9 ways to practice social distancing in the outdoor space

Tristan Maerz of Detroit rides Buckhorn or Upper Cap’n Jack’s trail, depending on which map you own or the company you keep, Friday, July 18, 2016. Hikers, motorcyclists, and mountain bikers have debated for years over the proper name of the section west of High Drive in North Cheyenne Canyon. Photo Credit: The Gazette, Christian Murdock.

While Colorado residents have been urged to stay at home, one exception to this recommendation is leaving the house for exercise. Below you’ll find a few recommendations that will help you practice social distancing while in the outdoor space. Remember, in all activities you should be at least 6 feet away from other people. That being said, try to avoid people entirely, if possible.

1. Take the trail less traveled

Some trails around Colorado’s mountains can seem more like a crowded sidewalk in Denver at times. These are the trails you should avoid. Instead, turn your eyes to the trails you aren’t normally using. They might be less spectacular in some cases, but this will allow you to practice social distancing as you’ll be dodging fewer people on your hike. THIS DOES NOT MEAN USING REMOTE TRAILS. It means using trails you wouldn’t typically look at as ‘hiking trails.’ Consider a ‘boring’ footpath and urban routes (provided you’re easily able to remain less than 6 feet others). Do not enter the backcountry seeking ‘social distance’ and put yourself in a situation that may require search and rescue assistance.

2. Go outside at odd hours

Avoid the outdoor space when it’s likely to be most crowded – on the weekends and during the middle of the day. By visiting a natural space when there are fewer people there, social distancing will be easier.

3. Avoid using on-site facilities

While you might be social distancing yourself from other people, you should also social distance yourself from their germs. Avoid spots that people would be touching things, including bathrooms, gates, trailheads, and parking lots.

4. Park farther away from the trailhead

Social distancing can be difficult in crowded parking lots with only a couple feet between vehicles. Consider finding a spot that might be a little further away to avoid this closeness.

5. Don’t travel for trailheads

When you travel for a trailhead, you take your germs with you and drop them off along the way at places like small-town gas stations. This can allow the virus to further spread across regions. Try to hit the local trails first and keep in mind that many of the small towns you’re thinking about visiting might have limited or strained rescue and medical services.

6. Sanitize

Don’t forget to thoroughly wash your hands following any sort of outdoor recreation. Bring hand sanitizer while on your adventure for the times that a sink isn’t nearby.

7. Go outside less

This recommendation might be a hard one to swallow, but every time you leave your house, you’re risking catching COVID-19 or passing it along unknowingly. Limit the risk to yourself and others by going outside a fewer number of times throughout the week.

8. Limit the number of people you’re with

In times like these, enjoying nature by yourself is the most ideal situation. If you must recreate in a group, keep it small and keep your distance. One alternative to group workouts is to use an application like Strava to track your times and still compete.

9. Don’t do anything dangerous or risky

If you’re still exploring the outdoor space with proper ‘social distance,’ do so in a responsible manner. Keep in mind that search and rescue crews and resources are strained in this time of pandemic. Avoid situations where you may become lost or hurt and avoid traveling to small towns for recreation where resources may be even more limited.


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