Trail Safety Tips

Tips for safe and enjoyable hiking on trails in Ohio parks and natural areas

Before hiking or engaging in other strenuous activities, make sure you are physically able to handle the stresses of the activity. If you are unsure, you should consult your physician.

Prepare for your hike by assembling a small day pack or fanny pack with some essentials. Carry a small first aid kit which should include at a minimum: bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, tape, a small pair of scissors, moleskin for blisters, and instructions.

Be sure to carry adequate water with you. Everyone's water consumption differs, and it depends on weather, trail difficulty, speed you hike, and other factors. If you are planning on hiking more than a mile, carry at least a pint of water with you, and preferably more. Do not drink water you encounter on the trail. While it may look clean and pure, it could harbor microorgansms that will cause intestinal distress, chemicals, or seage effluent, among other things. Since we do not know the contents of the water, better safe than sorry.

Carry, and know how to use a compass and map. at a minimum, take a compass bearing when you enter the woods, and write it down. That way, in the unlikely event you do get lost, you wil be able to walk in the opposite direction of that bearing later, and you will be going in generally the right direction.

Take a camera with you. You never know what you may see. Along with the camera, take a field guide for plants, birds, or both. That way, you will be able to identify what you find, and if you can't, you can take a picture and ask an expert what it was.

Take a cell phone with you, but leave it turned off. While the ethics surrounding cell phones in the forest are far from settled, given the propensity of the devices to detract from the serenity, it really is a good idea to have one available. Particularly if you are hiking alone. While most trails in northeast Ohio are generally within a short distance of a road or parking lot, you never know when you may need help, or may be able to save a life because you are carrying a cell phone. Just keep it turned off and don't degrade your time in the woods with the worries of the hectic civilized world.

Wear comfortable footwear and good fitting socks. Make sure that if you are hiking more than a short distance that your boots are broken in. If you feel a warm spot on your heel or other area of your foot, stop and apply a moleskin from your first aid kit before it turns into a blister.

Follow the somewhat cliche but infinitely correct rule of the woods: Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints. In other words, don't litter, and don't harm nature. Leave the wildflowers and animals there for others to enjoy. If you have the time and inclination, leave the area nicer by packing out other people's garbage as well as your own. Every little bit we do helps.

Be aware of weather forcasts, and dress appropriately. Think about the effects that weather will have on trail conditions. If you know it just rained, and the trail you plan to hike has a natural surface, be prepared for mud.

Most importantly, take a good attitude. If you wake up inquisitive and adventurous, that is the time for a hike! Learn something new and brighten the woods with your smile.