Care for Colorado Leave No Trace Principles

The Care for Colorado Leave No Trace Principles were created in partnership between the Colorado Tourism Office and the Leave No Trace organization to address recreation-related impacts in Colorado. Learn more about the Care for Colorado Coalition.


Updated: March 25, 2024

Know Before You Go

  • Almost half of Colorado is public land. Learn about the area you plan to visit before adventuring out so you can enjoy and help protect the spaces we all share.
  • Colorado’s weather and scenic terrain is stunning but can change drastically. Check conditions before you depart, pack layers, sun protection and rain gear, wear appropriate footwear ... and enjoy your trip.
  • Journey to places with minimal crowds to maximize your connection with the great outdoors. Have a backup plan in case the parking lot at your original destination is full.
  • Pack reusable water bottles to stay hydrated, limit waste and save money.

Stick to Trails

  • Embrace the adventure as intended by only walking on designated trails — even if it's wet, muddy, slushy or icy. This will help avoid erosion and protect the homes of local wildlife.
  • Shortcuts and that perfect selfie can be tempting, but staying on the path will decrease your risk of injury and protect trailside plants.
  • Camping? Set up in one of thousands of designated campsites in Colorado. They boast some of the most scenic views and protect the landscapes. And remember to camp at least 200 feet from waterways to leave space for wildlife.

Leave It As You Find It

  • Enjoy discovering plants? Rocks? Historical and cultural items? Be sure to leave them as you found them so everyone can experience the joy of discovery.
  • Colorado has more than 2,000 different species of wildflowers, all with their own unique part to play in our ecosystem. Admire their beauty by taking a photo, not a flower.
  • Cleaning boots, bike tires and water crafts before and after every outing not only makes your gear last longer, it prevents the spread of harmful invasive species.
  • Colorado’s trees give us beautiful leaf peeping photos, shade on summer days, unmatched ski runs and, of course, oxygen (which at this altitude, is a big help). But the smallest carving can kill or disfigure them.

Trash the Trash

  • Pack in the beautiful views by packing out the trash and leaving a place better than you found it. And make sure not to forget the peels and cores. Just because it’s good for you, doesn’t mean it’s good for the wildlife.
  • No bathroom around? No worries. Be prepared with a disposable WAG bag (found in most outdoor stores), and conveniently pack out your waste. Alternatively, find privacy 70 steps from water and the trail, dig a 6- to 8-inch hole and then bury your business.

Be Careful With Fire

  • Build the perfect Colorado campfire (and avoid sparking a wildfire) by first making sure campfires are allowed in the area. Then, keep them small, manageable and attended. When it’s time to extinguish, make sure the embers are cold to the touch to avoid reigniting a flame.
  • Buy or gather firewood locally; it’ll save you space in your car, plus it prevents the introduction of any invasive species like the destructive pine beetle.
  • Use care when smoking anything (and we do mean anything) in Colorado’s dry climate. One of the biggest causes of fires are discarded butts.

Keep Wildlife Wild

  • Colorado is home to tens of thousands of furry, scaly and feathered creatures. To keep them — and you — safe, make sure to keep you (and your dog’s) distance. And if you’re ever unsure, follow the rule of thumb: If you can cover the entire animal with your thumb, you’re at a safe distance.
  • Everyone loves the smell of bacon (not just humans). So always store food, trash and anything with a scent in bear proof lockers, canisters or secured vehicles. This will protect you and prevent wildlife from being exposed to behavior changes, predators or even euthanasia.

Share Our Trails & Parks

  • Everyone experiences and enjoys the outdoors in different ways. Be mindful of your group's noise level so everyone can appreciate our shared spaces.
  • Yield to the uphill hiker and biker — they need the momentum. Wheelchair users and equestrians always have the right of way. 

© Leave No Trace:

Care for Colorado Coalition Partners

If you are a tourism-related business, statewide organization or a state/federal agency, join forces with the Colorado Tourism Office and Leave No Trace through the Care for Colorado Coalition to educate visitors and residents on how to protect the state's extraordinary natural and cultural resources.