National Monument Association

Outdoor Safety

Outdoor safety . . . it’s everyone’s responsibility.  Whether touring in the backcountry or along the road, travel poses certain risks. You are responsible for educating yourself. In an emergency, contact the local sheriff’s department by dialing 911.

Play Safely!

  • Swimming is not recommended. Drowning is a leading cause of death in the national forest. Be extra careful along rivers and streams; falling in is as dangerous as swimming. Rocks are smooth and slippery. Swift and/or cold water rapidly sap your strength. Hidden rocks and debris can trap feet and arms. Watch children carefully.
  • Poison oak can be encountered up to 5,000 feet in elevation. Look for shiny green leaves in groups of three in spring and summer, red leaves with whitish berries in fall, and bare plants in winter. If you touch any part of the plant, wash skin and clothes right away.
  • When hiking, be sure to pick a trail that matches your experience and ability. Have the proper clothing; changes in the weather can happen rapidly. Wear good hiking boots, and break them in before your hike! Always carry plenty of water, a first aid kit, map, and food to meet your needs. Please remember to pack out what you pack in.


Tell someone where you are going, when you expect to return, and what to do if you don’t.

  • Cell phones rarely work well in the mountains; don’t rely on them. Pay telephones are located at Stony Creek Resort and Kings Canyon Lodge during the summer and Grant Grove and Hume Lake stores year-round.
  • It is a good idea to travel in groups of four so if someone is injured, one person can stay with the injured person, and the other two can travel for help.

If You Are Lost

If you get lost or become disoriented, stay calm and stay put! Stop and pay close attention to your surroundings and landmarks; relate this to your location on a map.

  • Panic is your greatest enemy. Stay calm, and try to remember how you got to your present location.
  • Trust your map and compass, and do not walk aimlessly. If you are on a trail, don’t leave it.
  • Stay put if it is nightfall, if you are injured, or if you are near exhaustion.
  • Keeping warm is more important than finding food and water.
  • As a last resort, follow a drainage or stream downhill. This can be hard going, but will often lead to a trail or road.


Storms form quickly in the mountains. Bring clothing for all weather conditions: raincoats, jackets, fleece, or wool. Remember to pack cold-weather survival gear in case you become stranded. Snow can occur year-round at higher elevations.

Avoid afternoon summer storms by heading out early and getting off mountain peaks and high points before storms arrive.

If you see dark clouds, lightning, or hear thunder, get inside a building or a vehicle. Do not stand under trees or in shallow caves. Avoid standing on ridge tops, rocks, in the water, or in open meadows. If you are caught in a lightning storm, remove your pack and crouch with your hands on your knees until the worst has passed.

Use caution crossing dry streambeds and low areas; sudden storms may cause flash floods.

Check the weather before heading out.


The dry California air draws moisture out of the body in all temperatures. While traveling, you may be miles away from a clean water source. Water in streams and lakes may not be suitable for drinking even if it looks and tastes pure. Treated drinking water is available at some developed recreation areas.

  • Take and drink water wherever you travel on the forest.
  • If you must drink water from a stream, boil or properly filter all free-flowing drinking water to kill Giardia and other parasites.


The major cause of altitude sickness is going too high, too fast. At higher elevations, the air becomes “thinner,” which means you get less oxygen to breathe. Altitude sickness symptoms may include shortness of breath, nausea, heart palpitations, extreme thirst, weakness, headaches, and “tunnel vision.”

  • If you experience any of these symptoms, slow down and drink water. If symptoms persist, proceed to a lower elevation, and seek medical attention.
  • Reduce the chance of experiencing “mountain sickness” by drinking plenty of water and avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and heavy meals
  • Allow yourself time (one to three days) to acclimate if arriving from lower elevations. The amount of time needed will depend on your physiology and total elevation changed.
  • Ultraviolet radiation increases two-fold at 10,000 feet compared to sea level. To prevent sunburn, wear sunscreen and a brimmed hat. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.


Becoming too cold can lead to this life-threatening condition at any time of year, especially if you fall into cold water. Hypothermia is possible even in midsummer and is caused when the body’s core temperature is lowered by cold and wind. It can happen even at temperatures of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms range from feeling extremely cold to sluggish behavior, slurred speech, or unconcern for the cold.

Stay warm, dry, and well nourished; wool and some synthetic clothing help you stay warm even when wet.

If anyone in your group begins to show symptoms, act immediately to re-warm them. Get out of the wind and rain, remove wet clothing, build a fire, and give hot liquids only if they are conscious.

Abandoned Mines

Abandoned mines are safety hazards; stay out of them.


Leashes protect dogs from becoming lost and from hazards such as mountain lions. Leashed dogs are less likely to intimidate or harm others.

  • Leash pets in developed recreation sites, such as trailheads, picnic areas, and campgrounds. On trails, pets must be on a leash or under voice control.
  • Pets must not be allowed to chase or disturb wildlife or other visitors.

Forest Creatures

Please help keep wildlife “wild” by not approaching or feeding them. Keeping your distance protects you and the animal. If an animal approaches you, move away and maintain a safe distance.

  • Use binoculars, spotting scopes, and telephoto lenses to minimize stress to animals and provide a safe viewing distance for you.
  • Be aware of various wildlife that may be in the area and how to prevent dangerous encounters.
  • Always secure your food, and keep a clean camp.
  • Use insect repellent during mosquito season. Check for wood ticks in the spring and early summer. Fleas on rodents can carry plague. Deer mice feces can carry Hantavirus.
  • To avoid rattlesnakes, watch where you put your hands and feet! Most bites result from teasing, startling, or handling snakes. Very few people die, but tissue damage can be severe. If bitten, avoid panic, call 911, and seek medical attention.