April 2021 Covid-19 Update

Hikers in Lassen National Park in May of 2019. Photo by Bob Doyle.

Last updated: March 30, 2021.

As we head into April, the news along the Pacific Crest Trail and beyond is mixed: on the positive side, many long-distance hikers have begun their northbound journeys from the Southern Terminus in Campo, California. And social media feeds are filling with photos of rattlesnakes in the desert and snow and high winds in the Southern California mountains—all a normal part of the PCT experience.

At the same time, the number of people who have received a Covid-19 vaccination continues to climb nationwide, putting us ever closer to that point where we have the upper hand over the virus. Early signs of spring weather are appearing along the PCT as the days become sunny and temperatures begin to climb. This is fantastic news for everyone who is tired of being cooped-up indoors during the pandemic.

On a somber note, however, we’re still in the Covid-19 pandemic—and that means there is still risk to everyone on and off the PCT. And as states nationwide begin to relax Covid restrictions, case numbers in many areas are beginning to rise again, partly due to the higher transmissibility of some Covid variants.

So if you plan to travel the PCT for a day, a weekend, a week, or complete the entire trail, make responsible choices out there. Stay a safe distance away from people you don’t know (especially in large groups), wear a good mask when you can’t (and when indoors), wash or sanitize your hands often, and avoid gathering in big groups anywhere. Don’t be the vector that could end up putting many lives at risk.

Extreme Social Distancing on the PCT

Just a few decades ago, traveling the Pacific Crest Trail was a different experience in some ways. People resupplied less often than today. They carried more weight in food to go longer distances, maybe taking rest days on the trail in some wild and scenic place—instead of a hotel room in a town near the trail.

2021 is a year for everyone to keep it outdoors and focus on solitude. It’s not the year to be sitting shoulder-to-shoulder around a campsite, sharing a hotel room with six people, or packing a bunch of hikers into someone’s vehicle for a ride into town. This is the year to get back to the basics of the trail, to really revel in the kind of solitude you can only find in places like those where the PCT will take you.

Resources to Help Keep You Safe

In the past several weeks we’ve published some articles on our website that are worth reading before you hit the trail.

First, check out our Guidance for Visiting the PCT During the Covid-19 Pandemic page. This article has our Covid safety guidelines, links to state government Covid websites, trail magic in 2021, and suggestions for minimizing your risk of injury on the trail so you don’t put others at risk.

Next, read our blog post from February 11 called Extreme social distancing on the PCT in 2021. This post has more about changing your approach to the PCT this season, as well as some specific tactics you can use to stay safer.

We’ve also published an online map of Covid cases in counties along the PCT that you can use as a reference, now and when you have a data signal on the trail. This map shows the entire trail, and clicking or tapping any location along the trail will display realtime Covid case numbers for that county. This info comes from one of the nation’s top sources of Covid data, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. 

Our Work for the PCT Continues Despite the Pandemic

While the pandemic meant a dramatic reduction in the amount of trail maintenance PCTA volunteers and partners would normally do, our work for the trail has continued on many fronts.

Our Trail Operations team has been in constant motion (albeit much of it online), meeting and working with federal land management agency partners to plan a wide variety of projects across California, Oregon and Washington. These ongoing projects include things like rerouting the PCT in some places to a more scenic or remote setting; evaluating damage to the trail caused by wildfires and developing strategies for repairing those sections; and working with our agency partners on planning efforts and projects to ensure proper management for the PCT to protect the trail experience through some of the west’s most rugged, scenic and wild landscapes.

Our Volunteer Program has also been incredibly busy keeping our volunteers engaged and learning throughout the pandemic. Their efforts have revolved around a series of online webinars covering a variety of trail maintenance topics, and the development of a comprehensive set of Covid-19 Volunteer Protocols to ensure that volunteers are able to get back to trail work safely.

Thanks to all of these efforts, and despite the pandemic, 832 volunteers safely contributed 29,469 service hours to the Pacific Crest Trail in 2020—including completing more than 500 miles of maintenance on the trail.


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