Medical & Safety Alerts
Rock slides are a mountain
danger that should not be overlooked. Make sure you
test every step before putting full weight down in
any spot that has loose rock, especially on the
steeper slopes. Use of common sense should prevail
Similar to rock slides, avalanche danger
should not be ignored, especially for skiers and
snowmobilers, but hikers are not exempt. If you are
hiking in areas where there is avalanche danger take
the necessary precautions. Check with a park ranger
or other authority that is familiar with the area
you are thinking about hiking in for details and
Later in the season, avalanches may not be
such a threat, but the temptation to slide down or
otherwise play in snow fields can be quite
dangerous. At times snow fields can become almost
pure ice, sometimes under a deceptively thin layer
of what appears to be just loose snow. Footing can
be deceptive, and one slip can take you downhill
much farther than you may want to go. If you must
cross a snowfield on your hiking trail, access the
situation carefully before you start across. What is
the angle of the slope? Where does the snowfield
end? Does it end at the edge of a cliff, a jagged
rock field, a cold mountain lake, or other hazard?
If so, be extremely careful or look for another
route. Test each step carefully if you must cross.
Make sure each foot is firmly planted with each
If you find a small snowfield that does not
present the dangers mentioned above, maybe one that
gently comes to an end in a clearly visible gentle
slope, feel free to take a slide or make your snow
angels, but even at that make sure you know exactly
where you're going to stop before committing
yourself to the forces of physics and gravity. Also,
forget that getting wet can be quite uncomfortable,
if not dangerous, should the weather suddenly turn
cooler. Are you dressed to stay dry?
In the mountains, a clear sunny day can
quickly become stormy, bringing lightning, hail, and
snow at higher elevations. Since storms often
develop by early afternoon, plan hikes so you reach
the highest point before noon and descend soon
after. Always take rain gear!
When thunderstorms approach, avoid
mountaintops, ridges, open areas, tall or lone
trees, rocky overhangs, streams, ponds, or puddles.
If you are caught in the open when lightning is
imminent, squat with your hands on your knees, keep
your head low, and wait for the storm to pass.
Hikers should plan to be below tree-line by early
afternoon to avoid lightning.
If you feel a tingling sensation or your
hair standing on end, or you hear crackling
electricity, a lightning strike is imminent. Should
this happen, immediately crouch with your hands on
Afternoon thunder and lightning storms
frequently occur in the Rockies. You can recognize
approaching storms by observing changes in wind
direction and velocity, darkening clouds and sounds
If you are unable to descend to tree-line
before a storm breaks, stay off ridges and higher
rocks, avoid streams, puddles and overhangs, caves,
or large isolated trees.
Wildlife here should be respected and
viewed from a safe distance of at least 25 yards.
Take wildlife photos with zoom lenses. Respect even
the smaller animals by not feeding them. Remember
that even small, seemingly harmless animals can still
inflict nasty bites, especially to smaller children
and can carry diseases. Fines can be issued for
feeding the animals or for otherwise disturbing
wildlife from any distance.
Special precaution should be taken for
bears. Never approach them for any reason. If you
are lucky enough to spot one, enjoy it from a
distance and use zoom lenses to photograph. Do not
store food in tents. Store food in airtight
containers in the trunk of your car and do not leave unattended. If
backpacking away from your car, check with park
rangers for recommendations on storing your food so
that it never becomes a problem.