How To Safely Recreate Outdoors

Like bears in the springtime, people are slowly starting to emerge from their unplanned, coronavirus-induced hibernation, as states across the country are beginning to ease lockdown restrictions. In typical bear-like fashion, people seem to be anxious to find a bite to eat at a local eatery and then stretch their legs and get some fresh air by hitting the trails.

Despite our anxiousness to get outside and play, the global pandemic continues to rage on. We have managed to flatten the curve here in Oregon, but it is still important to follow social distancing guidelines, practice good hygiene, and respect our neighbors to prevent a resurgence of the disease.

Thankfully for all of us here in Sunriver, recreating outdoors is considered very low-risk for contracting the coronavirus, with fresh air and ample opportunity to practice social distancing. And of course, walking, running, hiking, cycling, and paddling are all great for both your mental and physical health. Getting outside to play should be at the top of your to-do list this summer!

That said, we must still continue to do our part to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Here are a few things you should do when recreating outside, to ensure that you have a safe, healthy summer:

Know Before You Go: Make sure to check the state and federal rules and current status for the area you plan on visiting. Rules and requirements are changing frequently, based on the latest science and number of local cases. Double-check that the trail, park, or area you want to explore is open, and know any special rules before you go!

  • The latest state-level guidance on reopening phases and travel can be found on the Oregon Health Authority website.
  • Oregon State Parks will have information and statuses regarding Tumalo and Smith Rock State Parks.
  • Deschutes National Forest will have information and statuses regarding local forest service recreation sites, trails, and forest access.

Find Quiet Trails: If you pull up to a parking lot and it’s full of cars, it’s better to turn around and find a different spot to explore. The Bend/Sunriver area has thousands of miles of trails. There is no need to hike with a crowd!

Hit the Trail Early: The early bird gets the worm! If you want to do a hike that you know is popular, like Black Butte, plan to get on (and off) the trail early. Hike to the top in time for sunrise, so you are back to the parking lot when the rest of the crowd is just showing up.

Not a morning person? Pack headlamps and try a sunset hike instead! You can also try your hike mid-week to avoid crowds.

Bring a Mask: While wearing a mask while recreating outside isn’t required, it’s a good idea to bring one along in your pocket anyway. You never know when you will run into a crowd, need to go into a gas station, or stop at a grocery store on the way home!

Wash Your Hands: Soap and running water aren’t really accessible on the trail, so be sure to pack hand sanitizer in your backpack. Use it after touching shared surfaces, like railings, gas pumps, or door handles.

Pack It Out: Keep your germs to yourself! Be sure to Leave No Trace, and pack out any hand-wipes and other trash you bring along.

Make Room: It is important to practice good trail etiquette this summer, which means respecting everyone’s 6-foot spacing. Always yield to someone traveling uphill. Most trails aren’t 6 feet wide, so you’ll need to step off the trail to allow them plenty of passing room.

Hiking With Friends: The best things are always better when shared with a friend, hiking and mountain biking included! You can meet up for an outdoor play-date with your friends and still remain socially distant. If you are recreating with someone who isn’t part of your home group, consider taking separate vehicles to the trailhead. The CDC currently recommends avoiding groups of more than 10 people, so bring a friend but don’t make it a party.

Don’t Go Overboard: Search-and-rescue groups all over the country have asked backcountry enthusiasts to tone it down during the pandemic. Stay within your ability level, and make conservative decisions on the trail. The goal is to prevent yourself from getting lost, injured, or otherwise needing emergency evacuation from the backcountry, to help keep both search-and-rescue personnel and first responders safe.

Pack a Lunch: Most of the communities nearest to popular outdoor recreation sites are small and have limited resources. Be sure to pack your own food and water and fill your car with gas before you head out. That will allow you to be self-contained and will prevent the possible spread of the virus to small communities that don’t have many services. If you do have to make a quick stop at a local store or restroom, be sure to respect those communities by wearing your mask inside!

Be Nice: Everyone is stressed right now. Spread cheer and positivity with the simple act of smiling and saying hello when you encounter other trail users.

Stay Home: If you are coughing and sneezing, have a fever, or have been exposed to someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 14 days, please STAY HOME. Your epic day of riding or hiking can WAIT a few more days. We all need to do our part to keep our community safe and healthy.

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