Backcountry Safety

Rocky Mountain National Park Celebrates its 100th Anniversary

18969035_mWith Rocky Mountain National Park celebrating its 100th anniversary, many of you may be planning trips to the backcountry. While it’s good family fun and a healthy way to spend your vacation time, there are some very deadly dangers to consider for the unexperienced. A little preparation and awareness can prevent accidents and injuries in the backcountry, and ensure that you get to enjoy your visit.


Be prepared for every kind of weather. You do not know what kind of weather you will encounter. No one does. Mountain weather is very unpredictable, and can change drastically in a matter of minutes, several times in one day. The day may start out hot and sunny, and then a freak snow storm will set in, in the middle of summer. In the winter, sudden storms, extreme drops in temperature, and very high winds are even more common.

Be sure to wear layers, any time of year, and carry the following with you:

  • Extra water and food
  • Waterproof matches or a fire starter
  • First aid kit
  • Pocket knife
  • Real map and compass, your devices may not work
  • Flashlight
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Rain gear
  • Extra socks


  • Check on the avalanche danger for the day before you head out
  • Be aware of rockslide dangers, especially in spring when ice is thawing
  • Watch for falling trees
  • In burn areas, slopes may be more unstable than usual
  • Enjoy viewing streams, waterfalls, and lakes, but stay back from the edge
  • Do not walk out on frozen water no matter how stable or shallow it appears

Drinking Water

When enjoying a higher elevation than you are used to, you need to drink plenty of water. Never drink directly from a stream or lake. Even though the water is clean and clear, it hides a microscopic organism called giardia, and it will make you very, very ill. If you need to drink the water, boil it for a full five minutes first.

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