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Father and son with a mountain vantage point near Snowmass, Colorado

10 Ways to Be A Respectful & Sustainable Hiker

Visiting Aspen Snowmass in the summer can’t help but ignite your adventurous spirit. As you sample some of the wonderful hiking trails in the surrounding wilderness, it’s good to keep in mind that you are both a visitor and a caretaker. Not only are you sharing our precious federal land with other humans, you are sharing it with many other species.

Susan Linden

“Spending time in nature is good for our physical and mental health, but we can’t do it at the expense of other living things we are sharing the community with,” said Jim Kravitz, Director of Naturalist Programs at Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES). His organization's mission is to educate locals and visitors about environmental responsibility. Throughout the summer, ACES leads nature hikes on top of both Aspen Mountain and Snowmass.

Here are some tips on how to be respectful and sustainable on the trails.

1. Stay on the Trail

Hiking in the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness east of Aspen, Colorado.

Hiking in the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness east of Aspen, Colorado.

Mountain vegetation is unique and fragile due to the high elevation, short growing season, and extremes in weather. By staying on the designated trails you protect what takes so long to mature. As tempting as it may be, don’t cut the switchbacks and trample the flora that needs to survive.

2. Yield to Uphill Hikers

Uphill hikers have the right away, so as you are headed back down from a hike and come upon heavy breathing uphill traffic, step aside. Horses also have the right of way – move calmly off the trail to prevent spooking the horse and causing an injury.

3. Let Faster Hikers Pass

If faster hikers approach, let them pass. They may be hiking a longer distance requiring a faster pace. If you are the speedier one, announce yourself early and do it in a way that doesn’t frighten the hiker ahead.

4. Pack Out What You Pack In

Never litter. Even those biodegradables are a no-no. Orange peels, apple cores, and pistachio shells stay around for a very long time. Remember: “Leave no trace.”

5. Don’t Pick The Wildflowers

Responsible Hiking, Environmental Friendly Tips from Aspen Snowmass

Responsible Hiking, Environmental Friendly Tips from Aspen Snowmass

Leave the wildflowers for others to enjoy. Some are protected by law, others will not reproduce if picked. They look better in nature anyway.

6. When Mother Nature Calls

Should Mother Nature call on you and you need to step off the trail, be sure to move to a spot 200 feet from a lake or creek. We need to protect the wild water, too.

7. Leash Your Dog

Dogs running free can frighten people, horses, and wildlife. The law requires dogs to be leashed within wilderness areas. And, always carry out those doggie poop bags, as well!

8. Keep The Wildlife Wild

Feeding wild animals “people” food can cause them to have serious health problems. What’s more, it makes wild animals lose their natural fear of people. Feeding can make large, potentially dangerous animals become too comfortable around humans. Once animals learn they can panhandle for food, they can become a nuisance or a safety risk.

9. Maintain A Quiet Presence

You will see more mammals and birds in their natural habitats with lowered voices, whispers, and silence. A hushed voice is just more befitting of the natural environment and enables others to enjoy it, as well.

10. Act With Kindness

From the parking lot to the summit, being cordial to your fellow hikers is key to everyone's enjoyment in the outdoors. Offering a smile to someone passing by can go a long way. After all, mountain exploration is uplifting and you are sharing the experience.