Safety

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COVID-19 Precautions

Rocky is modifying visitor services to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Some facilities and events will be closed or cancelled. Check locally for current information and continue to follow CDC guidelines. As circumstances continue to change and we modify our operations as necessary, we thank you for your patience and cooperation.

When recreating, park visitors should follow local area health orders and avoid crowding and high-risk outdoor activities. Please don’t visit if you are sick or were recently exposed to COVID-19. Park staff will continue to monitor all park functions to ensure that visitors adhere to CDC guidance for mitigating risks associated with the transmission of COVID-19 and take any additional steps necessary to protect public health.

  • Keep your distance. Give others plenty of room whether you are on a trail or in a parking lot. If staying at least six feet from others is not possible, wear a cloth face covering. Wear cloth face coverings while in park restrooms.
  • Keep it with you. If you brought it, take it with you. Trash pickup and restroom facilities will continue to be limited in many park areas. Follow Leave No Trace principles.
  • Know your limits. Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the busiest search and rescue parks in the country. Many of these incidents could be avoided with visitors planning and making responsible decisions. Winter-like conditions exist in high elevation areas of the park. Bear Lake currently has 14 inches of snow. During the ongoing health crisis, it is critical to make wise choices to keep our national park rangers and first responders out of harm’s way.
  • Protect wildlife. Obey speed limits and be aware of wildlife. During the closure, due to lack of vehicular traffic, park rangers have observed more wildlife congregating adjacent to or on internal park roads.

High Water Advisory

Due to rapid snow melt, rivers and streams in Rocky are running very high. Each year, there are rescues directly associated with unprepared victims finding themselves in the water from falling while hiking, crossing streams, or scrambling on rocks. To stay safe:

  • Stay out of rivers and creeks.
  • Stay away from rock adjacent to rivers; wet rock is extremely slick.

 

Avalanche

A serene, snow-covered slope can be beautiful, silent one moment and deadly the next. Avalanches are common and occur regularly during the winter and early spring in Rocky Mountain National Park. Avoid skiing or snowshoeing in gullies, on unforested slopes and under snow cornices where avalanches could occur. Open slopes of 30 to 45 degrees can be loaded with dangerous masses of snow, easily triggered by the presence of one or more backcountry travelers. Consider attending a formal avalanche training session before beginning your trip. Be aware of changing weather that may influence avalanche conditions. Remember, avalanche danger increases during and after snow storms as well as after heavy wind storms. Always wear an electronic transceiver inside your jacket when traversing avalanche terrain and know how to use it. If you are caught in an avalanche, make swimming motions and try to stay on top of the snow. Discard all equipment and try to remain calm. Carrying the following essential items will increase your group's chances of surviving an avalanche: transceivers, portable shovels, probes, ski poles and an avalanche cord. Tragic incidents involving avalanches may be avoided using these precautions. Visit the Colorado Avalanche Information Center for additional information on avalanche safety and training opportunities.

Bears and Mountain Lions

Mountain lion and black bear sightings have increased throughout the park over the past several years. There are no grizzly bears in the park. Mountain lions are an important part of the park ecosystem, helping to keep deer and other prey populations in check, while bears are infamous omnivores which rarely kill animals of any great size for food. Although lion attacks are rare and bear attacks are even more rare, they are possible, as is injury from any wild animal. To increase your safety:

  • In campgrounds and picnic areas, if there is a food storage locker provided, use it.
  • Avoid storing food and coolers in your vehicle. If you must, store food in airtight containers in the trunk or out of sight. Close vehicle windows completely.
  • Do not store food in tents or pop-up campers in campgrounds, or in vehicles at trailheads.
  • Food, coolers, and dirty cookware left unattended, even for a short time, are subject to confiscation by park rangers; citations may be issued.
  • All coolers, even those considered bear proof (such as Yeti) must be stored or secured when the site is unoccupied or unattended.
  • Dispose of garbage in bear-resistant dumpsters and trash cans.
  • Human-fed bears usually end up as chronic problems and need to be removed - A fed bear is a dead bear.
  • In the backcountry, store food, scented items, and garbage in commercially available bear-resistant portable canisters.
  • Pack out all garbage.
  • Never try to retrieve anything from a bear.
  • Report all bear incidents to a park ranger.
  • Do not leave pets or pet food outside and unattended, especially at dawn and dusk. Pets can attract animals into developed areas.
  • Avoid walking alone.
  • Watch children closely and never let them run ahead or lag behind on the trail. Talk to children about lions and bears and teach them what to do if they meet one.

