The New Hiking How-tos
Guidelines for outdoor recreation have changed. Here's what you need to know.
The following information was updated April 28, 2021.
As caretakers of the region’s trails and natural areas, the Trail Conference puts the safety of our service members, staff, and trail users first and foremost. As restrictions on activity begin to ease in the midst of COVID-19, safety remains our number one priority.
When heading outdoors, the following is recommended:
- If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing many things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.
- When choosing safer activities, consider how COVID-19 is spreading in your community, the number of people participating in the activity, and the location of the activity.
- Outdoor visits and activities are safer than indoor activities, and fully vaccinated people can participate in some indoor events safely, without much risk.
- If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, find a vaccine.
Take note of several hikes in the area you plan to visit. It’s good to have alternatives ready to go in case trailhead parking lots are full. Consider alternative days and times to go out; expect parking areas to be at capacity very early on weekends. If parking lots are full, do not park along roadsides or other undesignated areas. You may be ticketed.
Follow the CDC's updated guidelines for outdoor activies regarding masks and gathering size. The eased guidelines say fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks while outdoors unless they are in a big crowd of strangers. Refrain from risky activity that could result in injury.
It’s important to be prepared on your hike. That means wearing weather-appropriate clothing and sturdy shoes. It also means knowing where you’re going and carrying a physical and/or digital map—don’t rely solely on trail markers or the person ahead of you. Bring plenty of water and snacks and a bag to carry out your trash.
The Trail Conference encourages all trail users to learn, practice, and share the seven Leave No Trace principles. These simple steps keep you safe and help protect the environment. Particularly with people using disposable masks and gloves, be sure to bag and carry out your own disposable protective gear.
We are eager to resume our full care of parks and trails to help ensure everyone has a safe, enjoyable experience in nature. With that in mind, please understand that some trails have been without volunteer attention and may be overgrown or visibly in need of maintenance. Not all volunteers are comfortable getting out just yet. Be understanding and patient in the coming months as we work to bring all trails back to their best condition. If you encounter trail conditions that are damaged or unsafe, use our Trail Issue Report to let us know.
To learn more about how the Trail Conference’s efforts today are improving your future outdoor experiences, read about our postive impact throughout 2020 and what we have planned in our centennial year.