Trails near Vail, around the forest seeing more trash |

Trails near Vail, around the forest seeing more trash

You may be out in Mother Nature, but she isn't going to pick up after you

This should be on someone's face, not lying by a backcountry trail.
Leave no Trace Here are seven principles of Leave No Trace:
  • Plan ahead and prepare.
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  • Dispose of waste properly.
  • Leave what your find.
  • Minimize campfire impacts
  • Respect wildlife.
  • Be considerate of other visitors.

Ellen Miller spends a lot of time on the trails around Vail. She’s seen a lot more people on those trails this year — and a lot more trash.

Miller, a volunteer trailhead host for the town of Vail, said on her Friday hike up to Deluge Lake and back down past Gore Lake, she found toilet paper, plastic water bottles, a pair of socks and a number of face masks.

“It really infuriates me,” Miller said. Her guess, she said is that a number of new trail users simply don’t know how to get out and back without making a mess.

A need for education

Miller has been sufficiently annoyed to send emails to town of Vail officials, urging more education.

Councilmember Jen Mason brought up the subject at the Aug. 4 meeting of the Vail Town Council. A frequent trail user herself, Mason noted that on a recent hike she’d filled the bags she usually takes to handle her dog’s waste with trash from others.

“That’s never, ever happened before,” Mason said.

Like Miller, Mason believes there’s a new group of hikers this summer who may not be familiar with trail etiquette.

Mason said she hopes education can help encourage people to bring out what they take on a trail. She’s encouraging the town to put up trail etiquette signs to remind people to pick up after themselves.

“For now that’s what we can do,” she said.

More use, more trash

Trail trash isn’t just a Vail phenomenon.

White River National Forest Public Information Officer David Boyd said trails across the area are seeing more use, and more trash.

“There’s a big increase in people not packing out trash, and illegal and abandoned campfires,” Boyd said.

Like Miller and Mason, Boyd speculated that the trail litter may be due in part to newer forest users who may not understand that Mother Nature won’t pick up after you.

Sometimes good-hearted people will go out with a bag to pick up trail trash. But, Boyd said, he’d rather have users take their own trash.

“We’d like to think that with some education and reminders it’ll get better,” Boyd said. “But it’s tough.”

Miller said she’d like to see more use of Leave No Trace materials given to hikers and other forest users.

“If we’re going to advertise our trails, there needs to be an educational component,” Miller said.

Miller and other trailhead volunteers talk with people headed into the backcountry. Most people are happy to chat, Miler said. Still, too many people leave too much stuff behind.

The Vail Town Council last summer had some brief discussions about working with the Forest Service on the idea of imposing a reservation system on the Booth Creek Trail. That would be similar to the reservation system now in place at the Hanging Lake trail in Glenwood Canyon.

Mason said it might be time to revisit that idea for the trail to Booth Falls.

“The other trails are busy, but (those aren’t) to that point yet,” she said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at

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