Safety and Ethics
As a visitor to the national forest, we ask that you follow certain rules and regulations designed to ensure your health and safety, to protect the forest, and to promote pleasant outdoor experiences for everyone. Topics unique to this forest that you need to know before visiting:
Consumption of alcohol and open containers of alcohol are prohibited in public places such as National Forest lands and waterways. View Supervisor's Order.
To protect resources, camping and firebuilding in rock shelters is prohibited. View Supervisor's Order.
Black bears are back, resulting in food storage restrictions View Supervisor's Order and poster showing how to reduce odors that attract bears.
All caves and mines on national forest lands are closed to the public to prevent and slow the spread of White-Nose Syndrome. View Order.
Even when you are well prepared, the natural environment can present unpredictable challenges. Always plan ahead and take steps to ensure that your visit to the national forest is a safe one.
Your safety is your responsibility. Look out for natural hazards and dangers when in the forest.
Learn more about outdoor safety in the southern region national forests.
Call 911 to report an emergency. In remote areas, do not rely on cell phone coverage. Your chance for cell phone signal is increased if on a ridge top.
General Safety Tips
The most effective way to prevent mishaps is to adequately prepare for the trip. Knowledge of the area, weather and terrain can help to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
Travel with a companion
You don't want to be by yourself in case of an emergency. Leave a copy of your itinerary with a responsible person. Include such details as the make, year, and license plate of your car, the equipment you're bringing, the weather you've anticipated, and when you plan to return.
If you'll be entering a remote area, your group should have a minimum of four people; this way, if one is hurt, another can stay with the victim while two go for help.
If you'll be going into an area that is unfamiliar to you, take along someone who knows the area or at least speak with those who do before you set out.
If an area is closed, do not go there.
Know ahead of time the location of the nearest telephone or ranger station in case an emergency does occur on your trip.
Be in good physical condition
Set a comfortable pace as you hike. A group trip should be designed for the weakest member of the group. If you have any medical conditions, discuss your plans with your health care provider and get approval before departing. Make sure you have the skills you need for your camping or hiking adventure. You may need to know how to read a compass, erect a temporary shelter, or give first aid. Practice your skills in advance. If your trip will be strenuous, get into good physical condition before setting out.
Think about your footing while traveling
Think about your footing if traveling near cliffs. Trees and shrubs can't always be trusted to hold you. Stay on developed trails or dry, solid rock areas with good footing.
How To Avoid Snakebites
Before venturing out into the forest, familiarize yourself with the snakes of your area, both venomous and non-venomous species.
Wear appropriate clothing
Wear appropriate clothing for the trail conditions and season. Dress in layers in cooler weather.
Check your equipment
Keep your equipment in good working order. Inspect it before your trip. Do not wait until you are at the trailhead. Be sure to pack emergency signaling devices.
Be weather wise
Keep an eye on current and predicted weather conditions. In this area, weather can change very quickly. Know the signs for approaching storms or changing weather conditions. Avoid bare ridge tops, exposed places, lone trees, streams, and rocks during lightning storms. Find shelter in a densely forested area at a lower elevation.
Learn basic first aid
Learn basic first aid so you will know how to identify and treat injuries and illnesses. Carry a first aid kit with you. Learn how to identify the symptoms of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, hypothermia, and dehydration, and know how to treat them.
Make camp before dark
Traveling after darkness has resulted in many accidents from falls, so travel only during daylight. Set up camp well away from the edge of cliffs, and learn the terrain during daylight. If you have to leave camp after dark, stay in areas you have seen in daylight, go with a friend, and always use a good flashlight.
Be alert for slippery areas
Be alert for slippery areas and take your time to avoid tripping. Low-hanging branches and variable terrains make running unsafe, and leaves can hide slippery areas underneath.
Alcohol and cliffs don't mix!
Judgment, agility, and balance are all reduced by alcohol consumption. Consumption of alcohol and open containers of alcohol are prohibited.
Think before you drink!
No matter how clean or pure stream water looks, it's likely to contain water-borne parasites and microorganisms that can cause discomfort and sometimes serious illness. Pack your water in, or purify through chemical treatment.
During hunting season
Hikers should wear at least one article of hunter orange viewable from all directions such as a hat, jacket, or vest. Horseback riders should wear a hunter orange vest and helmet cover. Use a hunter orange vest or rump sheet on your horse. Dogs should wear hunter orange or other visible color, like a vest, leash, coat, shirt or bandana.
Avoid wearing white or tan during deer season. A glimpse of white clothing by a hunter in the forest could be easily mistaken for a white-tailed deer.
Beware of hazardous trees due to storm damage, insect damage or wildfires.
Beware of limbs and damaged trees that may fall at any time.
Look up while on trails, especially when it’s windy.
Use caution when selecting a place to camp, picnic or rest.
Control your campfire and make sure it is “dead out” when you leave.