COVID-19: Social Distancing on the Trail

“Nature isn’t closed,” the man proudly proclaimed while removing his mountain bike from the boutique hitch- mounted rack. The parking area at the North Round Valley Trailhead was packed. Despite a rope and sign indicating a closure, the Basin Rec Bike Park trails were dotted with trains of riders following each other around berms and over jumps. Under blue skies and a warm spring sun, it almost felt like there wasn’t a COVID-19 -related shelter-in-place order in Summit County. It seemed every housebound outdoor enthusiast eager for a bit of trail therapy in Park City agreed.

I looked sheepishly down at my handlebars as I pedaled past a group at the trailhead kiosk. “Just get on the trail, and things will thin out,” I thought. How wrong I was. The Happy Gilmore trail has bi-directional traffic and was flush with bikers, hikers, joggers, dog walkers, birders and more. Everyone seemed jovial—if a bit stilted from lacking practice in social interactions— going to great lengths to maintain six feet of isolation. But at intersections, narrow sections of trail and around corners that became difficult. Being outside, getting exercise and blowing off steam is important during a pandemic, but only if done responsibly. I got the feeling I was being part of the problem, so I spoke with Charlie Sturgis, Executive Director of the Mountain Trails Foundation, about being part of the COVID-19 solution:


“Try to avoid peak hours. The rush after work is probably the busiest and late morning. It gets light early enough right now you can get two hours on the trail from 7:00-9:00 a.m. without seeing almost anybody,” Sturgis says.


“Whenever possible, walk or ride to your activity. People who don’t live together are wisely driving separately, but it’s led to very crowded parking at trailheads.”


“For many, using the trails is about being sociable, but we can’t do that to a large degree right now. Limit your group size, and don’t send a huge group text out to organize an activity. Once you’re on the trail remember six feet is the minimum distance, so try to keep a buffer that’s closer to 10.”


“Exercising in a mask can be difficult and uncomfortable. You don’t have to wear a mask all the time but carry one with you. If you see a crowded intersection or trailhead, stop and put your mask on. If nothing else, it will help you and others be more aware about maintaining distance.”

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Tony Gill
Tony Gill
Tony Gill is the outdoor and Park City editor for Salt Lake Magazine and previously toiled as editor-in-chief of Telemark Skier Magazine. Most of his time ignoring emails is spent aboard an under-geared single-speed on the trails above his home.

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