Sunday evening, North Carolina State Parks posted a notice that four parks — Crowders Mountain, Hanging Rock, Lake Waccamaw and Raven Rock — were closed as of sunset. By morning, that post was already outdated, with Morrow Mountains State Park joining the list.
This means that in addition to the closure of visitor centers, camping, restrooms and other facilities that were announced last week, trails at these parks are also now closed.
The reason? Failure to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
People are turning out to hike like never before. Sunday, hiking Day-Hike Section D of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail along Falls Lake, we saw more people hiking than we’d ever seen on this stretch. And probably 95 percent were in compliance, either stepping well off the trail to allow oncoming hikers to pass, or pulling well off the trail to let faster hikers pass. Ninety-five percent seems like good odds: imagine a 95 percent free-throw shooter, or batting .950 in baseball. But with the rapid spread of COVID-19, 5 percent non-compliance is way too high a risk.
We realize how important it is to get out right now. But unless we do it in the most low-risk way possible, we will soon see all of our trails closed. We can work to make sure this doesn’t happen in two ways:
First, it’s vital that you observe social distancing requirements, including:
- Hike in groups of no more than 10 people
- Keep a minimum of 6 feet apart (our GetHiking! program recommends 10 feet, especially now in the spring allergy season when pollen-triggered sneezes can increase your … dispersal zone.
- No touching, no sharing (bring your own water and snacks)
- Do not go out, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if you have:
- A temperature in excess of 100
- A cough or shortness of breath
- Underlying health conditions that may weaken your immune system, including heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes
- Tested positive for the COVID-19
The other thing you can do: hike the trails less traveled. That’s where we aim to help you this week, by highlighting some of our favorite places to explore that typically don’t see as much foot traffic. The reasons for this vary, but here’s a big one: they lack the trailhead infrastructure (visitor center, restrooms, picnic areas) that tend to attract the masses. To get you started, in this post we wrote last week for our friends at Great Outdoor Provision Co., we identify some of our favorite backdoor entrances to the places you already love to explore. (Again, this was last week; Crowders Mountain State Park, which is included, has since closed.)
As of right now, many of our favorite trail networks — Eno River State Park, Umstead State Park, Pilot Mountain State Park (the latter for the most part) — remain open.
Let’s work to keep it that way.
Check before heading out
In these fluid times, remember to check the website of where you plan to hike to make sure it’s still open. Some quick sources of places we love to hike: