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Summer Safety Guide to North Park

North Park is easily one of the most undeveloped regions of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. This is why so many people fall in love with its rugged beauty and simpler way of living. Without the traffic and sprawl of the cities (and even the resort towns) visitors have an unobstructed view of mountains, forests, and mountain lakes as far as the eye can see. With so much beautiful scenery, and things to see and do, it’s important to keep safety in mind when visiting North Park. If you find yourself in an emergency situation, call 911 for Fire, Ambulance, and Police. We want you to have a safe and enjoyable time in Jackson County!

Road Safety in North Park

From earlier posts, you might think that moose are the most dangerous thing about visiting North Park. Most fatalities from locals and visitors to North Park happen on the roads. Those winding highways might make you feel like you are whipping around turns in an expensive car commercial, but mountain driving can be dangerous, even for the most seasoned driver.

Speed Kills

Driving too fast accounts for many serious accidents in the Colorado mountains. Narrow roads and soft shoulders can be a deadly combination even on straightaways. Going too fast is one of the biggest culprits to accidents in North Park. 

Animal Strikes

Moose aren’t just dangerous to approach on foot. They can lead to serious damage if they are hit by a car. All sorts of animals are often seen crossing our roads, as North Park is still very much a wild place. Whether it is moose, deer, or even open range cattle grazing on the road, going too fast limits your reaction time and ability to stop.

Collisions with other vehicles

Not all drivers stay in their own lane, or slower moving vehicles could seem like they came out of nowhere when coming out of a blind corner in the woods.

Slow moving farm equipment: North Park is an agricultural region, with working ranches that use the highways to transport their vehicles from place to place. 

Mountain Driving 

Weather conditions can turn a lazy afternoon into a challenging driving experience, even in summer. During sudden thunderstorms, rain, hail—and yes, even snow—roads can become icy and visibility limited to just a carlength or two ahead. There’s no shame in driving slowly or carefully in serious weather. Use hazard lights if you are driving slowly, or simply use a turnout or side road to wait out the weather.

Cell Phones and Other Distractions

Much of North Park has poor cellular service—if any. So staying off your mobile device shouldn’t be that much of a challenge. Stick to the speed limits, eliminate distractions, and enjoy the drive. If you are enjoying a snack on the road, take the time to stop. Walden has a few parks with picnic tables to enjoy your lunch. If you find yourself distracted by the natural beauty of our mountains and forests, find a safe place to stop and take it all in. There’s no rush in North Park.

Off-Road Safety

A major draw to Jackson County is easy access to public lands, especially for OHVs. From sand dunes to four-wheeling roads in the mountains, visitors and locals alike love to play in the dirt. At high points in the season, however, serious accidents happen more often than anyone wants. Riding responsibility, with protective gear and a clear head can cut those numbers down to almost nothing.

Don’t Drive Under the Influence

Like any motor vehicle, it is unlawful to ride under the influence of substances. Beer, liquor, and yes that other stuff Colorado is famous for can reduce your reaction times and cloud your judgment. It’s illegal for a reason—your safety and the safety of others.

Following too Closely

When people get together on the side-by-sides, motorcycles, and ATVs, they like to ride in packs. Nothing is as thrilling as being on a straightaway and opening up the throttle, until the person you are following is stopped in the middle of the trail. Collisions with other riders is all too common, and usually results in serious spine and neck injuries. 

Fences and Obstacles

There are thousands of miles of barbed wire strung throughout North Park. Not only is it marking off property boundaries, but also keeping livestock where they need to be. Fencing can be hard to see, especially if you are going fast, or cutting across a forest. Trees, stumps, and even collapsed mines can be an invisible hazard you won’t even notice until it’s too late. Drive at a safe speed and most of all, PAY ATTENTION to your surroundings.


A lot of public land access relies on private land owners who have offered roads for visitors to travel into National Forests and BLM areas. Not all roads in North Park are access roads. Crossing into private lands without permission is trespassing. Private land is often cordoned off for your safety. Livestock, heavy equipment, and other hazards can be dangerous. Make sure you are on public roads before you go.

Fire! Fire!

Just a few years ago, thousands of acres of North Park forest and plains were burned during the fires of 2020. These areas are still making a recovery, but we aren’t out of the woods yet—pun intended. North Park and most of Colorado is still reeling from a decades-long drought, and mild winters, which resulted in a pine beetle infestation. Our forests were decimated by these invasive species. The standing dead trees are ideal for fires, and much of that deadfall has yet to be cleared today.


Wildfires are a naturally occurring phenomenon, usually due to lightning strikes. Forests and fire have had a symbiotic relationship since the beginning of time, with some trees, such as the lodgepole pine requiring fire to germinate seeds. There is just too much deadfall now, and when fires come, they burn too hot and literally scorch the earth.

Humans and Fires

Careless fire use, such as improper campfire building, discarded cigarettes, and sparks from motor vehicles have caused many fires with devastating consequences. Careless campers have been known to leave campfires burning unattended, or simply driving off without putting them out at all.

