CDTC Releases Updated Guidance for Visiting the CDT
The Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) has released an updated statement with guidance for hiking along the CDT this year. They remain committed to protecting the communities along the Continental Divide Trail during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the CDT is not “closed,” the CDTC is urging prospective hikers to follow all public health recommendations, orders, and closures along any sections of the CDT, regardless of length and duration.
They ask that anyone displaying symptoms of COVID-19 or who may have been exposed, to stay home. If the hiker is healthy and want to visit the Continental Divide Trail, the CDTC asks that they follow all guidance from local, state, and federal health officials, which they have been posting, and will continue to post on the Closures and Alerts page. Do not take unnecessary risks or get yourself into unsafe situations, as search and rescue is limited and the healthcare resources in smaller communities are already stretched thin.
Day Trips and Shorter CDT Hikes
These are the guidelines they are asking all CDT hikers and visitors to follow, whether out for the day or a slightly longer excursion.
- Follow proper sanitation and physical distancing practices. In addition to the usual gear, bring a mask and enough hand sanitizer to keep yourself and others safe if you cannot maintain physical distance on the trail. If you stop somewhere before or after your trip, wash your hands, be respectful and mindful of any local restrictions or recommendations, and wear your mask in public.
- Check the Closures and Alerts page before deciding where to hike in case of closures or other restrictions, and have a Plan B in case you arrive to a full parking lot or crowded area. Observe all local and state travel restrictions and recommendations.
- As always, be prepared so you can leave no trace. Trash cans, trailhead restrooms, and other facilities may be closed. Bring a trowel to bury human waste and bring a trash bag or ziplock to pack out all trash. Download the CDTC’s free maps for the area you’ll be traveling in and bring a first aid kit that you are prepared to use. Search and rescue may have limited resources.
Prospective LASHers and Thru-Hikers
The CDTC also acknowledges that some hikers are still considering a LASH or thru-hike this year. They are still cautioning that an extended CDT hike will be a much different experience than in other years. These are some thing to take into account.
- Long-distance travel presents an opportunity to become a vector from community to community. If you do contract COVID-19 while on the CDT, you may spread it in the next town you visit or with other people on the trail.
- If you are exposed to the virus, you may not be able to travel home to safely quarantine. You need to be prepared, financially and mentally, to stay in a private hotel room for 14 days if you are exposed, and have a plan for how you will get food delivered to you, or to have a someone willing to be exposed come and pick you up by car to transport you home.
- If you become ill enough to require medical attention, you may likely find yourself in a community with limited medical facilities. Medical transports are extremely expensive.
- The CDT is a remote trail, and in many places the “easy” access points to popular resupply towns are 15-30 miles down busy high-speed highways. Locals may be significantly less willing than usual to pick up hitchhikers, and you may not feel comfortable riding in a car with someone whose exposure history is unknown to you. Unless you have support willing to meet you at trailheads, a long-distance trip on the CDT this summer is likely to include some long and dangerous road walks.
- Be aware that individual states, counties, or public lands may have to shut down again. It would be wise to carry overview maps so that you can find your way off the CDT if a section is closed or a county announces a no-visitors policy.
- It’s possible that there will be very few long-distance hikers on the CDT this year. In normal years, thru-hike attempts on the CDT are a fraction of those on the AT or PCT. The CDTC anticipates fewer long-distance travelers on trail this year.
- Many towns along the CDT are very small, some with less than 500 residents and one small grocery store. While grocery store shelves seem to be getting back to normal in urban areas, stores in some small towns are still having trouble keeping their shelves stocked, particularly with the shelf-stable items backpackers prefer. Hostels, restaurants, and breweries may be closed or severely restricted in their ability to serve the public. Be prepared to be self-sufficient and see resupply in towns as a luxury and privilege versus an expectation. This includes ensuring you have all your necessary prescriptions and other specialty items, and many more resupply boxes than you thought you’d need.
- Some areas along the CDT have seen record amounts of short-term visitation this spring. As the snow melts and many normal activities remain closed or canceled, this trend may continue and even intensify. Already crowded day-hiking areas along the CDT may be significantly more crowded than before, forcing you to plan your trip around avoiding those areas during high-traffic days and times. Physical distancing may not be possible, in which case you will need to wear a mask on the trail.
Feature image via Bryan Walsh
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