Wildlife Safety in the Colorado Rockies
If you hike when you Visit Winter Park chances are you will encounter some sort of wildlife. The Colorado Rockies are teaming with native species ranging from small chipmunks (or mini bears as some like to call them) to large black bears, moose, and bighorn sheep. To stay safe on the trail it is important to not sneak up on wildlife. The majority of attacks each year stem from animals accidentally threatened by humans or dogs.
Here are some tips for handling different wildlife situations:
When moose act aggressively they are doing it to protect themselves or their young and are trying to get you away from them. If you come across a moose on the trail keep your distance and give it time to get away. If you notice a moose is agitated by your presence, you are too close. Possible signs of an anxious and potentially aggressive moose:
- Head tossing
- Hair on neck standing up
- Whites of their eyes showing
- Urination on their legs
- Lip smacking
- *Sometimes an agitated moose will show no signs at all
- Avoid Moose – keep yourself and your family at a safe distance especially if there is a calf (baby moose) around.
- If you are too close or the moose seems agitated back away from the moose.
- If a moose charges towards you, run.
- If possible put a large tree or boulder in between you and the moose, (Moose can’t see well and sometimes hiding behind a boulder or tree is all it takes for the moose to think you’ve left).
If you get charged and trampled, continue to fight to get away from the moose and hide.
Black bears are native to the Colorado Rockies. Black bears will naturally avoid people however if you do see a black bear while hiking follow these steps to protect yourself and your family.
- Keep your distance (300 feet or more)
- Do not make eye contact (they will see that as a sign of aggression). Instead look at an angle (while keeping the bear in sight).
- Make yourself look bigger by putting your arms out to the side.
- Speak in a calm, low, voice
- If it approaches you continue to make yourself look bigger.
- If the bear attacks you, fight back using sticks, pans, rocks, or whatever you have available to you. (Most black bears you might encounter will not see you as food and will most likely run away. However, if the bear is young, injured, or hungry, it might identify you as a meal.)
- If you need to run, run in a zigzag pattern. (Their center of gravity prevents them from making the quick turns humans can and will help you in your escape.)
- Consider yourself lucky because seeing a mountain lion is extremely rare!
- Make yourself appear as large as possible – if you are with others act together to seem large.
- Make a lot of noise!
- Act like a predator – maintain eye contact, aggressively wave your arms, toss rocks or sticks. Do not turn away or run.
- Slowly create distance by backing up and giving the mountain lion room to get to where it is going, (kittens, den, prey, etc.).
- Should it attack, fight back. Protect your neck and throat. If possible utilize tools such as sticks, rocks, jackets, etc. to fight.
Bells: We recommend bells on dogs or gear to give wildlife adequate warning that humans and dogs (both predators) are in the area. Accidentally startling an animal might put the animal on the defensive and cause them to react out of fear.
Dogs: Keep dogs under voice command or on a leash. Countless moose “attacks” occur each year because dogs chased a moose and stimulated it to charge out of fear.
Go Hike: Don’t let all this talk of wildlife safety deter you from hiking. The mountains, rivers, and valleys around us are wild and spectacular. If you hike aware and safely, you will not have a problem with wildlife when you are out exploring the area.
Backcountry Colorado Mountain Huts are a fantastic, simple way to enjoy the wilderness on overnight trips. Huts exist in many forms across Colorado, the country and the world. From small shacks that provide protection from the elements to more modernized cabins for larger groups, huts are a great way to enjoy nature without a tent. In Grand County, two huts of the latter variety can be rented for any gathering of family and friends!
The Broome Hut sleeps up to 16 people and is located West of Berthoud Pass near Second Creek. The Broome Hut is about 1 mile from the trailhead with an 800 foot gain in elevation, so be prepared for a trek through the elements. It’s totally worth the hike, the surrounding area is beautiful and the stars are amazing! Get there any way you can as long as it’s not by snowmobile or another motorized vehicle.
The Broome Hut has an enclosed day use area for passers-by, including an eco-friendly composting toilet! The other 3/4 of the structure is just for overnight guests. There’s a kitchen with propane stove and pellet stoves provide heat at night. Rainwater and snowmelt provide the non-potable water for the Broome Hut. How cool is that?
