Outdoor Safety & Ethics


  • Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return
  • Read all trail head signs and follow local regulations
  • Stay on the trail
  • Hike in groups
  • Don't hike in the dark
  • Maintain control at all times of your pets.
  • Carry EPA registered bear pepper spray when hiking and camping in bear country. The Custer Gallatin National Forest is Bear Country. Visit the Be Bear Aware website.
  • Keep children within your sight.
  • Do You Know What it Means to Be Bear Aware?

    A bear eating berries next to a tree

    The Custer Gallatin NF is bear country. Bears do not like surprises, educating yourself and being properly prepared will help in bear country. Hike During Daylight Hours, Make Noise and Hike in a Group Carry certified bear spray on a hip holster, on chest or where quickly accessible within seconds. Keep a clean camp, properly hang or store food and attractants when not in use.

  • #RecreateResponsibly for You, Others, the Outdoors

    Two kids sitting on chairs around a campfire at a developed camp site

    Know before you go, plan and prepare ahead of time for your trip. Respect others and work to build an inclusive outdoors. Leave No Trace and pack out any human or pet waste. Consider your responsibility to take action and steward these public lands.

  • Practicing Leave No Trace Outside

    A young child carrying garbage to a trash can

    Know before you go, plan and prepare ahead of time for your trip. Respect others and work to build an inclusive outdoors. Leave No Trace and pack out any human or pet waste. Consider your responsibility to take action and steward these public lands.


You are responsible for your safety and the safety of wildlife. Please help keep wildlife "wild" by not approaching or feeding them.

  • Please do not feed wildlife. Animals that get food from people may become aggressive. Our foods may harm an animal's digestive system or even cause them death.
  • Do not approach wildlife. All wild animals can be dangerous. Alter your route so that you will move away from animals without disturbing them. Do not block an animal's line of travel. 
  • Photograph and watch wildlife from observation areas.
  • Use binoculars, spotting scopes and telephoto lenses to minimize stress to animals and to provide a safe viewing distance for you.
  • If an animal approaches you, it is your responsibility to move away and maintain a safe distance.


  • Set up cooking, eating and supply areas at least 100 yards from your sleeping area.
  • Use bear resistant food containers to store food and odorous items when not in use. Wildlife are attracted to odors, even when not in bear country.
  • Keep sleeping bags and tents completely free of food, beverages, and odorous items
  • Do not sleep in the clothes you cook or handle fish and game in. Odors can attract wildlife.
  • Keep a flashlight and bear pepper spray readily available. Carry bear spray with you if traveling away from your base camp. Ensure your base camp is secure from food and loose items that may attract wildlife.


  • Use only dead and downed wood.
  • Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans or mound fires. Do not make a fire ring of rocks.
  • Burn all wood and coals to ash, extinguish campfires completely then widely scatter cool ashes. Never leave a smoldering campfire, as wind can cause it to flare up.

In the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area, open fires are PROHIBITED in the Black Canyon drainage off of the Lake Fork Trail and in the Fossil Lake/Dewey Lake area of the upper end of the East Rosebud Trail. ELSEWHERE "Leave No Trace" fires are allowed.

In the Lee Metcalf Wilderness no open fires are allowed within a 1/2 mile of Lava Lake.

Tree Safety

A standing tree can cause serious injury or death to people and damage property. A tree can become a "hazard tree" if it has structural defects or damage that can cause it to fall. Take care to observe the structure of trees and overhead hazards when selecting camping and picnic sites.

  • Weather and Being Prepared

    A scenery picture along a road with gathering storm clouds in the sky

    Weather conditions on the Forest can change rapidly. Always check local weather, road, and trail conditions before an outing. Let someone know where you are going, and be prepared with extra layers and snacks.

    In Montana, snow or freezing temperatures can occur any time of the year. Incoming storms may bring lightning, rain, hail, snow, or sleet with little warning. During spring runoff, water flows are often much faster and stronger than they appear. Use caution, watch your footing, and keep children close.

Abandoned Mines

A lot of Forest Service lands, especially in the west, historically were mined for metals such as gold, copper, uranium, lead, and zinc. This Forest has active mine reclamation sites on historic and present day mining sites. If you encounter them, do not enter - abandoned mines pose safety risks to the public.

Hazardous Materials

Unfortunately, illegal hazardous waste dumping occurs on our public lands. Often, materials are left from illegal drug use or hazardous chemical, which pose significant hazards. If you come across a dump site or suspicious activity, leave immediately and notify the local Ranger District.


Visitor Safety

When visiting our National Forests and Grasslands remember to always be aware, alert and cautious. Some visitors have different agendas besides relaxation, exploration, and recreation. These agendas may include drug production, theft, arson, and other illegal acts. Avoiding these areas if discovered is the safest course of action. Report sightings to local law enforcement personnel only after you have relocated to a safe area.

Always look out for your own personal health and well-being.

Additional Helpful Resources

National Know Before You Go: USFS 

Recreate Responsibly

Outside Kind 

Leave No Trace