Hiking is a wonderful way to see and experience the many wonders of our nation’s forests. Visit your forest’s ranger district office, our All Maps page, or National Forest Store to obtain a trail map to help you plan your route based on your ability, available time and interest. Please follow these safety tips to ensure a safe journey:
- Responsible Recreation. Being prepared includes knowing how to be a responsible hiker. Learn more on our Responsible Recreation page.
- Stay on marked trails.
- Don’t hike alone. Let the slowest person in your party set the pace. This is especially important when children are a part of your group.
- Leave your itinerary with a friend or family member and check in with them upon your return.
- Develop an emergency plan before you start your trip. Make sure everyone knows what to do if they become lost or a medical emergency arises. Give children whistles with the instructions to "stop and blow" if they become lost.
- Take frequent rests or vary your pace to maintain your energy level.
- Drink plenty of water, even on cool, wet days. Never drink your entire supply between refills.
- Wear appropriate clothing, including sturdy boots that are broken in and are comfortable.
- Consider using a hiking pole or walking stick to help maintain your balance in unlevel or hazardous areas.
- Be aware of your surroundings, and pre-plan your approach before hiking through more hazardous areas. Wet surfaces can be a hazard and even more so if it's on a slope.
- Consider what you'll do if you start to slide or fall so that you are prepared.
- If falling, do not try to catch yourself; try to avoid landing on your hands, elbows or knees. Landing on the side of your body is much safer.
- If the slope is such where you know you are going to slide, lowering your center of gravity, by sitting down and sliding on your feet or bottom, is safer.
- If sliding while standing up, keep your weight over your feet and bend your knees—do not lean back or forward while sliding.
- If on a day hike, extra weight wears you down and reduces your agility over uneven terrain. Pack as light as possible. Leave the extras behind, but consider bringing these essentials:
- Sunglasses and a hat
- Waterproof matches
- First aid kit
- Water and water-purifying tablets
- High-energy bars, granola, candy, or fruit
- Extra clothing. Temperatures can change dramatically, particularly if there is an elevation change. For every 1,000 feet of elevation gain, the temperature often drops three to five degrees.
Source: U. S. Forest Service; National Park Service
Remember: You are responsible for your own safety and for the safety of those around you.