Less People Hiking?


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Sep 3, 2003
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Gorham NH
Maybe its my imagination but its looking to me like fewer people are out there at least at the places I drive by. During the two Covid winters the local trails in Randolph were getting broken out and used during the week and weekends. I would drive by these local trailheads and there always a couple of cars and hikers out on Durand Road. This year I am seeing far less folks. Many of the trails are definitely local with no major views just a means of gettting to one point in town to another but others get a lot of use to go to viewpoints. Lookout Ledge is normally popular year round with traffic usually coming over Pasture Path from the Randolph Hill road with the Ledge Trail from the former Ravine House site on Durand Road getting most of the traffic. The Sargent Path is the shortest and most direct but its very steep in spots and can be quite a workout with a snow pack so it gets far less use. In the last two weeks I have broken out Pasture path once after a few day of good weather and this week when going past it, it appears not to have been walked on since I was last there a week ago.

Todays forecast was probably the best of the week. While driving down to Moosilauke for a hike, the south bound side of Lafayette place was more than half empty at 8 Am. During the Covid year that lot would be full any good day during the week. When I got to the Ravine Lodge road today around 8:30 AM. there were 4 vehicles including a couple of trail runners who were just heading out and another early riser that I met heading down Gorge Brook trail. I had two hikers pass me on Gorge Brook trail and had the summit to myself for 15 minutes just after noon. Heading down the Carriage road I met 2 skiers and snowboarder and no-one on Snapper. I did a similar hike during the week last year this time and the lot on Ravine road was near full and I met a lot more folks on the trail and at the summit.

I have even seen less overflow parking along RT2 at Appalachia on nice weekend days. I definitely am not saying the trails and parking lots are desolate, but wonder is like many Covid related trends if this trend is heading down?
On my drive across Rts 3 and 302 late yesterday afternoon for round table discussion of Michael Wejchert’s new book ‘Hidden Mountains, Survival and Reckoning After a Climb Gone Wrong‘ with Mark Synnott at Theatre in the Wood, every NH4’s trailhead (Five Corners, Beaver Brook, Haystack Road, TFW, Pierce, Jackson, and Carrigain) still had multiple vehicles parked along the roads, some with hikers just returning to their vehicles. Ditto for the Kanc late this morning (Tripyramids, Hancocks, Osceolas, Lincoln Woods), so there are still some gridders out there, despite the arrival of calendar spring. 🙂
Peakbagger: I think it is reasonable to expect some drop off from COVID, but this may not be the best week to use to reach that conclusion. I think there is always a drop off just after winter ends, especially on weekends. I think a lot of people take a short break after hiking the 48s in winter.

Dr. D: I was also at that program in Bartlett last night! Enjoyed the discussion, as well as the book.
I could be wrong here, but I think what might be happening is the shoulder season has started. The trail conditions are mixed at best and with the last two storms, people (me included) are longing for summer. The Belknap Range and the Ossipee Range have been quite busy as of late. I did have a few hikes to myself lately, so it's been hit or miss. My last two trips to Crawford Notch were very busy, except for the Davis path, I had that to myself. Percival and Morgan and the Rattlesnakes, I also had to myself. Another factor could be, that many of the Covid hikers have moved on to other interest. People take up hiking, but not everyone sticks to it.
I am definitely not representing it as "cliff" in usage, at best I would hope for a plateau or maybe the start of a downward trend.
Peaks and Valleys. It’s the end of March. Reevaluate 4th of July.
IMO, the trails will always get mobbed on holiday weekends and folks who want less traffic should know to avoid them or just take left or a right turn off the trail and bushwhack on those weekends. What I was commenting on was the off peak usage seems to have shifted.

The current NOAA 30 day forecast into April is high likelihood of warmer than normal temps so looks like an early melt.
"I could be wrong here, but I think what might be happening is the shoulder season has started.".... Now that spring is on us, we'll see a drop off in activity as the winter 'listers' wait until spring conditions arrive.
"I could be wrong here, but I think what might be happening is the shoulder season has started.".... Now that spring is on us, we'll see a drop off in activity as the winter 'listers' wait until spring conditions arrive.
Or they just move on to their Four Seasons list and grids. I don't think the 4k traffic is ever going anywhere but I'm happy that there are fewer people in the backcountry. Campsite selection has certainly been easier.
I think we are seeing things returning to "normal" (whatever that is) after the massive covid explosion of outdoor activity.

During the height of the pandemic and for quite a while after, many folks were out of work and didn't want to be stuck inside. Hiking seemed like a safe activity as it was outdoors and generally not in close contact with other humans.

It's also been a really weird winter as we all know. The season didn't seem to make much of an appearance until it was almost over.

I keep thinking that activity in my 52WAV Facebook group has really cratered over the winter, but then I remember this is what it was like during the before times.

Once the snow melts and temps warm up, the trails will be busy again.
less is more!

i have the luxury of avoiding weekends, but every so often i forget which day it is or have to sneak in an 'end because of inclement weather coming in.
I’ve commented to my hiking companion the last few times out that there seems to be many less people out on the trails lately.
I certainly had a horrible season this Winter. Didn't get up to the Whites at all and only did 3 "real" hikes from November to now. If it wasn't for a quick trip to the Roan Highlands while I was in Tennessee for work I'd really have nothing to show for this season. For me it was a combination of unusual work and personal circumstances, the weather not cooperating with the time off I had, and the very mild Winter which got me into Spring mode way earlier than normal (like January early). When Winter finally showed up I wasn't in the mood for it at all. Had backpacking in my usual Spring spots on the brain. My brand new TSL snowshoes and ice axe spent the Winter in the closet.

I'd imagine as many also mentioned the post-COVID return to normal will cut back on hiker volume. A lot of the "work at home" crowd is now going back to the office part or full time so it's probably not as easy to sneak out for a hike. Cost of everything going up is probably taking a bit of the edge off too - hotels, gear, food, insurance, etc.
I too feel ready for summer. Here's an anecdote: last Thursday I hiked Owl's Head for my W48 list, and there was only one other car at LWT lot at 6am. That was weird, as the lot can be jammed, plus cars parked way down the road. And only one other (different) car there on my return that evening (I'm slow). Though it was a weekday, it was still winter, and conditions were good.
You can use Google Trends to look at how popular hiking related searched are over time.

The graph below reviews search trends for "Franconia Ridge" over that last 5 year:
- Winter 22-23 looks to be roughly 1/2 as many searches as Winter 21-22, about the same as Winter 19-20.
- Summer '22, appears to be (30%?) more the Summer '21, but a lot less then the first Covid summer, Summer '20