Big Meadows to North Inlet
Season: Summer, Fall
Departure:Boulder, Denver, Estes Park Co
Activity: Backpacking, hiking, peak ascents
$1,395 for two people; $1,130 for three people; $895 for four people.
: We guarantee departure, but there are different prices for <4. Contact Colorado Wilderness for single person trip prices. Cost for traverse trips is slightly higher than non-traverse trips due needing an extra vehicle/staff member for 3+ hour shuttle.
Location of Trip:
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Length of Trip:
4 Days and 3 nights
scheduled dates released in March. Contact us if you have specific date requests.
Early morning departure on Day 1 and early evening return on Day 4
The Big Meadows to North Inlet Trail promises open views, wildlife, peak ascents and spectacular hiking on the historic Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. We’ll start and end at Grand Lake, Colorado’s largest natural lake, in the southwestern most area of the park. We’ll explore peaks, valleys, waterways, and prairies in this unforgettable backpacking adventure in Rocky Mountain National Parks most scenic region.
Day 0: Meet and go over gear, food, and itinerary in afternoon. Plan on meeting for 1-1.5 hours the night before to make sure all gear is double-checked and backpack is packed and ready to go for an early morning departure. Note: Some companies include this day as part of the total trip length, thus making it a four-day trip. However, we only include it as Day 0 due to building rapport with your Colorado local guide and helping with acclimation.
Day 1: We meet in the early morning and drive 3-4 hours to Grand Lake on the Western side of Rocky Mountain National Park. This drive takes us on Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in the United States. We start at the trailhead at an elevation of 8,800-feet. The trail then ascends several moderate to steep climbs before entering a series of meadows where elk and moose frequently graze. On the way into camp, hikers have the option to visit Granite Falls and a few other natural features. After 4 miles, we arrive at the campsite, one of the best sites in the western part of the park for deer, elk, and moose viewing. Elevation gain: 750-1,000’. Distance: 4 miles depending upon exact campsite and 3-4 hours.
Day 2: From the campsite, we track northeast along the creek and hike approximately six miles to the next campsite which sits on the edge of the Sprague Glacier, one of the few active glaciers in Colorado. The campsite is located just under tree line in a forested area. From here hikers can climb several peaks such as Sprague Mountain or Nakai Peak. Elevation gain: 750-1,000’. Distance: 6 miles depending upon exact campsite and 4-5 hours.
Day 3: This day includes 8.4 miles of hiking. From the campsite, we follow a trail skirting Ptarmigan Pass and arriving at the top of Flattop Mountain, which sits 1 mile and 800 feet below the famed Hallett Peak. From here we descend and follow the trail to our campsite at the confluence of Ptarmigan Creek and North Inlet. In this area, hikers may spot bears, moose, elk, and bighorn sheep as well as a variety of birds. From this campsite, there are opportunities to explore peaks, alpine lakes, and waterfalls. Elevation gain: 1,800’. Distance: 8.4 miles depending upon exact campsite and 7-9 hours.
Day 4: On day 4 we complete the loop by hiking approximately 8 miles back to the trailhead. We will skirt Grand Lake and get one last view of Green Mountain before making our way back to Boulder for the post-backpack celebration! Distance: 8 miles 6 hours.
Difficulty Description: Difficult – On difficult trips, you will hike up to 8 miles a day with a 25-35 pound backpack. Elevation gain/loss may be as much as 3000 feet on maintained trails, or up to 2000 feet on more rugged trails. For a difficult trip, you should be comfortable hiking 6-8 miles in a day in hilly or mountainous terrain with a 25-pound backpack at altitudes of 7000’ – 10,000’. Maximum altitude is 11,800’, so trip can be considered very difficult based on max altitude reached.
What to Bring: Sent with trip confirmation
Included: The services of a professional backpacking guide, Rocky Mountain National Park permit and back-country Colorado camping permits, transportation between Boulder and the wilderness trail heads, all food during the backpacking trip, a re-supply drop, if necessary, gear for water purification and cooking, bear canister, tent, medical kit, CB radio and contingency and emergency support.
Not included in our rates: Meals while in the front country (breakfast on Day 1 and dinner on the last day), laundry, alcoholic beverages, hotel overnight before your trip and at trip’s conclusion; personal equipment (sleeping bag, pad, backpack – these items are available to rent), and gratuities for your guide(s) – while this is at your discretion, the recommended amount is 20%. If you want to add fly fishing, cost is $100 extra per person (rod, reel, and flies for the trip and backpacking – angling guide)
If you’re looking for the best backpacking in Colorado, we can make that happen through our custom guided backpacking trips, Colorado hiking trips, and uniquely tailored backpacking tours. For families and small groups, we have designed attractive Colorado backpacking and hiking vacations (camping near Denver). Let us show you the hidden spots of Rocky Mountain National Park in our Rocky Mountain backpacking tours. We offer backpacking for beginners to those wanting complex experiences on and off backpacking trails.
If you enjoy hiking trails around your home, take it to the next level and join us for Colorado hiking. Hiking in Colorado is truly an unforgettable experience. Use our single day Boulder hiking tours and Denver hiking trips to acclimate to Colorado’s thin air prior to beginning your backpacking Colorado tours and hiking trips. As a technical climbing, mountaineering, skiing and education concessionaire in Rocky Mountain National Park, we know the park like the back of our hand. Our permits with 14 other land managers, allow us to fashion acclimatization hikes to fit your needs and schedule. Come visit our Boulder hub, located only 45 minutes from Denver International Airport or let us meet you at your hotel.