If you’re an avid hiker and you’ve been cooped up inside thanks to COVID-19, you’ve no doubt been hankering for a hike even more than usual lately. Now that every state in the country is more or less reopening, you might be wondering if it’s safe to get back on the trail and enjoy the great outdoors like you used to.
But can you? The answer: yes and no. Here are some common questions and answers about safe hiking practices in the age of COVID-19.
Trails and parks are opening back up in my area. Does that mean I can go hike/camp again?
Again, yes and no. Look into your state or county’s protocol as well as the guidelines offered by the trail or park you plan to visit. If they advise against visiting public areas like trails and parks, pump the brakes.
If the trail or park you plan to visit is open, be sure to take all the proper safety precautions. Visit the CDC website to review COVID-19 safety best practices.
Should I “social distance” differently outdoors?
You should take social distancing just as seriously outdoors as you do indoors. Since the virus is airborne, it’s easy to think it won’t spread as easily outside in the fresh air. Regardless, you should not get within six feet of another person. The best way to social distance while hiking is to go alone or with someone you live with.
Do I need to wear a mask outdoors?
Though it can be inconvenient and uncomfortable to wear a face mask while exercising, wearing a mask is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs in the event that you do come in contact with someone else or touch a public surface. Masks not only limit the spread of germs in and out of your mouth and nose; they can also serve as a good reminder not to touch your face.
If possible, wear a waterproof mask with breathable fabric to exercise. Some prefer to wear a gaiter for being active.
Where can I find out about trail-related closures and trail event cancellations?
The Trek offers helpful info on park closures that may affect your hiking plains.
For cancelations of events related to the National Trail System, check out the Partnership for the National Trail System website.
American Trails shares useful info on state park trail closures.
Check out the website or social media feeds of your local hiking club or local parks and recreation department for updates.
What else can I do to stay safe?
Here are a few more best practices for staying safe on your next hike:
Take hand sanitizer with you. Sanitize before and after the use of public restrooms and other trail facilities.
Keep hikes short. Longer hikes mean more use of facilities and more stopping for breaks. It’s best to keep moving to prevent spread of germs.
Go during unpopular times like early morning weekdays to avoid crowds.
Bring your own water bottle, and don’t make use of public water fountains.