How To: Recreate Responsibly During COVID

As public lands reopen, it is critically important for our community to recreate responsibly.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
May 20, 2020

Fighting the coronavirus pandemic is a community-wide effort, and thanks to the diligence of Washingtonians to Stay Home and Stay Healthy, public lands have begun to reopen. It's essential that we recreate responsibly to keep each other safe and public lands open.

Most state public lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources, Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Washington State Parks have reopened.  Federal lands managed by the National Park Service and Forest Service are slowly reopening as well, but services like restrooms and trash are anticipated to be limited or nonexistent. We will continue to update the list of closures and openings on Public Lands Closures blog. 

We know our members, particularly our leaders, have questions about guidelines for restarting in-person Mountaineers programs. Staff and volunteer leadership is working hard to provide thoughtful and comprehensive guidelines. Currently, all in-person Mountaineers programming remains suspended through at least May 31. For additional information, please visit our COVID-19 blog and response page.

Updated May 20, 2020

six tips for recreating responsibly 

The Mountaineers have been working closely with our partner organizations through the Recreate Responsibly Coalition on shared guidance to help us all recreate responsibly in the coming weeks and months.

  • Know before you go. Check the status of the place you want to visit. If it's closed, don't go. If it's crowded, have a plan B.
  • Plan Ahead. Use the bathroom, fill up your car, pack your lunch, prepare for facilities to be closed. Bring the proper gear including hand sanitizer and a mask. 
  • Stay Close to Home. This is not the time to travel long distances to recreate. Most places are only open for day use and established campsites are closed. 
  • Practice Physical Distancing. Adventure only with your immediate household. Be prepared to cover your nose and mouth and give others space. If you're sick, stay home. 
  • Play It Safe. Slow down and chose lower-risk activities to reduce your chance of injury. Search-and-rescue operations and health-care resources are both strained. 
  • Leave No Trace. Respect public lands and communities and take your garbage with you, including disposable gloves, masks, and toilet paper. 

Simplified Graphic of Recreate Responsibly Guidelines.png

additional resources from our partners

The Mountaineers partner organizations, all leaders within the recreation community, are doing their best during these uncertain times to educate the public and provide guidance on how to responsibly spend time outdoors while heeding public health recommendations. We will continue to share information from other organizations here for your reference.

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Other Ways to Stay Connected

As Mountaineers, we know that adventuring into our wild places is integral to our health and well-being. And while we may not be able to recreate in the same ways we're used to, there's been no shortage of creativity generated by the outdoor community. If recreating on public lands isn't the right fit for you in this moment, we invite you to explore some of the resources that The Mountaineers and our partner organizations have created this spring.

As you can imagine, the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak are significant. Your generosity is more critical than ever, so we thank you in advance for any support you can provide to The Mountaineers as we continue striving to fulfill our mission. If you are in a position to do so, please visit our donation page  to support our continued efforts in this time of uncertainty.

Photo by Luke Helgeson.


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Pamela (Pam) Davies
Pamela (Pam) Davies says:
Apr 29, 2020 05:06 PM

This is a really helpful guide! Appreciate it. I would like to respectfully add these additional suggestions for trail runners, bikers, and faster hikers:

(1) Please CALL OUT to hikers when approaching from behind to alert us of your presence, then
(2) STOP AND WAIT for the hiker to hear you and locate a safe place to step off the trail so that you can pass with at least 6 feet of distance (note that some research suggests that 30 feet is needed to reduce droplet transfer for runners and bikers). Please be patient! We want to share the trail with you, but some of us have a slower reaction time and can't hop out of your way in an instant.
(3) And for all of us: please DON'T SPIT ON THE TRAIL! We all need to avoid sputum exposure right now. Be a good citizen and direct your secretions off trail and into the woods.

The Mountaineers
The Mountaineers says:
Apr 30, 2020 10:53 AM

Thank you for these wonderful additions Pam! We incorporated them into the "When you get there" section. Thanks for helping us improve this guidance for everyone.

Sarah Taylor
Sarah Taylor says:
May 04, 2020 01:15 PM

Pam, you're wishful thinking is sadly of a bygone era. I was on a (usually) quiet trail and had to pass about ~50 people and can testament that noone was social distancing or had any interest in the concept; one could be forgiven for thinking we were amidst a pandemic. People were passing close to others from behind or standing in the middle of the trail despite calling out requests. This was especially acute in narrower areas of the trail where you cannot clear more than 1-2ft from others. There were no physical distancing, masks etc.

It appears that as a society we have decided that herd immunity is the strategy we are following. In the US we in addition to a lack of PPE and testing we have a severe lack of common sense. Inslee is opening most DNR land this weekend but there are no plans to educate the public on distancing nor restrict capacity at trailheads so with the sunny/warm forecast expect large crowds as the default.