Backpacking in Colorado: One Night Trips

Note: Due to recent wildfires in the area, various trails may be closed for post-fire recovery. For trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, please read the current fire information. For additional information in Grand County, see the current conditions trail report by Headwaters Trails Alliance. Please check trail conditions and closures before heading out.

Looking for a quick but adventurous weekend getaway? If you enjoy falling asleep under starry skies and waking up to the sunrise, then consider 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 hikes:

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, Colorado, follow the 7.9-mile trail toward Watanga Lake. Beginning with a steep incline, Roaring Fork is a difficult hiking trail with waterfalls, streams and a high-alpine lake. The scenic trail 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 the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Follow the Cascade Trail which features waterfalls, streams and two shimmering lakes. The moderately-rated trail ends at Crater Lake with Lone Eagle Peak soaring above at 11,920’. There are established campsites around both Mirror and Crater Lake for backpackers with a permit.

Devil's Thumb Loop

Distance: 14 miles | Difficulty: Moderate - Hard

Located near Fraser, Colorado, 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 views, multiple high-alpine lakes including Devil's Thumb Lake and its namesake 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. In the Diamond, Jasper, Crater and Caribou Lake zones, camping is only allowed in designated sites.

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 from our list of best backpacking hikes. Then end your weekend getaway with a well-deserved meal at one of our local dining establishments.

If you prefer car camping instead of backpacking, check out our list of campgrounds around  Grand County. And no matter where you choose to spend time in the great outdoors, always remember to follow Leave No Trace principles.