Ernie MacDonald fishes Kenduskeag Stream in May of 2018. On Tuesday, Gov. Janet Mills said that most Mainers should shelter in place until the end of April, but said recreational hiking, jogging and fishing were among the allowed “essential” activities. Credit: Gabor Degre

When Maine’s recent stay at home order goes into effect on Thursday, there are many things you cannot do, such as have friends over or go for a ride with your neighbor. But there are some “essential activities” you can continue to do in the pursuit of health. Namely, outdoor activities including fishing and hiking are allowed.

That means that Mainers are allowed to leave their homes to pursue these activities, as long as they are diligent about practicing social distancing.

“I am ordering all Maine people to stay at home. You may leave only if you work in an essential business, or to conduct or participate in some essential activity, such as getting groceries, going to the pharmacy, seeking medical care, caring for a family member outside your home, or going for a walk, a run, a hike, to fish or walk a pet. Abbreviated exercise,” Gov. Janet Mills said on Tuesday during a press conference.

On a lighter note, that news will come as a bit of a relief for avid hikers, anglers and runners who’ve tried to convince their friends and family members that their chosen recreational activities are far more than “hobbies,” and are of vital personal importance.

Still, it’s important for outdoors enthusiasts to be reasonable in their recreational adventures during the next several weeks, and to observe appropriate safety precautions aimed at avoiding contact with others.

The order specifically states that people spending time engaged in outdoor activities must be “in compliance with the gathering restriction in Executive Order 14 FY 19/20 and all applicable social distancing guidance published by the U.S. and Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” That means not gathering in groups, only driving with people in your household and staying at least six feet away from people you encounter.

How to spend time outdoors while in compliance with the new order:

— Only visit shared outdoor spaces if you are feeling healthy and haven’t been in contact with anyone who is sick.

— Give other people plenty of space, at least six feet, at all times. If you’re passing someone on a narrow trail, find a good spot to step off the trail and let them pass.

— Don’t congregate in groups. Right now, social gatherings of more than 10 people are banned.

— Avoid crowded areas. Some well-known Maine outdoor destinations such as Acadia National Park and certain coastal and southern state parks have recently closed due to increased visitation and the concern that people can’t practice social distancing under those conditions.

— Before leaving the house, have a plan A, B and C for your outdoor destination. That way, if a parking area is full, you can move on to the next location.

— Avoid using shared facilities, such as restrooms, and avoid touching surfaces that are touched often, such as playground equipment, handrails and signs. According to the CDC, it may be possible for people to contract COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes. For this reason, some land trusts have removed trail registration logs from trailheads.

— Look close to home. Check out preserves, trails and parks in your community rather than traveling long distances to reach an outdoor destination. This will reduce your need to visit gas stations. Also, if people stay close to home, it may reduce overcrowding of popular outdoor destinations.

— Before you visit an outdoor destination, check online for the latest information on closures and conditions (such as trail conditions or ice conditions). Respect all property closures.

— Avoid peak times. Trails and parks are usually the busiest from late morning to mid-afternoon, so consider getting out earlier or later in the day to avoid crowds.

— Stick to easy adventures. Now isn’t a good time to try something potentially dangerous and become injured or lost, further taxing the medical system.

— Leash your dog. As members of your household, they need to practice social distancing as well. It’s thought that COVID-19 may be able to live for short periods of time on the fur of dogs.

— Shorten the amount of time you’d typically stay at natural stopping points such as waterfalls, summits and viewpoints so everyone can enjoy them while maintaining a safe distance.

Wash your hands often and keep your hands away from your face. Consider bringing hand sanitizer along on your adventure.

— If you have access to the outdoors right at home, take the opportunity to explore and enjoy your property.

Do you have questions about engaging in outdoor recreational activities during the state shutdown? Send them to or, or leave them in the comments section below, and we’ll try to find answers for you.

Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn Sarnacki is a Maine outdoors writer and the author of three Maine hiking guidebooks including “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine.” Find her on Twitter and Facebook @1minhikegirl. You can also...