As summer camping and hiking season has officially started, we know that many of you will be hitting the outdoors. Whether you’re looking for wildflowers, enjoying the beach, or looking for that perfect waterfall hike, it’s important to be prepared. That’s why we asked the National Park Service to share what they believed to be the most important safety tips this year.

In a statement shared with Curiocity, the National Park Service determined that fire safety and wildlife safety are two of this summer’s most important issues. Both make sense as we see an increase in wildfires across the US and Canada, and also videos circulating online of people getting dangerously close to wild animals.

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Fire Safety

According to the NPS, visitors should pay attention to park website alerts and bulletin boards inside the park for any fire bans. Additionally, here are other safety tips they mention:
  • “As summer continues, western Washington usually gets drier and drier. With an already dry spring, the chances of starting a wildfire are higher.
  • If visitors are permitted to have a campfire, they should make sure to put it out fully before leaving the area. Pouring lots of water and stirring the remains is a great practice.
  • Visitors should only use pre-established campfire rings.
  • Be extra careful with cigarette butts, charcoal grills, and camp stoves.
  • As always, fireworks are never permitted at National Parks.”

The NPS specifically mentions animals in Olympic National Park, but these recommendations should be followed regardless of which park you are visiting.

Wildlife Safety

Regarding wildlife, according to the NPS, the three animals at Olympic National Park that are of the most concern are mountain lions, black bears, and Roosevelt elk.

So how do you stay safe? Here’s what they recommend:

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. All wildlife is protected in the park. Park regulations require that all visitors maintain a distance of at least 50 yards (half the length of a football field) between themselves and any park wildlife.
  • Do not approach wildlife. If an animal approaches closer than 50 yards, move away to maintain the minimum required distance of separation.
  • Never feed wild animals. This includes all park animals: birds, squirrels, marmots, deer, elk, otters, etc., not just bears. Learning to beg for and/or rely on human foods is extremely harmful for all wild animals, big or small.
  • Be careful not to leave wrappers, crumbs, or other food trash after picnicking or snacking on the trails. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers. Feeding wildlife can also increase risks to you and other visitors.
  • Keep children close. Keep children within your immediate sight at all times.
  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times. This includes times when animals are mating, nesting, raising young, and during the winter.
  • Avoid setting up camp on or near game trails. Hike and camp away from obvious animal paths, water sources, and signs like droppings or claw marks.

Food Storage

The NPS also states that proper food storage is incredibly important. For this, here’s what they recommend:

  • Campers should store food in their vehicles or in bear-proof lockers that can be found throughout our campgrounds. Never leave a campsite with food or cooking supplies lying around.
  • Backpackers are required to have proper food storage when camping in the wilderness. Food storage outlines can be found on individual National Park websites. Here is an example of Olympic National Park’s food storage outline.

Water Vessel Safety

Summer means being by the water, and perhaps in the water! Whether boating, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, rafting, jet skiing, paddleboarding, our national parks have plenty of water activities to explore. Guided trips or rentals may also be available within the park you are visiting.

But while out there, be sure you are prepared and the NPS highly recommends wearing a life jacket for water activities. The NPS has detailed water vessel safety information outlined on their website.

We would also like to add the importance of being prepared with gear, like a life jacket. If you don’t own the appropriate gear we have a list of local stores you can rent from as well as a local peer-to-peer rental community. Conditions in the wilderness can change quickly and it is of the utmost importance to make sure you have basics like food, water, and clothing that can keep you warm and dry.

What’s more, always make sure you understand what you are getting into before you go and let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.

With that, enjoy!

Information on park safety is from the National Park Service and is accurate as of publication date.