Times are pretty crazy right now. Your gym is probably closed, maybe even your local parks are closed, you are working from home, or maybe you were even laid off. In times like these, the outdoors, and exercise is often a necessary getaway to keep your sanity. So, should/can you be hiking during this COVID-19 global health crisis?
And if yes, how do you so responsibly for yourself, and for those around you? We’ll try to help with that.
Disclaimer: We are health professionals, we are not law enforcement, we are not first responders or medical staff…we are just trying to point out all sides for educational purposes.
We strongly encourage your read the entire COVID-19 Fact sheet released by the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/2019-ncov-factsheet.pdf
Can you go hiking right now?
For the most part, of course you can, but certain precautions should be taken. Not just for yourself, but for others around you. Most counties and states across the U.S. are saying it is okay for you to hike, they are just highly recommending that you stay in your own county, and don’t travel distances to do so. Additionally, you shouldn’t be carpooling with others, congregating in groups, and should maintain as much distance from others as possible.
It is important with guidelines, regulations, and stay in place orders changing every day that you check your local county, township, or state’s most recent update on the guidelines. Some areas are far more restricting than others at the moment.
How to Hike But Be Socially Responsible
- Stay close to home – ideally, you shouldn’t need to drive anywhere. (If you must travel, you should strictly follow the below tips)
- If you have ANY symptoms, or have been in contact with anyone that has, do not go out.
- Avoid public places (bathrooms, trailheads, campgrounds, towns, gas stations, coffee shops, etc)
- Bring your own food in a cooler
- Travel in your own car, only with people you live with
- Carry all supplies so that you don’t have to stop anywhere
- On trail, maintain distance from others and avoid touching common areas, signs, bathrooms, etc
- If with a dog, keep them on leash, and don’t let them approach others
- Be sure to wash surfaces and hands frequently, especially before eating
- If you have been in contact with other people that have been traveling, or have been sick, simply don’t go anywhere.
Why are some saying you absolutely should not be hiking right now?
There are various reasons why many are saying “stay home”, and we will address a few. You might be thinking: what is the danger to anyone if I travel by myself to a trailhead, and hike by myself and return home safely? The truth is, not much, if you follow all of the strict guidelines above, but not everything is up to you.
Hospital Space and Staff
Right now, there are various parts of the country where the hospitals are being packed, and the staff is struggling to keep up. In areas where this isn’t the case, they need to be cautious. It only takes a single case in an area to cause thousands of other cases in only a few short days, causing hospitals to fill up extremely fast.
By putting yourself in the wilderness, even with a lot of precaution, if something goes wrong, and you need first responders, or a hospital because of your actions, you are putting those in the hospital at risk, as well as yourself.
You May Not Be The Issue
Even if you follow all precautions, others at the trail or areas may not. The more exposure to others you have, the more you will encounter others not taking the proper precautions.
You absolutely could be a carrier of COVID 19 without knowing it, and infecting others. For this reason, authorities are urging everyone to avoid close proximity to others. Going to public places, gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores, coffee shops, liquor stores, or wherever, is not a good idea for anyone. If you must travel outside of your county, pack your own lunch, make sure you have enough gas, and don’t go to any public places.
Trailheads Are Busy
Many of the National Parks (before they closed doors) experienced an uptick in attendance. Many local trails are also experiencing higher attendance. This means more people in close proximity. It is simply difficult to maintain the proper social distancing of 6 feet or more around busy areas. Scientists are finding that the virus is capable of living on surfaces for up to two weeks, making these heavily trafficked areas far more likely to contain areas in which the virus can potentially be spread through contact.
What Hikers Should Know About The Virus
- You may be a carrier without showing any symptoms, or ever showing symptoms
- The incubation period may be as long as 14 days. Meaning you can spread the virus 14 days before you show symptoms.
- The virus can potentially live on surfaces for up to two weeks
- Once the virus hits a heavily populated area, it can spread extremely fast. Small mountain towns may not have the capacity to handle outbreaks, nor cities.