Top 5 Things to Know Before Carrying in State and National Parks in Colorado

From rafting and fishing to hiking and camping, there is certainly no shortage of recreational activities available in Colorado.  However, before heading out on your next adventure, be sure to consider the following factors as Colorado strictly enforces firearm laws throughout the state.

  1. License to Carry a Handgun— If you are taking advantage of the beautiful public parks in Colorado, you need to be aware of the state and federal laws that govern firearms. In any national park, you may possess a firearm as allowed by Colorado law.  In Colorado state parks, individuals are allowed to carry concealed firearms with a valid permit.  While visiting a national park in Colorado, if you intend to discharge a firearm for target practice, hunting, etc., you need to comply with both state and federal laws.  Under federal law, a firearm may not be discharged within 150 yards of a residence, building, campsite, developed recreational site, or occupied area.  Also, a firearm may not be discharged across, or on, a developed road, body of water, or in a cave.  Keep in mind, certain parks have additional restrictions on discharging a firearm which you will need to be aware of prior to visiting.  Also, under federal law, a person cannot carry a firearm into certain federal facilities.  These usually include visitor centers, administrative offices, and maintenance buildings and are clearly marked with signs at all public entrances.

Further, Colorado does provide water activities and has a number of lakes and rivers open to swimming, fishing, boating, kayaking, etc.  State and federal laws govern the possession and use of firearms.  As always, a valid permit is required to carry a concealed firearm.  You are required to keep the permit and a state issued identification card with you at all times while in possession of a firearm.  Further, if you are traveling to Colorado from another state, you will need to ensure Colorado recognizes your home state’s permit.  Colorado will not issue a concealed firearm permit to out of state residents.

  1. Storing Firearms While Traveling—It is important to keep in mind how you are going to get to your destination because the laws can be very different depending on your mode of transportation. When traveling by vehicle, Colorado allows you to carry a concealed handgun with or without a license. However, as soon as you remove a handgun from a vehicle, you must possess a valid permit to conceal carry.  Handguns may be loaded with a round in the chamber while in a vehicle.  However, long guns may not have a round in the chamber.

If you are traveling interstate by car to Colorado, federal law protects you on your journey if you keep all firearms unloaded and both the firearm and ammunition in a place that is not readily or directly accessible from the passenger compartment of the vehicle.  Best practice is to keep the firearm and ammunition in separate lock boxes in the trunk of the vehicle while traveling interstate.  When traveling by airplane, TSA guidelines require that your firearm is unloaded, locked in a commercial gun case with a TSA approved lock, and declared at check-in.

When you reach your final destination, it is best practice to lock your firearm in a safe or other locked container if you are not carrying on your person.  If juveniles are present and access your firearm, you may be charged with a crime for unlawfully providing or permitting a juvenile to possess a handgun, which is a class four felony.  Reckless conduct is sufficient for this offense.  You may also expose yourself to civil liability for any harm caused by another person that gains access to your firearm.

  1. Public vs. Private Property—Before you hunt, fish, or engage in other outdoor activities in Colorado, it’s important to find out if you’re going to be on public or private property. Under Colorado law, it is unlawful for any person to enter upon privately owned lands to hunt or fish without first obtaining permission from the owner or person in possession of the land.  Further, private property owners may prohibit the possession of firearms on their land.  While no gun signs do not carry the force of law in Colorado, a person who refuses to leave private property upon request because they possess a firearm is at risk to be prosecuted for criminal trespass and may be unlawfully carrying a concealed firearm.
  2. Having a Firearm on a Boat—We know many of you like to go out on the water to fish, waterski, or just relax. It’s important to understand how the laws can change when you’re out on the water, and what effect that has on carrying your firearm. Colorado law treats watercraft just like motor vehicles and allows you to carry a concealed firearm in a watercraft under your control, whether or not you have a permit.  Also, federal regulations, specifically on waterways controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers, can affect your lawful possession of a firearm. Check with an attorney before venturing far into unknown waters.
  3. Having a Firearm on a Snowmobile—Snowmobiling provides people with access to pristine and beautiful backcountry and is a favorite activity for many in Colorado. However, the Colorado legislature has promulgated specific rules pertaining to firearms on snowmobiles that you must be aware of.  It is unlawful in Colorado to possess any firearm on a snowmobile unless the firearm is unloaded and enclosed in a carrying case or inserted in a scabbard.  Further it is unlawful to hunt any wildlife from a snowmobile unless a specific permit is issued by the division permitting you to do so.

 2 Bonus Tips Before You Go to the Park

  1. Understand How the Law Changes When You Drink—While you may not be a person who takes part in wild parties over the summer, it’s important to know what can happen if you do drink or use marijuana while carrying your firearm in Colorado. Carrying a firearm while under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance is a crime in Colorado, punishable by up to twelve months in jail and up to a $1,000 in fine or BOTH, as well as the revocation of your concealed handgun permit! Marijuana is legal in Colorado for both medical and recreational use. This law applies to possession of a firearm in Colorado while under the influence of marijuana.  Colorado does not specifically define what intoxicated means in the context of an unlawful carry, but if you lose the normal use of your mental or physical faculties, the law will probably consider you intoxicated. Our best advice is: if you are consuming any alcohol or marijuana, do not bring your gun.
  2. Additional Considerations — Colorado has enacted a magazine capacity law whereby it is unlawful to possess a magazine that is able to hold more than fifteen rounds. People that possessed a high capacity magazine prior to the law’s enactment and who maintained continuous possession of the magazine are exempt from this law.  Further, it is unlawful to open carry any firearm and/or possess certain types of assault weapons in Denver County.

If you remember these seven points, you can maintain that peace of mind to enjoy your vacation in Colorado. Remember, U.S. & Texas LawShield is not just the 24/7/365 Attorney-Answered Emergency Hotline. If you have a question, don’t hesitate to call our Non-Emergency Business Line on the back of your Member Card or bring your question to one of our Gun Law Seminars. To find a Gun Law Seminar in your area go to www.uslawshield.com/seminar

Comment section

3 comments on “Top 5 Things to Know Before Carrying in State and National Parks in Colorado

  1. In your article it is quoted as saying “In any national park, you may possess a firearm as allowed by Colorado law.” Does this mean you can either open carry or concealed carry without a permit?

    • Stu,

      Open carry is lawful in Colorado. It is unlawful to conceal carry without a valid permit in the State of Colorado. That includes national parks.

      Thank you for your question!

  2. Just bought an S&W AR at Centennial Gun Club from an employee who is also a COP and a 30 rd magazine came with the weapon, plus I can buy as many as I want! I also frequent a gun store in Parker that also sells 30 rd mag! They tell me no one is enforcing that so-called law !!!

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