Do I need to wear a mask when I’m hiking on a trail in the national parks?

As northerners flock to the south to escape the snow the national parks are a popular destination. This brings up the question of do I need to wear a mask when I’m hiking on a trail in national parks? While we move through life during the COVID pandemic, masks have been (unfortunately) a controversial topic. The U.S national park system (NPS) is operated and maintained federally and the mask requirements are the same for each hiking trail.

The NPS works with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as state, tribal, and local health authorities. Including the Federal Emergency Management Agency to ensure the safety of park visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners. Read more to find out if you need to wear a mask when you’re hiking on the trails.

Do I need to wear a mask when I'm hiking on a trail in the national parks?  
While we move through life during the COVID pandemic, masks have been (unfortunately) a controversial topic. Many are wondering if you need to wear a mask hiking on a trail. The answer is a yes, and no. Read more on national park mask requirements here.

Do I need to wear a mask when I’m hiking on a trail?

“Visitors to (the NPS) are coming from locations across the country, if not across the world. Because of this, and recognizing that the majority of the United States is currently in substantial or high transmission categories, we are implementing a service-wide mask requirement to ensure our staff and visitors’ safety.”

NPS Deputy Director Shawn Benge

Visitors, employees, and contractors are required to wear a mask regardless of their vaccination status in areas such as:

  • NPS buildings
  • Crowded outdoor spaces
  • All forms of enclosed public transportation

*This includes outdoor spaces where social distancing cannot be maintained like…

narrow or busy trails and overlooks. 

In short, YES you need to wear a mask hiking on a trail. The caveat to that is it only applies when social distancing isn’t possible.

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Do I need to wear a mask when I'm hiking on a trail in the national parks?  
While we move through life during the COVID pandemic, masks have been (unfortunately) a controversial topic. Many are wondering if you need to wear a mask hiking on a trail. The answer is a yes, and no. Read more on national park mask requirements here.

Why do I need to wear a mask when I’m on a hiking trail?

“Being vaccinated is the most effective way to protect yourself and your loved ones from the dangers of the coronavirus. Masking in addition to being vaccinated will help prevent the spread of new variants and protect those who are more at risk of severe disease. This simple act of kindness allows us to be safe while we continue to enjoy the benefits of our (NPS),” 

Capt. Maria Said MD, Epidemiologist, NPS Office of Public Health

There are infamously crowded overlooks and hiking trails in every park. Some trails are so narrow you could come in direct contact with other hikers. So you will need to wear a mask if you’re hiking trails where physical distancing 6 ft apart just isn’t possible. It’s always safer to bring your mask with you when you’re hiking. It’s courteous to others when you wear it, and you may need it when you least expect it.

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Do I need to wear a mask when I'm hiking on a trail in the national parks?  
While we move through life during the COVID pandemic, masks have been (unfortunately) a controversial topic. Many are wondering if you need to wear a mask hiking on a trail. The answer is a yes, and no. Read more on national park mask requirements here.
NPS / Matt Turner

Staying Safe and Recreating Responsibly

We once showed up to a National Historic Landmark in Colorado only to find out that it was closed that day. Be prepared for your visit by checking the park website as you begin planning your trip. There are several public health measures in place in all the parks such as:

  • Capacity limits
  • Entrance reservations
  • One-way trails
  • Temporary closures

Always check www.nps.gov/coronavirus and the park website before your trip to double-check its operating status. I also recommend downloading the NPS App to get the most up-to-date information. Plus it includes handy information on trail status, amenities, and visitor suggestions.

ultimate packing guide for a national park road trip

Don’t forget to pack all the essentials for your national park road trip! Check out my post for what you need to bring, and download my FREE national park packing list!

Packing guide to National Parks


For the health and safety of others, the NPS asks that you visit another time if you:

  • Are experiencing COVID-like symptoms such as a dry cough, fever, difficulty breathing, and/or loss of taste or smell.
  • Had close contact with someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
  • You are self-isolating or self-quarantining because you may have been exposed to a person with COVID-19 or are worried that you may be sick with COVID-19


The NPS expects everyone regardless of their vaccination status to follow the mask requirements.

Anyone who violates this requirement could be subject to citations. Who wants to deal with THAT on vacation? Not me!

The mask requirements will stay in effect until further notice. 

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Me getting my COVID booster shot 💪🏼

Are you ready to get your vaccine?

If you are a U.S resident ready to get the COVID-19 vaccine, visit vaccines.gov to find a location near you and make an appointment. I prefer to communicate via text, so my recommendation is to just text your ZIP code to 438-829 and you’ll get a text back immediately with the closest COVID-19 vaccine location. Super easy and convenient!

Please mask up and get your vaccine because we’re all in this together. 🤗💜

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Do I need to wear a mask when I\'m hiking on a trail in the national parks?Do I need to wear a mask when I\'m hiking on a trail in the national parks?Do I need to wear a mask when I\'m hiking on a trail in the national parks?
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11 comments

  1. It can be confusing when and where to wear a mask when outdoors, certainly when traveling through different countries with each their own rules. Glad to know the NPS has the same rules everywhere.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing, it’s so good that you can text to find vaccine locations, how convenient. Masks are annoying but I’m happy to do whatever is necessary to get this pandemic over with

  3. I have often wondered the same thing. Some of the hiking trails in my area strongly recommend them, but they also have policies in place where you need to make trail reservations. Thanks for sharing.

  4. This is a great post and I hope it gets shared widely! We’ve been doing lots of hiking the last two years. We always have our masks with us, and if we pass by people we just pull them up real quick. It’s amazing how many “thank you!”s we’ve gotten. One person even said “us locals really appreciate when visitors mask up, so thank you”. They, of course, pulled up a mask, too. It’s really quite easy and just for a few seconds to make everyone feel safe!

  5. It’s still upsetting/sad that masks are sill such a controversial topic. I always bring a mask for hiking so I can wear it if I get anywhere close to anyone that isn’t in my hiking group. Thanks for putting this post together!

  6. Thanks for sharing! This is actually really useful as it is sometimes hard to know what to do outside. Even though in the UK we have gone through various states of mask rules, I have always opted to wear it anytime I am indoors and I have for the most part avoided any crowded outdoor spaces. However, I would never have even considered taking one when out hiking!

  7. I’m glad to hear the NPS is requiring masks right now, I know it can be so confusing when we’re outdoors whether or not it is necessary, but it would definitely put my mind at ease to enjoy the hike more when surrounded by people in a public area. Hopefully all will calm back down again soon 🙂 thanks for sharing!

  8. It makes me a little sad that this is even controversial! I don’t mind hiking with a mask in my pocket to protect other people at viewpoints, narrow parts of the trail, or when using the loo etc. It shouldn’t be a political idea to want to keep people around you safe. You’re totally right though, we’re in this together.

    1. I 100% agree Josy! It shouldn’t be political or controversial, it makes me upset too. I’m glad to hear that you and others are respecting the guidelines and keeping others safe! xx

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