Be sure to reserve your spot(s) at Broome Hut well in advance: Adult rates are $35, Children 12 & below are $17.50. Sorry, no dogs allowed. For more information or to place a reservation, click here.
High Lonesome Hut
The High Lonesome Hut sleeps up to 12 people and is located off of County Road 84 in Tabernash on the way to Meadow Creek Reservoir. High Lonesome Hut is also only accessible on foot, by cross-country ski or any other means that don’t involve a motor! There is a corral for those who travel by horse. The trail to get to the hut gains 600 feet in elevation and is 2 1/2 miles long.
High Lonesome Hut also allows passers-by to stop by for lunch- the fee is $3 per person. This hut has running water including a flush-toilet and a shower. There’s also a kitchen, dining room and wood burning stove to keep you cozy! Electricity is provided by solar power. So cool!
High Lonesome Hut charges $37.50 per night for adults, and $20 per night for those 19 and below. Alternatively, you can rent the whole hut for $350. For an additional fee, you can also get the owners to haul your gear, provide guided trips and more! Talk about peace of mind. Check out this link for more information or to reserve your spot.
It’s hunting season in the Colorado Rockies! When you hit the trails these days you might notice a lot of camps set up and even some hunters out and about walking along the back roads and trails. Just because it is hunting season does not mean that you can’t also still hike, you just have to Hike S.M.A.R.T.
Here are Some Tips to Hiking S.M.A.R.T.
(S) See and Be Seen:
For their own safety, hunters are required to wear at least 500 square inches of solid blaze/fluorescent orange on their person to remain visible from all directions when hunting. While it is not a requirement for hikers and other recreational users, it is the SMART option. Make sure you and your hiking companions are seen. You can pick up a fluorescent orange vest for $1-$5. Don’t forget your pup! There are specially made dog vests you can buy, or you can easily rig a cheap vest to fit a dog.
(M) Make Noise:
Hunting season is not the time to be tiptoeing around in the woods. Continuously make human noises, so that hunters are aware you are not an elk or deer. Whistle, chat, jingle, play music, whatever will make you heard by hunters. If you’re hiking with a dog, a bell on your dog’s collar is a great option.
Know the area you are hiking. If you are debating between hiking a trail where hunting is not permitted or a heavy hunting area during hunting season, choose the trail where hunting is not permitted. Not sure? Contact the USDA Forest Service with questions. Find information here.
Be respectful. Hunters have just as much right to be using the land as non-hunters. If you can, avoid “bushwhacking” or trekking off trail during hunting season. If you have to, go for it, otherwise stick to the trails, chances are hunters won’t be there.
While not always the case, most hunters hunt at dawn and dusk. To reduce the chance of running into hunters, hike between 10am and 4pm during hunting season. You’ll enjoy the warmest fall temperatures and chances are you’ll encounter fewer hunters.
So there you have it! When you Hike S.M.A.R.T. during hunting season, everyone will get to enjoy the forests this fall!
If you’re looking for the perfect fall hike Columbine Lake a great option!
On this hike you enjoy limited elevation gain, stunning views of the Indian Peaks Wilderness, late blooming wildflowers, and of course the teal blue of the clear mountain lake.
- Bring layers, food, water (or water purification tools), a camera, and a credit card for the fee station if you plan on hiking between Memorial day and September 15th. (The hike will take anywhere from 3+ hours so plan accordingly.)
- Proper footwear. Though the trail is defined, you will encounter roots, rocks, and boulders.
- A dog (if you have one) with a leash and doggie bags.
- A vehicle with higher suspension is recommended because the road to the trailhead has fairly large bumps and potholes. However, if you take it slow, a smaller vehicle will work.
- Take 83 off of highway 40 (as if you’re going to Devil’s Thumb Ranch).
- At the first “T” Take a left onto 84.
- Once you pass Strawberry Road (on your left), keep left at the fork, (this turns into USFS 129 and there should be a creek on your right).
- Stay on USFS 129. There will be a fee station on your left where you can purchase a pass for $5/car.
