• Staff

Trail Safety Tips While Hiking During the Coronavirus Pandemic 2020

Friday, June 26, 2020


As coronavirus cases continue to rise in the United States, the outbreak hasn't stopped hikers from hitting the trails. After months of sheltering in place, Americans looking for social distancing activities are flooding trails and parks. The Big Magazine wants to share a few tips on how to maintain trail safety and social distancing while hiking during the Covid-19 pandemic.


Tips on Hiking During Coronavirus Pandemic -Photo of Sequoia National Forest by The Big Magazine

Any increase in hikers means an increase in rescues, while SAR providers are already spread thin with the rise in visitors to public lands during the pandemic. Other shuttered forest preserve facilities including bathrooms, trails, nature centers, and overnight camping, will resume by the first week of July 2020 as a part of the re-opening phase.


This year, hikers are faced with new challenges created by the novel coronavirus. Given the new stresses, hikers should consider how to minimize risks to themselves and others.


Scaling back on hiking plans for the duration of the pandemic can also help mitigate risk considerably. SAR volunteer groups are running at half-capacity or less, which affects emergency outcomes.


Though your chance of transmitting or contracting covid-19 are lower outdoors, hiker’s still need to bring a mask, take social distancing precautions, and wash or sanitize hands during activities. Hikers heading into the backcountry should be sure to pack the “Ten Essentials” listed by the National Park Service .


Here are some trail safety tips to get you started while hiking during the coronavirus pandemic.


Plan and research your hike:


Choose your trail carefully and make sure the terrain is a suitable match for your skills, fitness and health levels. Sites like AllTrails help people explore the outdoors with detailed, hand-curated trail maps, trail reviews and photos crowdsourced from a community of 10 million registered hikers, mountain bikers and trail runners. I usually like to pay attention to the most recent comments left by hikers to advise me on conditions before heading out. Avoid super popular trails to help reduce congestion and coming in close contact with strangers. I always have a back-up location in mind in case the trailhead seems crowded upon arrival. Be sure to check hiker shuttle schedules in your area.

Leave Early:


If you want to avoid crowds and beat the heat, try starting out in the mornings or early afternoon. The sun can be brutal during the summer, especially when trails have little to no shade.



Wearing a mask or face covering while hiking:


Pack a mask or face covering that can be easily accessible when approaching or passing other groups on the trail. Face covering requirements vary from state to state. Stay at least six feet from others while hiking. If you are passing a sizeable group on a narrow path, you can always step aside and turn your back as the group passes.


Pack it in and out:


Pack your own food, snacks, hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol), soap, toilet paper/wet wipes and anything else you may need during your hike. Keep in mind that park stores and restroom facilities may not be open. Practice leave-no-trace rule of thumb, which means packing out your trash, and leaving the park/forest area as you found it.

More Trail Distancing:


Avoid breaks in narrow parts of the trail where oncoming hikers can’t pass within a safe distance of at least six feet of you to pass on. If you see a group of hikers resting, or eating lunch, put on a mask when passing.


Bring Enough Food and Water:


Bring adequate food and water on your hike. Bring a hydration pack (if your backpack can take one) or a reusable water bottle. Count on carrying one liter per person - per hour - you are on the trail. Food will give you energy to keep trekking and becomes critical if you get exhausted, lost, or injured on trail. Light snacks and protein bars are usually sufficient for most day hikes.

Tell someone where you are going:


Whether you are hiking alone or in a group, leave an itinerary of where you are going, departure time, emergency contact details and expected time of arrival back. It’s a good idea to print or write down your itinerary to leave in a visible area of your car while it's parked at the trailhead in case anything unexpected happens along the way.