As fall officially begins and the aspens start putting on a spectacular show, Colorado’s “leaf-peeping” season also kicks into high gear. While the stunning display is worthy of the annual crowds drawn to some of the state’s most scenic trails, Colorado Parks and Wildlife reminds those on the search for the state’s specific autumn gold to keep trail etiquette and caring for Colorado top of mind.
“It’s one of the busiest times of year at our park, as we head into peak ‘Peeping Season,’” said Todd Farrow, Park Manager at Golden Gate Canyon State Park. “We ask that people plan ahead, be patient and understand that some parking areas will fill up quickly and that you may need to find another spot to explore.”
When heading out to the vast outdoors to find the perfect view of colorful Colorado, it’s important to note that many of the Care for Colorado principles apply before you make the drive.
Know Before You Go
Spend some time planning your trip and avoid any potential disappointment. Think about the following questions and do some research before heading out to our parks and trails.
- Are the colors at their prime?
- Where is the best spot for your abilities and available timeframes for viewing?
- Will you need a daily vehicle pass or permit?
- If the parking area is full, move on to the next designated parking area.
- Ensure you’ve downloaded the Colorado Trail Explorer (COTREX) app to find a great Plan B if you need one!
Stick To Trails
While it’s tempting to find a new and unique spot to photograph, or to move to areas with a few less people, it’s important for our plants, trails and visitors that you stay the trail.
- Help natural areas stay natural by sticking to designated trails.
- Respect trails closed for maintenance, vegetation projects or wildlife reasons. We all love our flora and fauna, so keep them healthy for your family’s future hikes!
- Don’t be tempted to take shortcuts – that extra time in nature is what you are there to enjoy.
Trash Your Trash
If you’ll be spending time wandering through Colorado’s colors, you’re likely to need a drink, a snack or to tend to your pet’s needs. Don’t bring anything with you that you can’t pack out.
- Peeping for color doesn’t include wrappers or bottles along the trail. Put litter, dog waste, and even crumbs, peels and cores in the nearest waste/recycling bin – or pack it out until you can find one.
- Bring an extra bag or two to help leave the area better than you found it.
Leave It As You Find It
In this busy season, it’s especially important to only park in designated areas – undesignated parking destroys vegetation and encourages those coming up behind you to continue the trend. With over 40,000 miles of trails in Colorado, you can be sure to find the right spot by planning ahead.
- Leave plants, rocks and historical items as you find them so others can experience the same joy of discovery.
- Carving or hacking plants and trees may kill or disfigure them, and also impacts the experiences of your fellow hikers and leaf peepers for years to come!
Keep Wildlife Wild
While you may be hoping to spot the perfect cascade of yellow aspens, part of your experience may include seeing wildlife in their homes. Enjoy the moment by keeping your distance, using your zoom and letting our wildlife be wild!
- Never feed wild animals – from the smallest chipmunk to the largest bear, feeding them human food alters natural behaviors and can make them sick or dependent.
- Harassing wild animals may also increase the chance of a poor interaction including charges or attacks, feeding wildlife may expose animals to predators, and either case may even lead to euthanasia.
Share Our Trails and Parks
Please be courteous and patient when on your journey! This is one of the busiest times of the year on our trails, so please be patient with other visitors and the staff working to help everyone have a great experience outdoors.
- You’re out to mine gold, not to people watch, so try out some new or lesser-known paths and sites found on the COTREX app.
- Be considerate when passing others on the trails and yield to the uphill hiker and biker – they need the momentum and good etiquette is always in season.
- Remember to bring face coverings and hand sanitizer, and try to move to single file or take your time to leave 6’ of space between hikers if possible.
“We want everyone to have a great time experiencing the colors and the natural resources our whole state has to offer,” said Farrow. “No matter where you plan to peep, be respectful of those resources, the staff helping you have a great experience, and your fellow recreationists out searching for Colorado gold.”
For additional tips on planning for fall’s color changes in Colorado, read 7 Ways to Enjoy Fall Colors on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.
Purchase a Colorado State Parks Pass
If your thinking of visiting Colorado’s State Parks for more than a day, you should consider getting an annual state parks pass.
Family Annual Parks Pass – $120
Family Annual Parks passes are associated with the pass purchaser’s household address and are valid for a 12-month period. Anyone from the same household as the person that purchased the pass may use the pass. The pass may be transferred between vehicles, as long as a resident of the purchaser’s address is present.
Annual Affixed Vehicle Parks Pass – $80 per vehicle
Annual Vehicle passes are valid for a 12-month period. The Annual Affixed Vehicle Parks Pass provides unlimited access to all Colorado State Parks during that time.
Written by Rebecca Ferrell. Rebecca is the Public Information and Website Manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.