How to Safely Go Outside 

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Photo by Ellen Kanzinger

As states begin to lift restrictions and parks are reopening, we encourage folks getting outside to continue practicing social distancing guidelines and to use common sense as COVID-19 continues to affect communities around the region and the world.

  • Pay Attention—The situation is changing daily as state and local officials make adjustments and announce new openings/closures. Before heading outside, check guidelines in your own community to make sure it is safe where you want to go. 
  • There Will Be Closures—Many trailheads, visitor centers, and recreation areas closed down to avoid exposing staff and visitors to the virus. Don’t expect all of the amenities, like water, restrooms, and campgrounds, to be open during this time. Plan ahead, pack everything you need, and abide by closure signs. 
  • Have a Plan B—As more people turned to the outdoors to find peace during these uncertain times, we saw parking lots and trails overcrowded with no way to stay six feet apart. If there are already a lot of cars at the trailhead, don’t add to the congestion. Find another trail to hike, come back at another time, or go for a walk around your neighborhood.
  • Recreate Responsibly—It is important to maintain your distance from others, at least six feet apart, and narrow trails don’t always allow for this. Avoid groups larger than 10 people and stick to recreating with the people you live with. Pack a mask, gloves, and hand sanitizer just in case.
  • Love the Trail—While avoiding crowds, make sure to stick to designated trails. Wait for wide sections to pass people while still maintaining your distance. Help keep your impact on the trail to a minimum.
  • Pack it In, Pack it Out—You should always pack out everything you bring in. But it is especially important to take care of all your trash as park and maintenance staff is reduced at this time. 
photo from Getty Images
  • Be Prepared—Medical and emergency service professionals are already feeling the strain as the virus makes its way through communities. Don’t add to their workload. Pack plenty of water, snacks, and a basic first aid kit. Reduce potential accidents as much as possible. If you are going out on a new trail, do some research on what to expect before heading out. 
  • Be Kind and Considerate—This is a stressful time and everyone is affected by closures in a variety of ways. Be respectful of other people’s health and safety by keeping your physical distance and being kind to the people ensuring you still have access to the outdoors. 
  • Stay Local—Think of the small communities that are on the edge of your favorite park or forest. Help stop the spread of the virus by staying local and not visiting communities more vulnerable to an epidemic. 
  • Remember the 7 Leave No Trace Principles—Plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of others. 

More Information

Use other resources out there like the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, CDC, and your local officials to help you get outside safely during this time. As the situation changes, make sure you are getting the most up to date information regarding your health and the outdoors.

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