Safety is important whether you
are day hiking or winter backpacking. Proper planning,
preparation, proper clothing and taking appropriate
gear along are essential to a safe and enjoyable excursion.
You Leave plan ahead. Learn about the area ahead of
time. Study the latest guidebooks and maps that give
information on highways, trails, streams and other
physical features. Plan your trip carefully according
to routes and the time you have available. Check weather
reports before you set out.
Prepare yourself physically. If your planned recreation calls for considerable
physical exertion, get in shape beforehand. Do not attempt a trip that is beyond
your physical capabilities.
Leave word of your destination and schedule. In order to locate you in an emergency
or send assistance should you need it, leave word at home or with a friend
as to where you are going and when you intend to return.
Know the rules and guidelines for appropriate behavior for the area you are
On The Trail
Dress appropriately for the season and where appropriate hiking shoes or boots. Layered clothing is best to meet changing weather conditions. If cool or wet conditions can be expected it is recommended that you avoid cotton clothing, which insulates poorly when wet and dries very slowly.
Carry a compass and a topographic map of the area and know how to use both.
Take along appropriate equipment and supplies. A day pack containing rain gear, extra warm clothing, high energy food, water, first aid kit, pocket knife, whistle and matches in a waterproof container are recommended. Sunglasses and insect repellent are also handy.
Do not drink water from ponds or streams unless you have treated it first by boiling, filtering or using purification tablets.
You should sign in at any Department of Environmental Conservation trail register you may pass. This will assist us in finding you should we need to search for you.
If You Get Lost or Someone is Injured
If you become lost, keep calm, stay dry, keep warm and stay put.
If it appears that you will need to spend the night in the woods, build a campfire to provide heat, light and comfort. A campfire will be invaluable in locating you if you have been reported missing. Aircraft may be used in searching when weather permits and smoky campfires may be spotted from the air
If the weather is particularly cold or bad and you must spend the night in the woods, also build a small shelter using dead branches, hemlock boughs and leaves. The shelter will serve as a "cocoon" and should be just big enough for you to lie in comfortably. Set up camp before darkness falls.
If you feel you can try and find your way out of the woods, remember that following streams downhill will nearly always lead you back to signs of habitation.
Any person knowing you are overdue should contact the New York State Forest Ranger in the area of your trip.
In case of accident, at least one person should remain with the injured person. Know and use basic first aid techniques. Others in the group should carefully note the location and contact the local New York State Forest Ranger.
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Back to Hiking
The rules associated with using Department of Environmental Conservation managed public lands in New York State for recreational purposes are relatively simple and straightforward. Hiking and backcountry camping are allowed on Forest Preserve lands in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks as well as State Forest areas.
Generally, camping is prohibited on Unique Areas, Wildlife Management Areas and other categories of state land. Hiking is generally permitted anywhere but special requirements apply to mountain biking and horseback riding.
Some specific units in the forest preserve may have regulations that are different than the rules and guidelines listed below! For information about the 52 Department of Environmental Conservation campgrounds in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, visit DEC Campground Information.
The rules and guidelines for the use of New York State's public lands are generally as follows: Except where marked by a "Camp Here" disk camping is prohibited within 150 feet of roads, trails, lakes, ponds, streams or other bodies of water.
Groups of ten or more persons or stays of more than three days in one place require a permit from the New York State Forest Ranger responsible for the area. Lean-tos are available in many areas on a first come first served basis. Lean-tos cannot be used exclusively and must be shared with other campers.
Use pit privies provided near popular camping areas and trailheads. If none are available, dispose of human waste by digging a hole 6"-8" deep at least 150 feet from water or campsites. Cover with leaves and soil. Do not use soap to wash yourself, clothing or dishes within 150 ft of water.
Drinking and cooking water should be boiled for 5 minutes, treated with purifying tablets or filtered through filtration device to prevent instances of giardia infection. Fires should be built in existing fire pits or fireplaces if provided. Use only dead and down wood for fires.
Cutting standing trees is prohibited. Extinguish all fires with water and stir ashes until they are cold to the touch. Do not build fires in areas marked by a "No Fires" disk.
Camp stoves are safer, more efficient and cleaner. Carry out what you carry in.
Practice "leave no trace" camping and hiking. Keep your pet under control. Restrain it on a leash when others approach. Collect and bury droppings away from water, trails and camp sites. Keep your pet away from drinking water sources.
Observe and enjoy wildlife and plants but leave them undisturbed. Removing plants, rocks, fossils or artifacts from state land without a permit is illegal. The storage of personal property on state land is prohibited.
Carry an approved flotation device for each person aboard all watercraft. Except in an emergency or between
December 15 and April 30, camping is prohibited above an elevation of 4000 feet in the Adirondacks.