Elevation Outdoor’s guide to responsible recreation during pandemic restrictions and regulations.
It’s going to feel a lot different out there this summer. Most, if not all of our favorite organized events—river festivals, concerts, endurance races, art shows, and everything in between—are canceled through the fall. And even getting away from it all with family (and maybe friends, if you choose) will look rather different this year.
Regulations and suggestions change every day, and more and more people are taking to the open road. It’s understandable. We’re all antsy to get out and explore the mountains we call home. We fully understand how important playing outside is for our physical and mental health, but we still have a duty to recreate responsibly and limit the impact we have on other people, nature, and small mountain communities. Here are a few tools to help.
STAY CLOSE TO HOME
We know, this one is tough. Trust us. We are bubbling out of our pots, too. But even though restrictions are lifting, we believe the most compassionate thing to do is continue to explore local trails and natural areas while avoiding high-risk activities. Guidance suggests that staying within 10 miles of home and limiting travel for recreation is critical to reducing COVID-19’s spread and minimizing the strain of visitors on other communities, SAR, and emergency responders. Read more here: bit.ly/2XlO7s1.
STAY UP TO DATE
If you decide to venture out, make sure you know the rules for wherever you’re headed.
Regulations vary from county to county; click your destination on this Safer-At-Home map (counties.coloradogeodev.com/safer.html) to find out what restrictions are in place.
Keep track of trail closures, so you can plan adventures accordingly with the Colorado Trail Explorer (COTREX) app (trails.colorado.gov), which now visually depicts closures or alerts when you view details about a trail, trailhead, or visitor center. Through COTREX, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, with help from local, state, and federal partners, is monitoring trail-related COVID-19 closures across Colorado on a daily basis.
Curious which state parks are open and/or if there are any restrictions? Visit the CPW Park Finder map (bit.ly/2zrsT3P) and click on your specific park to to learn about restrictions and other information.
Colorado’s national parks plan to reopen in phases. Rocky Mountain NP will begin allowing visitors on May 27, with limited campground occupancy beginning June 4. Sand Dunes NP plans to begin its first phase on June 3. However, nothing is set in stone since the statewide Safer at Home order, which is set to expire on May 27, could always be extended. Get info on all of Colorado’s national parks and monuments here: nps.gov/state/co/index.htm.
Crowd limits and camping restrictions, like Rocky Mountain National Park’s decision to limit capacity at campgrounds and on shuttles, will mean you will need to plan well in advance and commit to being flexible. Popular parking lots and recreation spots may be closed if they reach capacity, so visit at less popular times and get off the beaten path to avoid crowds. If you do encounter a crowded trailhead, overlook, or spot of interest, head elsewhere and come back another time.
Camping, hiking, paddling, fishing, and biking are great ways to socially distance in these times, but getting outdoors responsibly requires more thinking ahead. Restrooms and trash receptacles may be closed; bring our own TP, hand sanitizer, a portable toilet, and trash bags, and pack out everything you bring in. Bring everything you need to cook your meals, eat them, and properly dispose of leftover waste.
No matter what the regs are, do your part by getting all supplies at home (fill your tank, buy all your food, cleaning supplies, hygiene items, etc.) and limit stops on the way to your campsite or destination. By traveling to the great outdoors, recreating, and returning conscientiously, you not only minimize the risk of infecting others or acquiring the virus and bringing it home, but you also leave critical services and supplies for the people who need them, in the towns you pass through. If you must visit an establishment, wear a mask and follow distancing guidelines.
It seems like a no-brainer, but it needs to be said. Regardless of your opinions about how we should be dealing with this as a nation, a state, a county, or an individual, one thing is clear: we are all humans and this is new—and stressful—for all of us. Focus on what unites us—our passion for getting out in nature. A little kindness, patience, and love go a long way in these stressful and odd times.
Cover Photo: It may be hot and annoying, but it’s the righht thing to do. / Photo by Ryan Michelle Scavo