Safety & Etiquette
- Go with a buddy. Enjoy your trails and parklands with a friend. Two or more trail users can assist each other in the event of accident or injury, and one can always seek help. Never hike alone.
- Have someone waiting. Before heading out, always let someone else know where you will be going, what trail(s) you are planning to hike, and when you expect to return. Instruct him or her to call 911 if you do not return as planned. Always anticipate no or minimal cellphone reception.
- Plan ahead. When planning your hike, consider your physical condition, the length of the trail and level of difficulty, and the predicted weather conditions. If possible, print out a map. Contact your local land manager if you are unsure about what you can and can’t do in a given area. You can shorten or lengthen your planned route to meet your ability or to accommodate the weather.
- Obey all posted rules and regulations. Check trail signs for allowable user groups (such as cyclists, equestrians), wildlife regulations, and whether or not pets are permitted.
- Be easy to find. Use marked, authorized trails only.
- Pack / drink plenty of water. Bring water with you even in mild or cold hiking conditions. Never drink from natural bodies of water such as lakes, rivers and streams.
- Take what you need. Carry personal identification. If you use a medication frequently, such as for diabetes or angina, take it and instructions for use with you. Carry first aid equipment and know how to use it.
- Keep dogs on leash. Unless it is specifically posted that they can be off leash, keep pets under control, especially around horses.
- Leave valuables at home. Don’t make yourself an obvious target. If you must leave valuables in your vehicle while you are enjoying your picnic lunch or using the trails, hide them well before you arrive at the parking area; auto burglaries are all too common.
- The day is your friend. It’s better to avoid dusk and darkness.
- Dress for the occasion. Wear proper/comfortable shoes and clothing that will protect from the elements and always wear sun protection, including sunscreen, hat and sunglasses regardless of weather conditions.
- Supervise children. Keep an eye on children at all times and don’t let them get too far ahead or behind an adult
- Call for help. If you need assistance or encounter someone else needing assistance, call 911. NOTE: Cell service not available in all locations.
Safety Guidelines for Hikers
- As a general rule for beginners, hiking one mile on relatively flat terrain at a moderate pace takes approximately one-half hour. For hikes labeled “challenging,” or on days when the temperature is over 90 degrees, allow extra time and take more water! Hikers should wear sturdy shoes with ankle support.
- Watch your step. Be alert of upcoming trail conditions.
- Be alert of natural hazards:
- Poison Oak Be careful to avoid this shrub, as skin exposure to poison oak can create a rash. People respond to the plant in varying degrees, but best to avoid if possible. If exposed, wash the area with poison oak soap to remove all potential oils.
- Ticks These small animals latch onto skin and can be difficult to remove. Ticks live in a variety of habitat so it may be difficult to avoid exposure. Best to do a full check of your body after spending time on the trails. If found, it is important to remove the full body of the tick, including the head.
- Rattlesnakes This poisonous snake seeks out warm spaces during the day, which could include trail areas. Luckily, it will warn you of its presence with its distinctive rattle. If you encounter a rattlesnake, leave it alone and it should ignore you as well.
Safety Guidelines for Equestrians
- Expect inexperienced trail users. While all trail users should yield to equestrians, many are intimidated by large horses, or just don’t know what to do. Small children, animals and the elderly can be easily frightened by horse and act unpredictably.
- When planning your outing, consider terrain, temperature, humidity, and your horse’s condition. Chart a course that will allow your horse to drink at least once every hour. For an average horse, a hilly, 5 to 7-mile route should take about 1-1/2 hours. Learn to take your horse’s pulse and respiration rate. Always wear a helmet and wear sturdy boots. Keep your horse to the right or where safe when encountering others on the trail, and communicate: let other trail users know how to pass your horse safely.
- After rains, check with national and/or state parks for trail conditions and closures. Trail use is not recommended when trails are wet and prone to damage.
- Watch for overhanging branches from shrubs and trees.
Safety Guidelines for Mountain Bikers
- Carry first aid supplies. Learn to recognize and avoid poison oak, rattlesnakes, ticks and bees.
- When riding alone, tell someone where you are going. Avoid traveling alone in remote areas.
- Expect surprised trail users. Fast moving users can startle others, especially when approaching from behind, or coming around a blind turn.