What should you do if you meet a black bear?
Never approach a bear. Keep children beside you. There is more safety in numbers; it is best to travel in a close group. If a bear approaches you, stand up tall, and make loud noises- shout, clap hands, clang pots and pans. When done immediately, these actions have been successful in scaring bears away. However, if attacked, fight back! Never try and retrieve anything once a bear has it. Report all incidents to a park ranger.

What should you do if you meet a Mountain Lion?
Never approach a mountain lion especially one that is feeding or with kittens. Most mountain lions will try to avoid confrontation. Always give them a way to escape. Don't run. Stay calm. Hold your ground or back away slowly. Face the lion and stand upright. Do all you can to appear larger. Grab a stick. Raise your arms. If you have small children with you, pick them up. If the lion behaves aggressively, wave your arms, shout and throw objects at it. The goal is to convince it that you are not prey and may be dangerous yourself. If attacked, fight back! Generally, mountain lions are calm, quiet, and elusive. The chance of being attacked by a mountain lion is quite low compared to many other natural hazards. There is, for example, a far greater risk of being struck by lightning than being attacked by a mountain lion. Report all incidents to a park ranger.

Burned Areas

When in recently burned areas like Forest Canyon, Spruce Canyon, trails in the Fern Lake-Cub Lake area, and Moraine Park, be alert for:

  • falling trees and limbs, especially during periods of wind
  • unstable slopes and rolling material such as logs and rocks
  • burned out stump holes
  • areas that may still be smoldering or burning
  • bridges or other trail structures that may be damaged

Off-trail travel is not recommended in burned areas.

Climbing

This activity requires extensive training, skill, and proper equipment. Do not attempt to rock climb or scramble up steep slopes unprepared.

Elevation

Altitude sickness affects many visitors every year. Symptoms include headache, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, vomiting, and even unconsciousness. Altitude can also aggravate pre-existing conditions like heart and lung disease. Take your time, drink water, eat, and rest. The only cure for altitude sickness is to go down to a lower altitude.

Falling Trees

Falling trees are an ever-present hazard when traveling or camping in the forest. Be aware of your surroundings as trees can fall without warning. Be particularly watchful when it's windy or following a snowstorm when branches are covered with snow. Avoid parking or camping in areas where trees could fall.

Hypothermia

At Rocky, all four seasons can happen in a single day. Don’t let cold, wet weather ruin your trip. Bringing a few extra clothing items will keep you more comfortable and safe. Hypothermia can happen any time of year. Watch for sleepiness, impaired judgment, lots of shivering, and slurred speech.

Lightning

Lightning regularly strikes in Rocky. No outdoor place is safe when lightning strikes. Check the forecast before heading out. Watch for building storm clouds. Plan activities so you can quickly return to your car if a storm begins. If hiking, plan to return to the trailhead before noon. Return to the trailhead immediately if you hear thunder.

Mountain Weather

A bright, sunny day can turn windy and wet within a matter of minutes with high winds and driving rain or snow. Be prepared for changing conditions and carry these essentials; raingear, map and compass, flashlight or headlamp, sunglasses and sunscreen, matches or other fire starter, candles, extra food and water, extra layers of clothing, pocketknife, and a first aid kit.

Snow and Ice Fields

Stay back from steep snow slopes and cornices. Snow avalanche danger is often high. Ask a ranger about current avalanche potential. Know how to recognize dangerous snow conditions.

Streams, Lakes and Waterfalls

Streams, lakes, and waterfalls can be deadly. Park waters are frigid. Powerful currents can knock you over and pull you downstream or underwater, where you may become trapped. Streamside rocks are often slippery, and nearby water may be deep. Always closely supervise children around all water but especially near rivers and streams. Water from lakes and streams isn’t safe to drink unless you treat or filter it first.

Wildlife

Keep a safe distance from wildlife—it’s the law. Never feed wildlife, including birds and chipmunks. It’s illegal. It makes the animals unhealthy. You could be bitten, scratched, kicked, thrown, or trampled. If you see a bear or mountain lion, stop, stay calm, and back away. Never turn your back or run away. Stand tall and raise your arms to look large. Pick up small children.

Last updated: May 26, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

1000 US Hwy 36
Estes Park, CO 80517

Phone:

(970) 586-1206
Through winter, the Information Office is open 8:00 am–4:30 pm Mon–Fri. Recorded Trail Ridge Road status: (970) 586-1222.

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