Eleven Mile State Park Colorado
Photo credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Colorado Closes Many Park, Recreation Area Services: Here’s What’s Affected

In suit with Colorado’s statewide stay-at-home order, Colorado Parks and Wildlife closed a range of outdoor sites and services on March 26. Here’s what to expect.

In keeping with Governor Jared Polis’ stay-at-home order this week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) halted a handful of public outdoor services and spaces. While the order will remain in effect “until further notice,” some access remains open.

CPW manages 42 state parks and more than 300 state wildlife areas as well as issues hunting and fishing licenses. The agency also offers recreational programs and handles registration for boats, snowmobiles, river outfitters, and off-highway vehicles.

You might wonder how these area closures apply to your upcoming self-quarantine time outside. Read on.

What’s Currently Closed by CPW?

Folks can no longer snooze overnight at state parks or wildlife areas. This includes campgrounds and dispersed camping spots. People also can’t bunk inside site facilities such as yurts or cabins. Campers currently on these sites were asked to pack up (sorry, y’all).

But there’s good news: Any camping reservations that exist in March or April can be changed at no cost. And if anyone with a reservation wants to cancel for a full refund, that’s fine too. No action needed.

CPW classes that were on the docket with 10 or more students were also canceled. At the moment, that list includes the angler education classes at Lake Lehow, boating safety classes, and hunter education classes. Furthermore, the 2020 Partners in the Outdoors Conference was postponed. Visitor’s centers are closed to the public as well.

And for sportsmen and women, this announcement also affects the spring turkey hunting season (typically from April 11 to May 31). While the hunting and fishing seasons are still open, many campgrounds and facilities will be closed. And while the current Colorado stay-at-home order allows for hunting and fishing, the state encourages people to minimize travel even for approved activities. Thus, CPW will offer refunds for spring turkey licenses and a restoration of preference points upon request. Note: Be sure to send off your license for a refund before April 11.

What’s Still Open

For daily recreation, and in keeping with the official allowance for outdoor exercise, all of CPW’s trails, boat ramps, marinas, and shorelines remain open. Public restrooms will continue to be open and maintained as well.

You’ll still need to get park passes and pay vehicle entrance fees. If you need a pass, pick one up at one of the sales kiosks, which are located at most parks; online; or you can call 800-244-5613. (Be aware: If your pass needs to be mailed, there could be a delay due to the rush order.)

People can still purchase a license, vehicle registration, or apply for the big-game hunting draw online.

Parks officers are essential staff, so some will continue to patrol park properties, answer phones, and help with maintenance. However, some office locations will close doors to staff out of caution and to sanitize.

Regardless, don’t anticipate that a PO will be on site for questions or assistance. Be mindful of social distancing guidelines if you see a PO strolling the grounds (at least 6 feet apart; wave and smile).

What CPW can’t confirm: CPW can’t confirm BLM or national forest camping regulations. So it’s still unclear how Colorado’s stay-at-home order may impact dispersed camping on these public lands. Check the USFS coronavirus info page for updates.

Can Coloradans Still Recreate Outside?

First, it’s essential to heed any orders passed by your local, county, state, and federal governments. This situation is fast-evolving, so check often for updates.

Colorado’s statewide stay-at-home order currently allows residents to leave their homes to engage in outdoor activities like hiking, walking, or biking. State parks will remain open to the public except for any “areas conducive to public gathering,” such as playground and picnic sites, which will be closed.

See our guide to best practices for outdoor recreation during the pandemic.

Morgan Tilton

Staff Writer Morgan Tilton is an adventure journalist specializing in winter sports coverage, travel narratives, and outdoor industry news. A recipient of nearly a dozen North American Travel Journalists Association awards, when she’s not recovering from jungle expeditions or doing field research in far-out villages she’s usually trail running, mountain biking, river surfing, or splitboarding in Colorado’s San Juan and Elk Mountains, where she grew up and lives today.