Can I go hiking?

Hiking is a great, low-risk activity to get exercise, relieve stress, and have a change of scenery.  COVID-19 mainly spreads person-to-person through droplets when people cough, sneeze, sing, shout, or even just talk. Being outdoors is safer than indoors, but you do want to remember to avoid crowds when outside.

Here are some tips to keep your hiking adventures low risk:  

  • Choose less crowded trails. The more crowded a trail, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. Try choosing a hike that is less popular. If you see that a parking lot at a trail head is crowded, consider choosing a different trail. Also check ahead to make sure that trails and parks are open as some state and local governments have closed trail areas or limited open hours.
  • Hike at off-peak times. Consider hiking earlier in the morning, later in the day, or during the weekdays.
  • Choose trails close to home. Staying close to home will decrease the chances of spreading the virus between communities. It will also limit the distance you need to travel and reduce the stops you need to make at gas stations and public bathrooms
  • Bring and use hand sanitizer if you need to touch things like a trail register or to use a restroom.
  • Hike in small groups and keep your hiking group to family members or individuals already within your social bubble
  • Keep your distance from others while on the trail.  Maintain at least 6 feet of distance from other groups on the trail and if possible, try not to walk directly behind/in line with other groups.  More distance (12-15 feet) is better. If you arrive at a trailhead at the same time as another group, we recommend spacing out your start times. When coming upon another group while hiking, if you can, step off the trail to allow other groups to safely pass.
  • Bring a face covering and wear it if you need to hike closely to or pass others on the trail.  This is especially important if trails are narrow and you need to pass closely (within 6 feet) or you are near another group of hikers. Once distanced from other hikers, you do not need to wear a mask for your entire hike.
  • Spread out at viewing or stopping points.  If you stop along the trail or at viewpoints for a break, try to find a space where you can maintain distance. This is especially important if you are stopping to eat and will not be using your face covering.
  • If you have a medical condition, talk to your doctor to make sure that hiking is a good idea for you.
  • Stay home if you are feeling sick or if you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

You can also find tips for camping if you decide to make your hiking trip an overnight stay.

So have some great outdoor adventures. But remember to avoid crowds, keep physical distancing, and wear face coverings when distancing is not possible.


Last update: September 4, 2020 10:30 am

Science review: JSS, ERS