In this time of closures and social distancing, the outdoors seems to be one of the few places that we can still go and continue to enjoy. Getting outside to move your body and give your mind a break is important to maintaining physical and mental health. PEEC wants to encourage our community to be responsible trail users, so the trails and outdoor spaces we all love can remain open during these uncertain times!
As always, we recommend following recommendations from the New Mexico Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control, and Los Alamos County or your local authority. Look to them for the most up-to-date information and guidelines!
Here are our 10 tips for getting outside and using our trails during COVID-19:
1) Keep Your Distance
Social distancing guidelines apply when out on the trails, too! Remember to stay at least six feet apart from fellow trail users and give each other plenty of space when passing.
We recommend getting outside with household members rather than friends who may have been exposed to different people and environments. If you plan to meet a friend at a trail, drive separately and always maintain at least a six foot distance from each other.
2) Stay Home If You Are Sick
If you are feeling sick, you should stay home and follow recommendations from the Department of Health on getting tested for COVID-19. If you have been in contact with a sick person or may have been exposed to the virus, please follow testing and isolation guidelines and stay off the trails until you are certain that you are healthy.
3) Wash Your Hands!
We know you’ve heard it already, but it is important to wash your hands before and after heading outside. Avoid touching your face, disinfect high-contact surfaces, and follow the CDC’s recommendations on personal hygiene.
4) Avoid Crowded Trailheads
If you pull up to the trailhead and find that it is bustling with people and cars, consider an alternative plan. It’s hard to social distance in a crowded parking lot or along a trail packed with people!
We are lucky to have almost 60 miles of trails managed by Los Alamos County, plus nearby U.S. Forest Service, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and National Park trails — so there are plenty of trails to explore and plenty of space to spread across!
Visit PEEC’s Trail Guide for more information on local trails. Be sure to bring your Passport to the Pajarito Plateau along on your adventures. If you don’t have a passport, feel free to use a sheet of paper or take pictures and we’ll get you caught up when the nature center reopens.
5) Limit Risk
Hospitals are already overwhelmed with patients due to COVID-19 and the situation is unlikely to improve anytime soon. It’s the responsibility of all of us to avoid further straining the healthcare system. You also probably want to stay away from hospitals at this time if you can help it!
Avoiding higher risk activities like backcountry skiing or rock climbing is the responsible thing to do right now. Limit your outdoor adventures to hiking, running, walking, and other less dangerous activities. We also suggest staying within your comfort zone when it comes to trying new trails!
6) Be Prepared
Understand that you may not have the same access to (or desire to use) facilities like public restrooms and drinking fountains. Be prepared for your outdoor adventure by bringing plenty of water in a reusable water bottle and learning how to use the bathroom outdoors.
We also suggest following the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics’ seven principles on your adventure. Be a good steward of our outdoors spaces (now and always!) by packing out your trash, planning ahead, leaving what you find, and respecting wildlife.
7) Enjoy Alternatives
If the places your family usually enjoys visiting are closed down, explore alternatives! If you enjoy camping at our state parks, try having a family campout in your own backyard. If you enjoy playing at the nature center, try out fort building on a nearby trail.
If you’re looking for craft and activity ideas, be sure to check out PEEC’s new online program Take It Outside. We publish new posts every weekday to help folks learn about and enjoy the outdoors while the schools and nature center are closed!
8) Stay Close to Home
The New Mexico Department of Health is currently advising individuals to reconsider out-of-state travel. If you do travel out-of-state, the department is recommending that you self-isolate for 14 days.
National Parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon have all closed to visitors. We should avoid further spreading the virus by staying close to home. No one wants to bring the virus to a new community or come back home with it. Take a virtual tour of a National Park rather than visiting one right now. Many popular outdoor destinations are also in more rural communities that do not have the medical resources to deal with an outbreak. Enjoy the beauty around your home rather than traveling at this time!
9) Continue to Follow Guidance From Authorities
New information about COVID-19 is being released every day. While these are our suggestions now, continue to follow the recommendations of the Department of Health, CDC, and your local government during this time. Stay informed and defer to these authorities for the most-up-to-date information and best practices!
10) Be Kind
This is a stressful time, but we can work together to ensure that we can continue to enjoy the outdoor spaces we love. Be kind to other trail users you meet by keeping a distance, but smiling and saying hello. We can continue to encourage one another to enjoy our outdoors safely and responsibly — even if we must do it apart!