As the aspen trees begin to change color, Colorado’s vibrant “leaf-watching” season is in full swing. While the stunning display of fall foliage is worthy of the annual crowds drawn to the state’s finest hiking trails and parks, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) reminds people searching for fall gold to look responsibly and balance recreation with vigilant conservation bring.
“It’s one of the busiest times of the year at our park as we head into peak leaf viewing season,” said Bronwyn Phillips, administrative assistant at Golden Gate Canyon State Park. “We ask people to plan ahead, be aware of people and wildlife crossing roads slowly, and park in designated lots to avoid damage to vegetation.”
As you venture into the great outdoors this fall to find the perfect view, it’s important to follow the Care for Colorado – Leave No Trace principles to keep our landscapes colorful and clean.
Know before you go
To prepare for a more enjoyable outdoor experience, check the weather and foliage conditions for your planned visit.
• If the parking lot is full, drive to the nearest designated parking lot.
• Use the CPW Park Finder to explore Colorado’s 43 state parks and visit each park’s website to learn more about potential park or trail closures.
• Prepare a backup plan in case your desired trailhead, park or location becomes crowded or closed.
Stick to the trails
While it’s tempting to find a new and unique place to photograph or to move to areas with fewer people, it’s important for our plants, trails, and visitors that you stay on the trail.
• Help natural areas stay natural by following designated trails.
• Avoid trails that are closed for maintenance, vegetation projects, or wildlife concerns. We all love our flora and fauna, so let’s keep them healthy for future generations.
Leave it as you find it
Parking in designated areas is especially important during this busy time of year – undesignated parking destroys vegetation and encourages those coming behind you to continue the trend.
• Leave plants, acorns, leaves, rocks and historical objects as you find them so that others can experience the same joy of discovery.
• Carving or chopping plants and trees can kill or disfigure them, and will also affect the experiences of your fellow hikers and leaf scouts for years to come.
Keep wildlife wild
While hoping to spot the perfect cascade of yellow aspens, part of your experience can consist of spotting wildlife along the roads and trails. To protect wildlife – and you – do not feed or approach wildlife.
• Wildlife is on the move, so be alert, drive carefully and slow down to avoid collisions between wildlife and vehicles.
• Be bear aware on trails to avoid encounters with bears. As bears begin to prepare for hibernation and hunt for food, Coloradans may see more bear activity in urban areas.
• Dangerous conflicts between humans and moose are increasing. Keep a safe distance and enjoy moose from afar.
• Keep dogs on a leash when enjoying dog-friendly hiking trails and pack trash up in a trash can. Don’t hang litter on trees.
“We want everyone to have a great time experiencing the vibrant colors and natural wonders that our beautiful state has to offer,” said Phillips. “No matter where you decide to take a look, please respect our natural resources, park staff, volunteers, and your recreational friends who are prospecting for Colorado gold.”
To learn more about outdoor activities in Colorado State Parks, visit cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo.