COVID-19 Outdoor Recreation, Facilities and Public Guidelines

The following guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) are for outdoor recreational activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, based upon Governor Walz’s Emergency Executive Order 20-56 (EO 20-56). The guidelines address public health protection measures for both authorized outdoor recreational facilities and the public.

These guidelines do not address organized youth or adult athletics, which are not authorized to resume by EO 20-56.

Authorized outdoor recreational facilities do not include facilities that involve gatherings of more than 10 people in close proximity, such as mini golf, pools, commercial outdoor race tracks, zoos, and concert venues.

These guidelines will be updated periodically, as needed.

Last updated May 26.

Guidelines for Outdoor Recreational Facilities

General Guidelines

  • While EO 20-56 allows many outdoor recreational facilities to be open, Minnesotans are discouraged from engaging in unnecessary travel. Facilities should do their part to help patrons limit their travel – such as by providing basic supplies on site.
  • Facilities should review and implement steps described in the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) Resources for Businesses and Employers, CDC’s Resources for Parks and Recreational Activities, MDH’s Guidance for Businesses and Employers, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s (DEED’s) Safely Returning to Work Guidance, and Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry’s Occupational Safety and Health COVID-19 Resources to ensure they are up-to-date on implementing safe workplace practices.
  • Place appropriate signage and other messaging on site, including at entrances and in other locations that can be easily seen by customers and visitors. Print materials are available online at MDH Materials and Resources and at CDC Communication Resources. Examples of messages:
    • Maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet at all times from others, except for members of the same household.
    • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; if soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
    • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
    • Anyone with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (including fever, cough, or difficulty breathing) should stay home and not engage in outdoor activities. For more information, see CDC’s What to Do If You Are Sick and the State of Minnesota’s Self-Screening Tool.
  • Adapt practices to allow social distancing of at least 6 feet from others, except for members of the same household.
    • For example, facilities should limit capacity or stagger activities such as boat launching/loading, tee times, or other reservation-based or scheduled activities as needed to maintain social distancing.
    • “Household” means all the people living in the same home or residence, including a shared rental unit or other similar living space.
  • Remind patrons about social distancing in outdoor common space.
  • To protect one another, Minnesotans are strongly urged to wear a manufactured or homemade cloth face covering when they leave their homes and travel to any public setting where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (g., indoor spaces like grocery stores), and to follow face covering guidelines issued by MDH (MDH Guidance on When to Wear a Mask) and the CDC. Note that cloth face coverings may help protect others from the wearer’s respiratory droplets but are NOT a replacement for social distancing. Social distancing must be observed even if face coverings are in use.
  • Outdoor recreation facilities may provide food and beverage for “off-premises consumption,” provided such offerings are consistent with paragraph 7(a) of EO 20-56. In the context of outdoor recreation facilities, “premises” means the permanent building and any outdoor dining or patio area for the sale of food and non-alcoholic For information specific to the sale of alcohol, please see this Minnesota DPS webpage.
    • For example, a golf course, ski hill, or marina may provide food or non-alcoholic beverages to patrons, so long as the food or beverage is not consumed indoors, at an associated outdoor seating area, or in another area that promotes gathering.
    • Food or beverage carts that travel a golf course or other outdoor recreational facility may dispense packaged food and non-alcoholic beverages so long as there are adequate provisions for employee handwashing/hand sanitizing.
    • Paragraphs 2 and 4 of Executive Order 20-04 provide additional requirements for food and beverage facilities, and those requirements apply to food and beverage facilities at outdoor recreation facilities.

Guidelines for Employees

  • Safe workplace practices include actively encouraging ill employees to notify their supervisor and stay home according to public health guidance.
  • Employees should use proper handwashing, observe respiratory etiquette, and avoid using other employees’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools or equipment.
  • Just as facilities need to ensure that customers are following social distancing while on the premises, employees of the facilities also need to follow social distancing. This means maintaining a physical distance of at least 6 feet between individuals. This distancing for employees should occur both inside buildings and outside, such as on golf courses, trails, boat launches, and other outdoor settings.
  • Minimize face-to-face employee and customer interaction. Implement online or other contactless/socially distanced measures to take reservations and payments, provide instruction, or purchase supplies such as gas or bait.

Facility Access and Cleaning

  • Outdoor recreational facilities should only allow public access to any associated indoor facilities as allowed by paragraph 7 of EO 20-56. See also DEED’s Safely Returning to Work Guidance for more information.
  • Off-highway vehicle, snowmobile, and watercraft repair, sales and showroom facilities may be open as allowed by paragraph 7 of EO 20-56.
  • Ensure that employees and customers have access to handwashing/hand sanitizing facilities and supplies.
  • Surfaces such as doorknobs, counters, and other items that are high-touch should be regularly cleaned and sanitized. Follow CDC’s Guidance on Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility.
  • Clean and disinfect bathrooms regularly, particularly high-touch surfaces, and ensure they have handwashing supplies. These EPA-registered household disinfectants are recommended by the CDC for cleaning.
  • At outdoor recreation facilities that serve the public:
    • Remove to the extent possible objects that could be frequently touched and that are not essential to safety, such as water coolers, ball washers, rakes, or squeegees.
    • Take measures to reduce the need to touch fixed items that cannot be removed; for example, leaving gates ajar or raising golf cups and requiring golfers to leave the flag stick in the hole.
    • Encourage patrons to avoid touching other patrons’ items such as golf clubs or other recreational equipment

    Events, Guiding and Instruction

    • Postpone or cancel outdoor events and gatherings of more than 10 people, such as concerts or festivals.
    • Outdoor events such as tournaments, leagues, competitions or practices may be held if they are modified as described below. These guidelines do not address organized youth or adult athletics, which are not authorized to resume by EO 20-56.
      • The event does not involve gathering of groups of more than 10 people,
      • Participants maintain social distancing throughout the event,
      • The event uses either a staggered start or multiple points of departure and return so that participants do not congregate before, during, or after the event, and
      • Spectators are prohibited.


      The following examples are provided for illustrative purposes only. This is not an exhaustive list and activities may be subject to local restrictions and/or facility availability:

      • A fishing league that involves individual (or paired, with social distancing) anglers but no single point of lake access, in-person group rules meeting, weigh-in or awards ceremony.
      • A golf tournament with staggered tee times, single-household cart use, and a virtual (rather than in-person) awards ceremony.
      • A bicycle race with staggered start times (so competitors remain socially distanced on the course), no group hydration stations, and no spectators.
      • Staggered practice sessions on a racetrack that ensure social distancing and avoid participants congregating before or after their session.
    • One-on-one or one-on-two guided or instructional services (e.g., fishing and birding guides, sports lessons) are allowed if social distancing is maintained throughout the activity, there is not shared transportation among different household members to/from the activity, and any shared equipment is sanitized between uses.
      • Service providers and clients are encouraged to follow face-covering guidance issued by MDH (MDH Guidance on When to Wear a Mask) and the CDC.
      • Group tours and boat launches are not allowed; this does not prohibit a facility from repurposing a vessel typically used for boat launches or tours to instead be used for one-on-one or one-on-two guided fishing.

    Equipment Rental

    • Rental of outdoor recreational equipment is allowed if the equipment can be effectively sanitized between uses. For example, canoes, kayaks, fishing boats, bicycles, houseboats, and recreational vehicles (RVs) may be rented if procedures are in place to clean and disinfect the rented item and all associated equipment – such as paddles, lifejackets or helmets – after every use/rental cycle.
      • Sanitation of “soft goods,” such as life jackets or backpacks, poses particular challenges. Such rentals are allowed if there is an effective cleaning procedure or sufficient equipment inventory to allow “down time” of 72 or more hours between uses to minimize risk of COVID-19 transmission. See this Life Jacket Association website for example cleaning considerations.
      • For cleaning live-aboard rental equipment such as houseboats or RVs, follow the MDH Interim Guidance for Hotel Managers and Owners.
      • Facilities must implement clear check-in and check-out procedures that minimize contact between customers and workers.
      • Some rental equipment, such as a fishing boat or golf cart, can typically be used by more than one person at a time. When renting such an item, consider social distancing to decide if/by whom the item can be shared. Live-aboard rentals (e.g., houseboats, RVs) can only be shared by people from the same household. The same holds true for items where the users are in close proximity (e.g., golf carts, kayaks). A rented fishing boat may accommodate two or three people from different households depending on its size. When in doubt, only provide shared rental items to people from the same household.
      • Any instruction on the operation or use of rental equipment must be provided in a manner that complies with social distancing requirements.

    Marinas and Docks

    • Public and private marinas and docks may provide storage, docking, and mooring services to slip owners, seasonal renters or the general public. This includes the ability for boaters to purchase fuel, use access ramps, or purchase/receive services otherwise authorized by paragraphs 7 and 8 of EO 20-56, such as food for take-out.

    Camping

    • All private and public developed campgrounds are closed to recreational camping. Dispersed or remote camping sites may be open for recreational camping by people from the same household.
      • A dispersed campsite is a single campsite, not in a developed campground, used for overnight camping. For example, dispersed camping is allowed on state forest land if done at least one mile outside of designated campsites or state forest campgrounds. There are typically no amenities such as fire rings, picnic tables or toilets.
      • A remote campsite is a designated backpack or watercraft campsite, not in a developed campground, used for overnight camping. For example, a campsite on the Superior Hiking Trail, a houseboat mooring site in Voyageur’s National Park, or a cart-in or bike-in campsite in a state park are all remote campsites. Remote campsites may have some limited amenities, such as fire rings or vault toilets.
    • Campsites at private and public developed campgrounds and slips at marinas that serve as a residence, or that serve seasonal renters who maintain personal property at their site, may remain available for occupancy by members of the same household provided they do not host overnight guests. For developed campgrounds and marinas that choose to open to non-recreational camping or slippage, communal amenities may not be open for use, except the following may be open to campground/marina residents provided social distancing and enhanced cleaning protocols (see cleaning references above) are followed:
      • Bathrooms/shower buildings
      • Retail food stores
      • Laundry facilities
      • Fish cleaning stations and docks

    If you have questions about what is currently authorized by EO 20-56 or the information in these guidelines, please email us. Please note: we will not be responding to inquiries or requests about the future opening of outdoor recreation and facilities.

    Guidelines for the Public

    Time spent outside provides many benefits. We encourage local day use of parks, trails and other outdoor recreational facilities as a good way to stay healthy, reduce stress, and enjoy time with friends and family. However, it is essential to follow the guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Health (see Protecting Yourself and Your Family and Strategies to Slow the Spread) and the Centers for Disease Control (see Visiting Parks and Recreational Facilities) and observe the following practices while recreating outdoors to protect yourself and others and slow the spread of COVID-19:

    General Considerations

    • Consistent with state and federal guidance to limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect our neighbors, EO 20-56 discourages Minnesotans from unnecessary travel. If travel is necessary to engage in authorized outdoor recreation, the following will help you minimize potential points of virus transmission:
      • Travel as directly to your destination as possible and minimize stops along the way.
      • Attempt to bring all needed supplies with you.
      • If you do need to stop for gas or supplies, wear a manufactured or homemade cloth face covering.
      • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after touching common surfaces (gas pumps, door handles, shared bathrooms, etc.).
      • Do not travel if sick.
    • Explore the range of nearby public lands available to you. If you arrive at a park, water access site, or other public recreation land and see that it is busy, choose a different option. This will allow you to maintain social distancing and reduce impacts on staff and resources. Also, consider visiting at off-peak times, such as mid-week, or early or late in the day on a weekend.
    • If you rent recreational equipment – such as a canoe or bicycle – consider bringing your own protective gear like lifejackets and helmets.
    • Avoid contact with shared amenities like playground equipment, picnic tables, and benches. Assume such equipment has not been sanitized. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer if you do come into contact with shared amenities.
    • Respect signs limiting access or providing temporary direction regarding trail or site usage.
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Do not touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
    • Anyone with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (including fever, cough, or difficulty breathing) should stay home and not engage in outdoor activities. For more information see CDC’s What to Do If You Are Sick and the State of Minnesota’s Self-Screening Tool.
    • Wear a manufactured or homemade cloth face covering when you leave your homes and travel to any public setting where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (g., indoor spaces like grocery stores), and follow face covering guidelines issued by MDH (MDH Guidance on When to Wear a Mask) and the CDC. Note that cloth face coverings may help protect others from your respiratory droplets but are NOT a replacement for social distancing. Social distancing must be observed even if face coverings are in use.
    • Know the latest information about what facilities are open. For DNR-managed parks and lands, consult the DNR website or call the DNR information center (651-296-6157 or 888-MINNDNR (888-646-6367)).
    • Please note that while outdoor activities consistent with EO 20-56 and these guidelines are allowed, EO 20-56 does not require associated outdoor recreation facilities to open or restrict the ability for local authorities to limit activities or close facilities within their purview. Before visiting an outdoor recreational facility, be sure to check with the owner/operator and local authorities to confirm it is open and your intended activity is allowed.

