Be Bear Aware

Being outdoors means being amongst wildlife. Most people never encounter a bear while recreating outdoors, but if you do, here’s some simple advice:

  • Remain calm.
  • Group together and pick up small children/pets.
  • Continue to face the bear and back away slowly, talking calmly to identify yourself as a human.
  • If the bear continues to approach, try to scare it away by making yourself as large and imposing as possible by stretching your arms overhead and making loud noises.
  • Carry and know how to use bear spray, which is available at many outdoor retailers and can be used to deter a charging bear.

Hiking in Bear Country

  • Do not feed bears or other wildlife.
  • Visit or call the local Forest Service office to learn about special requirements or guidelines for the area.
  • Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
  • Read all signs at trailheads.
  • Stay alert. Do not wear headphones and cautiously approach any blind corners in the trail.
  • Carry bear spray such that it is easily accessible.  Know how to use it.
  • Hike as a group, keep children with you and dogs leashed.
  • Make plenty of noise.
  • For extended trips, keep food and other attractants in personal use sized bear-resistant containers.
  • If you see a bear, maintain a safe distance and alter your route to avoid the bear. Never block a bear’s travel route.
  • If you see a cub alone, don’t approach. Momma bear could be nearby.

1) Keep your pup on a maximum 6-foot leash.

Enjoying the outdoors with furry friends is a great way to get you and your pet some exercise! Spring can be a sensitive time for wildlife. A leash can help your dog stay a safe distance from wildlife and other visitors. Keep your pet on a maximum 6-foot leash.
No matter how well-behaved you think your dog is, he or she may not be able to resist chasing after deer, squirrels, other dogs, or even children.
Read more about the safety benefits of making sure your dog stays leashed here at Colorado Park’s and Wildlife’s website – Why should you keep your dog on a leash?

2) Properly dispose of pet waste.

Owners are responsible for the proper removal and disposal of pet waste in a dumpster or trash receptacle. Always carry a few plastic bags with you. ​ Remember there is no such thing as the poop fairy! #CareforColorado and pick up dog waste and pack it out to a trash can. Check out this video from Leave No Trace to understand why this is so important here.

3) Ensure that your pet’s vaccinations and license are up to date and that your pet is wearing I.D. tags. ​​​

Be proactive and vaccinate your pet: protect your pet from other pets or wildlife that may not be in good health. In addition to your pet’s I.D. tags, having a current photo on hand is also recommended.

4) Come prepared with food, water, and shelter.

Be sure to bring bedding or a plastic tarp for your pet, as well as food and plenty of drinking water. Pets that drink from streams or lakes may consume bacteria that could make them sick.

5) Be aware of potential wildlife conflicts.

Park staff can also provide tips to keep you and your pet safe and warn you of potential dangers such as mountain lions, moose, or rattlesnakes in the area.

Don’t Pick Wildflowers – Leave them for others to enjoy. By picking wildflowers, you’re disturbing the ecosystem and not allowing those flowers to multiply for next year. 

Don’t Litter – This one feels like it should be obvious. If you brought a snack and it has a wrapper, keep it in your pocket or backpack and throw it out in a trash can or bring it back home with you. Remember, pack in, pack out, and leave no trace!

Do Stay On Trail – Especially when you’re dealing with switchbacks or heavily trafficked trails, it can be tempting to forge a new shortcut, but by doing so, you’re damaging the trail. Your footsteps could be destroying plant life and/or creating a new path for water to erode the mountainside.

Don’t Blast Your Music When you’re out in nature, make a point to be out in nature. If you want to listen to music, use headphones, but don’t play music on your phone or speakers at a volume that’s going to negatively affect someone else’s hiking, biking, camping, or trail experience.

Do Be Aware of Your Group – Hiking in groups, whether you’re with friends or small children, means you’ve got a lot of heads to keep track of. Make sure you’re hiking single file (or moving into single file formation when passing other hikers) and staying aware of other people using the trail. Avoid yelling or carrying on loud conversations so you don’t disturb wildlife, while also letting other hikers enjoy the serenity of nature and be aware of your hiking companions’ pace. 

Don’t Build or Destroy Cairns – Those cool towers of rocks on the trail? In many places, they have a purpose, and it’s to serve as a trail marker for users who might otherwise get lost. Sure, they can be fun to build, but leave them to the pros, so you don’t risk sending someone off-trail. Building cairns along waterways like streams, rivers, and creeks might create an interesting visual for us humans but removing/moving rocks from the riverbed has negative effects on the fish and animals that rely on aquatic macroinvertebrates that call those rocks and stones home.

Do Show Kindness to Your Fellow Trail-Users – Say hi! Smile! Share the trail! We know, it can be frustrating when your relaxing day in nature is spent surrounded by everyone else who thought to get the same break from the outside world, but we can make it better by being kind to each other. Similarly, if you see someone struggling on the trail, don’t be rude. Potentially offer help/guidance or start a conversation. We were all beginners at one point.

High Country Spring Trails – When is it OK to Use Them?

We’ve all been there before…on a favorite trail in the early season. The warm spring sun has melted the snow and the trail looks tantalizingly close to sweet summer singletrack.

Then, it happens…you round the corner to find a remnant snow patch and a muddy section of trail. 

Someone has already passed this way, leaving deep, muddy tracks in the trail… leaving you questioning your next move.

Does snow blanket the trail ahead, or is this an isolated snow patch?  Did the other trail users exercise good judgment, or did they cause lasting trail damage? Should you continue, or is this the turnaround point?  

Spring trail conditions in the high country can vary widely based on many factors – time of year, solar aspect, elevation, time of day, drainage patterns, depth of snowpack, soils, and more. Some trails, or even sections of trails, can be dry, while others are quite muddy or still skiable.

What are some tips for deciding when to use high-country trails in springtime?

  1. Educate yourself. Local shops, welcome centers, or land managers can often help direct you to dry early-season trails. Our local trail conditions page is a great place to start – Winter Trail Conditions | Breckenridge, CO (townofbreckenridge.com).
  2. Be ready to turn around when you encounter snow or mud. This will keep local trails from being rutted and muddy, requiring additional trail maintenance.
  3. Use good judgment. Our trails are community assets. Waiting for mud and snow to clear will help ensure their long-term sustainability.
  4. Ride or walk through, not around, isolated muddy spots. Help keep singletrack single.
  5. Check your bike or your shoes after your trip – are they covered in mud? If so, you should have turned around or chosen a different trail.

Every year, trail users new to Summit County cause significant damage by riding or hiking on trails before they are dry. This affects others’ trail experiences, sets a poor example for others, and results in costly trail repairs. Would you rather have local trail crews and volunteers fixing ruts and other problems, or potentially building new trails?

Please do your part by enjoying dry trails, avoiding muddy ones, and using the paved Rec. Path until the snow recedes. Volunteering for local trail projects will also provide you with an entirely new perspective on what it takes to build and maintain a world-class trail system.

Thanks, and see you on the trail!