The most effective way to prevent mishaps is to adequately prepare for the trip. Knowledge of the area, weather, terrain, limitations of your body, plus a little common sense can help to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
Our National Forests are a refuge for wild animals, including dangerous animals like bears and venomous snakes. Wild animals can be upset by human presence and can unexpectedly become aggressive. Do not give them a reason or an opportunity to attack. Always keep your distance. Your safety is your responsibility.
Trail Safety Tips
Travel with a companion. You don’t want to be by yourself in case of an emergency. Tell someone where and when you are going, when you expect to return, and how many individuals are in your party.
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.
Wear appropriate clothing for the trail conditions and season.
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 exposed places, lone trees, and streams during lightning storms. Find shelter in a densely forested area. Even in the summer, exposure to wind and rain can result in hypothermia.
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 dark can result in an accident so travel only during daylight.
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 and take your time to avoid tripping. Low-hanging branches and variable terrain make running unsafe, and leaves can hide slippery areas underneath.
- Think before you drink! No matter how clean or pure stream or lake water looks, it’s likely to contain water-borne parasites and micro-organisms 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. Cover your backpack with orange.
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 the tail of a deer.
Can I Bring My Dog?
On the Trail: If you bring your dog hiking, keep it under physical restraint at all times. The Ocala National Forest is a multiple-use forest, which means you and your dog may meet horseback riders, mountain bikers, and four-wheelers on the trail. Use a leash in crowded areas. Hiking is hard work for a dog, especially if it’s not used to long hikes in hot weather. Watch your dog for signs of stress and fatigue, and give it plenty of water and rest.
In the campgrounds: dogs must be on a leash and under control, because cars are more prevalent. Tie your dog up in a shady spot and give it lots of attention to minimize barking.
Am I Safe on the Trail?
Exercise the same caution you would anywhere else. On some isolated trails, help may be far away. On these trails, a hiking companion is recommended. If alone, pay attention to your surroundings and the people you meet on the trail. Be alert and project an aura of confidence. Learn more....
Are There Snakes?
Four venomous snakes, the cottonmouth, eastern diamondback rattlesnake, dusky pygmy rattlesnake and the eastern coral snake, are native to the Ocala National Forest. By observing a few precautions and leaving the snakes alone, you can avoid an unfortunate encounter. Learn more...
Poison ivy has three leaves and is a plant but may also climb like a vine and mimic the look of hickory tree leaves. Remember... "if it has leaves of three, let it be." Poison ivy is just one of several poisonous plants to be aware of in the Ocala National Forest. Learn more...
Ticks are common in this forest. Some of these ticks can transmit diseases to humans, so check for ticks after every trip in the woods. Ticks can be found wherever there is vegetation. They can carry various diseases including Lyme's disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tick fever, and tick paralysis. Learn more....
All trails are marked with signs (where intersections meet) and diamond blazes or markers. However, signs are sometimes vandalized or stolen.
Pay close attention to your surroundings and landmarks, and relate this to your location on a map.
Stay calm if you get lost. Panic is your greatest enemy. Try to remember how you got to your present location.
Trust your map and compass, and do not walk aimlessly. If you are on a trail, don’t leave it.
Stay put if it is nightfall, if you are injured, or if you are near exhaustion.
Remember, cell phone service is extremely limited within the Ocala National Forest. You are responsible for your own safety.