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13 Hacks for Better Spring Outdoor Adventures

Spring in Colorado is an exciting time for outdoor enthusiasts. As the snow begins to melt and the days get longer, the mountains call to us with the promise of adventure. However, spring also brings challenges like unpredictable weather, lingering snow, and muddy trails. Snow is possible all year-round above the treeline, and April is the second snowiest month of the year in Colorado.

Here are 13 tips to enhance your hiking, backpacking, climbing, and camping experiences during this transitional season.

Table of Contents

1. Microspikes Are a Must

During spring, trails can be icy in the morning and turn to slush by the afternoon. Microspikes provide essential traction on icy patches and can prevent slips and falls. They’re easy to attach to most hiking boots and are compact enough to stow away when not needed. Make sure they fit your boots snugly before you hit the trail.

2. Start Early to Beat the Mud

As temperatures rise throughout the day, what was once a frozen trail becomes a muddy mess. Starting your hikes early takes advantage of the overnight freeze, offering firmer ground and easier walking conditions. This strategy not only keeps your boots cleaner but also preserves the trail from excessive wear.

3. Waterproof Your Gear

Spring showers can come unexpectedly in the Colorado mountains. Ensure your clothing, tent, and backpack are either waterproof or protected by waterproof covers. Waterproof boots are particularly important, as they keep your feet dry and warm, crucial for comfort and preventing blisters.

4. Dress in Layers

Temperature swings are a hallmark of spring. Dressing in layers allows you to adapt to fluctuating temperatures and conditions throughout the day. Your base layer should wick moisture away from your body, while your outer layer should block wind and wet conditions. Don’t forget a warm, insulating layer just in case.

5. Check Trail Conditions

Checking the latest trail conditions before you depart can save you from unexpected obstacles. Local hiking forums, park websites, and social media groups are excellent sources for recent trip reports and advisories. This can inform you about trail closures, snow levels, and much more.

6. Pack Out What You Pack In

The melting snow often reveals litter that has been buried all winter. Always carry a small trash bag to pack out your trash and any other litter you find along the trail. This includes seemingly harmless items like fruit peels and nut shells, which can take years to decompose.

Educate yourself on minimizing environmental impact with the Leave No Trace online course. Take the Course

7. Take Advantage of Pre-Permit Season Access

Many areas get busy in the summer months and require permits, but do not require them during the autumn, winter, and spring. For example, you can climb Mount Whitney in California before the summer lottery system if the snow melts out early. It is also easier to snag a campsite at busy national parks, where sites usually get reserved months in advance during the summer.

8. Plan for Shorter Days

Don’t overestimate how far you can travel in a day, especially when conditions might slow you down. Plan shorter routes to ensure you’re back before dusk, and always inform someone of your plans and expected return time.

9. Learn Basic Snow Navigation

With trails still blanketed in snow, basic snow navigation skills become essential. Understand how to read a topographic map and use a compass or GPS device to find your way. Practice these skills in safer environments if you’re not confident. If you plan to cross steep snowfields, get an ice axe and learn how to self-arrest a fall before you try using it in the field.

10. Respect Seasonal Trail Closures

Trail closures during spring often occur to prevent trail damage or protect wildlife during sensitive times. Always respect these closures, as they help maintain the environment and wildlife habitats for future enjoyment.

Access vital information on trail conditions and wildlife encounters on the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website. Visit CP&W

11. Be Mindful of Stream Crossings

The water level of rivers and streams rises during spring when the snowmelt increases and floods riverways. In some places, trails become impassable and crossings dangerous or deadly. Make sure you know how to safely cross waterways. Remember that water levels peak during the mid-afternoon and are at their lowest during the early morning before the sun warms the snow again.

12. Be Prepared for Rapid Weather Changes

The weather in Colorado’s mountains can change swiftly in the spring, bringing unexpected snow, rain, or hail. Always pack essential weather gear like a storm shell, extra warm layers, and sun protection to adapt quickly to weather changes.

13. Use Trekking Poles

Trekking poles not only provide stability on uneven, muddy, or snowy terrain but also help assess the depth of snow or mud puddles before you step in. They can reduce the impact on your knees and legs during long descents and are invaluable during stream crossings.

13 Spring Hacks for Better Outdoor Adventures: Now You Know!

By following these tips, you can enjoy Colorado’s beautiful spring season more safely and comfortably. Remember, the key to a successful spring adventure is preparation and respect for the changing conditions. Safe travels on the trails!

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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