ESTES PARK, Colo. (CBS4) – Rocky Mountain National Park has released a list of tips for well-behaving guests to share with their poorly mannered friends.
Rocky Mountain was the third most visited national park in 2015, with over 4.1 million visitors. So far in 2016, it has seen a 12% increase in visitation from last year. People come to experience nature, seek solitude, watch wildlife, and partake in world class recreation.READ MORE: Snow, Rain A Welcome Sight In Colorado But Drought Still A Big Problem
The park said in a news release that most visitors know how to behave while enjoying their national parks, but there are some who do not. In an effort to educate more people about park etiquette, RMNP released some tips.
First is timing: when friends suggest visiting the park between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. — the height of tourist traffic — instead think about planning ahead. Parking lots are full, roads are congested, trails are busy, and entrances have long lines. Perhaps take your hike early or late instead, and check the weather forecast to plan around that. If possible, avoid weekends.
When your friends want to have a campfire, let them know that fire restrictions are always in place at Rocky. Campfires are prohibited except within designated rings in picnic areas. The number of illegal, escaped campfires jumped significantly last year, and the Fern Lake Fire in 2012 that burned over 3000 acres was begun by an illegal campfire.
Another guideline to follow regards parking. Do your friends create parking spaces where there are none? This is damaging to grass, meadows, bushes, and alpine tundra. Instead encourage friends to park on asphalt and gravel, in designated spots.READ MORE: Colorado Community Uses 'The Social Dilemma' To Ignite Conversation About Unity, Change
Restroom facilities can be found throughout the park, but it’s understood that sometimes they’re not always accessible. The park suggests first that “If your friend is a frequent pooper, suggest taking care of that before hiking.” But if nature calls while on the trail, leave no trace and be prepared with either a waste bag or small shovel.
When your friend asks how close you can get to an animal, suggest asking how far you can stay back while still enjoying the said elk, marmot, coyote, etc. Wildlife should be observed from a distance, the park says, and inching closer until the animal reacts will cause it to leave and ruin viewing opportunities for others. Approaching wildlife is illegal in RMNP, even if you’re doing it for a photo. “Being eight feet from an elk is dangerous, illegal, and not necessary to demonstrate an adventuresome spirit.”
If planning to bring a pet, know that they are prohibited on all park trails, tundra and meadows. Your friend can bring a leashed pet on established roads, parking areas, established campground and picnic areas. Rocky reminds visitors that the park is wilderness — dogs are predators that can chase, scare and transmit disease, or they could also become prey to larger wildlife.
Finally, when a friend wants to take something from Rocky (a rock, antler, bouquet of wildflowers, chipmunk), suggest they take a photo instead. “What if, in 2015, 4.1 million visitors took an object from the park with them?”MORE NEWS: COVID In Denver: Vaccine Focus Continues In Underserved Communities
With the amount of visitors to the national park, and the number of people moving to the Denver metro area, wilderness etiquette is becoming an issue across the state.