    Social Distancing while Recreating Outdoors

    • Practice social distancing (stay at least 6 feet from people from other households). This isn’t just for parks and trails – it is also essential at boat launches, fishing piers, and hunting lands, and anytime you leave your home.
    • “Household” means all the people living in the same home or residence, including a shared rental unit or other similar living space.
    • If it is not possible to maintain social distancing throughout an activity – such as while playing a sport like basketball or volleyball where participants are often in close proximity – then you should only participate in that activity with members of your household.
    • Keep in mind that even activities and sports that are typically thought of as non-contact – such as doubles tennis or pickleball – may require modification to follow social distancing practices.
    • Do not carpool to outdoor recreational activities with people other than those in your household. Similarly, only use equipment that is sanitized between uses and maintain social distancing when around people from outside of your household.
    • Avoid congregating in common areas like trailheads, parking areas, overlooks, fishing piers, boat launches or fueling stations.

    Events and Gatherings

    • Organized youth and adult athletics are not authorized to resume by EO 20-56.
    • Only engage in tournaments, leagues, competitions or practices that:
      • Allow participants to maintain social distancing throughout the event,
      • Do not involve gathering of groups of more than 10 people,
      • Use either a staggered start or multiple points of departure and return so that participants do not congregate before, during, or after the event, and
      • Do not include spectators.


      The following examples are provided for illustrative purposes only. This is not an exhaustive list and activities may be subject to local restrictions and/or facility availability:

      • A fishing league with individual (or paired, with social distancing) anglers but no single point of lake access, in-person group rules meeting, weigh-in or awards ceremony.
      • A golf tournament with staggered tee times, single-household cart use, and a virtual (rather than in-person) awards ceremony.
      • A bicycle race with staggered start times (so competitors remain socially distanced on the course), no group hydration stations, and no spectators.
      • Staggered practice sessions on a racetrack that ensure social distancing and avoid participants congregating before or after their session.
    • Do not host or attend gatherings of more than 10 people unless they are members of your household. This includes gatherings like outdoor cookouts or barbeques, because those types of gatherings could spread COVID-19.

    Boating

    • When enjoying recreational boating:
      • Consider boating only with those in your household.
      • If you boat with people not from your household, limit passengers to one or two to maintain a minimum six-foot distance between people from different households, recognizing that vessel size and design affects capacity.
      • Maintain a minimum of six-foot separation between boats. Beaching or rafting with other boats is not allowed.
      • When launching/loading your boat, give those ahead of you plenty of time and space to finish launching or loading before you approach.
      • Be aware that conditions at water access sites may differ from those encountered in previous years. For example, while DNR-managed accesses are open, spring maintenance is not completed and amenities such as courtesy docks are not yet in place in some locations. Other public and private access sites may not be open.

    Camping

    • Camping is allowed at dispersed or remote camping sites with members of your household. Recreational camping at developed campgrounds is not permitted.
      • A dispersed campsite is a single campsite, not in a developed campground, used for overnight camping. For example, dispersed camping is allowed on state forest land if done at least one mile outside of designated campsites or state forest campgrounds. There are typically no amenities such as fire rings, picnic tables or toilets.
      • A remote campsite is a designated backpack or watercraft campsite, not in a developed campground, used for overnight camping. For example, a campsite on the Superior Hiking Trail, a houseboat mooring site in Voyageur’s National Park, or a cart-in or bike-in campsite in a state park are all remote campsites. Remote campsites may have some limited amenities, such as fire rings or vault toilets.
      • While dispersed and remote camping sites are allowed to be open, they might not actually be open due to staffing limitations or other considerations. Be sure to check if a specific facility is actually open for dispersed or remote camping before heading there to camp.
      • Also be aware that bathrooms or shower buildings near dispersed or remote camping sites may not be open yet this year; check with the campsite owner/manager ahead of time.

    Do you have questions not answered here? Email us.

    We all have a role to play in protecting ourselves and fellow Minnesotans from the COVID-19 health threat. By following EO 20-56 and these guidelines, we can enjoy the many benefits of the outdoors while providing for public health, slowing the spread of COVID-19, and decreasing the potential for added strain on local communities and health care systems in Minnesota.