Eight Tips for Hikers this Spring

One of the benefits of living in western Washington is the proximity to the state’s extensive mountain trail systems. And typically, exploring them is one of the healthiest ways we can relieve stress, stay fit, connect with the natural environment and have an adventure with the whole family. However, this spring has been quite different as trail heads closed for the first time in decades due to COVID-19.

In early May, outdoor recreationists sighed a little relief as state-managed trails began to open back up. But, that doesn’t mean things have returned to normal. If you choose to hike in the coming weeks and months, be prepared to follow extra safety measures. We checked in with local authorities and compiled a list of safety tips for local trail lovers.

 Don’t go too far away or on unfamiliar trails

Emergency crews and health care facilities are already experiencing higher than normal volumes. This isn’t the time to test your skills on the most difficult, remote terrain you can find. Stick to trails you have been on before and use your navigation skills and gear to prevent you from getting lost and needing to be rescued.

Check the trail report

Not all trails are open. Federal lands and parks are still closed and some state parks remain off limits. Check wta.org trail reports before you go anywhere. They are dedicated to maintaining the most recent opening information for each individual trailhead.

Don’t assume services

Typically you can count on bathrooms and trash service at most well traveled trailheads. However, due to closures, these services may not be in operation. Plan accordingly. Remember to use the restroom before you get there and be prepared to pack out every single thing you brought, including pet waste and disposable face masks, gloves and other pieces of protective gear.

Wear personal protective gear

Getting fresh air is definitely part of the appeal of hiking, and you can still do so safely if you get to the trails when the foot traffic is extremely low. But, if you find yourself on the mountain during peak times or with other people, be prepared to don face masks and gloves. You will mostly like pass a few people no matter what, so always follow proper social distancing protocols.

Turn around if necessary

Many of the trails have not had a normal amount of maintenance due to closures. You may encounter downed trees or washouts. Don’t try to be a hero and traverse dangerous terrain, and don’t try to clear trails on your own. Again, this increases chances of injury and a need to call upon rescue authorities.

Bring you own refreshments

Part of the fun in traveling to the trails is stopping in the little mountain towns along the way for a burger or bite to eat after. Right now, however, it’s best to avoid extra stops. Bring your own coffee, food and water, and fill up on gas before you go.

Skip the overnight trip

Campgrounds are still closed. Day hiking is the only recreational activity currently allowed on the trail systems. This pertains to all overnight camping, even those spots that seem far out of the way.

Help others be safe

The Washington Trail Association relies on regular hikers to write trip reports about their experience and the trail conditions. Help your fellow Washingtonians by reporting your thoughts when you return home. This will help keep everyone safe and well informed as we get back to strapping on our boots.

For more tips and trail reports, visit wta.org.

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