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.
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.
Park visitors should be aware of additional hazards when recreating in burn areas including:
Off-trail travel is not recommended in burned areas.
This activity requires extensive training, skill, and proper equipment. Do not attempt to rock climb or scramble up steep slopes unprepared.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
What should you do if you meet a black bear?
What should you do if you meet a Mountain Lion?
Plague is a disease caused by a bacterium that can be found among wildlife and in rare cases, occur in humans when humans and wild rodents come into contact. Rats, prairie dogs, chipmunks, ground squirrels, and other small mammals are the carriers of the plague organisms. Humans become infected by being bitten by a flea that has previously fed on a carrier mammal or by coming into close contact with an infected animal.
Clinical signs of plague depend on the mode of transmission and can develop 2-6 days after exposure. Infections in humans and animals can be fatal without early treatment by a physician. Symptoms include, swelling at the bite site, swollen or ulcerating lymph nodes/glands, fever, chills, aches, cough, pneumonia, and systemic illness.
Last updated: October 6, 2021