The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is urging hikers who planned to travel the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) to cancel or postpone their plans due concerns about the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
“As reported cases of COVID-19 continue to increase, many people have put their PCT trips on indefinite hold,” said the PCTA, in a statement posted to its website on Thursday.
The organization recommended that other hikers follow their example.The statement cited concerns that “anyone traveling the PCT and resupplying in communities along the trail represents a serious risk to others on the trail and people in those communities — particularly high-risk individuals for whom the virus could be deadly.”
The Washington Trails Association has brought up similar concerns, dissuading thru-hiking in its guidance for Hiking in the Time of Coronavirus. Unlike day hiking, thru-hiking puts hikers in close contact with each other, poses challenges to hand hygiene guidelines set by public health officials, places hikers in remote areas without easy access to medical care, and puts hikers in the position of exposing others in every community they pass through along the trail — all hazards raised in WTA’s recommendations.
The PCTA also cited the possibility that hikers could contribute to the spread of COVID-19 without knowing it, and the impossibility of fully protecting themselves against infection.
“Under these circumstances, choosing to travel to — and start or continue — a journey on the PCT runs counter to widely-accepted medical, government, and scientific recommendations for not only avoiding exposure to the coronavirus, but also for limiting the spread of COVID-19,” said the organization.
The PCTA is a nonprofit dedicated to advocating for and preserving the PCT, and as such does not have the authority to close trails or issue permits, the statement acknowledged. That power lies with the U.S. Forest Service, which has not shut down the trail or nullified existing permits; still, the PCTA urged those with who’d been issued long-distance permits to hike the trail to delay or cancel their plans.
Hiking the PCT is a bucket-list item, and one that can mean major sacrifices and careful timing for hikers, and the PCTA said in its statement that it recognizes those sacrifices, including situations like changing jobs or putting homes up for sale.
“We also understand that some have traveled to the PCT and have no clear option aside from starting your trek,” it said. “But these circumstances should not justify putting other lives at risk.”