Labor Day crowds looking for out of doors recreation in Summit County remained in step with previous years, officers say

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The view while hiking the Tenderfoot Mountain loop in Dillon. According to the Dillon Ranger District and Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, camping and hiking visits were as expected over Labor Day weekend.
Antonio Olivero/Summit Daily News Archives

For many, Labor Day weekend is the unofficial end of the summer season, especially at higher elevations. Schools are open again, the outdoor pools are closing, the leaves are beginning to change color and the peaks that are barren and rocky will soon be covered with snow again.

Monsoon rains dampened tourist numbers on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July weekend, but with much of Colorado enjoying above-average temperatures and clear skies, many visitors flocked to Summit County to seek relief from record-breaking temperatures elsewhere in the High Country state and country.

With regard to camping in or near Summit County, despite the improved camping weather, campground occupancy was similar to that seen throughout the summer.

“It was quite busy, so (we were) probably near normal occupancy or slightly above normal occupancy, particularly in the Eagle Nest Wilderness,” said Tyler Kirkpatrick, wilderness, trails and motorized recreation manager for the Dillon Ranger District .

Outdoor recreation during Labor Day weekend was aided by the early days of archery hunting season, which brought people to the area to nock their first arrows of the season.

In terms of hiking in Summit County, visits to the trailhead over Labor Day weekend were as expected compared to the increase in trail usage documented in recent years.

“I feel like it was the expected number of visitors,” said Doozie Martin, Friends of the Dillon Ranger District program coordinator. “It always puts a strain on natural resources when there are so many people in the city, but it didn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary.”

Kirkpatrick says the steady monsoon rains that have plagued Summit County and most of the state throughout the summer have played a role in the camping visits.

“If the timing was on the weekends, that certainly put some people off,” Kirkpatrick said of the rain. “It’s been dry for about a month now, and people are right back on it.”

Although areas in the Dillon Ranger District were wet for much of the summer, the district still saw a steady flow of visitors looking to camp.

“It’s been pretty stable compared to last year and the level of the pandemic,” Kirkpatrick said. “Visitor numbers didn’t seem to increase, but they were fairly constant.”

For the overall summer hiking season, Martin says he doesn’t feel like there’s been a huge difference in attendance over the past few years, aside from the crazy anomaly that was the 2020 summer season.

However, Martin and friends at the Dillon Ranger District feel demand for outdoor recreation programs, education and a general interest in the trails has increased this summer.

“Within the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, we’ve seen a lot of demand from people who want to give back and get out on the trails and help,” Martin said.

Because most people live in Summit County for the activities and beauty it offers, Martin says the public is interested in making sure their favorite trails are sustainable through trail work and environmental projects.

While people hoping to plan full-day trips on the trails this summer may have fretted about the increase in rainy days, Martin said he sees it as nothing but positive for the area.

“I think we took the rain as a positive thing around here and kept the wildfires at bay. It really hasn’t impacted our programming,” Martin said. “Although there might have been a few fewer afternoon rides or hikes this summer, we didn’t see the rain as anything but positive. I think any kind of major occurrences on the trails “such as slight erosion and the creation of new trails to bypass standing water” due to an increase in rain “were fairly limited.”

Martin hopes to see an increased interest in outdoor education and caring for the great outdoors in the coming seasons as well.

“We hope that the community will continue to see the value of our work and continue to support us by coming to our projects,” said Martin, “and support our community overall by supporting what we’re doing on a smaller scale.”