Know before you go – wilderness tips for day trips, overnight trips


A trek in the wilderness of national forests is not simply a walk in the woods. It can be dangerous, even deadly, for the unprepared.

National Forest officials urge the public to be prepared and operate safely in wilderness areas.

"Almost every year there are people that require rescue because they weren't prepared before entering into wilderness areas," said Diane Prather, Santa Fe National Forest staff officer and Search and Rescue Coordinator in a news release. "Individuals were rescued Saturday (May 19) in a wilderness area because they were lost. Proper preparation can help hikers avoid the situation and not put rescuers at risk."

Wilderness areas are managed by the USDA Forest Service to provide visitors with primitive, challenging recreation opportunities that require a high degree of self-reliance and navigation skills. Stay safe by knowing the potential dangers should you encounter wild animals, or have to deal with the sun, heat, falling trees or snags, loose or uneven ground, mines, caves, ticks, water hazards or navigation challenges.

The weather can change suddenly and dramatically. Monitor weather conditions before you set out for the day and be prepared for the possibility of rock falls, hypothermia, lightning, floods, hail, winds and heat. "Know before you go" by visiting the USDA Forest Service website that provides "forestgoers" with information needed to ensure a more safe and enjoyable experience:

Leave No Trace, also provides information about pre-trip planning:

"Wilderness areas are the birthright of every American, and there is no better place to enjoy our special natural and cultural heritage," said Mark Allison, executive director for New Mexico Wild in a statement. "Be responsible for your own safety by being prepared, and tell someone where you are going and when you'll be back."