It’s been a long two months of strict physical distancing, so it’s no wonder that so many Albertans want to get out into nature.
With the provincial government reopening provincial parks to visitors as part of Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy, and the weather getting warmer as we head into the summer, the trails, lakes, and forests of the Alberta Rockies are looking seriously attractive.
However, it is important to remember that the coronavirus pandemic still poses a serious risk to public health, and as such there are a few rules that must be followed — even when escaping to your favourite trailhead.
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Parks Alberta has posted a list of ways would-be hikers can keep themselves, and those around them, safe:
Leave no trace
This one’s a given no matter the current public health situation, but should be even more strictly followed during the pandemic. Facilities may be closed as a result of coronavirus, meaning that you’ll need to plan to pack out what you bring in to ensure that parks are kept clean and staff and wildlife are kept safe.
Stay home if you are sick
As with anywhere else, you should not be travelling to Alberta’s trails or lakes if you’re feeling at all sick — or even if you’re feeling healthy but have recently been in contact with someone known to have coronavirus. Just take the two weeks at home — nature isn’t going anywhere!
Don’t expect to find toilet paper, running water, or snacks in the provincial parks. Many of the facilities remain closed, so it’s vital that you arrive at your hike with your own water, food, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer.
Recreate with household members only
Unless you’ve got a vehicle large enough to allow for two metres between the driver and a passenger, avoid carpooling or hiking with anyone outside of your household or family cohort.
Avoid busy trails and popular areas
Some of Alberta’s most popular trails will be crowded now that provincial parks have opened back up — especially given that so many other pastimes remain closed to the public. Leave early to ensure yourself enough time to find a different trail if parking lots are full, and do not park on the shoulder of the road, as doing so can block emergency vehicle access.
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On May long weekend we saw many visitors parked in ditches, double parked and blocking emergency access. Please avoid busy trails and popular areas. Visit early in the day, so you can head elsewhere if a parking lot is full. Do not park on the shoulder of roads. It is vital for emergency vehicles to have clear access through our parks. . . . #abparks #travelalberta #explorealberta #hikeAlberta #discoveralberta #thegreatoutdoors #hike365 #kananaskis #kcountry #mykcountry #albertarockies #mindthemountains #yeg #yyc
If you get there too late and there aren’t any spots left, either get creative by finding a less-popular trail to check out, or simply head home and try for an earlier start next time; again, nature isn’t going anywhere.
Be extra cautious
It is currently recommended to avoid high-risk backcountry areas, regardless of experience level. Trying new activities, or heading into unfamiliar areas, are also no-gos right now, because the fewer emergencies that Parks staff have to deal with, the better.
Be mindful when travelling
Albertans are now permitted to travel to summer homes, cabins, and cottages within the province, though they are being asked to abide by safe practices and local community guidelines when entering small communities.
More information regarding trail reports, camping reservations, advisories, and fire bans can be found at the Alberta Parks website.