A few leaf-peeping tips: Plan ahead, avoid illegal parking and don’t carve up the trees

A branch filled with golden aspen leaves frames an autumn scene on Rabbit Ears Pass on Sept. 28, 2022.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Colorado’s “leaf-peeping” season has begun as patches of color are beginning to paint trees across the state.

As a result, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is encouraging state park visitors to help protect the natural resources while enjoying them.

Know before you go

The fall season can be busy at Colorado state parks, and parking lots can fill up fast. If a parking area is full, people should move on to the next designated parking area and follow instructions given by park rangers.

Park rangers can issue parking tickets to people who park illegally or block traffic. CPW also recommends having a backup plan if your desired trailhead, park or location is crowded or closed.

Use CPW’s Park Finder Tool to see a Colorado state parks map. To learn more about outdoor activities at Colorado state parks, visit

Stick to trails

Shortcuts can be tempting, but staying on the path will decrease your risk of injury and protect trailside plants and local wildlife, according to CPW. People can also download the COTREX app to discover Colorado’s extensive network of trails.

Leave it as you find it

Parking in designated areas is critical because undesignated parking can destroy vegetation, ignite wildfires in dry grass and block first-responder vehicles in case of an emergency. Also, people can help keep the trees thriving by not carving into them or pulling down branches that may kill or disfigure them.

Keep wildlife wild

Many species call Colorado home, making it a great destination for wildlife watching on state park trails. Protect yourself and your loved ones from potential wildlife conflicts by watching wild animals from a safe distance to avoid startling or forcing them to flee.

People should also keep dogs leashed when enjoying dog-friendly trails and put waste bags in a trash can. Do not hang waste on trees or put waste bags in toilets.

Do not feed or approach young wildlife and be bear aware on trails. If you see wildlife that appears sick or injured, leave it alone. Call a Colorado Parks and Wildlife office and consult a trained wildlife officer for guidance.

“We want everyone to have a great time experiencing the vibrant colors and the natural wonders our beautiful state has to offer,” said Todd Farrow, park manager at Golden Gate Canyon State Park. “No matter where you plan to explore this fall, please respect our natural resources, park staff, volunteers and fellow recreationists out searching for Colorado gold.”

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