Turning the Dial: State Lands Will Reopen to Hiking
State lands are reopening, but hiking will look different for a little while. Pack a few extra supplies (like masks, extra toilet paper and hand-sanitizer), skip that post-hike beer, and be more willing to head to a different trailhead if your first choice is busy.
After weeks of enjoying nature close to our homes, Washingtonians will soon be able to venture further afield. In a press conference, Jay Inslee announced state lands will reopen outdoor recreation on May 5. In the conference, the governor acknowledged the importance of getting outside for Washingtonians everywhere.
"We know how important outdoor recreation is during this time of physical and mental isolation."
But the opening doesn't mean everything is back to normal. Inslee compared the current situation to a well-planned hike foiled by late-spring snow: "They have their boots, their compass and their backpack. They've planned the hike. But you can't go until the snow retreats from the hills, and that's up to Mother Nature."
Many of us have been there, when events out of our control force us to change our plans. And right now we're having to change our behavior to keep each other safe and healthy. So hiking is going to look different for a little while. You'll want to pack a few extra supplies (like masks and hand-sanitizer), skip that post-hike beer with friends, and be more willing to head to a different trailhead if your first choice is busy.
This reopening is a trial run. As long as this virus is a public health concern, it will take extra effort on all our parts to keep each other safe, and keep hiking a healthy activity. But land closures may come back around when and if cases surge. Until the pandemic is under control, public health is top priority.
Remember, this opening only applies to state lands. Lots of other popular locations (like Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks, trailheads on national forests and many county parks and trails) remain closed.
Coronavirus Hiking Etiquette
WTA worked with land managers and other stakeholders in anticipation of this decision, and in order to balance recreation with public health, we've got some new advice about how to recreate responsibly to keep each other safe and lands open.
- Physical distancing is key. This remains the main way to avoid transmission of the virus. It's important to be able to maintain 6+ feet between you and other hikers for the majority of your outing. If you can't, pick another trail. And right now, stick to recreating with just the folks in your household.
- Passing on trail. Even given these considerations, you'll likely run into other folks on trail. If you do, do your best to maintain physical distance. Determine who will step aside (generally, hikers coming uphill have right of way) and give each other a wide berth.
- Bathroom breaks: BYOTP. For now, assume all trailhead facilities will be closed. Take care of business before you arrive, bring your own toilet paper and brush up on how to poop in the woods. And remember to pack it out — toilet paper doesn't decompose quickly outside.
- Stay local. This reopening applies to day-use of state lands only. Most campgrounds and other facilities will remain closed. Stick to parks you can access in a day, and remember to keep rural communities safe. While we often encourage hikers to shop local and contribute to the recreation economy in rural communities, doing so right now could deplete the resources of smaller communities.
Find more details on recreating responsibly, get tips, and see current closures on our Hiking in the Time of Coronavirus resource page.
You are also invited to join WTA staff on Friday, May 1, at noon for a webinar to answer as many of your questions as we can in 45 minutes. Registration is free.