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Now more than ever people are turning to the outdoors for adventure, escape, and fresh air. Many major trails and parks have reopened and are encouraging hikers to “stay safe” amidst the pandemic. And while the outdoors are a perfect outlet during these times, it’s important that we still do our part to keep ourselves and others as safe as possible. Below are a few tips for how to explore the outdoors during COVID-19.
Picking a Hike
Where we choose to go hiking is the first step to ensuring we stay safe. If possible, try to avoid popular trails as they will often have more hikers, making it more difficult to socially distance. If you get to a trailhead and see that the parking lot is already quite full, consider doing another nearby hike. To avoid the crowds try starting your hikes early in the morning, especially on weekends. Being among some of the first people on the trails will make for both a safer and a more enjoyable day out on the trails.
Keep Your Circle Small
For many of us it’s been months since we’ve seen many of our friends and family, but we still must remember to keep our circles small. It is okay to hike with others during these times but make sure you are only hiking with individuals who you see on a regular basis. Now is not the time to invite 15 friends who you haven’t seen for months to go for a hike. Going for a hike with people in your circle can help keep you, and everyone else out on the trails, safe.
If you are hiking and there is no one else around, it is okay to keep your mask off. However, when you see other people on the trail, who aren’t in your group, be sure your mask stays on. If you find yourself on a busier hiker, it is often better to keep your mask on for the duration of the hike, rather than taking it off and putting it back on every few minutes. By picking a less crowded hike you’ll encounter less individuals, which means you’ll get to spend less of your hike wearing your mask. As always, be sure to check with your local trails and parks to see their COVID-19 guidelines as they may differ.
Be Prepared and Pack it Out
When you are picking a hike, check to see if the amenities are available at this time. Right now, many parks still have limited bathrooms, or none at all. If this is the case, be sure to come prepared with toiletries and the ability to pack out your waste. Some trailheads have removed trashcans so be sure you can haul your trash home and #LeaveNoTrace. The same goes for those hiking with dogs. Always come prepared with bags and be sure to dispose of the waste properly.
Now more than ever it is important that trail etiquette is implemented to ensure your safety and the safety of others. Stick to a single file line while hiking and allow space for others to pass. To maintain the recommended six feet of distance, be sure to alert others when you are trying to pass. Allow other hikers to get off the trail and put on their masks before you pass them. As always, downhill hikers yield to uphill hikers. If you are hiking downhill, be sure to get off the trail so that uphill hikers are able to continue hiking and still maintain a safe distance. If you choose to pass someone ahead of you, make sure you do so in a place where they are able to get off the trail. Avoiding passing in narrow sections of the trail when you can. Don’t forget to thank hikers who get out of the way for you. A simple “thank you” goes a long way especially during these times.
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The great outdoors are helping millions of people destress and enjoy fresh air during this pandemic. However, we must ensure we are taking proper safety precautions so that we can safely enjoy these spaces. Encourage your friends and family to take these safe precautions so we can all enjoy the trails. If you get to a trailhead, or start a hike, and realize there are an immense amount of people, don’t hesitate to find another hike.
Not taking the necessary precautions can turn outdoor spaces into an unsafe space amidst the pandemic. But a few simple actions will help ensure that our parks, trails, and public lands can still be a place to destress and get outside. So, don’t forget to set your alarms early this weekend so you can safely enjoy your time in nature, away from the crowds.
Watch Leave No Trace’s video on Sharing the Trail:
Skyblue Overland is proud to be a Community Partner with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, which protects the outdoors by teaching and inspiring people to enjoy it responsibly. The Center accomplishes this mission by delivering cutting-edge education and research to millions of people every year.