Pennsylvania is home to many beautiful state parks, trails, forests, and other natural wonders. While exploring PA's public lands can be fun and memorable, it's important to stay safe.
Here are several ways you can protect yourself and your surroundings.
Always plan your trip ahead of time.
It is important to lay out your trip ahead of time, planning where you are going, how far you are going, and how long you plan to stay in one or multiple areas. Planning out your trips ahead of time also helps avoid traveling after dark or without proper equipment.
Always tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return.
Not only should you make a plan for yourself, but you should also share the details with someone, as well as let them know when you plan to return. Writing down your plans, indicating on a map, and letting them know when you are leaving and when you are coming back is a good idea. In addition to creating a plan for yourself and telling someone about it, you should leave a copy of your plan in your vehicle, but not where someone trying to break in may see it.
Don't rely on your cell phone, make sure to take a paper map with you.
It is easy to rely on technology for many things, including maps and GPS, but when you may be travelling to a remote area with unknown cell phone reception, it is important to have a back-up – that's where a paper map comes in! A compass is also a helpful tool that is a great companion to your map.
Bring helpful gear.
Think about what you need to bring ahead of time. Matches, a knife, a whistle, food, and water are some ideas of helpful things to bring on your trip. You should also make sure you dress properly for the outdoors; this can include clothing for both warm and cold weather. Layering is always a good option.
Follow your plan.
It is very important to make a plan before going on a trip or hike, but it is almost equally important to follow that plan. Always stay on designated trails and learn what different trail markings mean and which ones indicate the trail you need to be on before leaving.
All of these steps are very important for keeping you, the wildlife, and others safe in our state parks. However, accidents can still happen. If you become lost, stay calm, stop walking, and seek shelter if necessary. At a last resort – find a stream and follow the water downstream towards a road.
Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn recently appeared on an episode of WITF's Smart Talk to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the state parks system and what the plan for the next 25 years could look like.
For more tips on staying safe in Pennsylvania's state parks, visit the DCNR website.