Hiking Safety Tips

Hiker in the Woods

Hiking and Trail Etiquette during the COVID-19 Pandemic:

  • Do not use parks or trails if you are feeling ill and exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, or if you have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19.
  • Maintain a physical distance of 6 feet or more at all times. Watch out for one-way trails, as maintaining 6 feet of physical distancing may not be possible. Do not congregate in groups.
  • Be courteous and observe trail etiquette. Communicate with others and step aside to yield, if possible, when others approach you on a trail. Alert those in front if you wish to pass.
  • Travel the trail in a manner that allows you to yield. Please slow down when approaching other trail users, be aware of blind corners and be mindful of traffic coming from behind you.
  • When yielding to other users, please stop and move directly off the trail at a 90- degree angle, preferably at least 6 feet if possible, and stop again. Please avoid continuing to travel parallel to the trail as this could cause resource damage from trampling of vegetation and erosion.
  • Once the person or persons you have yielded to have passed, move directly back onto the trail and continue your hike/run.
  • Wear a face mask when you pass others as a courtesy, or as directed by county regulations.
  • If parking lots or trailheads are crowded, explore other options or return when it is less crowed.
  • Plan ahead and use trails during quieter times like in the morning or afternoon.
  • For public safety, we may be required to close parking lots or restrict access if overcrowding occurs or visitors do not follow this health and safety guidance.

General Hiking Tips:

  • Use the buddy system— hike with a member in your immediate household.
  • Drink and carry plenty of water (a minimum of 1 quart every two hours). Although stream, river and lake water may look clean, it can make you ill.
  • Wear sturdy, comfortable shoes to help prevent injury.
  • Tell a responsible person back at camp or at home where you are going and when you plan on returning. Ask that person to notify local law enforcement if you do not return on time.
  • Stay on established trails. Do not walk off-trail or enter closed areas.
  • Never feed or touch wildlife. Do not approach or attempt to move sick or injured wildlife. Please report any encounters with aggressive, sick or injured animals to a park ranger.
  • Wildlife lives in all of our state parks, even near urban areas. Although rare, black bears, mountain lions and rattlesnakes may be seen. If you encounter wildlife on the trail, keep your distance, back away slowly and do not run. Report your sightings to a State Parks ranger.
  • Regarding snakes, always know where you are stepping. For example, if you have to traverse a log that has fallen across the trail, rather than just stepping over the log, first step up onto the log then step down once you know the coast is clear. Be cautious when climbing rocks or picking up firewood. If you see a snake, maintain a distance of at least 6 feet. Most bites occur when people get too close or try to touch them.
  • Tick populations are expected to rise this season. Take the following precautions to avoid them:
    • Walk in the middle of trails.
    • Use insect repellent.
    • Tuck your pants into your socks.
    • After taking off gear, check for hitchhiking ticks
    • Always do a “tick-check” with the help of a friend.

Poison oak is a common plant throughout much of California. Learn to identify its shiny, three-leaf pattern, and avoid touching it. If you touch poison oak, wash immediately with water and mild soap. Pat dry with a clean towel.

For more hiking safety tips, click here.