How a Pandemic Turned the Great Outdoors Into the Latest Instagram Hotspot

Oh to be an influencer riding a horse in Wyoming

October 5, 2020 9:48 am
Pandemic Hot Spot Great Outdoors
Instagram/champagneandchanelJeff R Clow/Getty Images

Over the past few months, COVID-19 has encouraged many of us to get comfortable with the great outdoors. From the early-pandemic “family walks” parents forced their reluctant children to take each day to outdoor-only dining and park picnics with socially-distanced friend groups, we were soaking in some vitamin D while desperately yearning for a slice of human interaction and taking any opportunity to get out of the house. 

Our National Parks have borne much of the brunt of a nation going stir crazy. According to Quartz, the coronavirus has driven National Park visits higher than ever, putting additional pressure on parks like Zion and Rocky Mountain, which had already been dealing with issues of overcrowding. Yellowstone National Park saw more visitors this July and August than it did in those same months last year, while visitation in Grand Teton National Park in Jackson, Wyoming, neared record levels in August

Meanwhile, Northeasterners were escaping to upstate woodland havens. According to the New York Times, Hudson Valley’s Mohonk Mountain House — a Victorian castle resort nestled in 40,000 acres of forest — had one of the most successful sales weeks in its 151-year history in August. A Lake Placid resort in the Adirondacks was almost fully booked in July and August, while a Finger Lakes vacation-rental company saw a 10% increase in bookings over 2019. 

But even if we didn’t have all of this data, we could still sense the uptick in people escaping to greener pastures by simply scrolling through our Instagram feeds.

Everyone, it seems, from that person you went to high school with who you haven’t spoken to since graduation to an influencer you’re not sure how you ended up following and a handful of random celebrities, is hiking, posing next to a rock formation or hanging out near some sort of buffalo ranch, all while sporting some seriously fashionable outdoor attire, no doubt.

Kendall Jenner recently made headlines for “raising the bar” on hiking attire — sporting a black, form-fitting unitard paired with a more traditional set of camo hiking boots while posing near an unidentified mountain range. Later the model posted photos of herself peacefully lounging near a glistening lake and riding a jetski.

Meanwhile, Queer Eye’s Antoni Porowski spent some time up at Maine’s Hidden Pond, a private luxury resort secluded amidst 60 acres of serene birch forest in coastal Kennebunkport. He was then seen sporting a plaid button-down in the Aspen Mountains, hiking in Yellowstone and casually hanging out on a ranch in Teton Village — the quaint mountain town in Jackson, Wyoming, an area that looks to be a popular destination for pandemic travelers.

One Austin-based Instagram influencer, Emily Herren, also known as @champagneandchanel, posted to her one million Instagram followers updates on her recent getaway in Jackson Hole. The Instagrams showed Herren posing next to yet another ranch, going maskless in a gym, hiking with her boyfriend in Grand Teton National Park and riding horses in a teddy bear jacket that you can of course shop at the link in her bio.

While the pandemic has pushed more people to seek out open spaces for obvious reasons, the outbreak of COVID-19 has coincided with America’s recent growing homestead movement. Farm, ranch and homestead Instagram influencers and bloggers are a growing subset of influencer culture, giving followers an insight into farm life, only without any actual farming. Accounts like @thefoodnanny and @fivemarysfarms post photos of their gorgeous ranch homes, along with fresh, homemade bread and admittedly adorable cows, depicting an idyllic lifestyle in stark contrast to the more chic NYC- or LA-based influencers.

But even those who haven’t completely made the switch to a self-sufficient lifestyle have found sanctuary in rural areas. In 2019, Kanye West bought a massive $14 million ranch in Wyoming that serves as a vacation home for the Kardashian-West family and as an aesthetically-pleasing backdrop for many Kardashian Instagrams. In short, everyone now wants their picture taken on a horse.

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Wyoming 🐎⛰

A post shared by Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian) on

Unfortunately, not all of us have the luxury of escaping into a woodland resort or buffalo ranch whenever we need a refresh (or a hot Instagram pic). And not everyone is super thrilled with celebs and influencers posting about their tranquil, open-air getaways while COVID cases are still rising.

“I guess the pandemic doesn’t exist anymore,” commented one Instagram user on Herren’s first post about her trip to Wyoming. 

We’ve seen time and time again that socioeconomic status has much to do with how you’ve been fairing during the pandemic. At the beginning of the outbreak, many celebs fled urban coronavirus hotspots for rural Western regions while NYC’s wealthy camped out in their Hampton estates and later in the summer got their hands on rapid COVID tests so they could throw parties.

For the rest of us, a drive to a nearby hiking trail to get some air, peace of mind and a cute Insta pic, while complying with your state’s COVID mandates, of course, will do just fine.

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