The Coronavirus Trail Code
How to navigate COVID-19 on the Backcountry Wilderness Area trail systems.
You know that feeling when you lose your step on loose gravel or your mountain bike tire fish-tails in a sandy section of trail? That's how we all feel as we navigate the current Stay-at-Home Order due to the outbreak of COVID-19 ... unsure. One thing we are sure of is that we're happy that one of the few refuges in these uncertain times is the chance to get outside and recreate within our own communities. More people are venturing outside, taking in the fresh air, and exploring our community trails ... many for the first time. There’s no doubt that our trails are busier than they have ever been, and we're happy that people are taking a mental and physical break from the stresses of this pandemic. As people make their way to trailheads, it's imperative that people continue to follow social distancing guidelines along with normal trail etiquette.
We're grateful for the 25 miles of natural surface trails in the HRCA Backcountry Wilderness Area. Not every community has vast areas to recreate within that allow us to follow the State's Stay-at-Home Order and continue getting outside in nature. Despite the circumstances, we are thrilled to see more of the community experiencing HRCA Backcountry Wilderness Area as an amenity that is there to be enjoyed all year long. With that in mind, there are two sets of guidelines we need to follow: the Coronavirus Trail Code and the regular Keys to Safe Trail Use. First, let's start with the special rules in places while manage recreating during the COVID-19 outbreak.
What are the trail guidelines when social distancing is in play? If the people around you don't live in your home, keep the recommended six-foot distance away from them. Don't congregate at the trailhead or viewpoints such as Highlands Point. Make a point not to touch trailhead information stations or benches. If you come head-to-head on singletrack, take the lead and step off the trail to let the other person pass. This is NOT the time to pass people going in the same direction. Wait until you get to an intersection to pass by safely. If you find yourself with a line behind you, step off to the side and let the traffic pass. Everyone needs to take it easy and enjoy the fresh air.
Choose Off-Peak Times to Hit the Trail Meet the sun on the horizons. Opt for an early-morning jaunt or a sunset bike ride. These times are less crowded. It's also important to limit the frequency of your trail access. Instead of going every day, knock it back to two-to-three times per week to avoid constant congestion.
Do You Know Your Way Around? Be an Ambassador. If you walk, run, or ride the Backcountry Wilderness Area trails regularly, set an example. Follow the standard guidelines for a safe and enjoyable time on the trail (see those below). Be kind and helpful to all trail users, especially folks who might be unaware of the standard guidelines.
Recreate Within Your Limits The HRCA Backcountry Wilderness Area trails are NOT a downhill mountain bike course or trails to be aggressive on. These are family-friendly trails for people to enjoy being active in the outdoors. Beyond this basic guideline, our local medical facilities and staff don't need any extra burden right now for people getting hurt on the trails.
Sick? Stay Home.
Seriously, just stay home if you aren't well! Don't try to run, walk, or ride to feel better.
What's at Stake? Outdoor adventures will still be there when the Stay-at-Home order is gone and the health crisis is managed. Until then, the health of our community is the number one concern. If people choose not to follow this guidance, it is possible that our local outdoor recreation outlet will close like Waterton Canyon and other popular spots.
We also have 10 keys to a safe trail experience for everyone—regulars and new users. These guidelines help make sure EVERYONE'S experience in the Backcountry Wilderness Area is fun and, most importantly, safe.
If you are looking for more resources and guidance about recreating outdoors during the COVID-19 outbreak, here are some options:
State of Colorado Stay at Home Order
Boulder County Parks & Open Space COVID-19 Guidelines IMBA
Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment COVID-19
Colorado Parks & Wildlife’s COVID-19 trail safety etiquette
Lindsey McKissick is the Outreach Coordinator for the Backcountry Wilderness Area. She is Colorado-born, Chicago raised, and Wyoming educated. For Lindsey, there is nothing better than waking up in a warm tent on the side of a remote river with coffee preferably made by someone else. You'll find Lindsey on river rafting/SUPing, mountain biking, or camping with her husband and two pint-size, adventure-seeking daughters.