How Outdoor Organizations Have Responded to COVID-19

Shelter-in-place orders asked thru-hikers, weekend backpackers, and day hikers to leave their beloved spaces. However, as restrictions are being lifted, many outdoor spaces are opening back up. As parks and trails begin to reopen, it can be difficult to parse through new daily information. We all want to know how to get back out there.

Different trail and outdoor organizations have released guidelines and information regarding outdoor travel. Though this pandemic has undoubtedly affected every sector of the economy, these organizations still need support. For those who are financially able to make a donation, consider supporting any one of these funds. Many have been tirelessly working to provide information and work to ensure our trails will be reopened safely.

Long-Distance Trail Organizations; Where to Donate

Pacific Crest Trail Association

The PCTA asked hikers to postpone their thru-hikes of the PCT this year, in order to protect communities along the trail. Hikers are now welcomed on the PCT for day-hikes and overnight trips without a resupply. A donation to the PCTA helps the organization train and use volunteers, protect sections that pass through private land, and respond to proposals that could jeopardize the trail. Read here for an updated list of their guidelines.

Appalachian Trail Conservancy

The ATC protects, manages, and advocates for the Appalachian Trail. The ATC has asked hikers to postpone their thru-hikes because of the potential spread of the disease along the trail. The organization has created a task force to guide the trail’s reopening strategy. Supporting the ATC also supports this effort to reopen the trail in the safest way possible. Though thru-hikers are still asked to postpone their hikes, this updated list details all trail and shelter closures for single day and overnight hikers. We’ve covered their most recent briefing here.

Continental Divide Trail Coalition

The CDTC is on a mission to complete and protect the CDT. The organization has responded to COVID-19 by creating a virtual version of their Trail Days, compiling a list of how to support gateway communities, and offering to respond directly to hikers about how closure will affect their trips. Moreover, hikers can contact the CDT directly with specific questions, or read here about current closures.

Arizona Trail Association

Donating to the ATA helps the development and maintenance of the 800-mile trail stretching from Mexico to Utah. The organization asks hikers to avoid using the trail unless it can be reached without travel. Although much of Arizona has reopened, the ATA recommends hikers find an open space in their own backyards to explore.

Green Mountain Club

The Green Mountain Club maintains and protects Vermont’s Long Trail. In addition to trail maintenance, the GMC works to ensure The Long Trail is around for future generations to use. Donations help fund trail restoration and conservation projects. Facilities and privies on the trail are closed because they cannot be cleaned to CDC standards. Day-hikes are allowed, but hikers are asked to stay off the trail until the muddy season is over.

Florida Trail Association

The FTA develops, maintains, and protects a vast network of state-wide hiking trails, which includes the ~1,000 mile Florida Trail. Following the guidelines of the American Hiking Society, the FTA is asking hikers to consider staying within 50 miles of their homes. Also, the association asks hikers to only hike in sections open to the public. Check here for a current closures. Donations to the FTA allow the association to engage the public in the importance of trails.

Other Outdoor Organizations’ Responses

Photo via Maggie Slepian

American Hiking Society

On June 6, the American Hiking Society is taking National Trails Day virtually. Participants can help the AHS fight for access and prioritization of our outdoor spaces by joining the Trail Day pledge. The organization has also compiled an FAQ about outdoor recreation during COVID-19. In sum, they urge hikers to stay local, follow social distancing protocols, wear masks when around others, and follow local stay-at-home orders. Donations to the AHS help their fight to advocate for public lands, educate voters and law-makers, and create more conservation opportunities.

National Park Foundation

The National Park Foundation has launched virtual visits to parks across the United States. They’re also working to ensure as parks reopen, visitors will be able to visit safely. Donations to the NPF ensure the National Parks Service will be around for years to come. This video from their CEO explains their plan for reopening over the summer.

Wildlands Restorations Volunteers

Wildlands Restoration Volunteers organizes trail projects in Colorado and Wyoming. In May, they began hosting small volunteer events. In addition to trail projects, a donation to the WRV directly helps fund their efforts on the ground. Depending on the size of your gift, you can see the direct impact you have made, from buying a shovel to funding an entire restoration project. If these volunteer opportunities interest you, view their calendar here.

Conservation Alliance

Right now, the National Parks Conservation Alliance is actively working to ensure a safe reopen of our National Parks. The organization is asking us to take action by writing our Secretary of the Interior. By doing this, individuals are requesting a detailed plan for the safe reopening of our parks. In addition, donations to the NCPA help safeguard, advocate for, and educate others about our parks and public lands.

Supporting Trail and Outdoor Businesses

If you’re looking to directly support town businesses, this article details where to find popular stops along the PCT, AT, CDT, and more. Consider “pre-funding” a thru-hike, or buying gift cards for town stops in your future.

If it’s gear you’re looking for, consider using your dollars for good. These brands, in various ways, have committed to fighting the coronavirus pandemic. For example, companies have shifted production to manufacture PPE for frontline workers.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected every sector of society. As a result, hikers left the trail, national parks closed to visitors, and many volunteer organizations canceled or postponed events. For those who are able to, donating money to trail and outdoor organizations is a great way to stay connected to our community until we can all get back outside.

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