between moderate and difficult, presenting backpackers with panoramic summit views, as well as multiple high-alpine lakes including its namesake, Devil's Thumb Lake and granite spire. This area is also within the Indian Peaks Wilderness area, requiring a permit for overnight trips. Setup camp near Devil's Thumb Lake or King Lake where you can cook up some dinner with a view and plan the next day’s hike out. In the Diamond, Jasper, Crater and Caribou Lake zones, camping is only allowed in designated sites.

Leave No Trace on Your Backpacking Trip

No matter where you choose to spend time in the great outdoors, always remember to follow Leave No Trace Principles. Make sure you’re fully prepared for your trek with the right equipment, trail knowledge and plenty of snacks and water. Take the trails less traveled to avoid overcrowding — and while you’re there, stay on those defined paths to avoid ecosystem damage. Anything you pack in should get packed out (including waste). Be super careful with fire, minding local laws and fire-danger alerts. Keep wildlife wild, giving them plenty of space if you spot them and cleaning up any food scraps. Finally, share the area. Yield to uphill hikers and bikers and be mindful of your noise levels so everyone can enjoy the tranquility of Colorado’s nature.

Get the full breakdown of the seven Leave No Trace Principles.

Start Planning Your Colorado Backpacking Trip

Prepare to experience Grand County’s picturesque views, diverse terrain and welcoming mountain towns. Start planning your overnight backpacking trip by applying for a permit and choosing a trail. Then end your weekend getaway with a well-deserved meal at one of the local restaurants in Grand County.

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