Labor Day crowds seeking outdoor recreation in Summit County remained consistent with past years, officials say
For many, Labor Day weekend is the unofficial end of the summer season, especially at higher elevations. School is back in session, outdoor pools close, leaves start to change colors and the peaks that have been barren, rock-filled landscapes will soon be blanketed with snow once again.
Monsoonal rains dampened tourism numbers on Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends, but since much of Colorado saw above-average temperatures and clear skies, many visitors flocked to Summit County in order to seek relief in the High Country from record-setting temperatures elsewhere in the state and country.
In terms of camping in or near Summit County, occupancy at campsites was similar to what has been seen throughout the entire summer, despite the improved camping weather.
“It was pretty busy, so (we were) probably near normal occupancy or a little above normal occupancy, particularly in the Eagle Nest Wilderness,” Dillon Ranger District wilderness, trails and motorized recreation manager Tyler Kirkpatrick said.
Outdoor recreation levels over the Labor Day weekend were aided by the first few days of the archery hunting season, which brought people to the area in order to nock their first arrows of the season.
In terms of hiking within Summit County, trailhead visitation was as expected over the Labor Day weekend when compared to the spike in trail use documented over the past few years.
“It’s been my impression that it was the anticipated amount of visitation,” Friends of the Dillon Ranger District program coordinator Doozie Martin said. “It always kind of puts a strain on the natural resources having this many people in town, but it didn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary.”
Kirkpatrick says the constant monsoonal rainstorms that have frequented Summit County and the majority of the state throughout the summer have played a role in camping visitation.
“If the timing was on the weekends, that certainly did deter some folks,” Kirkpatrick said of the rain. “It has been dry now for about a month, and people have been right back at it.”
Though Dillon Ranger District areas experienced wet conditions for large portions of the summer, the district still saw a consistent flow of visitors looking to camp.
“It was pretty steady compared to last year and the pandemic levels,” Kirkpatrick said. “Visitation didn’t seem to spike, but it was pretty consistent.”
For the overall summer hiking season, Martin says he does not feel like there has been a huge difference in visitation in the past few years outside of the crazy anomaly that was the 2020 summer season.
Martin and the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District do, however, feel like the demand for outdoor recreation programming, education and an overall interest in the trails has increased this summer.
“Within the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, we have seen a high demand in people wanting to give back and get out on the trails and help out,” Martin said.
With most people living in Summit County because of the activities and beauty it provides, Martin says members of the public are interested in making sure their favorite trails are sustainable through trail work and environmental projects.
While people hoping to plan all-day excursions out on the trails this summer might have been annoyed by the increase in rainy days, Martin said he viewed it as nothing but a positive for the area.
“I think we saw the rain as a positive thing around here, keeping the wildfires at bay. It really hasn’t affected our programming,” Martin said. “While there may have been a few less afternoon rides or hikes taking place this summer, we saw the rain as nothing but a positive. I think any sort of major incidence on the trails” like slight erosion and the creation of new trails to bypass standing water “due to an increase of rain were pretty limited.”
Martin hopes to continue to see an increased interest in outdoor education and care for the outdoors in the seasons to come.
“Our hope is that the community will continue to see value in our work and will continue to support us by coming out to our projects,” Martin said, “supporting our community at large by supporting what we do on a smaller scale.”
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