Colorado makes it easy to love spending time outdoors in the summer. With miles of trails through scenic forests inviting hikers and backpackers to explore. An impressive 58 mountain peaks above 14,000 feet. Mountain biking, zip-lining, and whitewater rafting await thrill-seekers, but that’s only the beginning of what Colorado offers! There’s also soaking in hot springs, camping under the stars, paddleboarding, driving scenic byways, going to summer festivals, and fly fishing on the many rivers and lakes.
Colorado’s mountain landscape provides the perfect backdrop for locals and tourists to enjoy their favorite outdoor activities. Before heading out on your next adventure, check out these tips we’ve put together to help you stay safe this summer and make the most of your Colorado experience!
Check Weather Predictions
The weather during the summer, especially at higher elevations, can change within a few minutes and be somewhat unpredictable. What could start as a bluebird morning can turn into a thunderstorm by the afternoon. When venturing into the mountains, whether camping or going for a day hike, it’s best to check the weather before you go and plan accordingly. That could mean starting a hike earlier to ensure you’re below treeline by noon or packing extra layers of clothes and appropriate rain gear.
If you find yourself caught in a thunderstorm, follow these tips to lessen the risk of being struck by lightning.
- Avoid open fields, peaks, or ridgelines.
- Stay away from tall, isolated trees or other tall objects.
- Spread out if you’re in a group and stay away from water or wet items.
Keep Wildlife Wild
One of the best things about spending time outdoors in the summer is the opportunity to see wildlife. Marmots, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, moose, elk, mountain lions, deer, and bears are all wandering through the backcountry, waiting to be spotted! This also includes the cute chipmunks and squirrels! It’s important to remember never to touch or feed the wildlife. Not only is it dangerous, but wildlife must remain wild to survive.
There are some animals you need to be more cautious about than others. We’re talking about moose, mountain lions, and bears. Colorado is home to a sizable population of these animals, and it’s not uncommon to see them when you’re out in nature (less common of mountain lions, but they’re out there!). Check out the tips below to know what to do if you encounter one of these wild animals.
- Unlike bears, moose will stand their ground even if they hear humans approaching. They can easily blend into the environment, so be aware when you’re in moose territory and view them from afar if you see them in the wild.
- If it hasn’t detected you, find a way around the moose.
- If it does see you, talk to it slowly and move away slowly.
- If you think the moose will charge, running away is okay. Try to put something solid like a tree or large boulder between you and the moose. They usually won’t chase after you.
- If a moose knocks you down, curl into a ball protecting your head and keep still. This will convince the moose you are no longer a threat, and it will move on.
- Generally, mountain lions are quiet and elusive, so the chances of running into one are low.
- Hold your ground or back away slowly. Stay standing and face the mountain lion.
- Don’t run; that will trigger the mountain lion’s instinct to chase.
- Don’t crouch down or bend over.
- If the mountain lion moves in your direction or acts aggressively, throw stones or sticks in its direction but not directly at it. Think of them as warning throws to scare the animal away!
- Attempt to appear larger by raising your arms or opening your jacket if you have one.
- Fight back if attacked, but remember mountain lion attacks are RARE!
- Most bears will avoid humans if they hear them coming, so make noise as you hike.
- Talk calmly, stand your ground, and slowly wave your arms. This will help the bear recognize you as a human. It might stand on its hind legs, but a standing bear is usually curious and not threatening.
- Do NOT run or make sudden movements. Bears can run as fast as a racehorse.
- Do not make any loud noises or screams.
- Make yourself look as large as possible.
- Move away slowly and sideways to keep an eye on the bear. Moving sideways is non-threatening to bears.
Prevent Altitude Sickness
If you’re arriving from a lower elevation, you might experience some form of altitude sickness, especially if you plan to be at higher elevations like hiking on a 14,000-foot mountain. It’s possible to prevent the throbbing headaches, weak feeling, dizziness, and nausea symptoms that come with altitude sickness before they begin.
For the first day, try to stay below 7,000 feet to give your body time to adjust to the change in elevation. Avoid strenuous activity on the first day and limit your alcohol intake during the trip. Stay hydrated and drink more water. The higher up you go, the more water you should drink!
If you experience altitude sickness, the most effective cure is to descend. Even going a few hundred feet can make a huge difference. Make sure to eat well and get plenty of rest for the symptoms to subside.
Day hikes in Colorado can be pretty laid back, but unexpected weather and emergencies do happen, and you’ll want to be prepared for them before you head out into the backcountry! The 10 essentials are a great place to start: navigation, sun protection, insulation, illumination, first-aid, fire, repair kit, nutrition, hydration, and emergency shelter.
Remember, strenuous activity at altitude requires drinking more water! To stay hydrated, bring along a hydration bladder or reusable tumbler like one of the Klean Kanteen tumblers we carry.
The sun’s rays are stronger than you think! Our higher elevations and beautiful sunny skies mean sunscreen is even more important. You can also get sun protection for your face by wearing a hat. Check out our wide selection of Colorado hats here.
Planning a backpacking trip, day hike, whitewater rafting excursion, or heading out for the weekend to camp? Stay updated on what’s going on in the area you plan to go! Many places require parking reservations, riding a shuttle to the trailhead, backpacking permits, or other restrictions. Many of these you can find online with a simple google search, but if you can’t find the information you’re looking for, a call to the area’s local ranger station can be helpful! Usually, there are signs at popular trailheads informing hikers of wildlife sightings, parking regulations, and restrictions for backcountry camping, along with general trail use information.
Wildfires are frequent in Colorado throughout the summer and are something to be mindful of before venturing out. If you plan to camp and have a campfire, check online for current fire bans and in which counties they apply to avoid fines. If you have a campfire, keep it small, manageable, and never let it burn unattended. Use an existing fire ring; if there isn’t one, make one but keep it away from tents, shrubs, trees, or other flammable objects. When putting out a fire, water it until the embers are completely extinguished.
Next time you’re heading out to enjoy the fresh mountain air, remember to follow these simple steps for a safe and enjoyable summer full of adventure.
See you on the trails!