You came for the eclipse. Come back for more adventures.
To see more Eclipse photos, check out our Flickr page.
On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will obscure the sun along a path that crosses the U.S. from Oregon to South Carolina for a very short time. Depending on location, the sun will be completely blocked out for a maximum of 2 minutes 40 seconds.
The path of totality — or where viewers can see the sun completely eclipsed — draws a line over 26 national forests, one national grassland and one national recreation area managed by the Forest Service. We like to refer to these working lands as America’s backyard.
However, as you experience the first coast-to-coast eclipse in 99 years, we want you to do so safely so the experience ends with great memories.
First, we suggest you visit our federal partner, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. There, you will learn all about an eclipse, including the history of eclipses and how to safely look at the phenomenon. We also hope you get involved in their citizen science projects and help young people increase their knowledge of astronomy through tools like the Eclipse Activity Guide.
But as important as learning how to protect your eyes is knowing the tips that will keep you safe outdoors. Forest Service lands are inviting, awe inspiring and invigorating. But nature also can present challenges, especially in August, which is usually hot in temperature but also busy with wildfire activity.
Here are some tips to help you. Read more information about these tips at Know Before You Go:
Please follow the Leave No Trace Seven Principles of Outdoor Ethics:
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What You Find
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Access to water, food and emergency services vary depending on where you are. The nation’s forests and grasslands cover 193 millions of acres of sprawling vistas and soaring mountains. That means you could experience long distances between gas, food and lodging. Before you go:
- Make a plan. Know your destination and points in between where you may need to access services.
- Learn about Forest Service maps and how they can help you. Don’t rely on your electronic device alone.
- Be prepared even if water, food and amenities are available. Always carry more food and water than you need along with first aid supplies and extra clothing. Take a tip from our young scouts: always be prepared.
Let’s face it. Bathroom facilities are not abundant outdoors. If you have campground reservations, be sure you know what facilities are available. In any case, know what steps you should take if there are no restrooms. Check your forest or grassland destination website for rules that may be specific to that destination.
- There are many commercial products that help you safely pack out human waste, which is the preferred method.
- When packing out is impractical, and this should be rare, human feces may be deposited in a hole six to eight inches deep and at least 200 feet from any running water, camp trails and drainage.
- Toilet paper must be packed out at all times.
Many look to national forests and grasslands as an escape from the busy outside world. That means many of these locales are remote and can be outside reliable service range for mobile networks. When venturing into the great outdoors there’s a great deal that can go wrong. Let someone know where you’re going, have a backup plan in case electronics break on you, and keep these tips in mind:
- Never go without a plan. Know where you are going, how you will get there and how you return. Share that information with a responsible party as well as times and date of your departure and when you expect to return home. If you don’t return by the agreed upon time, that person should call 911 with the information you provided.
- Mountains, valleys and distances from cellular towers all contribute to little or no cell phone service. Have backup information ready—paper maps and a compass you can get you out of a jam so long as you know how to use them.
- If you feel you are lost, the most important thing to do is stay calm. Try to remember how you got to that point. Because you are prepared, turn to your map and compass. As a last resort, follow a drainage or stream downhill. While difficult, it could lead to a trail or road. If night comes or if you are injured or near exhaustion, stay put.
Access to fuel for vehicles may not be easily accessible. Many national forests and grasslands are in areas where gas is not available for many miles.
- It’s a good idea to fill up whenever possible, and to know where gas stations are along your route. But another caution: Just because a gas station is there, doesn’t mean it will be open when you arrive.
- Have an electric car? Your points of connection may be even further away. Know your charging spots.
Federally managed lands have rules to keep you safe, to keep natural resources in good condition and to keep animals and people at respectable distance. Those rules about where you can go and by what means also protect historical sites, wilderness areas, and cultural resources such as American Indian sacred sites. Not every special place is marked, so proceed with respect anywhere you go.
- Stay on designated roads and trails
- Never leave graffiti on anything. Leave what you see the way you found it. If you find anything damaged report it to a Forest Service employee.
- Take only pictures.
National forests and grasslands are home to an abundance of wildlife. Encountering wildlife can be dangerous for yourself and for the animal. Insects, venomous reptiles, and even large animals like bears may be present depending on where you are and what the season happens to be. Be aware of your surroundings and if you encounter wildlife keep your distance. And, please, don’t attempt selfies. It may be the last photo you will ever take.
Summer is the height of wildfire season—a time where heat and dry conditions come together. In this environment, an errant spark is all it takes to devastate resources, destroy habitat, and put property and life at risk. Unfortunately, most wildfires are human-caused. The good news is, practicing fire safety means that most of these fires can be prevented. Keep these tips in mind:
- Open flames like campfires and charcoal grills can easily ignite a fire in the right conditions. Motorized vehicles with loose chains or hot undercarriages can also present a hazard, as can the use of certain motorized tools, like chainsaws.
- Smoking can cause enormous fires if done so carelessly, or if improperly discarded. If you must smoke, do so in an enclosed area, such as a car or on a boat. Never toss a cigarette. Ensure the embers are out and then take the remainder with you.
- Your national forest or grassland destination will post alerts on respective websites and post alerts via social media. If you are in an area where you cannot get reception, then be on the alert for smoke.
- If you want to know more about wildfire prevention, ask Smokey Bear.
Solar Eclipse Safety Posters
Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest
Payette National Forest
Boise National Forest
Sawtooth National Forest
Salmon-Challis National Forest
Caribou-Targhee National Forest
Shawnee National Forest
Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area
Mark Twain National Forest
Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest
Nebraska National Forest
Soldier Creek Wilderness
Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest
[collapsed title=North Carolina]
Nantahala National Forest
Siuslaw National Forest
Mt. Hood National Forest
Willamette National Forest
Deschutes National Forest
Crooked River National Grassland
Ochoco National Forest
Umatilla National Forest
Wallowa-Whitman National Forest
Malheur National Forest
[collapsed title=South Carolina]
Francis-Marion and Sumter National Forest
Cherokee National Forest
Bridger-Teton National Forest
Shoshone National Forest
Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest
Remember: You are responsible for your own safety and for the safety of those around you.