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Building Trail Smart Hikers in 2020

Posted by Christina Hickman at Jul 17, 2020 12:08 PM |
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From a nationwide coalition to an email series, we're helping hikers learn responsible hiking skills in innovative ways in 2020.

Through our Trails Rebooted campaign, we're helping hikers see the role they play in the future of trails. One of the ways we look to do that is by building a community of trail smart hikers. By increasing hiker awareness and education, WTA aims to improve the on-trail experiences for all hikers while helping to lessen our collective impact on the places we love. 

Photo by Alexis Lee.jpg
Hiker education and awareness is a big part of our Trails Rebooted campaign. Photo by Alexis Lee.

We are always adding new information to our Trail Smarts page, which is filled with how-to’s, tricks and tips and our suite of Trail Smarts videos. They are excellent guides and refreshers for both new hikers and theseasoned trailblazers. This work helps supports WTA’s mission of ensuring trails for everyone, forever. 

This year, hiker education has taken on a new meaning. As we endure a global pandemic and continue working to create a safe and welcoming space for all in the outdoors, WTA and partners from around the state and country collaborated to create the Recreate Responsibly Coalition. And with so many folks opting to get outside as a healthy way to catch a few hours of solitude, fresh air and disconnection, we also thought it was the perfect opportunity to launch our Trail Smart Bootcamp email series. 


When the coronavirus all but shut everything down in March, including many trails and parks, it became clear that when people were allowed back outdoors, it wouldn’t be a normal return to recreating.

By early April, WTA joined with outdoor retailer REI, Washington-based organizations and land agencies to work together to create and share joint messaging around recreating in the time of coronavirus.

Since then, the Washington’s Recreate Responsibly Coalition has not only inspired other states to create local Recreate Responsibly chapters; it has inspired a nationwide coalition of more than 500 businesses, government agencies, nonprofits, outdoor media and influencers. So far, the coalition has launched two nationwide campaign pushes of #RecreateResponsibly around busy outdoor holidays — Memorial Day and Fourth of July — with more to come.

The overall #RecreateResponsibly message remains simple: We all have a role to play in keeping people, places and communities safe as we enjoy the outdoors this summer and beyond. 

Together, the RRC created simple education tips for anyone who is getting outdoors to do so, responsibly. 


The first six tips focus on actions we can take to reduce the spread of the virus, based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, public health guidelines and recreation experts. The seventh foundational principle was added to encompass the full spectrum of what safety in the outdoors also truly is. The tips have also been translated into Spanish and Chinese. 

The coalition will continue re-calibrate its messaging as the public health situation and guidance evolves over the coming months and years, educating and inspiring hikers to safely experience the benefits of nature while ensuring that our public lands stay open.

Long term, the Recreate Responsibly Coalition hopes that this growing recognition of the value of time spent outside will translate to an increased desire to be strong stewards for public lands well into the future.

Hikers learned how to plan and prepare for their adventure in our Trail Smarts Bootcamp. Photo by Rachel Wendling.

Emails for Hiker Education

Which pass or permit do you need? What are the Ten Essentials? Where are dogs allowed on trail? How deep do you dig a cathole (what even is cathole)? 

These are common questions for new hikers in Washington. And, with so many folks heading out on trail for the first time, we thought it would be a perfect opportunity to invite folks to take a deep dive with our Trail Smarts Bootcamp.

This past June, over 700 hikers joined in on the first edition of our weeklong email bootcamp. Each day, hikers received an email focusing on a different Trail Smarts topic, including right-of-way, planning essentials and of course, some of our favorite summer hike recommendations. While this proved helpful for newcomers, plenty of seasoned hikers were thankful for the reminder and to brush up on their skills, too.

Do you want to up your Trail Smarts game? Keep an eye out for another Bootcamp invite in the future!