How to maintain social distancing while hiking in the coronavirus era

The outdoors are all about freedom, and we highly doubt there will be an army of Trail Police out enforcing social distancing as state parks begin to reopen on May 5.

On the other hand, we know overcrowding was part of what led to these COVID-related closures in the first place. So it’s on us to play by the rules and do the best we can to recreate safely and considerately.

A few friendly suggestions:

🌲 Avoid popular spots

Use the Washington Trails Association hike finder to discover a new, lesser-traveled trail to explore. Go during the week, or early in the morning. Have a backup (or three) in case your first choice is too busy. Do your best to maintain at least six feet of distance from fellow hikers, and wear a mask as a courtesy to others.

🌲 Stay as local as possible

Stick with day trips, and stock up on everything you need before leaving the city. Keep in mind that most federal lands — like national parks and national forests — remain closed, and that means many wilderness destinations are inaccessible.

🌲 Know your limits

Spring is here, but lots of trails and access roads are still covered in snow. Now is not a great time to twist your ankle, get lost, or need a tow truck — so save the high-alpine adventures for later in the season.

🌲 Pack it out

Trash pickup isn’t happening at most parks and trailheads, and bathroom facilities may still be closed. Know what to do if you have to go No. 2, and be ready to pack out all waste — including used TP. Don’t forget the hand sanitizer.

Looking for even more advice? The official state guidelines are available here, and the WTA has some additional pointers on its website, along with a comprehensive list of COVID-related closures. 

By Caitlin Moran
Caitlin writes newsletters and stories for The Evergrey. She's worked as a journalist in and around Seattle since 2010 and is a proud resident of Capitol Hill's Summit Slope neighborhood.