How To Responsibly Enjoy Nature During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Last updated March 24th

Well, this is a post I never thought I would have to write! I am sure you are all aware by now that the world is experiencing a pandemic: COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. It’s undoubtably scary and uncertain times, and many of us are drawing on nature for an escape.

Like it is for many people, getting out in nature is like therapy for me. It calms me, yet at the same time fills me with energy and inspiration. Being outdoors provides a simplified existence away from the madness of every day life, and studies show that it does amazing things for our mental and physical health.

But this current pandemic is forcing us to make decisions when it comes to outdoor recreation. Do we go out and responsibly experience nature or do we choose to stay home and bring nature in?

In this blog post I am sharing some tips on how to responsibly enjoy nature during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before going any further I want to make it clear that guidelines are developing every day and you should always check local regulations and recommendations before considering going outside.

As I am writing this the current recommendations from the CDC are to stay home if you are sick, stay a minimum of 6 feet apart from other people, wash your hands, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, and disinfect frequently used surfaces.

My local state of Washington’s current stay home recommendations as of March 24th are “it’s still safe for people to go outside as long as they remain at least six feet from each other. Grocery stores, doctor’s offices and other essential businesses will remain open. People can still participate in activities such as bike rides, gardening, and dog walking — as long as they follow social distancing rules.” Be sure to read up on your local guidelines!

How To Responsibly Enjoy Nature During the COVID-19 Pandemic

How To Responsibly Enjoy Nature During the COVID-19 Pandemic

I’ve partnered up with Backcountry to bring you these tips, because we both feel strongly about keeping up a connection with nature during these days of uncertainty. In fact, Backcountry have a great resource answering some FAQ if you’re interested in reading more: How to Hit the Trails While Social Distancing.

Stay local & limit points of contact

It’s important that you avoid traveling and taking road trips during this pandemic. It is irresponsible to put small mountain towns and tourist destinations at risk just so you can take a hike. These small towns do not have adequate medical facilities to cope with outbreaks of COVID-19 and its imperative that we do our part to limit exposure.

Do you have somewhere close to home that you can access without driving? For example, walking or biking around your own neighborhood, or accessing a local park. If you do need to drive, can you get there without any stops or points of contact? (front door, car, trailhead, back to car, back home).


Avoid busy trails & popular areas

Remember, it’s all about limiting our contact with others and subsequent potential exposure of COVID-19. You will need to avoid busy trails and popular outdoor areas, and instead focus on areas you would be able keep the recommended 6 feet apart from others.

If you arrive at a trailhead and there are a large amount of cars, turn around and go home (or drive to a quieter spot). I have seen recent photos of a popular trail in Washington State (Rattlesnake Ledge) with ~100 people closely congregating at the top. This is not okay and will possibly lead to a ban on outdoor recreation. Don’t ruin it for everyone!

This is not the time to hike in large groups or carpool to trailheads. Going with people you already live with and have been exposed to is fine, but everyone else must remain 6 feet away.


Be extra careful

Emergency services are swamped right now and we don’t want to add to their caseloads. Firstly, go at your own risk. There is always an element of this when spending time outdoors, but now more than ever we cannot rely on emergency services to save us if we get hurt.

Secondly, be extra careful and stay within your limits. This is not an opportunity to take up a new sport or do anything crazy outdoors! If you aren’t already an experienced hiker, please do not go out hiking. If you don’t ride bikes, don’t take up cycling. Do not try skiing for the first time. I’m sure you get the idea by now – be sensible!


Leave No Trace

We should always be abiding by Leave No Trace (LNT) principles, but it’s now more important than ever while our outdoor spaces are most vulnerable. Consider that there may not be workers taking trash from trailhead facilities, therefore leading to an overflow and littering. Pack out all your trash, even if there is a designated place to dispose of it at the trailhead.

Also expect potential bathroom and other facility closures as parks cut down on services they can offer. The Leave No Trace Center of Outdoor Ethics put together their guidelines – please take the time to read. If you see someone not adhering to LNT principles, kindly and reasonably explain to them why it is important.


