Colorado’s vibrant fall season has officially begun as colors change along the landscapes. As sportspeople gear up for hunting trips and people flock to scenic trails to see fall foliage, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) encourages all outdoor enthusiasts to protect our natural resources while also enjoying them.
“Whether hunting, fishing, hiking, rock climbing, biking, boating or leaf peeping, all outdoor activities have the potential to impact our state’s natural resources,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife Director Jeff Davis. “At CPW, we want to inspire and educate people that they can positively give back to the outdoor spaces we all enjoy by balancing our recreation with mindful conservation.”
Below are a few expert outdoor tips on how you can make a difference and recreate responsibly this fall season to keep Colorado state parks and our wildlife thriving.
Know Before You Go
The fall season is busy at Colorado state parks and parking lots get full. If a parking area is full, move on to the next designated parking area and follow instructions given by park rangers. Park rangers can issue parking tickets to people who park illegally or block traffic.
- Plan your visit with the Colorado State Parks Guide (el folleto de parques en Español).
- Use the Park Finder Tool to see a Colorado state park map.
- Camping reservations at Colorado state parks are required.
- Find park events, classes and festivals on the CPW Events Calendar.
- Read the 2023 Colorado State Recreation Lands Brochure to find changes for permitted activities in state wildlife areas.
- Plan your outdoor adventure based on the weather forecast and your skill level. If the area you want to explore has bad weather or appears too complicated, help yourself and our outdoor first responders by changing your outdoor plan to avoid hazardous conditions.
- Have a backup plan if your desired trailhead, park or location is crowded or closed.
Be Safe on the Water
So far in 2023, Colorado has seen 29 confirmed water-related fatalities with three missing persons from water-related incidents. In 2022, a state record of 40 documented fatalities was reported. As people venture outdoors for waterfowl hunts and ice fishing this fall, all water-safety best practices are still in place as water flows still prove to be more dangerous this year compared to previous years.
- Wear a life jacket. The majority of fatalities occur because people don’t wear a life jacket.
- Protect yourself from the dangers of cold-water shock. Regardless of your age or experience level, cold water can quickly create a drowning emergency.
- Paddle boards and kayaks are considered vessels, and life jacket requirements apply.
- Get a safety inspection of your vessel.
- Boat sober. Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in recreational boating deaths.
- Help prevent the spread of Aquatic Nuisance Species by keeping your vessel clean, drained and dry.
- Check out the map of Statewide Watercraft Inspection and Decontamination Sites in Colorado.
Stick To Trails
Shortcuts and that perfect selfie can be tempting, but staying on the path will decrease your risk of injury and protect trailside plants and local wildlife.
- Download the COTREX app to discover Colorado’s expansive network of trails.
- Show you care for Colorado by not driving or walking over plants, flowers, rocks or streams.
Leave It As You Find It
Parking in designated areas is critical — undesignated parking can destroy vegetation, ignite wildfires in dry grass and block first-responder vehicles in case of an emergency.
- Colorado’s trees provide beautiful leaf-peeping photos, shade and oxygen. Help keep them thriving by not carving into them or pulling down branches that may kill or disfigure them.
- Avoid stacking rocks because they play an essential role in stabilizing and protecting the erosion of trails.
Trash the Trash
Together, we can trash the trash. Always dispose of waste properly when on the trail.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Whatever you bring into the outdoors, take it out with you.
- Remove makeshift toilets from hunting camps that contain human waste, dog waste, toilet paper, trash or leftover camping gear.
- Don’t leave a pet waste baggie on the trail even if you mean to pick it up on your way out. People forget that pet waste is not just unsightly but disruptive to wildlife. Do not hang waste on trees or put waste bags in toilets.
- Bring plastic grocery bags to carry trash when trash cans are not available or full.
Keep Wildlife Wild
Many species call Colorado home, making it the perfect destination for wildlife watching on state park trails.
- Protect yourself and your loved ones from potential wildlife conflicts by watching and photographing wild animals from a safe distance to avoid startling them or forcing them to flee.
- Keep dogs leashed when enjoying dog-friendly trails to help prevent moose attacks, causing wild animals to flee, or get aggressive.
- Do not feed or approach young wildlife.
- During fall, bears eat more calories before hibernation and may be more active on trails and venture into urban areas looking for food. Help reduce human-bear conflicts, bear-proof your home and be bear aware on trails.
- Elk are in a rut during the fall, so give them space and do not approach them because they can get territorial and attack when they feel threatened.
- If you see wildlife that appears sick or injured, leave it alone. Call a Colorado Parks and Wildlife office and consult a trained wildlife officer for guidance.
- Take down hammocks, outdoor ropes and other tangle hazards from your yard that may impact wildlife as they migrate this fall.
Be Careful with Fire
Although parts of Colorado have received high levels of moisture this year, drought conditions are still present and impact if campfires are allowed or restricted this fall.
- Check fire restrictions or bans at www.coemergency.com.
- Use designated campfire areas when allowed and available.
- Keep campfires small and manageable.
- Put fires out with water until you can touch the embers.
- Never leave a campfire unattended.
- Avoid parking or driving on dry grass. Check your tire pressure and if chains or exposed wheel rims are dragging from your vehicle that may create sparks.
Share our Trails and Parks
Being kind and considerate to others outdoors helps build more inclusive spaces and allows everyone a personal connection to nature.
- Please respect our natural resources, park staff, volunteers and fellow recreationists out searching for Colorado gold this fall.
- Be mindful of your group’s noise level so everyone can appreciate our shared spaces.
- Yield to the uphill hiker and biker — they need the momentum. Wheelchair users and equestrians always have the right of way.
- People interested in exploring Colorado state parks for $29 should consider buying a Keep Colorado Wild Pass during their annual vehicle registration with the DMV. With the pass, you save $51 off the regular price of an annual state parks pass if purchased directly through CPW, and the pass funds search and rescue teams, avalanche safety and outdoor education. Learn more at cpw.info/keepcoloradowild and cpw.info/