5 Tips for Responsible Travel in Mesa Verde Country

By Kassia Lawrence

Traveling is a wonderful way to experience new cultures, incredible views, enjoy new foods, and meet amazing people. Just as traveling will leave positive impacts on you, there are many ways you can leave a positive impact everywhere you go! We have put together five tips for responsible travel in Mesa Verde Country on your next visit.

Limit Your Water Usage

The American Southwest is suffering an extreme drought, so taking care to limit your water use is very important. You can do this by taking shorter showers and skipping daily housekeeping when staying at a hotel. While these actions may seem small, every drop of water counts.

Practice Fire Safety

We all know that a campfire is a great way to get people together and stay warm while camping. However, as we see more and more wildfires rage across the American West, it’s crucial to practice fire safety. If there is a ban in place, we promise you can still have a great time camping without the fire. Always make sure to obey local laws, fire restrictions, and bans regarding open fires and campfires. Pick a safe, open spot for your campfire and never leave it unattended. When you are ready to head to bed for the evening, make sure to extinguish it completely by drowning the fire. For more detailed tips for preventing wildfires, check out Smokey Bear’s How – Tos.

Leave it Where You Found it

When recreating in the outdoors in Mesa Verde Country, it’s common to come across archaeological sites and artifacts. Some examples of this include broken pieces of pottery and arrowheads. While it may seem appealing to pick these up and bring them home with you, please leave these where you found them. The artifacts exist where they are to tell the story of that place; when you remove them, the stories and history can vanish along with it. Archaeological sites and the artifacts found in and around them are an important part of the history of the living descendants of those who made them. Please leave things as you found them, so they can be enjoyed and admired by future generations.

Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace principles are a great framework for minimum impact travel. Although they were originally created for backcountry travel, many of the guidelines are applicable to any outdoor recreation, as well as just traveling in others’ communities. Below is a summarized list of the seven Leave No Trace Principles. For an even more in-depth overview, please visit lnt.org.

  • Plan ahead and prepare: It will help ensure that the sites you are visiting, roads you may be driving, and restaurants you are excited to try are open to the public. This will also help you accomplish your trip goals and must-sees safely and enjoyably!
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces: When hiking in Mesa Verde Country, please make sure to stay on the trails, and please don’t mountain bike when the trails are wet and muddy. The high-alpine desert environment is more fragile than it may seem. Traveling carelessly through these landscapes can leave scars that take a long time to heal. 
  • Dispose of waste properly: Please be sure to pack out the trash you create or bring on any adventure into the wilderness (this means human waste and toilet paper too!). When camping, try to avoid large food spills (as this can cause harm to our local wildlife). It’s also best to use only small quantities of biodegradable soaps.
  • Leave what you find: Please make sure to take only photographs and leave only footprints. Rocks, plants, archaeological finds and anything else of interest should be left where you found them. This is the easiest way to preserve our ecosystems and cultural heritage for future generations.
  • Minimize campfire impacts: Be sure to be informed about the current fire dangers, local laws, fire restrictions and bans in place before having a campfire. As mentioned above, wildfires are a very real threat to the landscapes, wildlife and people in the American Southwest. Please take care with your campfire. 
  • Respect wildlife: Do not disturb local plants and wildlife – if you spot wildlife, please observe them from a distance. Loud noises and quick movements can be very stressful to animals. It’s best to always give them the room they need to feel safe. Remember, you are a visitor in their home. Please never try to touch or feed wildlife, as it can be very dangerous for you and the critter. 
  • Be considerate of others: Maintaining respect for others when recreating outdoors, visiting our communities or our national parks will help to create a great experience for visitors and locals alike.

Leave No Trace (LNT) practices are something you can do at home as well as traveling. Their principles are a great framework of tips for responsible travel in Mesa Verde Country as well as any other destination.

Photo by Emily Sierra Photography

Respect the Local People and Cultures

Mesa Verde Country is home to many people, and we have an exciting mix of cultures in our communities. This allows for an amazing variety of experiences, foods, and traditions.  We also have a rich Indigenous culture in the American Southwest and the Four Corners region. When traveling through these tribes’ ancestral lands it’s important to participate respectfully and ask permission, support local Indigenous communities, and continue to educate yourself when traveling through these communities.  

We hope you have found these tips for responsible travel in Mesa Verde Country helpful, and we look forward to having you visit our communities soon.

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