Top Tips for Hiking in the Age of Coronavirus

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Home is the safest place right now, but as the weather continues to warm up and cabin fever hits in full force, venturing into the great outdoors is growing more and more appealing. NYC is already struggling with overcrowding in our much-loved parks, so if you want to maintain social distancing while enjoying the fresh air, hitting the trails can be a wonderful option. We hope this advice sourced from PSP members will help you stay safe while immersing yourself in nature!

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Members in our PSP Hiking & Camping Group recommend that you…

Do your research. Regulations at your favorite parks and trails may continue to change, whether that means limiting the number of hikers or closing the site altogether, so check online before you get on the road.

Show up early. If parking is limited, you could end up waiting for hours before you’re allowed to hit the trail. One member reports: “Last weekend we hiked at Lake Minnewaska and we got there at 9:15 and by 9:30 the lot was filled. Yesterday we were at Harriman State Park. We got there around 8:20. On the way out we asked what time the lot had filled, and the parks employee said it was full when he got there at 9. But, as we were leaving around 1 they were letting some new cars in because others were leaving as well. On the plus side, because of these limits the hiking is glorious. We've never seen Minnewaska so empty.”

Go on a weekday if you can, as trails will be less crowded. “I know Friday is not possible for everyone because of work, but if you have a flexible schedule it might be worth trying for some people. It's always empty, especially on rainy days - we've had two weeks in a row where we saw not a single other person. We typically get through the few school things I consider a requirement each day (math, piano for ten minutes, class zoom meeting) and leave around 11am to get there at noon for a car lunch or picnic lunch on the trail.”

Seek out less popular hikes. “We went to Storm King Mountain mid-day on Saturday and it was super-crowded and very few people were wearing masks. I was shocked! We had to cross very closely past people coming in the other direction so there was very poor social distancing. Don’t recommend that one (though beautiful). Two weeks ago we hiked the Sterling Forest and that was much better. We’ll be looking for less popular hikes from now on.”

Look for larger parks with less narrow trails. It’s a simple equation: The wider the trails and the more space available, the less you’ll have to stress about maintaining social distancing.

Find a bathroom break solution that works for you. Public bathrooms are rarely a pleasant experience, and especially given anxieties about contagion, you might want to work out a plan to avoid them entirely. One member suggested bringing along a potette from the potty training days, plus baby wipes and a roll of toilet paper, to allow kids to relieve themselves in the backseat of the car. Potettes work for adults too, as long as you can squat and aim. Once on the trail, bring along toilet paper and a plastic baggie, and you’re good to go (literally)!

 

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An incomplete list of trail suggestions:

  • Lake Minnewaska (2-hour drive from Park Slope)
  • Harriman State Park (1 hour): There are a ton of trails, so this website can help you choose the right one for your family.
  • Ramapo Valley County Reservation (1 hour)
  • Sterling Forest (1 hour and 20 minutes)
  • Rockefeller State Park Preserve (1 hour): “Got there at 9:30 and people were parking on the road though there were still spots in the parking lot. We ran into people in the park, but it was big enough to social distance.”
  • Cranberry Lake Preserve (1 hour): “Bonus feature - there's a ‘Ralph's Italian Ice’ right there in town, and we stop there for afternoon snack before we drive home each Friday. My favorite so far has been a milkshake that I think they call the Campfire Ralphie.”
  • South Mountain Preserve (1 hour and 45 minutes): “we have a young baby so have to cap our hikes at 2-3 miles so as to manage naps, so a smaller park works out. There were people on the trails and about half were wearing masks, but everyone gave each other space so we were not stressed. We didn't get there til 11:30 and it was still not too crowded.”
  • Fort Tryon Park (40 minutes): “it was busy; but easy to social distance as there is a lot of space.”

 

Hiking resources:

 

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