Tips for Hiking Responsibly During Covid-19
How to enjoy the outdoors while staying safe and protecting others
Update: On May 19, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock announced the state will move to Phase Two of the Reopening the Big Sky plan and will lift the 14-day out-of-state travel quarantine beginning June 1. For the latest updates from the Governor's Coronavirus Task Fork, visit covid19.mt.gov.
On March 26, Gov. Steve Bullock issued a stay-at-home order that made exemptions for essential services and outdoor recreation — as long as physical distancing is practiced.
Public lands are extremely important for our physical and mental well-being, especially now. But if we don’t enjoy them responsibly during this health crisis, we will be putting our own health, and our neighbors’ health, at risk.
If you choose to head onto public lands in search of fresh air, exercise, and solitude, please do so safely and respectfully. Here are a few tips to help you get the outdoor time you need while keeping you and your fellow Montanans healthy and safe.
- Stay close to home. Enjoy public lands in your backyard, and don’t risk health and safety by traveling unnecessarily. Find trails near you with our Hike Wild Montana hiking guide. Remember to check the managing agency’s website before you go to ensure it’s open to the public at this time. Note that while many of our public lands are still accessible, state and federal agencies have closed facilities, campgrounds, and national parks (including Yellowstone and Glacier) in an effort to curb large gatherings.
- Avoid crowds. Stay away from busy trails and trailheads and maintain at least six feet of distance between yourself and others. Don’t meet friends at the trailhead, either – hike with those you live with.
- Don’t take unnecessary risks. Our hospitals, medical staff, and first responders are facing, or are going to be facing, a monumental workload. Let’s not add to that load by getting ourselves hurt.
- Avoid using toilets, sitting on benches, and using other facilities at trailheads and anywhere else on public lands. This might be a good time for a refresher on how to dispose of your own waste when out on public lands.
- Respect closures. If parks, trails, or other sites are closed, go somewhere else.
- Be a good steward. Our public lands belong to all of us and it’s up to all of us to take care of them, now more than ever. That means packing out your trash and following the other Leave-No-Trace principles.
- Be kind. We’re all in this together, and showing kindness to fellow hikers, agency staff, and everyone else can go a long way.
Enjoying the Outdoors in Your Neighborhood
Staying close to home is a simple way to protect public health while enjoying some fresh air. Here are some ideas for close-to-home activities that can provide important outside time.
- Go for a walk around your neighborhood while practicing physical distancing
- Check out these webcams featuring public land across the state or take a virtual tour through a national park
- Read up on bird watching for beginners and learn about Montana’s birding hotspots to visit at a later date
- Plan your wildlife-friendly garden. It’s not only a great stress reliever, but you’ll also be helping to combat habitat deterioration
Going on a Walk or Hike? Please be Responsible
Visit these agency and park websites to get the latest information on closures, restrictions, and best practices before visiting them. And remember, now’s a great time to make plans for future adventures instead of hitting the road.
State and Federal Agency Websites
- Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
- Montana State Parks
- Bureau of Land Management Montana/Dakotas
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services
- U.S. Forest Service
Eastern and Southwestern Montana
- City of Whitefish updates
- Kootenai National Forest
- Glacier National Park
- Flathead National Forest
- Whitefish Trail
Keely provides communications support for our chapters, programs, and campaigns and manages our social media channels. In her free time, she enjoys fly fishing on Montana's scenic rivers, hiking, camping, and exploring public lands in her home state.