The Respite of Trails and Outdoor Recreation

Trails As Health and Safety Inspiration in the Age of Coronavirus

America’s incomparable system of national scenic, historic, and recreational trails is the perfect way to sustain your mental and physical health, while maintaining the social distancing that is required in these challenging times.

by Mike Passo, Executive Director, American Trails


Cruising on the North Augusta Greeneway in South Carolina; Photo by Andy Hunter

With the onset of COVID-19, and the challenging isolation required of us all, American Trails would like to suggest that trails, parks, and outdoor recreation are the ideal way to kick your cabin fever, without exposing yourself to the coronavirus.

Care must be practiced throughout the experience (read up on our synopsis of the guidance provided by many of our public land management partners HERE), but when done thoughtfully and carefully, trails are inherently perfect as social distancing tools. You really can’t help but maintain appropriate social distancing while using a trail.

American Trails and our partners in the trail and outdoor recreation communities invite all of those who are no longer able to visit tourism or hospitality venues during the pandemic lock-down to safely enjoy the healthy option of an independently enjoyed hike, bike, run, or ride on America's system of scenic open space trails!

When you go…

As schools close and cities cancel public events and recommend people avoid busy places, public health experts say trails and parks are a safer option when looking for recreation. When you head out to a trail, please remember the following:

  • If you plan to visit a trail check beforehand to ensure that it is still open to the public.
  • Keep a distance of 6 feet between yourself and others at all times.
  • Do not touch public services, such as benches or water fountains, unless necessary.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after outdoor recreation and after touching any public surfaces.
  • If you are sick you should stay home.

These are challenging times, but one thing is clear, our fellow American’s will need relief and respite now more than ever. Trails, outdoor recreation, and our amazing open spaces can well serve that need. We are all in this together, and American Trails offers up this inspiration that trails have always and will continue to save people.

Published March 18, 2020

About the Author

Mike Passo is the Executive Director of American Trails. Mike has also served as the Executive Director of the Professional Trailbuilders Association and the owner and operator of a sea kayak outfitter called Elakah Expeditions. Mike has led groups of all backgrounds, ages and abilities on sea kayak expeditions in the San Juan Islands of Washington, Vancouver Island in British Columbia, and in Glacier Bay, Alaska. Mike has conducted an extensive study of outdoor developed areas nationwide to determine the cost implications of construction according to proposed Americans with Disabilities Act standards, and a Congressional study on improving access to outdoor recreational activities on federal land. He has a B.S. in Recreation Resource Management from the University of Wisconsin—Madison, including three years’ coursework in Landscape Architecture and Civil Engineering. He has presented on Universal Design and Programming at several national conferences and served on the Board of Directors of American Trails since 2000. His love of the outdoors and his own paraplegia has given him a great interest in the creation of an accessible outdoor environment that does not ruin the characteristics and value of that environment.

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