Guidance for Visiting the PCT During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Last updated on August 12, 2021.

Covid case numbers are rising again. Get fully vaccinated.

As of this update, Covid case numbers are on the rise again nationwide. This surge is being driven by the Delta variant, which is highly contagious—nearly twice as contagious as previous variants. Vaccination remains the best protection against Covid-19. From the CDC:

Unvaccinated people remain the greatest concern: Although breakthrough infections happen much less often than infections in unvaccinated people, individuals infected with the Delta variant, including fully vaccinated people with symptomatic breakthrough infections, can transmit it to others.

Please take Covid-19 seriously—and practice the everyday preventative actions below, both on the trail and in towns along the trail.

From the CDC: Covid-19 Vaccines are Safe and Effective

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that “COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.” Nearly all Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. now are among unvaccinated people. If you haven’t yet been vaccinated, please consider it. Here are links for more information:

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.

Practice Everyday Preventive Actions

While guidelines have relaxed somewhat for Covid safety, it is still important to continue following CDC guidelines when on the trail and when visiting communities and resupply locations along the trail. The following should be considered everyday preventive actions (on the PCT and everywhere):

  • 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 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).
  • 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.
  • 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. In many places vaccine supply now exceeds demand, and many places now offer free vaccines.

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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