Please use caution with any Oregon Desert Trail plans due to COVID 19. Last updated on September 1
Oregon cases of COVID-19 are increasing, especially in remote landscapes like Malheur County (home to the Owyhee Canyonlands) and we continue to advise everyone to follow the state’s guidelines, which include wearing a mask in public indoor spaces, and outdoor spaces where social distancing isn’t possible.
When in doubt about your desire to visit certain public lands, please contact the land managers directly for guidance. Before you visit an Oregon Desert Trail town, give the business or service a call to inquire about their comfort with outside visitors, changes to services, and changes to business hours. Find contacts for most businesses in the ODT trail towns here.
We found a lot of wisdom in the Pacific Crest Trail Association’s guidance for visiting the trail during the COVID-19 pandemic, and urge all of you wanting to take a hike along the Oregon Desert Trail, or simply visiting eastern Oregon to consider this message.
Help continue limiting COVID-19’s spread.
Getting exercise outdoors is a good thing. Getting outdoors on the ODT is only a good thing IF:
- the trail and trailheads are open
- your state allows non-essential recreational travel
- you are staying in your local area
- you observe physical distancing from anyone not in your household.
We support single-day hikes or horseback rides on the ODT. Longer, completely self-sufficient trips that don’t require resupply may be okay. In either case, you can limit transmission of the virus between you and others by bringing everything you need and not stopping anywhere while traveling to and from the trail.
Avoid communities other than your own. Based on the best information we have now regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, we all need to stay local. Given the lack of water along the ODT, long-distance ODT travel requires visiting many communities in the high desert, and, currently, it’s just not reliably safe to move freely for long distances across Oregon and through many small trail towns. These towns are still very concerned about their capacity for healthcare. Search and rescue personnel are also concerned about being put at risk.
COVID-19 case numbers have been rising since states gradually reopened over the past few months, and local infection hot spots are emerging. It’s possible long-distance travel may not be safe for several more months. It’s difficult to predict what may happen, but it certainly depends on the choices we make now.
In this challenging and unprecedented time, we hope you can remain flexible and still discover and explore public lands close to home. Depending on where you live, there are many spectacular sections of the Oregon Desert Trail that can be hiked in a day or a weekend. For those further afield, know that the ODT will still be there in the future for your long-distance journey.
We’ll continue to evaluate the ongoing situation and provide updates. Thank you for being responsible and taking precautions to keep yourself and others safe.