Traveling to Colorado: Know Before You Go
So you’ve been stuck in your home for almost four months now, and you’re looking to take a trip to Colorado for a change of scenery. Well, luckily for you, scenery is something we have in abundance here, and there are plenty of ways to enjoy Colorado while still adhering to our Safer at Home practices.
COVID-19 Regulations in Colorado*
Currently, most of Colorado is under Level 2 restrictions called ‘Safer at Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors.’ What does this mean? Level 2 means that if you can stay home, you should, but you can also practice social distancing better if you’re outside in nature rather than in enclosed spaces with people outside your household. Safer at Home allows for more flexibility and freedom when it comes to recreation and small businesses, so long as everyone is safe and follows the rules.
First and foremost of those rules is to wear a mask. Wearing a mask, even a cloth one, helps reduce the spread of the virus. You should be wearing a mask any time you are out in public, and yes, this means on the trail, too. (One great tip is to wear a bandana around your neck, and pull it up over your mouth and nose whenever you see other hikers approaching.) Employees in businesses should always be wearing masks, and you should always be wearing one as well when you enter a business.
Other regulations in Colorado include basic concepts like washing and sanitizing your hands often, and maintaining six feet of physical distance between you and people outside of your immediate household whenever possible.
Level 3: Protect Our Neighbors
Starting in July, counties that can prove they meet the following criteria can apply to shift to Level 3:
- low disease transmission levels
- capacity for testing case investigation, contact tracing, and outbreak response
- hospital ability to meet the needs of all patients and handle the surge in demand for intensive hospital care.
Under Level 3: Protect Our Neighbors, communities that meet these criteria and have shown their ability to control the virus and plan for another outbreak will be able to resume hosting activities provided they are under 500 people or 50% capacity, though members of different households should still be making an effort to stay at least six feet from one another.
Most businesses are able to open under Level 2, including many restaurants. Each of these businesses will have their own way of ensuring the safety of their customers, but be prepared for majorly reduced capacities, mask and sanitary requirements, and prevention precautions. Mass gatherings are still prohibited, and bars and nightclubs have recently been closed again to in-person service as of June 30 (take-away service for food and drinks is still allowed). These businesses are responsible for meeting the state and local requirements for health and safety, and right now, that means they are responsible for enforcing the use of masks. Colorado businesses are completely within their legal rights to refuse service if you do not wear a mask, for the safety of their employees and other customers.
The Vast, Great Outdoors
Part of the very title of Level 2 is ‘the Vast, Great Outdoors,’ so it makes sense you’ll want to get out into the mountains while you’re here. Colorado’s massive system of hiking trails, mountain biking courses, fishing and boating destinations, and more are a huge draw no matter what, but this summer, they’re more popular than ever since many people don’t have other options for getting out of the house. If you’re heading out for a camping trip, please travel and camp only with other members of your household. Reserve your campsite ahead of time and note that campgrounds are limiting capacity; some of them are also limiting or restricting amenities like public restrooms, showers, playgrounds, and more.
When you’re hiking, try to choose trails that are less popular or crowded, or hit the trail early in the morning to avoid some of the midday crowds. Always do your best to give space to passing hikers or turn away from the trail as they pass you, and wear a mask on the trail, even if you only put it on when you see other people.
If you’re traveling from a different area, bring supplies with you and limit your contact with grocery stores, small shops, and gas stations in small mountain communities. This limits community spread and helps protect vulnerable small communities around Colorado from outside infections.
Colorado’s four spectacular national parks are reopening amidst the pandemic, but with restrictions in place.
- Rocky Mountain National Park is open at 60% of its maximum capacity, and by reservation only from recreation.gov. Some areas, visitor centers, and campgrounds will remain closed. Shuttles to popular trailheads are currently running, but riders should wear a mask on the shuttle to be respectful of others.
- Mesa Verde National Park is phasing its reopening in some areas of the park. The cliff dwellings are currently closed, and guided tours are canceled until further notice. Park rangers are on duty, but many facilities, trails, and attractions are closed until further notice.
- Great Sand Dunes National Park is possibly the most open of any of Colorado’s national parks. The interior of its visitor center is still closed, but campsites, trails, backpacking, and picnic areas are all open.
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison’s South Rim visitor center is closed, but park rangers have set up tables outside where they are answering questions, and limited souvenirs are available at a gift shop table. South Rim Drive, North Rim Drive, campsites, and all viewpoints are open.
Always Plan Ahead
Regulations and guidelines for managing the COVID-19 pandemic are different across the state—some counties have opted for stricter measures than the official state guidelines, and many businesses and destinations remain closed even if the county, town, or state allow them to reopen. Before striking out with your heart set on an activity or destination, check whether your destination is currently in the Level 2 or Level 3 stage of coronavirus precautions. Do your research and make sure the place is open for visitors, and check their specific rules and restrictions so you can be prepared with a mask, hand sanitizer, a small enough group, or whatever you need to be able to enjoy your trip. Note that many campgrounds, businesses, and restaurants are only open at reduced capacity, with reduced staff.
If You or Someone You’ve Been in Contact With Feel Symptomatic
Stay home. That’s it. Nothing else to it. If you feel fever or chills, a cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, new loss of taste or smell, congestion, sore throat, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea, then you should stay home. If someone in your household or someone you’ve recently come into contact with experiences these symptoms, quarantine yourself. It can take up to 14 days for symptoms to appear, but you may be contagious during that time. Even if you are healthy and your symptoms might be mild, that could not be the case for anyone you unwittingly transfer the virus to. It is your responsibility, and in your best interest, to stay home if you feel sick or think you might have COVID-19. If you need to see a doctor or go to the emergency room, call ahead to let them know you are coming, so you do not run the risk of spreading the virus any further.
In addition, if you are above the age of 65, or considered high-risk for COVID-19 due to a preexisting condition, you should stay home. We know it’s inconvenient, but you can always reschedule your visit. Colorado will be right here waiting for you, and we will welcome you (from at least six feet away, of course) when you are ready.
For more information, please visit https://covid19.colorado.gov/ or follow @GovofCo on Instagram or Twitter.
*current as of July 1, 2020
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