The Tonahutu Creek/North Inlet Loop begins near the Kawuneeche Visitor Center by Grand Lake. The Never Summer Loop begins at the west end of Trail Ridge Road, just north of Grand Lake. (Note: Trail Ridge Road usually opens around Memorial Day; western access is from I-70 then over Berthoud Pass). The Lost Lake, Mummy Range hike begins at the North Fork/Dunraven trailhead.
Even on these uncrowded trails, if you want a specific campsite (especially on the Tonahutu/North Inlet Loop), you better reserve early. The jockeying begins March 1. If you’re flexible on campsites, you can often get a permit the morning of your hike from the backcountry office in Estes Park or the Kawuneeche Visitor Center.
These trails are high (they begin above 8,000 feet). If you’re a lowlander, allow a few days to adapt to the altitude. Snow doesn’t melt off the highest passes until July, right about when the
infamous afternoon thunderstorms kick in. Be sure to check on storm patterns, so you don’t get caught above treeline when the lightning bolts start flying.
Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park, by Kent and Donna Dannen ($14.95). Leaving the Crowds Behind: A Guide To Backcountry Camping In Rocky Mountain National Park, by John E. Heasley ($24.95). Trails Illustrated’s Rocky Mountain National Park map (800-962-1643; www.backpacker.com/mapstore; $9.95).
Backcountry Office, Rocky Mountain National Park, (970) 586-1242; www.nps.gov/romo.