Bring Nature Indoors

Bring nature inside

I want to stress that you don’t have to leave your home to enjoy nature! Maybe you have a backyard or balcony that gets some sunshine. Or a building rooftop you can access whilst maintaining adequate social distancing. Or even just a corner of your living room that gets direct light for a few hours a day. Get creative!

Here are some other suggestions for bringing the outdoors in:

Watch a nature documentary: Planet Earth II; Frozen Planet; Seven Worlds, One Planet; The National Parks – America’s Best Idea; National Parks Adventure; Wild North; Big Pacific.

Listen to ambient nature-sound playlists: Waterfalls Rivers & Creeks; Sounds of the Ocean; Crickets, Cicadas & Frogs; Nature Noise; Sounds of the Rainforest.

Watch an outdoor themed film: Free Solo; Wild; Into the Wild; A Walk in the Woods; Meru; Maidentrip; Leave No Trace; Tracks; Edie; The Dawn Wall; Under an Arctic Sky.

Listen to outdoor themed podcasts: Dirtbag Diaries; She Explores; Women on the Road; The Stokecast; Wild Thing; Outside/In; The Outside Podcast.

Read nature and adventure related books: Into the Wild; Desert Solitaire; Nature Fix; Wild; A Walk in the Woods; The River at Night; Roaming America; Peaks of Europe; Cabin Porn.

… and lastly – show some love to your pets and house plants, even more than usual!


Plan future adventures

This is a wonderful time to research and plan for future travels and adventures. Make the most of online blogs, travel books, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. to plan the ultimate trip for when this pandemic is over.

For trip planning, my personal preference is to create trip specific boards on Pinterest, excel spreadsheets with day-to-day breakdowns, and driving routes on Google Maps (My Maps)… but take whatever approach suits you!

If you are looking to gear-up for future trips and adventures, my favorite online retailer Backcountry.com is still open and taking online orders. I love that they partner with a range of sustainable brands, support incredible causes like The Nature Conservancy, and their Gearheads are always available to give advice and recommendations. Backcountry have kindly offered my readers 15% off first-time online orders using code RENEE15*some exclusions apply


Trip Planning Inspiration

America’s National Parks Ranked Best to Worst

A Guide to Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

9 Must-Do Kauai Outdoor Adventures + Packing List

12 Ways To Be a Responsible Traveler

Oregon 7 Day Road Trip Itinerary

PIN this post

How To Responsibly Enjoy Nature During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Disclaimer: Thank you to Backcountry for collaborating on this blog post. As always, all opinions are truthful and my own. The offer of 15% off does not apply on top of any other offer or discount, and it’s one use per customer. This post contains some affiliate links, which means if you buy something my blog will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

Find out how to responsibly experience nature during the COVID-19 pandemic, including tips on how to bring nature in when choosing to stay home #covid-19

Last updated March 24th

Well, this is a post I never thought I would have to write! I am sure you are all aware by now that the world is experiencing a pandemic: COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. It’s undoubtably scary and uncertain times, and many of us are drawing on nature for an escape.

Like it is for many people, getting out in nature is like therapy for me. It calms me, yet at the same time fills me with energy and inspiration. Being outdoors provides a simplified existence away from the madness of every day life, and studies show that it does amazing things for our mental and physical health.

But this current pandemic is forcing us to make decisions when it comes to outdoor recreation. Do we go out and responsibly experience nature or do we choose to stay home and bring nature in?

In this blog post I am sharing some tips on how to responsibly enjoy nature during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before going any further I want to make it clear that guidelines are developing every day and you should always check local regulations and recommendations before considering going outside.

As I am writing this the current recommendations from the CDC are to stay home if you are sick, stay a minimum of 6 feet apart from other people, wash your hands, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, and disinfect frequently used surfaces.

My local state of Washington’s current stay home recommendations as of March 24th are “it’s still safe for people to go outside as long as they remain at least six feet from each other. Grocery stores, doctor’s offices and other essential businesses will remain open. People can still participate in activities such as bike rides, gardening, and dog walking — as long as they follow social distancing rules.” Be sure to read up on your local guidelines!

