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Outdoor Recreation

Top Tips for Hiking During the Pandemic

Photo: Courtesy of Holly Mandarich

Wesley Trimble

Communications and Creative Director, American Hiking Society

People across the country are discovering the mental health benefits of walking in nature to find solace and relaxation during the pandemic.

With current limitations on indoor activities, many people have turned to the great outdoors to find solace and relaxation. It is essential, especially during the pandemic, to plan and prepare for a hike regardless of the length. Here are some tips for hiking during the pandemic.

Of course, before anything else, always practice social distancing and follow the guidelines of the CDC.

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Top tips

  • Avoid overcrowded trails: While we’re thrilled to see so many people hitting the trail, finding a parking spot at the trailhead of popular destinations can be a challenge. Speak with a local expert at a visitor center, gear shop, or tourism office to find other scenic spots that may have fewer people. Avoid hiking during peak visitation times, such as late mornings on weekends and holidays.
  • Choose a trail based on your experience and fitness: The joy of hiking can quickly vanish if you find yourself in an unexpected situation. The distance, elevation gain, climate, and trail condition all impact the difficulty of a route. Research each factor before setting off on a hike and evaluate your party’s fitness and experience. Steer clear of trails that might exceed your limitations to prevent a situation that might require assistance from first responders.
  • Bring your mask and hand sanitizer: In addition to the tried-and-true 10 Essentials of Hiking, always bring these two essentials. People tend to congregate at trail junctions, viewpoints, water features, and benches. In heavily trafficked locations like these, hikers should wear masks when it is not feasible to socially distance.
  • Share the trail: When passing people on the trail, it might be tempting to walk parallel to the trail to socially distance, but this can damage plants, cause erosion, and widen the path. Instead, step six feet off the path (preferably on a durable surface) and pause for the other trail users to pass before resuming your hike. Uphill hikers have the right of way, and hikers should yield to equestrians. Everyone deserves a scenic hike, so take an active role in making the outdoors safe and welcoming for all identities and abilities.

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