- Continue on USFS 129 and stay left at the fork before the Meadow Creek Reservoir.
- Approximately three-quarters of the way around the reservoir you will see the trailhead parking lot on the left. (There are fairly primitive bathrooms located here – the only bathrooms you’ll encounter on the hike.)
- Park, display your pass, sign in the hiking registry, and hit the trail!
The trail is approximately 8 miles round-trip and takes anywhere from 3+ hours to complete. The destination is the perfect spot to have a picnic, so plan ahead and make a day of it. The trail is rocky but well maintained and defined. Also, though there are multiple water crossings, all of them have rocks, bridges, or makeshift log bridges to use. (No one likes wet socks!)
Once on the trail keep your eyes peeled for moose and deer, especially in the meadows and forests! (My first time hiking this trail in July, I saw three big bulls and a few cows!)
About a half a mile in, you’ll see an old homestead on your right. It’s pretty cool to check out and imagine how people used to live.
The trail is slightly sloped for the first three quarters and the last leg being a more dramatic incline. The trail runs along a few meadows, the Meadow Creek at times, enters pine forests, boulder fields, next to cliffs, and waterfalls. It is a very beautiful and fairly low impact hike.
Once you get to the lake there are plenty of boulders to sit on and enjoy the view. Some people (and dogs) swim, though the mountain lake’s icy chill prevents many.
Moral of the story:
Columbine Lake is a very accessible, beautiful, and enjoyable hike for anyone looking to get out, explore, and see some of Colorado’s untouched beauty this fall. Protected by cliffs and trees, you will not encounter the cold winds that other hikes are prone to this time of year, and with the cooler temps and natural springs, a variety of wildflowers are still blooming in the meadows and creek beds, (yes even in September).
If you still need more convincing, check out the photos below. Then grab some gear and your friends and hit the trail to Columbine Lake, you’ll be glad you did!
Visit Winter Park, Colorado
Your unofficial guide to all things Winter Park and the Fraser Valley
5 Surprises What to do in Winter Park, Colorado
1. A Summer Tubing Hill
Yes, you read that correctly. A summer tubing hill! We have the only summer tubing hill in Colorado and one of only three in the county here in our own backyard! You’ll be able to enjoy tubing without the heavy gear and snow pants. When you Visit Winter Park, Colorado be sure to add this downhill adventure to your bucket list!
Located at Snow Mountain Ranch YMCA of the Rockies
2. An Experimental Forest
We are home to an experimental forest managed by the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Forest Service. Located next door in Fraser, CO this experimental forest is a 23,000-acre forest that was established in 1937. The forest focuses on researching the effects of different forest management styles on timber and water production. Take a hike in the Fraser Experimental Forest when you Visit Winter Park, it can be found down route 73 past the Fraser Rodeo grounds.
Find out more about the Fraser Experimental Forest.
Love the outdoors? Try a leaf peeping drive this fall!
3. Summer Dogsled (cart) Rides
Dogsledding in the summer? We’ve got it! Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park offers cart rides when there isn’t snow, sled rides when there is snow cover, and kennel tours year-round. Their team of nearly 80 dogs were born and raised to pull sleds and carts and just watching them work as a team you’ll realize what talented and passionate pups they are.
4. Lift-served Cross-Country Biking and Hiking
Not only is Granby Ranch is home to a fantastic downhill mountain bike park, but they also have lift-serve access to miles of cross-country biking and hiking trails. These trails range from beginner trails to expert and wind and curve along mountain vistas, through aspen forests, and end at the base of the mountain. Foot traffic enjoy free lift rides and hiking!
5. Hot Sulphur Springs
Located in nearby Hot Sulphur you’ll find Hot Sulphur Springs. As you may guess from the name, these springs are filled naturally by hot Sulphur water, originating from deep inside the earth’s crust. This historic hot springs was originally discovered by Native Americans who felt the springs were healing. William Byers rediscovered the hot springs in 1840 and decided to turn the hot springs into a resort, and named the town Hot Sulphur Springs.Read our guide for what to do in Winter Park, Colorado besides ski.