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Depending upon where this Memorial Day Weekend you plan to hike or camp in the national and state forests, you might just need to adjust your plans a bit. Forest managers are telling visitors that due to the persistent snowpack in many areas, some campgrounds and roads managed by the National Forest Service may not be open by this Memorial Day weekend.

Camping in sight of the Great Sand Dunes. Image courtesy of

Most of the lower-elevation forest roads and trails will be open, but at higher elevations, many may well be impassable because of mud and snow. Visitors are advised not to attempt to drive through patches of snow or over muddy areas to avoid getting stuck and prevent damaging the roads and trails.

Another rule applies for your safety and protection of our natural resources: never attempt to drive off-road around the snow drifts. Be a good land steward, turn around and try again another day.

“While our crews are already out clearing forest roads and trails, you will likely encounter downed trees,” said Rio Grand National Forest Public Affairs Officer Gregg Goodland. “Be prepared, carry a saw, and remember no chainsaws are allowed in wilderness areas. Early-season hiking on most trails will have downed trees which may make them inpassable.”

Temperature changes affect snow conditions. Hikers should be aware that they may be able to hike over the top of snow in the morning, but warm daytime temperatures can soften the snow, making it nearly impassable in the afternoon, and increasing the difficulty of your return journey.

The low and mid-elevation lakes and reservoirs are ice-free across much of the state, and the creeks and rivers are running high. Some creek crossings may be extremely dangerous.

Carefully test stream flows before attempting to wade through high water. The current may be stronger than it appears. In addition, high fluctuating stream flows are a danger. While they might have been passable in the morning, streams have the potential to strand motorists with high water during the afternoon hours, blocking your return.

There are no fire restrictions in effect in the Rio Grande National Forest and the San Isabel National Forest, but be aware that other areas, or individual fire districts, may have fire restrictions on lands they manage and follow the restrictions.

Whether it is your first or your fifteenth camping trip of the year, always remember to never leave your campfire fire unattended. Always extinguish your fires with water, using the “drown, stir, and feel” method. That includes putting it out before going to bed. Remember, if it is too hot to touch, it is too hot to leave.

Our forest service public servants encourage Coloradans and our visitors to get outside and have a fun and safe experience on our public lands this Memorial Day weekend. Below are a few resources that will help you “Know Before You Go.