General safety | Plan for safety | Specific tips

 General Safety Tips

  • Make sure to drink enough water to avoid dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration are headache, feelings of irritation and frustration, and more tiredness than warranted by the trip. If your headache persists after drinking plenty of water, you may have altitude sickness. Return to a lower elevation and seek medical attention if warranted.
  • Wear clothing to protect you from the elements, such as wide-brim hats for sun protection or long pants and sturdy shoes for protection from insects and sticks. Check the list of day-use gear.
  • Always let someone know where you are going and when you plan on returning.
  • Do not travel alone; take a companion with you.
  • Pay close attention to your surroundings and landmarks, and relate this to your location on a map.
  • Stay calm if you get lost. Try to remember how you got to your present location. Trust your map and compass, and do not walk aimlessly. If you are on a trail, do not leave it. Stay put if it is nightfall, if you are injured or if near exhaustion. As a last resort, follow a drainage or stream downhill. This can be hard going but will often lead to a trail or road.
  • Also follow the rules and regulations of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland.

Plan your trip for safety


  • Contact our Visitor Information Specialists to find out the latest  about recreation opportunities and any closures and conditions.
  • Review the Hazard Tree Guidelines. Remember them as you park your car, sit down to rest or picnic, pitch your tent, plan your route, etc. Look up, Look down, look all around. When travelling on forest roads and trails, be prepared to encounter fallen trees across the route. Riders of horses, ATV’s, and motorcycles should be especially alert to these potential obstacles.
  • Check the weather forecast before heading out ( Winds and moist conditions increase the hazard of trees falling.
  • Make sure someone knows where you are going, when you expect to be back and what to do if you don’t return.
  • Don’t rely only on cell phones. Cell phones don’t always have reception in mountainous areas.
  • When possible, travel in groups in your party. If one member of your party gets hurt, the others can assist and get help. Solo travel is not advised.
  • Dress for changing weather: conditions can change quickly no matter what the time of year. 
  • Pack adequate food and water and personal safety equipment.
  • Take a map, compass or other items that will help you know where you are. Plan an open and safe route. Make note of openings you can retreat to if winds become strong.
  • Falling trees aren’t the only hazard out there. Be prepared for storms, lightning, flash floods, altitude, ticks, mosquitoes and wildlife encounters.


Specific Safety Information

Altitude Sickness

  • To treat mountain sickness, rest, move more slowly, drink water, assure adequate salt from food or salt tablets, and eat high energy food. If this does not help, return to a lower elevation immediately. 


  • Make camp before dark. Give yourself about two hours of daylight to set up camp.
  • Check for potential hazards. Be sure to check the site thoroughly for glass, sharp objects, branches, large ant beds, poison ivy, bees and hazardous terrain.
  • Pitch your tent in a safe spot. Make sure your tent is made of a flame-retardant fabric, and set up far enough away from the campfire.

CORSAR (Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue) Card

  • The CORSAR card replaces what was known as the Colorado Hiking Certificate. Money generated from the sales of these cards goes to the Colorado Search and Rescue Fund, which provides reimbursement for expenses incurred during search and rescue missions. The cost is $3 for a one-year card or $12 for a five-year card. A list of CORSAR Card Vendors is available by contacting the Colorado Department of Local Affairs at (970) 248-7310.

Hazard Trees

Heat Exhaustion

  • Heat exhaustion is possible, usually at lower elevations of 5,000 to 9,000 feet. It is caused by excessive heat, exertion and dehydration. Symptoms are headache, dizziness, nausea and a "flushed" feeling. Get out of the sun, rest, drink plenty of liquids and replenish lost sodium with food or salt tablets. Try to lower body temperature.


  • Do not attempt a route that is beyond the ability of any individual in the party.
  • Before starting out, do warm-up exercises. Stretching gradually increases heart rate, temperature and circulation to your muscles.
  • Allow enough time for the return trip. Turn back immediately if fatigued or if adverse weather conditions develop.
  • Take frequent rests or vary your pace to recover from strenuous activity spurts.


  • Hypothermia can even happen in summer months. It is caused by wind, wetness, cold and exhaustion. The symptoms are uncontrollable shivering, clumsiness and incoherence. To treat a victim, provide shelter from wind and rain, and warmth in the form of extra clothing, fire, warm liquids and body heat from someone warm. To prevent hypothermia, wear proper clothing, stay dry, stop before exhaustion and know your limitations. Dressing in layers is the best prevention, and pack rain gear even for short day trips.


  • Beware of poisonous plants. Familiarize yourself with any dangerous plants that are common to the area. If you come into contact with a poisonous plant, immediately rinse the affected area with water and apply a soothing lotion such as calamine.


  • Water from streams and lakes should be considered unsafe to drink until properly treated by boiling, filtering or chemical purification. Always pack drinking water no matter how short the planned trip.


  • Check weather reports before venturing out. Always carry extra clothing, blankets, tire chains, a shovel and sand, and some non-perishable food.
  • Also monitor backcountry avalanche danger provided by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
  • Beware of lightning. Summer afternoon storms are usually electrical. Plan to be off summits and exposed ridges not long after noon. Turn back or seek shelter if you see thunderstorms building. Colorado is the state with the second most lightning strikes in the country. If caught in a lightning storm, seek shelter. Get out of the wind and do not be the tallest or most isolated figure in the landscape. Move from exposed ridges or open flats to lee sides, behind trees, rocks or other barriers. Find natural shelter in rock formations, caves, dense evergreen forest or behind large logs.
  • Do not sit or lie down in an electrical storm. These positions provide much more contact with the ground, providing a wider path for lightning to follow. If you are with a group and the threat of lightning is high, spread out at least 15 feet apart to minimize the chance of everybody getting hit.


  • Check with the Colorado Division of Wildlife for specifics.
  • Rattlesnakes are a natural part of the environment. If you hear a rattler, stop, locate the snake and move away slowly.
  • Keep your food in bear-safe containers. Put garbage in bear-proof garbage cans where available or secure it with your food and then pack it out.
  • Store toiletries with your food. Like other scents, the smell of toiletries may attract bears. .
  • Stay calm. If you see a bear and it has not seen you, calmly leave the area. As you move away, talk aloud to let the bear discover your presence. Back away slowly while facing the bear. Avoid direct eye contact as bears may perceive this as a threat.