Wilderness and COVID-19

Although rules are changing, social distancing is still the new norm in 2021, and that's continuing, whether you're at the grocery story or on the trail--at least until the nation's vaccination campaign comes to a formal close. #RecreateResponsibly to ensure that your public lands stay open and accessible.

Explore Wilderness In Person

Appropriate social distancing outdoors

Public lands, including wilderness areas, continue to remain open. When visiting wilderness or other outdoor public spaces, take these critical precautions.

Critical Pandemic Precautions

  • VERIFY RESTRICTIONS: First, verify what state, county or city government restrictions may be in place related to COVID-19. Next, check with National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service or Bureau of Land Management office that manages the wilderness you want to visit to ensure you get the most current public health information available on restrictions on public lands. Indoor spaces, like visitor centers, and other public facilities may still have strict social distancing measures you must adhere to--including mask requirements on all Federal property.
  • MAINTAIN SOCIAL DISTANCING:  Follow the new rules for social distancing while on the trail that include maintaining 6 feet of distance between you and other people at all times. Masks are still required on all Federal lands, including when you are less than 6 feet from others outside.
  • DON'T CONTRIBUTE TO 'WREAKREATION': Unprecedented numbers of people have been visiting public lands during the pandemic causing everything from crowding on trails to the creation of makeshift campsites to piles of human feces and trash. Be flexible with your outdoor plans so you can avoid popular areas by 1) choosing a different access point 2) getting outdoors at a less busy time of the day 3) practicing no-waste camping and 4) being well-educated about Leave No Trace techniques, specifically those related human waste.
  • SAY 'NO' TO RISKS: Although making conservative choices while in the wilderness has always been important, it continues to be more so now. Engaging in risky backcountry sports, or even just hiking a trail outside your level of expertise, increases your chances of being injured--whether you twist your ankle, fall while climbing, or get caught in an avalanche. Backcountry injuries are straining volunteer search and rescue groups, and injuries are happening more often due to increased visitation. Make overly safe choices, stay within your recreational comfort zone, and save that sick line, sketchy traverse, and rad vertical for another day (or another year!).
  • PRACTICE LEAVE NO TRACE: Many federal employees are still working from home, and field work seasons this year continue to operate under heavy restrictions for workers. Volunteer groups may not be hosting typical trail work or trash collection outings. Even at trailheads with trash receptacles, trash collection may be limited and bathrooms may not be being serviced regularly. If you pack it in, make sure to pack it out--this includes all garbage and dog waste. If you find trash that isn't yours, pack it out anyway. Be extra vigilant about following Leave No Trace principles when in wilderness or any other outdoor public space.

Explore Wilderness Virtually

Virtual tour of Zion National ParkVirtual outdoor experiences can help feed your wild spirit when you're not outside. While at home, visit wilderness virtually:

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