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How not to be a jerk when you hit the trails this Memorial Day weekend

These are important lessons, like don't make your own parking space or leave your dog's poop in a bag on the side of the trail.
This is litter. Please immediately pick up, carry with and properly dispose of pet waste. Leaving it by the trail for others to pass is disrespectful to other visitors and to the parks you love.

One thing we can agree on is that it is officially the part of the year where nothing beckons you quite like the great outdoors.

If you tried to go to a trailhead anywhere near Denver this weekend, you probably noticed that it was busy – as in some parking lots looked like the mall the week before Christmas busy (not like you can really complain about having to walk slightly farther in order to recreationally walk far).

Pasqueflower. A wonderful and welcome sign of spring. Now blooming at a park near you!

While it’s great to see people getting outside and enjoying all of the great stuff our state has to offer, we thought it’s a good opportunity to remind people about what they can do to be courteous – as well as keep the trails in great condition as we enjoy them during these summer and spring months.

Here are some tips for Mary Ann Bonnell, the visitor services manager for Jeffco Open Space:

If the parking lot’s full, you can’t just make your own parking space

Several cars parked beyond a sign that says NO PARKING BEYOND THIS POINT. These cars are potentially blocking emergency access to the park.

It’s noon on a Saturday, 75 degrees outside and there’s not a cloud in the sky. Conditions like these might make you want to get outside and hit a local trail – but guess what? Other people probably have the same idea.

So, if you know ahead of time that getting outside is something you want to do – and you also don’t want to encounter tons of people on your quest for outdoors-induced solitude -- Bonnell recommends avoiding peak hours, especially if you want to find a parking spot.

Lots of cars parked in undesignated spaces along the road. This leads to pets, doors and kids entering the roadway, which can be dangerous for the pedestrian and motorists trying to drive through the area.

This means hitting the trail before 8:30 a.m. or after 3 p.m. if you can. And if that’s not possible, try carpooling with some friends or riding your bike.

Bonnell says some weekends, they’ve encountered people making their own parking spaces at trailheads or blocking the road – something that’s a big no-no.

This vehicle is parked in an area that is obviously striped for no parking. Striped areas like this usually help preserve sight lines for drivers or protect emergency access gates from being blocked. Never parked in a striped zone.

“At Matthews-Winters two weekends ago, it was a Sunday -- about 1 o’clock in the afternoon – and the parking lot was full,” she said. “They actually have a sign that says ‘there’s additional parking at the CDOT Mammoth lot,’ but people went and parked on the highway. One guy was even parking illegally in front of a no parking sign.

“Just because there’s no parking space doesn’t mean you can park illegally.”

This is a good lesson not just for trailheads, but also life, if you think about it.

Another vehicle parked WAAAY in the roadway. This one had its rear view mirror knocked off by a passing motorist.

Respect the other people on the trail

If you’re a hiker, at one point in your life, you might have had a close call with a mountain biker. And if you’re a mountain biker, you’ve probably been stuck behind an oblivious hiker who can’t hear your repeated attempts to announce yourself because they’re jamming out to “Toxic” on their headphones.

It should go without saying, but if you’re on a busy trail, remember to be courteous to the people around you – and remember who to yield to.

Bonnell says equestrians have the right of way over everyone, because horses can be skittish.

Bikers need to yield to runners and hikers – and could even get a $50 ticket for failing to yield.

Be sure you bring enough water for you and your dog on warm days. Dogs no not sweat like we do and can easily experience heat distress or heat stroke on warm days.

But Bonnell says this goes both ways: especially on a busy trail, it’s probably a good idea to take out at least one of your earphones and pay attention to the people around you.

And like most things in life, it’s good to relax a bit. Sure, you might have right of way over a mountain biker on a downhill, but let’s be real: it’s easier for you to step aside real quick than for them to slam on the brakes.

Finally, give people a friendly greeting: we all know that little “hi” goes a long way!

Wear good shoes – and not just because it’s common sense

This should go without saying, but Bonnell says she’s “always amazed by the number of people in flip-flops on trails.”

You probably know that hiking on rocks while wearing shoes that are barely shoes is a bad idea, but this is Colorado, and sometimes things happen.

Here’s a reason that might scare you into wearing actual footwear: rattlesnakes. These are seen on the trails in Jefferson County, and you don’t need an article on 9NEWS.com to tell you that you don’t want to get bitten by one.

Close up of a juvenile prairie rattlesnake head.

Bonnell says when it comes to rattlesnakes, to give it space and time.

“It doesn’t want to be near you, and don’t poke it or throw rocks,” she said.

She also says to make sure to keep your dog on a leash to make sure it doesn’t accidentally get too close to the rattlesnake.

Speaking of that, be a good dog owner (and that goes beyond picking up poop)

Every dog owner thinks their dog is the best dog in the world (except for the author of this article, who knows that Doodles is the best dog in the universe), but that doesn’t mean the world is cool enough to agree.

That means to make sure that when you bring your furry best friend on a hike, to keep him or her on a leash and under control.

Bonnell also reminds people to clean up after their dogs – something we’ve talked about a lot of 9NEWS.com lately.

This is litter. Please immediately pick up, carry with and properly dispose of pet waste. Leaving it by the trail for others to pass is disrespectful to other visitors and to the parks you love.

Finally, for the love of God, please don’t leave your dog’s poop in a bag on the side of the trail. You might think to yourself “hey, it’s cool, I’m going to pick it up later” but do you really think other people want to look at that in the meantime? Do you?!

Bonnell also had some important safety tips: make sure to bring not just enough water for yourself, but also your dog. And unless you’ve trained your dog to drink out of a water bottle (which is adorable), bring a bowl or something.

If your dog has heat distress, Bonnell says it will be kind of lethargic and drooling more than usual. If you notice these symptoms, stop and let the dog cool down.

“Dogs and heat stress are a very real thing in our parks,” she said, adding that up to four dogs a year die from heat distress in Jeffco parks.

Here is a note left by a park visitor for a park ranger expressing concern and fear over the number of off leash dogs on the trail. Please, leash your pet. It is the respectful and safe thing to do.

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