Know Before You Go: Labor Day safety tips for your National Forests

North Central Washington, August 31, 2022 — Labor Day marks the unofficial end to summer, and a busy weekend for visits to National Forests in the Pacific Northwest. That’s why Forest Service officials urge everyone to “know before you go” and come equipped with the information and supplies you’ll need to respond to an emergency, or to prevent one.

Fire: Weather conditions have been hot, and forest vegetation is very dry. It’s extremely important that visitors follow any public use restrictions in effect for the area they are visiting, such as campfire bans. Ensure tow chains can’t strike asphalt, rocks or dirt as you drive, and don’t drive over dry grass. Fireworks are prohibited on National Forests!

Navigation: In remote areas, cell service may be unavailable. If you’re relying on GPS navigation, make sure area maps are downloaded to your phone, or that you’ll have reliable satellite access when you are out of cell phone range. Paper maps are also lightweight and portable, and don’t rely on batteries.

Wilderness: Wilderness areas are managed for minimal human development, including motorized vehicles and equipment. If you plan to hike or camp in a wilderness area, it will take longer for help to find you. You can learn more about special considerations for Wilderness areas here.

Burned areas: As access is restored to previously burned areas, understand that these areas will be at higher risk for hazards. During rainy weather, burned areas are at a higher risk for flash flooding and landslides. Practice “4 Steps for Safety” – look up for damaged branches or leaning trees, and look down for signs of previous rock fall, trip hazards and erosion. Look around to maintain awareness of changing weather conditions, including those at higher elevations. In the water, look below the surface for fallen trees, rocks and debris, which could strike or ensnare boats and swimmers, or change currents.

Outdoor Essentials: Access to water, food, shelter, and first aid are important for comfort, but they are critical for survival during an outdoor emergency. Many outdoor educators recommend 10 outdoor essentials that can help prevent a mishap from becoming a crisis, and a crisis from becoming a disaster. Find the list here.

Be Bear Aware: Bears live in the woods, but human-bear encounters may be even more likely at busy campgrounds, especially if a bear has learned to associate human activity and food. Learn how to secure food to discourage bear encounters and what to do if you encounter a bear here.

We encourage everyone to get outdoors and explore public lands – but also to take responsible precautions so you can enjoy the outdoors safely. It’s a great idea to plan an alternate recreation site to visit in case the first trailhead or parking area you reach is full. Learn more about the 17 National Forests and Grasslands in Washington and Oregon at


User menu

NCW Media Newspapers