May 28, 2021 - News
In Colorado's mountains, expect limits and get reservations
Illustration of a tree branch with a no vacancies sign hanging off of it.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

This year, it feels like a huge "no vacancy" sign hangs on the Colorado mountains.

Driving the news: Now more than ever, public land managers are taking steps to limit human impacts on the environment, particularly in the spots most easily accessed from Denver.

  • Popular hiking destinations, including Brainard Lake and Mount Evans, now need advanced reservations.
  • Dispersed camping locations in the national forests are starting to require reservations, other areas are being converted to day-use only and large swaths remain closed from forest fires.
  • The Bureau of Land Management is limiting camping in some areas to particular sites.
  • And locations in Boulder County and elsewhere soon may impose bans to prevent long-term squatters.

What's happening: The pandemic lockdowns led to a crush of outdoor adventurers in 2020 — a 200% spike in some areas of Colorado, forest officials say — and it is expected to continue this year.

What they're saying: "No closure is taken lightly," Donna Nemeth with the U.S. Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Region tells Axios. But the influx of crowds demands a new approach. "They needed to take action, first to protect the resources but also to protect employees and visitors."

Be smart: The key this year is to plan ahead, research what areas are open and be prepared with alternatives that match capability levels, says Kate Miyamoto at the Bureau of Land Management in Denver.

  • Public land officials also encourage people to learn about the principles of "leave no trace" and follow them.

The bottom line: "It's not that there are no places to visit," says Nemeth. "It's that until it's safe to open some of the more popular spots, we're requesting people try a new area."

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