Guidance for Visiting the PCT During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Last updated on May 5, 2022.

Please get fully vaccinated.

  • We have heard reports over the past few weeks of hikers on the PCT testing positive for Covid. In some cases, hikers who tested positive claimed only to have been around other people outdoors (so being outdoors is not a guarantee of safety).
  • While nowhere near as high as earlier this year, Covid case numbers and infection rates have been climbing again in many places around the country—including PCT states.
  • The newest Omicron subvariants have been shown to be very good at evading immunity from previous Covid infections, and there are many known cases of people testing positive for Covid even after two vaccinations and two boosters. But the vaccine is still extremely effective at reducing the risk of serious illness and hospitalization.
  • We urge everyone on the trail to consider the CDC’s recommendation that people who are not fully vaccinated wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings or during activities that involve sustained close contact with other people.

Covid vaccines are free, safe, and provide strong protection.

Data published by the CDC shows conclusively that fully-vaccinated people are…

  • 5 times less likely to become infected by Covid-19;
  • more than 10 times less likely to be hospitalized; and
  • more than 10 times less likely to die from Covid-19.

Covid vaccines are safe, effective, free, and widely available. We strongly encourage those who have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19 to consider the benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and to get vaccinated and to get their eligible teenagers vaccinated—not just for themselves, but also for their children and families.

Here are links for more information on getting vaccinated:

Staying Safe on the PCT

Comply with local, state and federal guidelines and laws.
Any PCT travel must comply with local, state, and federal guidelines and laws. Please also consider the desires of communities near the trail. Check with public health agencies for information near your starting point, along your route, and at your planned destination to be sure you’re in compliance.

Be aware that local requirements may change—even after you start your trip. Stay informed of the most up-to-date information.

Guidance for Fully-Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Individuals

CDC guidelines for Covid safety have relaxed for fully-vaccinated individuals. If you are fully-vaccinated…

  • you do not need to wear a mask outdoors (but anecdotal evidence on the PCT suggests outdoor transmission is possible);
  • you can reduce your risk of a breakthrough infection or transmitting the virus to others by wearing a mask indoors in public in areas of substantial or high community transmission;
  • you may also choose to wear a mask to protect any immunocompromised people who are with you

If you are NOT fully vaccinated, it is still important to continue following CDC guidelines when on the trail and when visiting communities and resupply locations along the trail.

  • Maintain at least six feet of physical distance between parties. (More if possible.)
  • Bring a mask that covers your nose and mouth. If you are not fully-vaccinated, wearing it remains essential indoors if you cannot maintain a six-foot distance.
  • Avoid shared facilities such as picnic tables, group campsites, cabins, toilets, bear boxes and fire rings if you are not fully-vaccinated. If they are closed, please don’t use them.

Everyday Preventive Actions

  • Avoid congregating in parking areas and points of interest like overlooks and waterfalls. Don’t linger if others want to appreciate it too. Give each other some space.
  • Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces if you are not fully-vaccinated (and it is advisable to avoid crowds even if you are fully-vaccinated).
  • Wash hands frequently with biodegradable soap and water, away from a water source, for at least 20 seconds and/or use hand sanitizer often.
  • Take your rest breaks away from the trail so others don’t have to pass you closely.
  • Symptoms like shortness of breath, a dry cough and headaches are common at high altitude. They are also symptoms of COVID-19. Get a test so that you can be sure you don’t have the virus before you continue.
  • Get a COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to you.

Keep your goals conservative and manage your risk—search and rescue teams are already strained.

Regardless of the pandemic, you should reduce risk in a lot of ways, such as not socializing with people who are not fully-vaccinated, avoiding difficult stream crossings, not having campfires, avoiding scrambles over rocks, not going cross-country, not jumping across creeks or any action that could result in injury or require the help of first responders.

Accidents place unnecessary stress on first responders, search and rescue teams and hospital staff who are already strained from the pandemic. Please don’t put yourself or anyone else at risk of exposure.

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