How To Responsibly Enjoy Nature During the COVID-19 Pandemic

How To Responsibly Enjoy Nature During the COVID-19 Pandemic

I’ve partnered up with Backcountry to bring you these tips, because we both feel strongly about keeping up a connection with nature during these days of uncertainty. In fact, Backcountry have a great resource answering some FAQ if you’re interested in reading more: How to Hit the Trails While Social Distancing.

Stay local & limit points of contact

It’s important that you avoid traveling and taking road trips during this pandemic. It is irresponsible to put small mountain towns and tourist destinations at risk just so you can take a hike. These small towns do not have adequate medical facilities to cope with outbreaks of COVID-19 and its imperative that we do our part to limit exposure.

Do you have somewhere close to home that you can access without driving? For example, walking or biking around your own neighborhood, or accessing a local park. If you do need to drive, can you get there without any stops or points of contact? (front door, car, trailhead, back to car, back home).


Avoid busy trails & popular areas

Remember, it’s all about limiting our contact with others and subsequent potential exposure of COVID-19. You will need to avoid busy trails and popular outdoor areas, and instead focus on areas you would be able keep the recommended 6 feet apart from others.

If you arrive at a trailhead and there are a large amount of cars, turn around and go home (or drive to a quieter spot). I have seen recent photos of a popular trail in Washington State (Rattlesnake Ledge) with ~100 people closely congregating at the top. This is not okay and will possibly lead to a ban on outdoor recreation. Don’t ruin it for everyone!

This is not the time to hike in large groups or carpool to trailheads. Going with people you already live with and have been exposed to is fine, but everyone else must remain 6 feet away.


Be extra careful

Emergency services are swamped right now and we don’t want to add to their caseloads. Firstly, go at your own risk. There is always an element of this when spending time outdoors, but now more than ever we cannot rely on emergency services to save us if we get hurt.

Secondly, be extra careful and stay within your limits. This is not an opportunity to take up a new sport or do anything crazy outdoors! If you aren’t already an experienced hiker, please do not go out hiking. If you don’t ride bikes, don’t take up cycling. Do not try skiing for the first time. I’m sure you get the idea by now – be sensible!


Leave No Trace

We should always be abiding by Leave No Trace (LNT) principles, but it’s now more important than ever while our outdoor spaces are most vulnerable. Consider that there may not be workers taking trash from trailhead facilities, therefore leading to an overflow and littering. Pack out all your trash, even if there is a designated place to dispose of it at the trailhead.

Also expect potential bathroom and other facility closures as parks cut down on services they can offer. The Leave No Trace Center of Outdoor Ethics put together their guidelines – please take the time to read. If you see someone not adhering to LNT principles, kindly and reasonably explain to them why it is important.


Bring Nature Indoors

Bring nature inside

I want to stress that you don’t have to leave your home to enjoy nature! Maybe you have a backyard or balcony that gets some sunshine. Or a building rooftop you can access whilst maintaining adequate social distancing. Or even just a corner of your living room that gets direct light for a few hours a day. Get creative!

Here are some other suggestions for bringing the outdoors in:

Watch a nature documentary: Planet Earth II; Frozen Planet; Seven Worlds, One Planet; The National Parks – America’s Best Idea; National Parks Adventure; Wild North; Big Pacific.

Listen to ambient nature-sound playlists: Waterfalls Rivers & Creeks; Sounds of the Ocean; Crickets, Cicadas & Frogs; Nature Noise; Sounds of the Rainforest.

Watch an outdoor themed film: Free Solo; Wild; Into the Wild; A Walk in the Woods; Meru; Maidentrip; Leave No Trace; Tracks; Edie; The Dawn Wall; Under an Arctic Sky.

Listen to outdoor themed podcasts: Dirtbag Diaries; She Explores; Women on the Road; The Stokecast; Wild Thing; Outside/In; The Outside Podcast.

Read nature and adventure related books: Into the Wild; Desert Solitaire; Nature Fix; Wild; A Walk in the Woods; The River at Night; Roaming America; Peaks of Europe; Cabin Porn.

