Vermont's 2020 Hiking Season and COVID-19The answer you’ve all been waiting for: Yes, the Long Trail System’s trails will open tomorrow, May 22. However, it’s not as simple as that statement. With both a late snowpack and COVID-19 as dominant concerns this hiking season, we are asking hikers to take a few extra precautions to both protect public health and protect the public resource of our beautiful trails.
Hiking is the ideal outdoor recreational activity for these times since you can get outside for exercise and fresh air while still adhering to social distancing and hygiene guidelines, but let’s be smart about it, and above all, let’s be sensitive to trail conditions and courteous to other hikers itching to get out just as much as we are.
Trail Conditions and Backcountry Facility ClosuresDoes this mean winter conditions are gone? Nope. If you are hiking at higher elevations, there is definitely still snow and ice, with the snow line at anywhere from 2750′ to 3000′ depending on your location. The Mount Mansfield snow stake is showing 41″ of snow still present (versus 15″ for this date in an average year). The snowy treadway is undermined in many places where drainages and streams are running, creating the potential for bad post-holing and the risk of ankle injuries. All of the alpine zones are exposed at this point, but you definitely need microspikes to get there. If you are hiking to these areas, please be prepared for winter conditions (with traction, layers, and experience) or consider staying below the snow line for another couple of weeks.
Does this mean muddy conditions are gone? Also nope. According to GMC field staff, the mud is still pretty significant in a lot of places since the snowline is so low. It depends on the location, but people will see mud at every elevation on the Long Trail System this weekend. If you encounter muddy conditions, please either turn back or be prepared to walk straight through puddles and mud to avoid damaging the surrounding vegetation.
Trails on state and federal lands are open, but caution is still needed: staff and volunteers have not been able to perform the normal levels of spring trail maintenance or assessments. GMC volunteers were delayed in starting their spring trail maintenance due to COVID-19 restrictions and late-season snowpack. They are still working on clearing trails and hikers should expect to encounter areas of blowdowns from the winter. We will also be operating with very limited field staff this season and will need your help in stewarding the trails.
Here are a few tips for early season hikers:
Primitive camping along the trail can be difficult. Not only can it be hard to find a flat, clear spot for a tent in the rugged terrain of the Green Mountains, but it’s complicated because the rules vary depending on who the land manager is:
Planning a thru-hike or overnight hike? Check out our thru-hiker FAQ.
New COVID-19 Trail EtiquetteOut-of-state visitors are still being asked to self-quarantine for at least 14 days after arriving in Vermont and before engaging in any activities. For more information about health and safety precautions, please visit the Vermont Department of Health.
As with all outdoor recreation activities, hikers should go out only if you’re healthy, have not been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, and/or have not recently traveled from a location with a CDC-issued travel advisory. Wash or sanitize your hands frequently, don’t touch your face, and embrace a “Park, Play and Move On” mentality.
If you are heading out on the trail, please follow the updated COVID-19 trail etiquette below:
For more hiking information and recommendations you can talk to GMC’s visitor center staff by calling 802-244-7037 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. GMC offers waterproof paper maps and guidebooks for sale on the GMC online store, and digital maps of popular trails in Vermont through the Avenza Maps app, available in the App Store and Google Play. You can also chat with other hikers and see others’ trip reports in GMC’s Facebook Group.
We wish you a happy and safe hiking season!
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