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."
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.
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.