Trail Safety & Etiquette

Please consider the following practices to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable trail experience.

Hikers on a trail

Food, water and you

  • Do not push yourself too hard. Hiking is a great way to stay in shape, but can become dangerous if you ignore the warning signs of fatigue.
  • Know your physical capabilities. Don't attempt difficult trails unless you have the strength and experience.
  • Pack ample supplies: plenty of water, lightweight snacks for energy, sunscreen, a compass, a pocketknife, a hat, a map, insect repellent, and a first aid kit.
  • If using water from natural sources such as, lakes, rivers or ponds, make sure to use purifying tablets as directed. Before consuming water from these sources, boil the water for a few minutes.
  • Break-in your hiking boots or shoes before you go on a hike. This will help to minimize discomfort typically found in new footgear.
  • Layer your clothing to control temperature. Always bring rain gear.

Common sense safety

  • Be aware of weather conditions and reports.
  • Be alert of dangers such as poisonous plants, wildlife, and falling rocks.
  • Be careful near ridge edges.
  • Tend any fire you make in an official campsite area with extreme care. Douse it completely with water before you leave the area.
  • Wear a helmet when cycling or trail riding.
  • In winter wear sunglasses, as snowblindness can be very painful and debilitating.
  • When in doubt of trail conditions - turn around and head back the way you came slowly and calmly.
  • Watch for wildlife on roadways, especially at night.

Getting lost

  • Research the regulations and special concerns for the area you are planning to hike.
  • Be aware of sunset and how many hours you have before you are hiking in the dark. Don't get caught in the dark.
  • Always hike with a partner if possible, if you must hike solo, inform others of your plans and route in advance.
  • Do not venture off marked paths. If you believe that you've gotten off course, retrace your steps back to the last trail marking.
  • Remain in one place if you become lost or separated from your group.
  • Find an open place and wait for rescue. Don't go wandering around.
  • Don't separate from each other if you don't have a clue where you are.

Look, don't touch

  • Leaves of three, let them be! While on trails, make sure to avoid poisonous plants such as Poison Ivy and Poison Oak.
  • Do not feed or try to pet or play with wild animals.
  • If you come across animals that are clearly sick or injured do not move them, but contact a wildlife officer, the SPCA or the OPP.
  • Leave everything as you found it. It is illegal to disturb plants or wildlife in most areas under federal or provincial jurisdiction, or to remove archaeological artifacts, dead wood, fossils or other geological features. This is particularly important where there are rare, native plants, which are vulnerable to damage.
  • If you must carry away a memento of your visit, make sure it's only a photograph.
  • Report vandalism. Ontario's Natural Resources Tips Reporting Line is a new toll-free direct line that is open 24 hours a day, call 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667). Tell the organization managing the trail, if you can, of any destruction or danger you encounter.

Hiking with baby and young children

  • A baby is old enough to go out on the trails when it can hold its head up without difficulty, usually around six to nine months old.
  • For longer trails you will need a sturdy backpack designed for carrying a child. Look for one that transfers most of the child's weight to your hips and ample padding in the straps and belts.
  • Hike slowly and with caution when a baby is on board. Kids move unpredictably and may throw you off balance at critical moments.
  • A seated child has a lower center of gravity; it is almost impossible to achieve ideal weight distribution for a small child.
  • Practice carrying your child in a backpack around home or in town before heading out to a trail to hike.
  • Provide children with plenty of small bite-size snacks on a regular basis to prevent crankiness.
  • Bring spare diapers and a re-sealable plastic bag to take them home. Do not bury disposable diapers.
  • Apply sunscreen to children, dress them in bright colours, speak to older children about the importance of stopping and staying on a trail if they become lost.

Near water

  • Practice safety around water.
  • Supervise children at all times.
  • Wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD), if appropriate.

Wildlife at a distance

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach wild animals.
  • Never feed wildlife. Feeding animals in the wild damages their health and alters natural behaviours.
  • Avoid wild animals when they are: mating, nesting, rearing young or seeking food in winter.
  • Protecting yourself, your family and pets from rabies. Information from the Ministry of Natural Resources Ontario.

Lyme disease

  • Trail users and people who spend time outdoors need to protect themselves from a pesky little tick that can potentially pose a serious health risk.
  • Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bite of blacklegged ticks, formerly called deer ticks. These ticks are commonly found in certain areas in and around Norfolk County, including Long Point and Turkey Point. However, while the potential is low, because ticks feed on migratory birds it is possible for people to encounter blacklegged ticks almost anywhere in the province.
  • Ticks can’t jump or fly. Instead, they wait patiently on the tips of bushes and tall grasses and attach themselves to animals and people when they brush past. They are tiny too, making them really tough to spot. Adult ticks are only about the size of a sesame seed before they feed.
  • To find out how to protect yourself from Lyme disease, and how to properly remove a tick if you have been bitten, visit http://hnhu.org/health-topic/lyme-disease/

Hunting season safety

  • Hunting season dates vary depending on type of game. Small-game season [turkey and rabbits] is usually from Sept to end of May. Large-game season [deer] takes place from about Oct to Jan.
  • For trail safety wear a blaze orange hat and vest, and if backpacking cover your pack in blaze orange.
  • Be heard. You can whistle or sing a tune to alert hunters you are in the area and stay on the trail, do not wander off into dense woods.
  • For additional details on Ontario hunting contact the Natural Resources Information Centre 1-800-667-1940.
  • Visit the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources web site for more information.
  • Take only pictures and fond memories away with you. Leave only a footprint on the path you have respected.

OTC Handy Hiker Tips

  • Zip lock bags are very handy for removing rubbish with you and they can be cleaned and recycled once you get home. Make your emergency food rations snacks you don't really like, you will be less tempted to eat them before you need them.
  • When hiking, groups of 3 or 4 are ideal. If someone is hurt then there is one person to stay behind and one to go get help. But only separate from the group if you know your way and are on a trail you know well.
  • If stopping to let horse riders pass, stand on the downhill side of the path, as it is less threatening to the horse. If you stand uphill the animal may think you are another animal waiting to pounce and get spooked.
  • Hiking with your pet dog. Don't over-feed or feed your pet on the trail as too much food can cause bloating which can be fatal for dogs. Pack fresh water for your dog and small snacks like power bars specifically made for dogs.
  • Take along a signalling whistle as part of your hiking survival kit. It will make a lot more noise than you yelling you're lost in the middle of a forest.

What to put in your backpack when out on the trails

  • One to two litres of water in easy-to-carry, leakproof bottles
  • Depending on the length of trail, pack meals or snacks. Snacks should provide energy, so chocolate bars, granola bars, nut mixes, cut veggies and hard fruit are all good.
  • A fully charged mobile phone will come in handy in case you get lost or hurt. Just remember that reception is not always available.
  • You never know when a spare pair of socks and underpants might come in handy if you get wet from rain or tend to sweat heavily.
  • A hat and pair of gloves are wise and small enough to pack.
  • A rain poncho in case of rain. A large poncho can also double as a shelter in an emergency.
  • First aid kit with a whistle, sunscreen lotion, hat, sunglasses, insect repellent, trail map, compass, windproof lighter, pocket knife, water purifying tablets.
  • A few plastic bags to carry out garbage and waste.
© 2017 LPRCA. All Rights Reserved.