Fire Bans in Colorado

Observe fire bans when they are in place—usually mid to late summer. For campfires, use provided fire rings in established campgrounds. For wild camping and dispersed camping, stick with camp stoves or cold camping if possible. Make sure your fire is dead out before you leave and cool to the touch. Use plenty of dirt and water. The embers of a campfire can smolder for days at a time, even under a blanket of snow!


From BBQ grills to heaters, stoves, and other equipment, propane makes camping a more comfortable and enjoyable experience. Propane fires are some of the biggest culprits of fires in the mountains, usually due to worn out or damaged equipment. Always inspect your propane tanks and accessories before using.

Water Safety

Though North Park doesn’t really have recreational boating lakes (most of our lakes have no-wake restrictions), getting in the water is one of our favorite ways to enjoy hot summer days. From fishing, rafting, canoeing, tubing and swimming out rivers, lakes, and streams are loads of fun. Here are some things to keep in mind if you plan to spend your days on the water. When boating, always use personal floatation devices, and never go boating or swimming alone.


Rivers and streams can be deeper and swifter than they appear. River currents can pull swimmers into undercuts and serious injuries can happen on rapids. Before you venture into the water, be sure you have the proper safety equipment and training before even getting your feet wet. Here are some other things to know about swimming in cold mountain water.

Cold Water and Hypothermia

Our waters come straight out of the mountains and glaciers of the mountains surrounding North Park. This means temperatures can be extremely cold and reduce body temperature rapidly. Hypothermia can set in quickly, whether you’ve just waded through a cold creek on a hike, or are fishing in a belly boat. 

Signs of Hypothermia

Here are some signs to look for in case of hypothermia

  • Flushed skin
  • Blue or purple lips
  • Dusky fingernails
  • Uncontrollable shivering 
  • No longer shivering
  • A feeling of excessive warmth
  • Hallucinations

What to Do In Case of Hypothermia

Hypothermia usually happens when you can no longer regulate your body temperature and it has reduced to a dangerous low. It is important to raise your temperature back to healthy levels again.

  • Change into dry clothes: Wet clothes cannot retain heat as well as dry clothes
  • Find a heat source: Outside heat can help reverse the hypothermic process. Campfires, heaters and even a warm shower or bath will take the chill off in a hurry.
  • Drink hot or warm fluids: Coffee, tea, or other hot beverages can help warm you up from the inside
  • Drink water: Dehydration can lead to hypothermia. 
  • Space blankets/sleeping bags: Emergency blankets and sleeping bags can help trap heat to allow your body to warm up.
  • Huddle together for warmth: The warmth from other people might be needed to help your body regulate its heat again. 
  • Call 911: EMS might be required to administer IV fluids and other safe methods of raising your body temperature.

Drinking Water

Our creeks and springs might appear to be pristine, but some of them might contain some serious critters you don’t want. To reduce infection by water-borne illnesses, such as giardia, always purify your water before drinking. This can be done with a filtering device, iodine tablets, or boiling your water.

What is Pink Snow?

Up in the high country, you might see snow banks that are pink in color. The snow will probably smell like watermelon too. This phenomenon is caused by a “bloom” of algae. These microscopic life forms, react to sunlight and produce chemicals that are unsafe for humans. Ingesting these diatoms can make you very sick, so please don’t eat the red or yellow snow.

Ticks and Mosquitos

Summer visitors to North Park will no doubt enjoy interactions with some of our locals, with the exception of ticks and mosquitos. Nothing can ruin your day worse than being chewed up by these blood suckers. Use insect repellent to keep these biters away from you and your pets. Though blood-borne diseases spread by ticks and mosquitos are extremely rare in North Park, it is much better to be safe than sorry. 

Protect Yourself from the Sun

At altitude, there is less atmosphere to protect you from the harmful effects of solar radiation. Always use sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or higher when going into the sun. On the water, snow, and even the woods, you can quickly become sunburned. Hiking and swimming tend to wash off that layer of protection, so you should reapply sunscreen regularly. Exposure to the harsh rays of the sun in the mountains not only contributes to skin cancer, but can cause second degree sunburns! Get protected and stay protected.

First Aid and Serious Injuries

Before venturing into the wilds of North Park, be sure to have a first aid kit stocked and ready for use, as well as some training on how to use it. Even minor injuries can become more serious if left untreated. For serious injuries, call 911. Walden has the only medical clinic within 60 miles, with the nearest hospitals in Kremmling, Granby, Laramie, and Steamboat Springs. 

Enjoy Your Visit to North Park and Safe Travels!

Visiting North Park can be some of the most fun you’ve had in your life. Making sure you are having fun safely and responsibly will ensure a good time, not only for you, but everyone around you as well. Accidents happen, but our Police, Fire, and Rescue are on call to help when you need them. Call 911 if you get into trouble, and provide as much information as you can about your location. Check out this article for information about safe winter driving tips. We want our visitors to return home safe, with only the best stories of their experiences.  



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