Camping in Colorado is a blast. It's the best way to get up-close to the wild environment that makes the Centennial State so special. That being said, following best practices of camping responsibly is key to having an experience that's both enjoyable and safe for often fragile environments. Here are a few guidelines to make sure that you're camping in the smartest, safest way possible.
– 1. Always follow the Leave No Trace guidelines
From preparation to camping to packing up, it's crucial that you take care of the place you're visiting. One great way to do so is to follow the seven principles of Leave No Trace, including how to dispose of waste, camping in low-risk areas, and of course, taking only pictures and leaving only footprints.
– 2. Utilize a bear canister
Trash and smelly food need to be placed in a bear canister overnight. Bears and other animals often follow their noses when it comes to finding dinner, and leaving items out that might attract wildlife can result in a very dangerous situation. Not only could the animal hurt you, but Colorado's euthanization policy could also result in the animal's death. Once an animal learns to seek out humans, they're often put down.
– 3. Respect wildlife
It's important that campers respect all wildlife they encounter. Don't try to feed the wildlife. Don't try to pet the animals. Don't try to take a selfie with the moose. Everything you do can impact the way they live. Colorado Parks and Wildlife recommends that you utilize the thumb rule, making sure that you're far enough away from animals to cover them with a raised thumb at the end of your extended arm. This will probably be about 100 feet for smaller creatures and up to 300 feet for large mammals. The more distance, the better.
– 4. Follow all fire ban rules
Colorado tends to get hot and dry during the summer months of the year. This makes wildfires a huge risk and tends to mean restrictions that vary from place to place based on the degree of danger. Know the current fire rules in your area and actually follow them. They're not just suggestions, and breaking them can have very serious consequences – legal and otherwise.
– 5. Minimize your impact
When you set up camp, try to keep it small and use an existing site if possible. This helps to limit your impact on often fragile vegetation. It's also important to respect the living trees in the area. Don't chop them down for firewood or for more space.
– 6. Know the pooping dos and don'ts
When you're pooping in the wild, it's important to follow suggested guidelines in order to limit your impact. Do the deed at least 200 feet away from any water source, dig a hole that's 6 to 8 inches deep, and bury all human waste. If you use toilet paper, pack it out and don't leave it behind.
– 7. Don't help the weeds
A big problem in wild areas can be invasive weeds. They kill other plant species and can change entire landscapes, and once they're spreading, they only get harder to control. Learn to identify invasive species of plants and avoid all contact with them. Don't camp on them and don't drive through them. Whenever they're rustled, they spread their seeds and their invasive nature makes this spread particularly effective. It's also important that you enter the forest with a clean car. You could bring seeds of foreign invasive plants to a new environment.
– 8. Mind your noise
When you're camping, don't blast music. Not only is it disrespectful for people around you seeking peace, it can have a real impact on the environment – even capable of impacting the food chain, thus exterminating species.
– 9. Stay on the trail
Some people view going off trail as an adventure, when in reality, it's downright irresponsible. It can change water flow patterns, kill fragile plant life and can result in issues like getting hurt or lost. Do the smart thing, and camp responsibly by staying on the beaten path.
– 10. Let others know where you'll be
Part of being responsible as a camper is planning ahead for when things go wrong. Injury, natural disasters and human error can all create problems in which you might need outside assistance. If no one knows where you are and how long you'll be there, no one will be able to come for help. Plan ahead by telling your friends or family where you'll be and how long you'll be gone.