Keep Calm and Carry On: Trail Safety Tips

August 3, 2017

It’s a hot summer day, and you’re out for a hike on your favorite CVNP trail. Just after a shallow stream crossing, you pause to drink from your water bottle and check out the gorgeous wildflowers nearby. Your ankle brushes a green, leafy plant trailing alongside the path—wait! Was that poison ivy? Do you know how to spot it? What do you do if you accidentally touch it? 

This week, we’ve compiled a short list of safety tips for when you’re out on the trails. Whether you’re new to hiking or a seasoned trail expert, these tips are important for everyone to remember. 

Top 5 Trail Safety Tips

1. Be prepared. 

It’s always a good idea to bring a few key items with you whenever you go hiking in a remote area. In particular, don’t forget to stay hydrated, even on cooler days! Here’s our list of hiking essentials: 

  • Water bottle
  • Trail map
  • Appropriate footwear and extra layers
  • A snack or two
  • Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
  • Cell phone: Program CVNP Dispatch into your phone for emergencies (440-546-5945 or 800-433-1986). You might also consider packing a whistle in case you’re out of cell phone range.
  • Mini first-aid kit (Band-Aids, antibiotic ointment, gauze, tape)
  • Flashlight or headlamp, if you’re planning to hike in the evening
  • Emergency shelter, small repair kit & tools, waterproof matches

2. Be aware of your surroundings.

Particularly if you’re hiking or running in a popular area, like the Towpath Trail, avoid wearing headphones and listening to loud music. Otherwise, you might not hear when someone tries to pass you on the trail or get your attention. Plus, you’ll miss out on all the birdsong and other nature sounds! In addition, make sure you know where you are on the trail system in case you need to call for help.

3. Be extra careful after a heavy rain.

With the fairly wet summer this year, it’s more important than ever to watch out for rain-swollen stream crossings, flash flooding, and slippery wooden bridges or stairs. If you’re caught in a thunderstorm, find higher ground so you don’t get washed away (although don’t head to the top of a hill—middle ground is best) and find safe shelter as soon as you can. If you come to a deep, swift stream, it’s better to turn back than get swept away. Watch out for fast currents, even in shallow waters, and never attempt a stream crossing with small children. When in doubt, sit it out!

4. Watch out for poison ivy. 

You’ve probably heard it a million times: Don’t step in poison ivy! Somehow, though, it’s always easy to forget when you’re out enjoying a hike. Look for bright green plants with three leaves, smooth edges, and a reddish center. If you do accidentally brush up against it, don’t panic—just jump in the shower when you get home and scrub with plenty of soap. Remember: Leaves of three, let it be! Learn more >

5. Plan ahead. 

Check out a map before you head out—or browse our Outdoor Adventures section for other tips. In particular, make sure you know how long your hike will take, especially if you’re starting later in the day and might bump up against sunset. (Check out sunrise/sunset times for the Akron area here.) Finally, make sure you tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to return, especially if you’re hiking alone.

We’re tremendously grateful for the TRAILS FOREVER donors and volunteers who help keep CVNP trails in good shape. Without their support and the hard work of National Park Service trail crews, CVNP would not have the resources to fully maintain its 100+ miles of trails.

Do you have additional tips for your fellow hikers? Let us know on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram. Now get out there and enjoy your national park trails!