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New York State offers many activities for those wanting to get outdoors and enjoy nature. From hiking trails to beaches to picnic areas with a view, there’s something for everyone. It is up to all visitors to help maintain these beautiful outdoor spaces, as well as to ensure the safety of others. From winter to early spring, preparing for outdoor adventures becomes essential; read below for tips on what to do before you head out, updated for the season. Here are the important things to remember when taking advantage of the great outdoors in New York State!
Remember to stay as local as possible and keep six feet apart from others not in your party and wear a mask or face covering. Call ahead and check websites and social media to make sure attractions are open and available. Be advised that New York has a travel advisory in effect, which requires travelers from non-contiguous states to quarantine for 10 days upon entering New York State. Travelers may undergo COVID testing to test out. For more details, see the guidelines for the travel advisory here. Most attractions are operating with capacity restrictions and require advance ticketing or reservations, so plan before you go.
Gear Up for Winter Adventures
New York State in winter offers endless opportunities for memorable outdoor experiences, but it's crucial to thoroughly prepare for hikes and other adventures, especially when going into backcountry. Essential items for winter hikes include navigation tools such as a map, compass, GPS, and extra batteries to power devices; outerwear including a waterproof/windproof jacket, hat, face mask, gloves, wool socks (and backups), and layering items; gear such as snowshoes or traction devices, insulated boots, and trekking poles; a flashlight or headlamp and extra batteries; and portable first aid and emergency kits, including a whistle, signal mirror, flare, duct tape, and pocket tools. Be sure and have a source of fire that's protected from the elements, such as matches packed in a waterproof container, a lighter, and fire starters.
Pack Water and Nutrients
For hydration, pack plenty of water, a water filtration system, and remember to use insulators on tubing to prevent freezing. For nutrition, bring high-protein and high-calorie items and pack them in the center of your bag to avoid freezing.
Be Prepared With Emergency Shelter
Nobody wants a day hike to turn into an unexpected overnight trip, especially in winter when temperatures can plummet. Still, it's best to be prepared for unforeseen circumstances, which is why it's recommended to pack emergency shelter items such as a space blanket, tent, bivy sack or insulated sleeping bag, and rope and paracord.
Plan Ahead for a Smoother Outdoor Adventure
The key to a fun excursion is to plan ahead! Planning a hike? Trail maps, sturdy shoes, a water bottle, snacks like trail mix, and an extra bag for trash removal are essential—plus the preparations listed above if hiking in winter. Going camping? Besides making a list of equipment and provisions that you’ll need, check the weather, and if you’re planning on staying on New York State public lands, reserve and read guidelines at Reserve America. For backcountry camping, familiarize yourself with state rules and regulations.
Help Keep New York State Outdoor Spaces Clean and Beautiful
New York has it all, from scenic hiking trails to stunning waterfalls to mountain peaks. To keep these attractions and the land around them pristine, everyone has to do their part. Especially now, when there may not be as many resources available as usual, such as waste disposal bins or maintenance staff. It’s important to look for signs at park or recreation area entrances and be mindful of regulations such as staying on trails.
Carry In/Carry Out
New York’s outdoors have given so much to so many during the COVID-19 crisis. Please give back by not leaving anything behind. It’s important not to litter and you need to be prepared to bring everything home with you. For more guidance on how to respect the outdoors, familiarize yourself with the Leave No Trace Seven Principles.
To help contain community spread of COVID-19, New Yorkers have practiced a “Stay Local” philosophy, visiting outdoor recreation areas as close to home as possible. New York has a travel advisory in effect, which requires visitors from certain states to quarantine for 14 days upon entering New York State or test out of the quarantine following guidelines for the travel advisory. The stewards of New York’s public lands have created helpful guides and tools to help visitors travel responsibly, including the New York State Parks Explorer App, which has up-to-the-minute updates on park information including when parks are at capacity, and the Department of Environmental Conservation's NY's Outdoors Are Open, which features helpful tips on safety and planning.
Make a Backup Plan
Given the demand for outdoor recreation, the parking lots at trailheads, in parks, and elsewhere fill up quickly. Don’t head out with only one destination in mind—have a backup plan with alternative places to visit if your first choice is at capacity. When you encounter a full parking lot, don’t park illegally on the road; simply move on to your next options until you find a place to safely and responsibly park your vehicle.
Practice COVID-19 Safety
Even in the great outdoors, social distancing must be practiced at this time. Bring a mask and use it when it’s not possible to maintain at least six feet of distance from others not in your party. Let others pass on trails if necessary. And remember, if you’re not feeling well, stay home.
For ideas on where to go, visit Safe Outdoor Activities in New York State.