… and lastly – show some love to your pets and house plants, even more than usual!


Plan future adventures

This is a wonderful time to research and plan for future travels and adventures. Make the most of online blogs, travel books, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. to plan the ultimate trip for when this pandemic is over.

For trip planning, my personal preference is to create trip specific boards on Pinterest, excel spreadsheets with day-to-day breakdowns, and driving routes on Google Maps (My Maps)… but take whatever approach suits you!

If you are looking to gear-up for future trips and adventures, my favorite online retailer Backcountry.com is still open and taking online orders. I love that they partner with a range of sustainable brands, support incredible causes like The Nature Conservancy, and their Gearheads are always available to give advice and recommendations. Backcountry have kindly offered my readers 15% off first-time online orders using code RENEE15*some exclusions apply


Trip Planning Inspiration

America’s National Parks Ranked Best to Worst

A Guide to Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

9 Must-Do Kauai Outdoor Adventures + Packing List

12 Ways To Be a Responsible Traveler

Oregon 7 Day Road Trip Itinerary

PIN this post

How To Responsibly Enjoy Nature During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Disclaimer: Thank you to Backcountry for collaborating on this blog post. As always, all opinions are truthful and my own. The offer of 15% off does not apply on top of any other offer or discount, and it’s one use per customer. This post contains some affiliate links, which means if you buy something my blog will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

Find out how to responsibly experience nature during the COVID-19 pandemic, including tips on how to bring nature in when choosing to stay home #covid-19

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Renee Hahnel

Hi! My name is Renee and I'm an Australian photographer, blogger & travel addict. I now call the U.S.A home but you can usually find me wandering the globe with a camera in hand โœˆ Let's get lost!

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How To Responsibly Enjoy Nature During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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3 Comments

  1. Anika May on March 23, 2020 at 3:43 pm

    Loving the tips here! This is so helpful, especially as I walk my elderly neighbours dog so I still need to get outdoors without spreading anything. Great post ๐Ÿ™‚

    Anika | chaptersofmay.com

  2. Jessica Tejera on March 23, 2020 at 9:33 pm

    Absolutely loving these tips Renee. We are planning our vegetable garden for this year. Also homeschooling and hoping that when the rain stops and the sun comes out we can take homeschooling to our deck or backyard. We did hit some local parks over the weekend too amd I am pretty happy to say that Clarksville is doing pretty good about social distancing. With kids I was worried but I am so happy I don’t have to be. Thanks again for all these tips. I have definitely grabbed your Roaming America book a few times too to take me back to the outdoors. ๐Ÿ’•

  3. JACKIE on March 24, 2020 at 2:26 am

    I’m loving this blog post Renee. So many great ideas and reminders about what we need to do in these challenging times. We all need to bring a little nature and sunshine into our lives at the moment.

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Renee Hahnel

Hi! My name is Renee and I'm an Australian photographer, blogger & travel addict. I now call the U.S.A home but you can usually find me wandering the globe with a camera in hand โœˆ Let's get lost!

Related Adventures

How To Responsibly Enjoy Nature During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Last updated March 24th Well, this is a post I never thought I would have to write! I am sure you are all aware by now that the world is experiencing a pandemic: COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. It’s undoubtably scary and uncertain times, and many of us are drawing on nature for an escape. Like…

Snowshoe to Artist Point (Washington’s BEST Winter Adventure!)

There are so many amazing things to do in the state of Washington during winter, but the absolute best (in my opinion) is to snowshoe to Artist Point! Located in the Mount Baker area of the North Cascades, Artist Point is a relatively accessible adventure to take during the winter months. In this blog post…

9 Must-Do Kauai Outdoor Adventures + Packing Guide

Kauai is one of those destinations that will leave you wanting to return time-and-time again. It’s home to breathtaking scenery, some of the world’s best beaches, insane hikes, and much more. In this blog post I am sharing 9 must-do Kauai outdoor adventures for your next island vacation! I’m also sharing some “easier” things to…

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