Guidance for Visiting the PCT During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Last updated on May 14, 2021.

Pandemic recovery continues, but risk still exists

Summer is approaching and the Pacific Crest Trail season is well underway: people are getting out on the trail, many long-distance travelers are headed north from Southern California and it feels like a normal season again.

Nationwide (as of this post), just over a third of Americans are fully vaccinated and almost half have received at least one dose of the vaccine. On May 10th the FDA authorized the Pfizer vaccine for young people ages 12-15, and trials continue for use of the vaccine in younger children.

Vaccination numbers in the PCT states of California, Oregon and Washington closely track the national numbers above, and Covid case numbers in each state are declining as of this post.

All of this means that while things are looking up and states move closer to fully reopening, the pandemic isn’t over—and there is still a risk of Covid infection, especially indoors in close proximity to large groups of people. On a positive note, the CDC recently stated that less than 10% of Covid-19 transmission occurs outdoors, and many experts believe that number is actually much lower.

CDC issues new guidelines relaxing restrictions for the fully-vaccinated

On May 13, the CDC issued new guidelines stating that fully-vaccinated people can “resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”

Visit the CDC’s website to review guidelines for wearing masks and activities for both vaccinated and non-vaccinated people.

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.

Be aware that local conditions could still change—even after you start your trip. You may need to alter your plans or go home abruptly should local stay-at-home orders go into effect during your journey. 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 is 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 full-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.

The less you travel, the fewer risks you take.

The shorter your journey on the PCT, the less the risk of contact with the virus—and the less the risk of transmitting it to others.

We encourage you to stay close to home and stick to shorter trips. There are countless amazing weekend or week-long trips along the PCT that don’t require resupply, hitchhiking or being indoors with other people.

By staying local, you reduce the risk of virus transmission. Staying close to home and not mixing with others is crucial to decreasing COVID-19 transmissions, hospitalizations and deaths.

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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