As many of us face unique situations due to COVID-19 — like social distancing — we seek to keep any form of normalcy in our lives. While we can’t go to the movies or visit friends, we can still enjoy the great outdoors. Fortunately in Oregon we have an ample amount of mountains sprinkled with powdery snow, calming waterways, public beaches with grain-thin sand, and lush forest lands.
But how do we explore it all while maintaining social distance of staying 6 feet apart? Here are five important steps to enjoy the outdoors while social distancing. Please take care out there.
Check if parks or facilities are open before you go
Oregon’s parks, like other public places, will see reduced service to trash, restrooms, and other facilities like visitor centers. Before you go, learn who manages the site — whether it’s Oregon State Parks, National Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management — and see if they’re currently open or have reduced services. As of March 24, 2020, National Park Service sites and Oregon State Parks will be closed until further notice.
Land managers recommend picking a park that is close to you and one that isn’t very popular. It will be difficult to maintain social distance on trails at Silver Falls State Park, Smith Rock State Park and land managers are also reporting “midsummer level” traffic in the Columbia River Gorge area.
Of course if you’re ill, please stay at home.
Sanitize your hands at pay stations before and after using them
Practice good personal hygiene! Outdoor spaces and park facilities are frequently visited by many people every day. Make sure before you enter the park to properly sanitize your hands at pay stations as well as after your visit. Your health is very important in times like these but getting outside will help keep your body and mind healthy. Remember everyone might not be as healthy as you so please keep your hands clean.
In addition to hand sanitizer, consider bringing tissue to cover your mouth or wipe down surfaces. As always, be sure to pack the 10 essentials when venturing into nature.
Give ample space to others on the trail
Social distancing is all about space. Make sure you are providing ample space between yourself and fellow hikers. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends keeping a distance of 6 feet between yourself and others. If the park is too crowded and you are not able to maintain that distance, then please think about visiting another part of the park or coming back another time. According to REI, hikers coming uphill have the right of way.
Make a plan (and backup plan) for food
To slow the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Kate Brown issued a moratorium on restaurants and bars as restricted to carry-out and delivery only, with no on-site consumption permitted, for at least four weeks. For those who find the best post-hike reward is eating at the local brewpub, be sure to check if your favorite eatery is available for takeout.
Bring snacks in case local restaurants are not open for takeout — but also every time you adventure outside, as extra food is part of the 10 essentials. Consider buying a gift card for future use and other ways to support local businesses.
Relish in the beauty of Oregon’s great outdoors and let yourself recharge
Experiencing the quiet, awe-inspiring beauty of nature can not only uplift your spirits, it can improve your health. Think of Oregon’s vast outdoors as your place to relax and recharge, especially right now when many of us are vulnerable to stress and anxiety. You can help us keep this place beautiful for generations to come by recreating responsibly and avoid taking unnecessary risks.
We hope you are inspired to explore Oregon when it makes sense for you to do so — and we’ll be here when you’re ready.