Outdoor Safety & Ethics

Whether you are camping in a developed campground, hiking for the day or backpacking through the wilderness, ethical behavior and safe practices make for a more enjoyable trip and a sustainable future for the forest.

Safety First- Reporting an Emergency

Call 911
In remote and rural locations, emergency response times are longer than in an urban setting. There is little to no cell reception in most of the forest. Once you find a place with reception, stop moving until you complete your call.

Identifying local  medical services or Search and Rescue before your trip may help save precious time in an emergency.


  • Safety

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    Certain safety procedures should be followed by all visitors. Failure to observe safety rules leads to accidents and sometimes death. 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.

  • Ethics

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    As with outdoor safety, backcountry ethics or how you recreate and use the forest determine how it will be left for the next visitor. Whether you are a seasoned wilderness hiker or a first time visitor to a campground, please respect other users and use minimum impact techniques. It is up to all of us to keep these areas in good condition for the next visitor as well as the next generation.

  • Keep Me Wild: Black Bear

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    Before you travel in bear country, take a few minutes to educate yourself on bears and co-existing with them safely. The CA Department of Fish and Game has a brochure available on-line entitled, Living with California Black Bears. Also check out Be Bear Aware for tips on hiking and camping in bear country and don't miss a great video.

  • Keep Me Wild: Mountain Lion

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    In July 2019, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the Commission to list mountain lions as threatened under CESA within a proposed ESU located in Southern California and along the central coast of California. Help prevent unwanted conflicts with these beautiful wild animals. Do your part, keep them wild.

  • Leave No Trace

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    The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace provide an easily understood framework of minimum impact practices for anyone visiting the outdoors. Although Leave No Trace has its roots in backcountry settings, the Principles have been adapted so that they can be applied anywhere — from remote wilderness areas, to local parks and even in your own backyard. They also apply to almost every recreational activity. Each Principle covers a specific topic and provides detailed information for minimizing impacts.

Wilderness Travelers

Wilderness visitors are expected to practice a high degree of self-reliance and responsibility for their own safety. It is recommended to leave a copy of your trip information behind with a responsible person. Providing clear instructions in advance may save valuable time in an emergency when the ability to communicate clearly might be difficult.

When reporting an emergency or someone overdue by more than 24-hours it is helpful to provide:

  • Describe the nature of the emergency
  • Names of the people in the group
  • Wilderness permit number
  • Entry and exit trail names & dates
  • Route or intended destination
  • Description of the car(s) at the trailhead

Learn more at Region 5 - Outdoor Safety & Ethics (usda.gov)