From regional campgrounds to national parks, Colorado boasts a vast array of camping opportunities. The scenery is always gorgeous, but those lovely views come accompanied by a few notable hazards. Come prepared with the knowledge and right survival tools and you'll have a wonderful time. Keep the following do's and don'ts in mind as you get ready for your next camping trip:
Do: Practice Campfire Safety
Colorado's most destructive forest fires burn tens of thousands of acres, destroy hundreds of homes, and cause numerous fatalities. Every effort must be made to prevent these deadly disasters, and yet, many campers fail to take the simple step of putting out their campfires at night or when they depart their site.
If you're camping above treeline, you shouldn't even have a campfire in the first place; the scars they cause can take decades, even centuries to remove. Campfires may also be prohibited in lower altitude areas due to concerns about forest fires. Read up on your selected campground or park's campfire regulations, and follow them closely.
Don't: Leave Food Near Camping Areas
Recent research from Colorado Parks and Wildlife indicates that the state's bear population is far higher than previously assumed. Campers and bears can coexist peacefully, but only if campers take clear precautions. Food should be stored in hard-sided vehicles or suspended at least ten feet above the ground. Campers should change out of cooking clothes before heading to their tents at bedtime. In bear country, aromatic foods such as fish and bacon are best avoided.
Do: Prepare for the Altitude
At 6,800 feet, Colorado's average altitude is higher than any other state. Ambitious backpackers — particularly those trekking the state's 54 'fourteeners' — often set up camp in areas exceeding 10,000 feet. Weather is a chief concern for high-altitude campers; conditions can change with little notice. Bring warm clothes and essential survival tools depending on the length of your trek. Monitor your water intake, as altitude increases susceptibility to dehydration. It's best practice to leave before noon to avoid lightning strikes.
Don't: Set Up Camp Outside of Established Sites In High Altitude Areas
Fragile alpine soil is part and parcel with camping above the tree line in Colorado. The damage caused by a tent stake in the wrong place could last years. Due to the natural fragility of alpine soil, most areas above the tree line are off limits for campers. Keep your environmental impact to a minimum by sticking to established campsites.
Do: Practice Minimum-Impact Camping
Colorado is a stunning state, but it won't stay that way unless you do your part. Use established campsites and latrines when possible, or bury waste at least a few inches deep into the soil. Prior to leaving a campsite, check that your fire is completely out. Clean up trash or debris, and take it with you when you depart. Remember the oft-repeated saying: "Take only photos, leave only footprints."
Nothing compares to the wonder of a sunrise over the Colorado Rockies. Do your part, and this sight will remain just as stunning for future campers.