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?
“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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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. 🤗💜