Leaf peeping

Colorado Parks and Wildlife encourages people searching for autumn gold to peep responsibly.

As the aspen trees start to change colors, Colorado’s “leaf-peeping” season is kicking into high gear. While the stunning display of fall foliage is worthy of the annual crowds drawn to the state’s most scenic trails and parks, Colorado Parks and Wildlife reminds people searching for autumn gold to peep responsibly and balance recreation with mindful conservation.

“As we head into peak leaf-peeping season, it’s one of the busiest times of the year at our park,” said Todd Farrow, Park Manager at Golden Gate Canyon State Park. “We ask that people plan ahead, watch out for people and wildlife crossing slowly on roads and park in designated parking areas to avoid damaging vegetation.”

When heading out to the vast outdoors to find the perfect view this fall, it’s important to practice the following Care for Colorado — Leave No Trace principles to keep our landscapes colorful and clean.

Know Before You Go — To help prepare for a more enjoyable outdoor experience, check the weather and foliage conditions for where you plan to visit.

If the parking area is full, move on to the next designated parking area. Use the CPW Park Finder to explore Colorado’s 42 state parks and visit the park’s individual web page to learn about any possible park or trail closures. Have a backup plan! With the recent wildfires and mudslides, some roads and trails may be closed for safety reasons. Download the free Colorado Trail Explorer app (COTREX) to find outdoor opportunities in the surrounding areas if your desired trailhead, park or location is crowded or closed.

Stick To Trails — While it’s tempting to find a new and unique spot to photograph, or to move to areas with fewer people, it’s important for our plants, trails and visitors that you stay on the trail.

Help natural areas stay natural by sticking to designated trails. Avoid trails closed for maintenance, vegetation projects or wildlife reasons. We all love our flora and fauna, so let’s keep them healthy for future generations.

Leave It As You Find It - In this busy season, it’s especially important to 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 find the right spot by planning ahead.

Leave plants, acorns, leaves, 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 for years to come.

Trash the 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.

Put litter, dog waste, and even crumbs, peels and cores in the nearest waste/recycling bin — or pack it out in your car or backpack until you can find one.Bring an extra bag or two to help leave the area better than you found it.

Keep Wildlife Wild - While you hope to spot the perfect cascade of yellow aspens, part of your experience may include seeing wildlife on roads and trails.

To keep wildlife — and you — safe, don’t feed or approach wildlife. Wildlife is on the move so be aware, drive with caution and slow down to help prevent wildlife-vehicle collisions.Be bear-aware on trails to avoid encounters with bears. As bears start to prepare for hibernation and hunt for food, Coloradans may see more bear activity in urban areas.Dangerous conflicts between people and moose are increasing. Keep a safe distance and enjoy moose from afar. Keep dogs leashed when enjoying dog-friendly trails, and pack out waste all the way to a trash can. Do not hang waste on trees.

Share Our Trails and Parks — This is one of the busiest times of the year on our trails, so please be courteous and patient with other visitors.

Be considerate when passing others on the trail and yield to the uphill hiker and biker – they need the momentum and good etiquette is always in season.Nature belongs to all of us. Together, we can live life outside and give back to the outdoor spaces we love.

“We want everyone to have a great time experiencing the vibrant colors and the natural wonders our beautiful state has to offer,” said Farrow. “No matter where you plan to peep — be respectful of our natural resources, park staff and your fellow recreationists out searching for Colorado gold.”

To learn more about outdoor activities at Colorado state parks, visit cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo. For information on The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace, visit lnt.org/.

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