On September 4, Governor Cooper moved North Carolina into Phase 2.5 of the three-phase plan to allow more normal activities while still working to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 infections. This new phase does not have the significance for the MST that the transition to Phase 2 did, but there are a few relevant changes.
We’ve updated this page to reflect the Phase 2.5 changes and help keep you safe and the “curve flattened” so that these special places do not close again. As before, the highest priority of Friends of the MST continues to be the health and well-being of our volunteers, staff and users of the MST.
1. Guidance for Volunteers and Trail Angels
- Many of our most dedicated and involved volunteers are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.
- Trail crew volunteers, whether working solo or in groups, may only work if authorized to do so by the land managing agency where their section of trail is located.
- If your land managing agency is allowing volunteers to work, learn what their rules are and follow them.
- Per the Governor’s executive order, outdoor work groups on the trail may be no larger than 50 people, and those volunteers must social distance and wear masks when working near others.
- We strongly urge Trail Angels to suspend offers of shuttles or homestays to long-distance MST hikers. We also strongly advise current thru-hikers and those who tell us they are planning a long-distance hike soon to postpone until the COVID-19 outbreak is over.
- While trail workdays are cancelled, our volunteer leaders may have tasks that solo workers could undertake such as trimming vegetation, picking up trash or reporting on other issues. Contact the crew leader in your area if you can help in this way.
2. Day Hiking and Backpacking on the MST
- Although nearly all of the MST has reopened for hiking, some facilities remain closed. A list of currently known closures or limitations due to COVID-19 concerns that affect the MST is available here. If you are aware of other closures not on this list, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
- In any trail location where you are near people you do not live with, practice social distancing and wear a mask. Carry hand sanitizer with you.
- Drive to trailheads by yourself or with people you live with. Do not carpool.
- Many trail amenities such as restrooms and picnic shelters remain closed so plan your trip accordingly.
- Many of the most popular parts of the MST have become quite crowded and trailheads fill up, stressing the neighbors and making it harder to social distance. Instead of going to these locations, use this time as a chance to explore a less-visited segment you haven’t hiked before.
- Download trail guides from each segment page or use the interactive google map.
- Need more help? Purchase a trail guide or the new day-hike guide from our online store. And keep an eye out for our upcoming series of e-mails/posts about those day hikes. We hope to inspire you to see new parts of the MST and even undertake the 40 Hike Challenge.
- If you hike in a group, comply with group size limits set by land managers or state or local governments, wear a mask and keep at least six feet apart. In most parts of North Carolina, the group size limit is 50 outdoors.
- Please do not undertake a thru-hike or long section hike at this time unless you are a very experienced long distance hiker with family members who can fully support you. On substantial portions of the trail, there is still no legal camping and no Trail Angel support for lodging or shuttles. Thus, for most people long-distance hikes on the MST are not feasible nor legal. Shorter backpacking trips, up to a few nights, are possible in certain areas.
- Remember that there are risks associated with traveling in the backcountry. If you get sick or injured, medical care may be more difficult to obtain. Now is not the time to push your limits or engage in high-risk activities.
- Keep your dog leashed, and make sure it does not jump on other people. Now that the trail is being more heavily used, we have been receiving more frequent complaints about this issue.
3. Staff Schedules and Availability
- Our Raleigh office is closed to the public, and our staff are working almost entirely from home.
- Hiker resources are available on our website, and printed copies of our trail guides and new day-hike guide may be purchased through our online store.
- Despite working from home, the staff still love to hear from you and are happy to respond to your questions via e-mail, phone and Facebook and Instagram. Staff contact information is available on the website.
- The main office phone of 919-825-0297 and general e-mail account of email@example.com are also being monitored.
We hope you will continue to take refuge in the MST. Slow down. Listen to the birds. Feel the breeze.
The MST was built for times like these.
Stay safe, and enjoy the trail.
Kate Dixon, Executive Director