Hiking is the ideal outdoor recreational activity for these times since you can get outside for exercise and fresh air while still adhering to social distancing and hygiene guidelines, but let’s be smart about it and courteous to other hikers itching to get out just as much as we are.
As with all outdoor recreation activities, you should only hike if you are healthy and have not been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, and/or have not recently traveled from a location with a CDC-issued travel advisory. Wash or sanitize your hands frequently, don’t touch your face, and embrace a “Park, Play and Move On” mentality.
If you are heading out on the trail, please follow the updated COVID-19 trail etiquette below:
- Know where and when to go: It’s best if we don’t all go to the most popular trailheads at the most popular times of day. Early morning or evening tends to be less crowded. Dispersal is key! You can plan your trip on www.trailfinder.info. If you arrive at a parking lot and it is full, find another trail.
- Maintain a physical distance of at least six feet from others: This includes dogs: please leash your dog. They are members of your household and need to keep their social distance as well (most standard leashes are six feet in length).
- Wear a cloth mask or face covering: Any time you know others may be present, you should have your mask on, even while hiking. Keeping it at the ready is okay if you can quickly and safely pull it up over your nose and mouth, doing this well before you come within six feet of others.
- Slow down, step back, and let people know when you’re approaching: Awareness and consideration are key. Everyone should yield to everyone right now and making some noise as you approach is recommended. A friendly “Hello!” followed by a pause to figure out your next move is the best tactic. If you find yourself coming up behind a slower walker and there’s not six feet to pass safely, slow down instead. If somebody is getting too close to you, step back to allow enough space.
- Step off the trail when needed: If the trail isn’t wide enough to allow for six feet in passing, step off the trail at a 90-degree angle, being careful not to tread on plants if at all possible. Once you’re six feet off, wait for the approaching group to clear the area before retracing your footsteps. Please do not cut a new trail parallel to the existing track.
- Keep single file (even on wide trails): Keep your group single file (this may mean you have to hike more slowly than you want to): do not spread out all over the trail. When you let someone pass, step off to the side and stay put — don’t walk alongside the path. The same goes for when you encounter ice or mud in the trail — stay on the trail and go right through it!
- Don’t stand across the trail to chat: It is great to see friends and acquaintances (who’s that behind the awesome plaid cloth mask?) but stopping on either side of the trail to chat just creates a breath “gauntlet” that others must either pass through or go off-trail to avoid.
- Embrace an arrive, play, and leave mentality: Do not gather in groups before or after activities.
- Hiking with children: If you are hiking with children, set expectations before getting out of the car. Remind them not to run up to people or dogs, and to cough and sneeze into their elbows while turned away from people. Children older than 2 years in age can and should be encouraged to use cloth masks or face coverings. Remind your kids often of the new rules; they will need lots of kind and consistent reminders of what this new behavior needs to look like — be sure that you are modeling it.
For more hiking information and recommendations you can talk to GMC’s visitor center staff by calling 802-244-7037 or emailing [email protected]. GMC offers waterproof paper maps and guidebooks for sale on the GMC online store, and digital maps of popular trails in Vermont through the Avenza Maps app, available in the App Store and Google Play. You can also chat with other hikers and see others’ trip reports in GMC’s Facebook Group.
We wish you a happy and safe hiking season!