The park allows numerous opportunities for backpacking and technical climbing, and hikers and climbers will generally find that the farther they go into the backcountry, the fewer humans they see. Some of the day hikes discussed above can also be done as overnight hikes; for example, the East Longs Peak Trail, which takes most people about 15 hours round-trip, is often completed over 2 days. Hikers can also combine various shorter trails to produce loops that can keep them in the park's backcountry for up to a week.
The park has well over 100 small backcountry campsites, which may be reserved. Backpackers should carry portable stoves, because wood fires are permitted at only a few sites with metal fire rings. In addition to the designated backcountry campsites, there are two dozen cross-country zones, in some of the least accessible sections of the park, which are recommended only for those with good map and compass skills.
The park's Backcountry Office should be the first stop for those planning backpacking trips. Rangers there know the trails and camping areas well and are happy to advise hikers on the best choices for their abilities and expectations. Backcountry permits are required for all overnight hikes. Technical climbers who expect to be out overnight usually set up a bivouac -- a temporary open-air encampment that is normally at or near the base of a route or on the face of a climb. Designated bivouac zones have been established; permits are required.
Backcountry and bivouac permits are available at park headquarters and ranger stations. They cost $20 from May through October and are free from November through April. For information, call tel. 970/586-1242.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.