Rocky Mountain: Thrill-Seekers' Tips for Off-Trail Hiking
Looking to head off the beaten path in Rocky Mountain National Park? Going off-trail can be a magical experience. When you ditch the trail, you leave the crowds behind, and there are some great vistas off-trail. One breathtaking off-trail destination is the summit of Steep Mountain, where you can see the Continental Divide, the picturesque line of mountains where rivers flow to the Atlantic Ocean on the east side and the Pacific on the west [source: Summit Post].
If you're not an experienced hiker, going off-trail can be dangerous. It's a good idea for newer hikers to find a tour company that offers some off-trail hiking, so you'll have a guide to help you find your way, especially through the forested areas where it can be easy to get lost. Tour companies like Wildland Trekking offer a mix of guided on- and off-trail hiking.
It's also a good idea to consider a handheld GPS when you're hiking off-trail. This can help you find the trail if you lose your sense of direction in the woods. Whether you choose a GPS or not, it's also important to use a map. Check out a map of the off-trail area you're planning to hike before heading out, so you'll have a good idea of where you're going.
Since off-trail areas are less crowded with people, there's often more wildlife. This is usually a good thing, but you need to stay aware in case you encounter bears, moose, or other large animals that can harm you. Normally these creatures won't bother you if you don't bother them, so keep an eye out!
When you go off-trail, you're venturing into fragile habitats, so be considerate. Taking anything out of a national park is taboo, and even more so when you're off the trail. Off-trail hikers are more likely to cause damage, since the whole idea behind trails is to provide a path to prevent us from trampling delicate plants and animal habitats.