Hikers Flock To Popular Trails In First Days Of N.H.'s Stay-At-Home Order | New Hampshire Public Radio

Hikers Flock To Popular Trails In First Days Of N.H.'s Stay-At-Home Order

Mar 29, 2020

Groups like the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests are urging people to pick less popular, local hikes to protect against COVID-19. Pictured here is the High Five conservation tract in Deering.
Credit Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests

The first weekend of Gov. Chris Sununu’s stay-at-home order saw a surge of hikers heading to popular trails in New Hampshire.

Some officials and conservation groups say that could become a problem.

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New Hampshire Fish and Game says that spots like Mt. Major and the White Mountain National Forest have all seen busier than normal weekends lately. The number of hikers has also surged at Mt. Monadnock this weekend.

In a Sunday press release about an injured hiker on the mountain, Fish and Game said that since the COVID-19 outbreak, about 90 percent of visitors to Monadnock State Park are coming from out of state.

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“No doubt ‘cabin fever’ due to the stay-at-home orders as well as the work/school at home situations are playing a big part in this,” Major David Walsh of state Fish and Game wrote in an email.

While there has been an increase in hiking he said, there has not been an increase in rescue calls.

But Fish and Game says that people spending time in the outdoors should do so with “a high degree of caution” because if there is an injury, that could cause a number of first responders to abandon social distancing, putting them at risk too.

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Mt. Major was another hiking hotspot on Saturday. Jack Savage, the president of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, drove by the mountain on Saturday. 

“The regular parking lot, which holds 66 cars, was full, and there were cars parked on either side of Route 11,” he said.

Note: The video of cars parked at Mt. Major featured in NHPR reporter Annie Ropeik's tweet was originally posted on Facebook by user Jennifer Fielders. You can see the full video here.

He said while people may have been attempting to socially distance themselves at the trail head, there are places where the trail narrows.

“If you have people going up and coming down at the same time, it’s not always easy to stay away from each other,” he said. “Once you get to the top, you’re all going to the same place.”

But once there are several hundred people at the top, the likelihood of having a group form is much more likely.

Savage said the Forest Society may need to consider whether to keep Mt. Major open during this time.

"We hate to disappoint people, but if it becomes a public safety concern, we'll look at options,” he said.

Savage later drove to some of the group’s forest reservations and said there far fewer people there. So, if people are looking to get outdoors he said, they should look for local, less used trails as way to continue practicing social distancing.

Related: The Rye police department tweeted out its reaction to an influx of people on the town's coastal areas Saturday.