Guffey Gorge is Instagram Famous

Guffey, CO: Guffey Gorge (a.k.a. Paradise Cove), a 2017 Leave No Trace Hot Spot, is Instagram famous.

Once a local secret, this 80-acre gorge, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, boasts a gorgeous waterfall that tumbles from steep granite canyon walls. Tucked 1/2 mile down an unassuming trailhead, social media attention has turned this sleepy spot into a hotbed of activity. On sunny July weekends, up to 1,000 visitors a day make the steep hike into the Gorge to enjoy a swimming hole at the base of the falls that’s not much bigger or deeper than your average backyard pool.

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Guffey Gorge and area residents are now are dealing with the negative ecological and social impacts that are a direct result of this explosion in visitation. Litter lines the rocks surrounding the cove and blows into neighbors’ yards from overflowing dumpsters in the parking lot. Thousands of glass shards threaten bare feet down by the water. The designated trail to the falls is difficult to follow in places due to erosion caused by off-trail travel. The gurgling lullaby of Fourmile Creek and the falls tumbling into the pool below are often overpowered by loud music. And it’s not uncommon for the local Emergency Medical Services crew to compromise their safety and the integrity of the land to evacuate visitors who injure themselves jumping from the cliffs or falling on the rough trails.

The Bureau of Land Management has added parking, bathrooms, and dumpsters to help reduce litter, human waste and trailhead congestion in Guffey Gorge. Furthermore, glass is not allowed in the Gorge; an effort to increase visitor safety. Future regulations will ban alcohol and amplified music, and require that dogs be leashed.

However, the Gorge still suffers from the aforementioned ecological and social impacts. The onus of preserving the paradise in Paradise Cove lies with us; the visitors who love this space. Here are six small steps that will make a big difference in protecting the Gorge:

 

1. Pack a trash bag for your waste and to grab any extra litter that other visitors might have left behind. Bonus points for taking it home with you – the parking lot dumpsters fill fast on busy weekends.

2. Go before you go. There are restrooms in the parking lot and taking care of your business before you take a dip will help keep Fourmile Creek clean and clear.

3. The trail to the Gorge is not flip-flop friendly. Wear sturdy shoes and only bring what you can safely carry down a steep, rock-strewn trail and over three creek crossings.

4. Love the wildflowers and wildlife in Guffey Gorge? Stick to the trail. Avoiding off-trail hiking will prevent erosion that damages plants, trees, and water quality, and protects animals who live in the Gorge. Plus, the designated trail is far less treacherous (read: ankle-twisting) than hiker-created paths.

5. We all love Guffey. And we all love it for different reasons. We go to enjoy the gorgeous (pun intended) scenery, to picnic with our kids, to cool off our dogs, and to kick back with our friends. Stop and think: are your actions preventing others from getting what they want and need from their Gorge experience?

6. Adventure safely. You might feel like the cliff walls are calling your name. But think before you cliff jump: will you end up calling 911?

This is our Guffey. Let’s protect it.

Leave No Trace's Jessie Johnson and Matt Schneider are part of the 2017 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, REI, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Deuter, Thule, Klean Kanteen, and Smartwool.