Hike Responsibly

Hiking etiquette during the COVID-19 pandemic

Getting outdoors and into nature during the pandemic offers many benefits, but it’s important to remember to do so safely and responsibly.

  • Check the park or reserve website before you go to ensure the trail is open to the public, and to learn about what guidelines they may have in place.
  • If the parking lot, the trailhead or the trail are crowded, consider changing your venue (before heading out, check for an alternative trail nearby) or return another time
  • Hike with your own household and do not congregate in groups.
  • Maintain a physical distance of 6 feet or more when passing someone from outside your own household, and wear a mask when it is not possible to maintain that distance.

Learn more about hiking responsibly from California State Parks.

Be prepared

Please follow common rules of courtesy and safety. Check the park or reserve website to find out if dogs are permitted on the trails and follow the regulations concerning leashes.

Wear comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen, and a hat. Hiking boots are recommended. Bring adequate water (2 liters for a 5-mile hike; 3 liters for more than 5 miles) and food; even the short or easy hikes can demand liquid and energy resources. You may also wish to bring a jacket, binoculars, and field guides. Bring rain gear if rain is a possibility.

Know your limitations. If you tire because the trail is strenuous, take a rest. Turn around if needed. There is no shame in not completing the entire hike.

Wilderness ethics

There is no way to resolve the paradox of the great attraction of the wilderness. Its undisturbed isolation is inevitably changed when we respond to the attraction. We are uncomfortably aware that our very presence violates an unspoiled environment. But there are ways to minimize the effects of our invasion. We can recognize where we are most disruptive, and we can adopt a few simple precepts.

Take no living specimens of any kind. Collect no archaeological specimens (this includes arrowheads, potsherd and chipping flakes). If you pick anything up, replace it exactly as you found it. Beachdrift, too, has its place in the total scene. Within the few years that groups like ours have been coming to beaches, the depletion of natural items has become painfully obvious. Although the drift shells are almost irresistible, we urge restraint on both aesthetic and ecological grounds. Even shells play a part in maintaining a "natural balance."

Keep away from occupied bird nests. Your presence may effectively evict the occupant. A frightened bird may abandon its home permanently. Eggs left even for a short time may "spoil" on exposure to the ambient temperature. Hatchlings also are susceptible to temperature changes, and parents may not return to feed them. Moreover, eggs and hatchlings can be preyed upon by predators (birds, snakes, etc.) when the parents are frightened from the nest. Remember, a great photo means very little if the animals are killed as a result.

Whenever possible, keep to the established trails. Try to walk in a single file if you are with others. We want to leave everything as pristine as possible for others to cherish, protect and enjoy.

Take care of your personal needs off trails and away from water sources. Use a trowel to bury waste, digging down about eight inches. Decomposing bacteria are near the surface. There is no need to bury urine. Bring all toilet paper out with you. Most of us find it convenient to carry a small zip-lock bag for this purpose.

Please pack out all trash with you, including apple cores, fruit skins and nutshells. Coyotes dig up everything so burying does not work.