Trail Safety & Essentials

Important things to know before heading out on a trail to help keep you safe and make the most of your experience.

What to Bring

Make sure you have the following items to ensure you are ready for your outdoor experience.

Hiking Boots or Sturdy Shoes

Terrain and surface conditions can vary dramatically, even within the same park. Trails can be muddy and wet seasonally, or after storm events. Proper footwear is important to keep your feet dry, prevent twisted or sprained ankles, and help navigate unpredictable conditions.

Water

Make sure all members of your party bring enough water to ensure hydration throughout your outing, factoring in the potential that you might end up out on the trail longer than you expected. Activity during high temperatures can result in using up your water faster than expected, so bringing extra on hot days is a good idea.

Snacks

Sometimes your outing might last longer than expected due to unexpected situations or wrong turns. Bringing food is always a good idea to refuel and maintain your energy level. All food and associated wrappers should always be brought back out of the park with you and disposed of properly.

Fully Charged Cell Phone

Phones are a useful tool so you can call for help in an emergency and utilize locational services to see your location in relation to roads and other landmarks. Make sure your phone is fully charged before starting your trek. Cellular coverage and reception can be spotty depending on your location and searching for a cell signal can quickly drain your battery. Consider putting your phone on airplane mode until you need it.

Map

Using a map to plan and track your route is essential to prevent yourself from getting lost. A useful tip is to take a photograph of the trail map located in the directory at the trailhead so you can reference it as needed throughout your trip. If cellular service is working, you can access MCPC Explorer through our Open Data Portal and view your location in real time along any Park Commission trail.

Insect Repellent

You should expect to encounter a variety of nuisance insects on your outing, including mosquitos and ticks, which are very common in our area. Insect repellent can help to keep these pests at bay and prevent them from ruining your outdoor experience.

First Aid Kit

A basic first aid kit with supplies to deal with injuries and any necessary medications can provide peace of mind that you are ready to deal with the unexpected. Make sure you know how and when to utilize the various components in your kit. Click here for a list of recommended items to include in your kit.

Flashlight

Having a flashlight or headlamp is a good precaution in case getting back to your starting point takes longer than expected and you run out of daylight. Some MCPC trails are located in wilderness areas and can take longer to hike than you planned for.  

Weather Appropriate Clothing

Dress for the weather. Layers are always a good idea so you can adjust to changing temperatures. Get in the habit of bringing rain gear – bad weather can move in quickly, even on a seemingly nice day. Hats, gloves and other cold weather wear are critical in the winter. Long sleeves and pants can help prevent sunburn, bug bites and contact with poisonous plants.

Know Your Surroundings

No matter how experienced you are or where you’re going, unexpected things can and do happen in the outdoors. Take the following steps to prepare for your outdoor excursion.

Plan Your Route

Always have a plan before venturing out on a trail. Consult our online trail maps to choose a route that you can safely complete in the amount of time you have designated. Average walking speeds for adults ranges from 1.5 miles per hour to 3.5 miles per hour. This can vary significantly from person to person and over various terrains. Maps can be deceiving, trails can look short on paper – it is critical to check the map scale to gauge mileage. Always factor in the topography and terrain of the route in question.

Check for closures and alerts – sometimes we have to close a trail for maintenance, damage or other reasons. Check here to ensure a closure doesn’t affect your plan.

Understand the Terrain and Your Limits

Recognize your abilities and those of all members of your group. Pick a trail that everyone in the group can successfully complete and safely enjoy.

Some trails are more challenging than others and can have large elevation changes, obstacles and uneven footing to traverse. Refer to our Trail Guides both online found in each Park/Trail page and posted in trailhead directories to plan your route so that you don’t find yourself on a trail that is beyond the capabilities of you and those in your group.

Prepare for the Environment

All Park Commission trails travel through natural areas. Expect and prepare for encounters with insect pests, various forms of wildlife and noxious plants. Prepare for exposure to the elements: the hot sun, rain, high winds, snow, ice – factor this exposure in to your plans and make sure you bring what you need to endure them.

Educate yourself on common plants and pests and how to protect yourself and treat exposure. Knowing how to react when you encounter certain wildlife species is also important. Do not consume wild plants, fruits or mushrooms as there are numerous species in our area that can cause serious illness. Never approach, try to feed or otherwise handle wildlife.

Have a Way to Communicate

Be sure to bring along a fully charged cell phone in case you run into unexpected problems and need to call for help. Cellular coverage and reception can be spotty depending on your location and searching for a cell signal can quickly drain your battery. Consider putting your phone on airplane mode until you need it.

Tell someone where you are going and when you plan on returning before you head out as a precaution so they can notify authorities if you do not return on time.

Know who to call if you find yourself in trouble:

  • Morris County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Division: 973-326-7654
  • For an Emergency, dial: 911

Stay on Designated Trails

Do not walk off marked trails or enter closed areas. In addition to causing negative impacts to protected areas, doing so increases your chances of getting lost.

Be Aware of Hunting Season

Be aware that hunting is permitted as part of the Park Commission’s Deer Management Program. More information about this Program, including the hunting schedule, can be found here. Regional trails such as Patriots’ Path, pass through open space managed by other entities that may allow for hunting.

Not wandering off trails, wearing bright colors and not allowing dogs to run off leash are always good practices, but particularly important during hunting season.

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