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Planning to hike? Questions and advice from BTC

During the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Toronto Bruce Trail Club recommends that people stay home. However, we acknowledge the situation is fluid and is changing almost daily across our province, and trails are opening and hiking is occurring. We therefore offer the following guidance.

Strict adherence to the public health basics of physical distancing, hand washing and cough etiquette must continue as the bare minimum. 

For Hikers who plan to do independent outings. Before you decide to head out, ask yourself three questions:

1.       Are you, or anyone in your group, exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, or have you been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19?
2.       Is there an official closure of the section of the trail you are planning to hike?
3.        Are you, or anyone in your group, missing any essential gear to not only have a safe and healthy hike but also mitigate the spread or contraction of COVID-19?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, we ask you to stay home.

If the answer to all these questions is no, we recommend the following:

Be self-sufficient: In addition to basic hiking gear, carry a face mask and hand sanitizer. Practice social distancing; if not possible, make sure you are wearing a mask and other personal protective equipment (PPE) to help stop the spread of COVID-19. As this virus can remain on hard surfaces for days, we advise not using trail resources like benches or outhouses. If you come into contact with hard surfaces, either wash your hands (if possible) or use hand sanitizer. Pack a trowel so you can dig catholes (70 adult steps from the trail and water sources and carry out toilet paper) rather than use an outhouse.

Stay local: Hike close to home. Ensure you do not have to stop en route for gas or meals. Check the trail website for closures before heading out, as the section of the trail you are planning to visit may have an official closure or other restrictions.

Stay small:  Hike only with members of your immediate household or in small groups. Follow provincial guidelines regarding the acceptable group size at the time of your hike. Avoid well-known locations where there will likely be many visitors. Do not access the trail during high traffic periods (weekends, holidays, etc.). Have a backup plan in case the trailhead is crowded when you arrive. If trailheads are full, turn back and return when crowds have dispersed. Do not park in undesignated areas or block roads or gates.

Be prepared: Carry a physical map of the area where you are hiking. Share your plans with someone you know in case you need assistance. Carry a cell phone. Leave the trail in the same or better condition than you found it. Being prepared not only protects you and the trail — it protects your fellow hikers and, should you become lost or injured, the search and rescue teams that would use their limited resources to come to assist you.

Be respectful: If you head into town on your trip, wear PPE and use hand sanitizer or wash your hands with soap frequently. Contact businesses and service providers in advance to make sure they are open and follow local guidelines. Minimize the amount of time you spend in town.

Carpooling/Car shuttles: We advise against carpooling and car shuttles. A hike involving a car shuttle (unless family members living together) contravenes the Provincial public health basics of physical distancing. Travel to the trail head with members of your own household or partners in your own circle of trust and do not share rides with anyone else.
Hike Structure: We recommend either loop hikes or back and forth hikes that do not require car shuttles.

Our personal health is now a collective issue: unless everyone is safe, no one is safe. So please be prepared and be thoughtful when you head outdoors.

Our trails will be there through this crisis and beyond. Make sure you are safe and healthy now and in the future, to enjoy all it has to offer.

David Royle
Hiking Director & Vice President
The Toronto Bruce Trail Club - One of the nine member clubs of The ...
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