As People Flock to the Woods, N.H. Officials Urge Caution

Mar 24, 2020

View of Mount Washington, from the side of Route 16.
Credit Dan Tuohy / NHPR

With reports of busy hiking trails, New Hampshire’s search-and-rescue teams are urging people who head into the forest to use an extra degree of caution to avoid putting wilderness first responders at risk for COVID-19.

While conservation officers are carrying personal protective gear, performing rescues could expose rescuers to the coronavirus.

“A message we would like to send is that we understand getting outside is important for people’s physical and mental well-being in this trying time,” says Major David Walsh, assistant chief of law enforcement for N.H. Fish and Game. “However, it is imperative that people enjoying the outdoors do so with a high degree of caution. Putting themselves at risk also means causing a multitude of first responders to abandon social distancing and puts them at risk as well.”  

Popular hiking spots including the White Mountain National Forest remain open to visitors, though forest rangers are asking visitors to “stay on well-established trails and don’t push your adventure.”

"We cannot and will not ignore our responsibility to injured and lost persons in the wilderness," says Walsh.

Hikers are encouraged to practice social distancing, not congregate in groups, and try to avoid touching benches and water fountains.