The Lay of the Land: Rules and Tips for Recreation Safety

West Yellowstone MT SignWest Yellowstone is the place to come to get out on the trails and see the sights and wildlife. Whether you’re hiking, biking, fishing, camping, boating, exploring the geyser basins, or picnicking, welcome to Big Sky Country!

A family picnic. (Photo courtesy of Dobson Entertainment)

While this is the perfect place and time to get out in the woods, on the lake, and everywhere else, there are some things to keep in mind when enjoying nature. Here are three easy rules, and tips for applying them, to keep you and those around you safe, healthy, and happy.

Rule #1: Always respect other users of recreational resources.

Keep in mind that, while you might not see many other people, they have as much right to be here as you do. Show respect by cleaning up after yourself, only camping in designated sites, and, this year, please observe the mandatory social distancing of six (6) feet.

Rule #2: Always act in a safe and healthy manner.

Remember that the wilderness is wild – there are numerous unmarked hazards. Be aware of your surroundings and watch for possible dangers. Please observe any closures, and when biking or boating remain in control of your equipment.

Grizzly BearBear SprayWatch for bears, and take appropriate preventative measures: make noise when rounding corners, entering thickly forested areas, and topping hills, and carry and know how to use bear spray when hiking in bear-frequented areas or in the backcountry.

Rule #3: Always be prepared.

When participating in any outdoor activity remember to take care of yourself. Carry sufficient water, food, and clothing for the activity, and have the relevant form of the following close at hand:

First Aid KitFirst Aid kit/supplies

Emergency contact system (cell-phone, radio, etc.)

Protective equipment/supplies (sunscreen, bug spray, bear spray, bike helmet, life jacket, etc.)

Survival kit/Emergency supplies (simple items like matches/lighter, flashlight, whistle, pocket knife, etc.)

Although getting some of the supplies can seem daunting, it might be easier than you think; the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce can direct visitors to resources, and can advise you on what you need for your activity.

Boardwalk in Yellowstone

Visitors exploring Yellowstone. (Photo by Carolyn Fox.)

Bear spray in particular can be a confusing subject. If you stay on the boardwalks of the geyser basins, or in other frequented areas, chances are you won’t need it, but make sure you carry it and know how to use it. Assume that you might encounter bears anywhere.

Have a plan. Be prepared for a variety of situations, and stick with your group.

In addition to the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce, the U. S. Forest Service and the National Park Service provide valuable information about trail, waterway, and campground guidelines and closures through their websites:

Gallatin National Forest SignU.S. Dept. of Agriculture website (Custer – Gallatin National Forest)

National Park Service website (Yellowstone)

These three simple rules can help you enjoy the great outdoors, and help your camping trip, bike ride, hike, or other adventure go off without a hitch! We hope you enjoy your visit and have a great time!