Thru-Hiking in a Pandemic: Opinion from a CDT Trail Town

Depending where you enter the CDT, the Grand County section is around 100 miles. There are three accessible trail towns in this county. One is Winter Park, one is Fraser, and the other is Grand Lake. Due to the current snowpack, the CDT isn’t easily accessed in this area quite yet. But being a proud member of this community, this is why I would discourage you from hiking here during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Small Trail Towns Have Limited Resources

We only have two very small hospitals within Grand County limits. I would never wish illness or injury on anyone, but we cannot predict the unpredictable, and we also cannot control if or when these situations arise. Our medical resources are stretched thin as it is, and it is critical for our hospitals and doctors to be able to care for people if cases of COVID-19 rise in our area. It would be heartbreaking for doctors to have to refuse care to anyone for any reason. Err on the side of caution and avoid a potentially devastating accident or medical situation within this community.

There are two grocery stores within the Winter Park/Fraser area. One is a local market and the other is Safeway. Although it has gotten slightly better, we are still struggling as a community with the shortage of certain food items, and the curse of people panic-buying toilet paper. I’ve even heard that people from the Front Range  have been coming to our town to stock up, because the shortage is even worse near the city. We just don’t have the extra goods and resources to share with non-locals right now.

Trail Angels

I will proudly pick up hitchhikers and help out the thru-hikers I am lucky enough to encounter. That said, I am reluctant to have people in my van during these times of medical uncertainty. I cannot afford to get sick, and I definitely cannot bring any sort of illness home to my 70-year-old landlord.

As far as trail angel goodies go, I would 100% be willing to help people out with a hot meal, cold beer, or a fresh pair of socks. However, due to the pandemic, finances for a lot of our community will be tight for the foreseeable future. I also cannot even fathom having an “outsider” in my home right now. Many of us work in the tourism industry, and things are completely shut down for the time being. We are unsure of how this will effect our economy, or if certain small businesses will recover.

Trail Crowding

Winter Park is only 90 minutes from Denver, and even closer to west side suburbs. I am grateful that trailheads and parking lots in our community are still open to the public, but we’ve been seeing a large influx of crowds coming up from the Front Range.

I encourage people to go hiking, but I feel that it is important to stay close to home to slow the curve. We are lucky to be isolated up here, but due to how contagious this virus is, people can bring it up with them from other areas. It has been extremely busy up on Berthoud Pass near the Divide as well as at Winter Park Resort—full parking lots and congregations of hundreds of people. Due to crowds, Alterra Mountain Company decided to shut down uphill access on the ski slopes. I would hate to see this happen on the CDT for day hikers. This trail is such a large part of our community, and as a local, I would love to be able to enjoy it.

Thanks for listening. Peace, love, and happy trails.

Disclaimer

You should only be hiking trails that aren’t overcrowded during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and keep at least a six-foot distance from others. Before taking on any outdoor activity, be sure to follow all CDC guidelines, state-by-state regulations, and to stay up-to-date on changing circumstances.

 

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