8 Tips for Hiking Responsibly During COVID-19
We are so excited to welcome you to Jackson this summer! Now that National Parks and recreation areas are starting to welcome visitors again, we are ready to visit our favorite outdoor spaces. Around Jackson, restaurants and stores are slowly beginning to open back up, with certain social distancing and safety practices like masks recommended in some instances. When it comes to visiting the outdoors, there are a few things to know about recreating responsibly.
The pandemic has brought hardships to everyone, and there’s no better way to relax than to take a summer trip to the outdoors. With ample hiking, biking, and scenic driving, there are plenty of ways to get outside responsibly this summer in Jackson Hole. We’ve put together this guide so you can visit Jackson responsibly this year.
1. Recreate Responsibly
Before you hit the trail (or come visit us) it’s important to understand that the pandemic has made it important to travel with caution. The first and most obvious step to recreating responsibly is to stay home if you are sick. The mountains, our favorite national parks, and the outdoors will still be there for you when you’re better. Don’t travel if you’re feeling sick. Stay home and get well, we will be happy to see you as soon as you’re healthy. Seek out the latest advice from your healthcare provider prior to travel.
2. Keep Your Distance
Hiking and getting outdoors is one of the best ways to improve mental health and exercise safely. However, before you hit the trail (or bike path or boardwalk), make sure you’re ready to keep your distance. Pack a face covering, such as a cloth mask or a neck gaiter, and wear it in congested areas. You don’t need to constantly wear your mask, but if you’re passing another party, be prepared to keep your distance, or consider putting on your face covering as you pass by. Try to keep six feet away from fellow outdoor enthusiasts while you recreate. This is typically simple to do, especially on less crowded trails. Don’t forget to keep your group small!
3. Practice Leave No Trace
Just because there is a pandemic, doesn’t mean you should break the rules or trash local trails. In fact, now more than ever is an important time to practice Leave No Trace. Keep natural areas better than you found them! For most daytime recreation this means:
- Stay on designated trails and walkways. Follow all closures and ranger instructions.
- Pack out your trash. This includes fruit peels, dog poop bags, toilet paper, and any other trash items. We recommend bringing a small trash baggy with you while you hike, so you can store your trash in the bag until you can dispose of it properly.
- Use designated toilets or pack a to-go bathroom receptacle and be prepared to carry it out with you. This is a requirement for many of the National Parks.
4. Prepare for Limited Bathrooms and Services
Before you hit the trail be sure to look up recent trail conditions and check that the bathrooms at the trailhead are open. The National Park Service, AllTrails.com, the Hiking Project, and other local land management agencies are all great places to check before you go. You can even ask our staff since many of us hike during our free time.
Be prepared for closed toilets at a lot of trailheads. Some places have open bathrooms, while others are not being maintained and remain locked. To be safe, be sure to go before you hit the trail. Remember, amenities such as visitor’s centers and payment kiosks may have reduced hours, closures, or limited services. Always be sure to plan in advance for any park’s pass purchases, permits, trail info, and more.
5. Assess Your Level of Risk
A lot of people are looking forward to getting outdoors and that’s great, but now is not the time to hike the most difficult trail or take the most difficult ski line. In fact, right now is a great time to relax and enjoy some mellower terrain.
Keep it mellow to help the limited search and rescue personnel stay safe too. When you take a risk and need rescue, the people who go out to rescue you must quarantine for 14 days. This means they can’t rescue someone else. Don’t endanger the local community by keeping your activities at a safe level.
Everyone has a different level of risk based on their experience, expertise, and comfort level. There is no hard and fast rule here, but think about what you would like to get outside and do and decide if you are comfortable with the risk you are taking on.
6. Get There Early
Since most other forms of entertainment are closed, a lot of people are looking to get outside right now. That’s great, and we surely encourage new outdoor enthusiasts to get into the great outdoors and experience the tranquil beauty. However, it does mean that outdoor spaces are experiencing an increase in traffic.
If you’re going to get outdoors, plan to get there early to avoid the crowds. Think 6 or 7 am starts at the latest. This will ensure that trails are not overcrowded and people are spaced out. Not to mention, sunrise offers a gorgeous time to hike and bike. There’s nothing more beautiful than watching the sunrise over the Tetons!
7. Have a Plan B
What do you do if you show up at a trailhead and it’s packed? Don’t illegally park or join a crowd. Instead, have a plan B. Pick a handful of nearby hiking trails as a backup should you find a full parking lot. Again, starting early will ensure you have a place to park and a crowd-free trail. However, don’t actively join crowds. Be prepared to drive away if the area is full or crowded.
8. Check with Your Health Professional
We may know a thing or two about how to stay distant on your favorite hiking trail, but we aren’t doctors. Always check with your healthcare provider for your specific health needs in regards to travel and recreation.
This advice is based on how we feel comfortable recreating outdoors, but is not official. Always look towards official statements from governing bodies and health organizations before heading out. Right now the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce has a list of resources for visitors. You can also check with the latest COVID-19 updates with both Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. For information about health and COVID-19, talk to your primary care doctor or check out the CDC website.
Overall, getting outdoors provides a stress-free way to enjoy the best of Jackson and the surrounding areas. Get outside responsibly this season with these expert tips to stay safe outdoors during COVID-19.