Tread Lightly – Responsible Hiking
You may be under the impression that Colorado is full of tree-huggers and hippies. The truth is, you are partially correct! Coloradans are well aware of the precious natural resources which contribute to the beauty of our great state. We know they are the main reason 86 million visitors vacationed in Colorado in 2017 alone. Mother Nature has been generous to Colorado, so we do our best to be kind in return.
As travelers the world over are discovering the joy of skiing, hiking, biking, rafting, fishing, and generally enjoying the mountains, Colorado’s tourism industry is booming. At the same time, some speculate we are “loving Colorado to death”. What does that mean? Visitors and locals alike can sometimes be so overwhelmed with the beauty of Colorado’s sites that they forget how to be responsible tourists. They may not realize their actions are negatively affecting flora, fauna, water resources and other vital aspects of the ecosystem.
As residents of the stunning Vail Valley, we at The Inn at Riverwalk encourage low environmental impact tourism. We’ve compiled a list of tips to help you join the tree-hugging movement by being a responsible day hiker.
Leave no trace. If you only remember one phrase, please choose this one. These three words unite to convey the most important principle of responsible hiking. “Leave no trace” means the trail should look just as clean when you leave as it was when you found it, if not better. Anything you bring on your trip including wrappers, snacks and yes, toilet paper, should exit the wilderness when you do. You should take only photos and memories when you leave!
Stay on marked paths. Paths were created to allow you to enjoy nature without affecting it. Stepping off the marked trail may seem innocent, but it can result in damage to animal habitats and nests and can cause harm to native plants vital to maintaining balance in the ecosystem you are visiting. The same rules apply to your canine friends. If everyone wandered off the path at will, we would be left with tracked out fields, trampled terrain and a lackluster experience. Good hiking practices will leave us with prefer pristine wilderness to be enjoyed now and for future generations.
Practice fire safety. In recent years, Colorado has been ravaged by serious wildfires. While some were started naturally through lightening, the majority of fire were started by human accident – an unattended camp fire, a spark from a bullet at a shooting range, a cigarette dropped in the brush. Be sure to educate yourself on current fire restrictions to ensure you are doing your part to protect the environment. There are 3 stages of fire restrictions in Colorado, with requirements ranging from limiting campfires to designated campsites to full closures of at-risk areas.
Pack appropriately. The weather in Colorado is as varied as the terrain. It is not unheard of to experience a 40-degree swing in temperature between early morning and late afternoon in a single day! Some suggested items for a day hike are: snacks, plenty of water, a first aid kit, a flashlight, sunscreen, a map, an extra cell phone battery, a rain jacket, extra clothing layers, and proper footwear (hiking boots with grip in the summer, crampons in cooler months when there may be snow or ice).
Respect wildlife. This one is quite simple. Look, but do not touch. Take beautiful photos and gaze endlessly upon our plants and animals, but please do not disturb them.
Purchase gear from socially and environmentally responsible companies such as Cotopaxi, Patagonia, REI co-op, and Lifestraw.
Protect Water. As our planet’s most important resource, water should be treated with respect. Here in Eagle County, much of our drinking water comes to us in the form of runoff from the mountains, which feeds into our rivers. That means your sunscreen, makeup and essential oil lotion are entering an important water source if you take a dip in a stream while hiking. While it is impossible to prevent this entirely, you can choose products made from natural ingredients, which are much less harmful if introduced to the water.
Clean your shoes between hikes. When you visit Australia, customs agents open your suitcase, remove your shoes, and clean the bottoms if they find any dirt or plants there. The reason for this is to prevent non-native species from entering their ecosystem. Here in Colorado, we don’t have professionals to check your shoes for invasive species, but we do appreciate it if you make an effort to do so yourself.
Be considerate of other hikers. We invite you to enjoy nature in a way that speaks to you. You may prefer to joyfully dance down the path, release an echoed shout into a canyon, or silently walk in nature. Whatever you do, make sure you are thinking of other hikers. When you meet a fellow hiker on the path, say hello, make room for them to pass and be respectful.
Be responsible for your personal safety. Attempt only feats you can physically and mentally accomplish. Be aware of your limits and work your way up to more difficult hikes.
We in the Vail Valley have been blessed with an abundance of natural beauty and some of the most spectacular and diverse hikes in the state. By following responsible hiking practices, we can minimize our impact on the natural world. This can help preserve and conserve the Vail Valley’s forests for years to come. Feel free to contact us with any personal tips you have to help keep Colorado beautiful!
Do you have something you want to share or add to our blog? Call or email The Inn at Riverwalk any time!
(970) 926-0606 x251 / email@example.com