Photo Credit: Michael Underwood. Visit michaelunderwoodphotography.com for more.

Colorado-based photographer Michael Underwood captured alpine tundra struggling to survive from the impacts of overcrowding and it's a sad sight to see.

As summer hikers crowd fourteener trailheads and other high-alpine hikes in Colorado, some have been spotted ignoring the ethics of "Leave No Trace" by crushing fragile alpine tundra with carelessly parked vehicles and off-trail footsteps.

Shocked by what he saw, Underwood took to Facebook to share a series of photographs stating, "This isn’t acceptable. If we don’t treat these places with respect, they won’t be here next year. Park in an established spot and never drive off road. Stay on trail, walk with care, and don’t trample flowers, your photo or mine is never worth it. Dispose of your waste properly. Camp with as little impact as possible."


Photo Credit: Michael Underwood.

As Colorado's population has grown, alpine meadows and mountain peaks have seen increased numbers of visitors. While many high country visitors aim to leave these natural areas as they found them or better, others are more careless. Actions including leaving trash behind, driving on fragile tundra, and trampling terrain off-trail can result in damages that stick around for years.

If you're in the high-alpine backcountry, try to have as little impact as possible. Find a few examples in this article that show how terrain can be damaged.


Photo Credit: Michael Underwood.


Photo Credit: Michael Underwood.


Photo Credit: Michael Underwood. 

Colorado Parks and Wildlife are also encouraging hikers to spread out to "avoid creating crowds around trailheads. Adjust your outdoor recreation plans and use COTREX to find another local trail option."

According to Underwood, authorities will be increasing their patrols in hopes to enforce the rules and educate visitors on protecting these high altitude areas.

Editor's Note: Keep Colorado beautiful by making sure you practice Leave No Trace on each and every one of your outdoor adventures. Do your part by parking only in designated areas, staying on trail, and packing out all your trash.

Breanna Sneeringer writes about news, adventure, and more for OutThere Colorado as a Digital Content Producer. She is an avid adventure seeker and wildflower enthusiast. Breanna joined OutThere Colorado in September 2018.


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(5) comments


Those that abuse are the takers and don't care about anything but themselves. Just sad what is happening to this state and to our country. [crying][crying][crying]


Lots of public lands is being damaged. Dispersed camping, vehicles, shooting, and motor sports recreation are doing so much damage to our public lands thats its mind boggling. Some parts of the NF look line dirt tracks. dispersed camp sites are everywhere, which are just big2 acre dirt lots, the wildlife is scared off, guys shoot trees until they collapse, clouds of dust and noise fill the valleys. 90% of NF recreation is motor sport recreation in some parts of the NF. its unsustainable, but the FS does nothing but pander to the public and avoid enforcement hassles, because they get abused.


I have seen some of the most disrespectful things in my time traveling on BLM and national forest lands. Fire pits made in pristine meadows, then left still smoldering and filled with piles of beer cans, toilet paper left all over the woods--I also do not understand how anyone can treat these lands so poorly. I have had conversations with rangers and land managers who were brought to tears over the trash left behind. It makes you wonder what their houses look like. I believe it It is our responsibility to speak up when we see something wrong--there are not enough rangers to patro--shaming might help. I often take photos of license plate and violation then email them to ranger offices. Our poor planet.


Why is it possible to drive up to the trailhead? Why isn't the parking area large enough to accommodate the people who want to be there? We, as Coloradan's know that we all love to be outdoors and active-that's why we're all here except for maybe the ranchers and farmers who've been here for generations. I'm sure there's plenty of signage from the Forest Service about packing out what you pack in. I'm having a hard time understanding why those vehicles were able to get up there in the first place.


I just dont understand people and their selfishness...

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