Rainbow Lakes Campground near Nederland, Colo. 

(Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service)

Colorado’s forests are supposed to be the definition of picturesque beauty, but a new story in this month’s issue of 5280 Magazine sheds light on a different reality.

Journalist Tracy Ross reports on the rising numbers of homeless people illegally camping in the forests near Nederland, a mountain community west of Boulder. In the story, she describes how campgrounds increasingly are plagued by mounds of trash, used needles and dangerous encounters with long-term, nonrecreational campers. 

Ross spoke with Colorado Matters about what could be causing this migration and what people are doing to preserve Colorado’s wilderness.