So, your friends are in town for the weekend and you’re planning to impress them all with a beautiful hike through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Good choice. If they are from sea-level, flat plains, or pretty much anywhere else in the country, they are sure to enjoy the beautiful views that await on the trail.
Do you ever wonder how the mountains stay so pristine? Much like our oceans, we all play an important role in keeping our mountain and outdoor spaces clean for generations to come. Take a look at these tips for keeping Colorado’s trails clean and green:
1. Take a Reusable Water Bottle – Easy enough, right? You’ll be able to carry more water in a 2-liter bottle, rather than taking one single-serve plastic bottle, anyway.
2. Leave no Trace – Snacks are always good to have if you will be out on a longer day hike and need to refuel. However, be sure to bring all your scraps and wrappers with you on your way off the trail. You want to leave nature the way you found it (kudos if you bring an extra plastic bag and grab any trash you find on the trail).
3. Pick up after Pets – There is nothing more annoying than thinking “What’s that awful smell?” on your drive home, only to find you stepped in scat. Dog scat, that is. Definitely bring your four-legged-friends but be sure to abide by trail rules and pick up after your dog. Dog scat is particularly dangerous to ecosystems due to the high levels of unnatural ingredients in their food.
4. Stay on the Trail - Volunteers are working hard to keep Colorado’s trails in great shape. Your short cut through the switchbacks might save you a few steps, but you risk eroding the trail (and you risk falling on your face). One step on a plant is enough to kill it or severely damage it. Don't be that person.
5. Take Care of your Waste - For shorter hikes, you will likely be able to use a restroom near the trailhead. However, if you are going to be out all day, nature may call. It’s recommended that you locate an inconspicuous spot at least 200 feet from the trail and make a hole about 6 inches deep. After taking care of business, cover the hole with dirt and any nearby debris.
6. Swim with Caution - That pristine blue lake might look enticing on a warm summer day, but be sure to do your research before you jump in. Some of the alpine lakes contain fragile ecosystems and swimming is not allowed. The oil on your skin and anything else that may be using you as a atransportation vessel will come off when you swim. Other lakes are just really, really cold. Either way, if you know you’ll be passing a lake, it’s a good idea to look up any special rules or tips before you go.
7. Rideshare or take public transportation – With a little advance planning, you can find multiple ways to get into the mountain that doesn’t require a car.
Follow these seven tips and keep Colorado’s trails clean and pristine for everyone to enjoy.
Katie is a graduate student studying International and Intercultural Communication at the University of Denver. Originally hailing from the Midwest, she still remembers her first-time laying eyes on the Rocky Mountains and falling in love. In addition to exploring mountain trails, Katie enjoys checking out Colorado’s craft breweries and scouting the Front Range for the best scoop of ice cream.