Notice: Traveling in the backcountry can be hazardous. You are responsible for your own safety. Dress appropriately and remember the weather in the La Sals can change quickly. Whether you are day-tripping or backpacking, proper planning and taking appropriate gear along are essential to a safe and enjoyable excursion.
Before you leave, plan ahead. Learn about the area ahead of time, including the rules and guidelines for appropriate behavior for the area. Great trail maps and guidebooks are available at the Moab Information Center and many gear shops in town. Moab is surrounded by a maze of deep canyons and towering cliffs. Never try to cut cross-country to shorten a trail. Study the latest guidebooks and maps that give information on highways, trails, streams and other physical features; check the alignment of the route and key junctions. Plan your trip carefully according to routes and the time you have available. Check weather reports before you set out.
Prepare yourself physically. If your planned recreation calls for considerable physical exertion, get in shape beforehand. Do not attempt a trip that is beyond your physical capabilities.
Leave word of your destination and schedule. In order to locate you in an emergency or send assistance should you need it, let someone know where you are going and when you intend to return and give them contact information of the appropriate authorities in case you do not return when expected. You should sign in at every trail register you pass; this will be instrumental in finding you should we need to search for you.
On The Trail
- Dress appropriately for the season and wear appropriate and well-fitted hiking shoes or boots. Weather conditions in the La Sal Mountains can change suddenly – Layered clothing (not cotton) is the best defense against changing weather conditions.
- Fill your pack with essential equipment and supplies including: Rain gear, extra warm clothing, plenty of water, high-energy food, head lamp with batteries, first aid kit, sunscreen and insect repellent, pocket knife and whistle.
- Always bring a headlamp and extra batteries, even if you intend to only be gone during daylight hours.
- Carry a compass and a topographic map of the area and know how to use both
- DO NOT RELY ON YOUR CELL PHONE. There is no cell coverage in many portions of the Moab area. Please do not rely on your cell phone to call for help.
- Do not drink from ponds or streams unless you have treated it first by filtering, boiling or using purification tablets.
- Watch out for lightning. If you see lightning approaching, take cover in a vehicle or crouch in a low, dry spot. Avoid metal objects and never take shelter under a lone tree, at the base of a cliff, or in a shallow cave.
Utah’s mountains and forests are home to thousands of black bears. Sloppy campers and hikers don’t just endanger themselves, but also future visitors. Bears have amazing memories; they will return to a site repeatedly if they ate there at some point in the past. When in bear country, you should:
Maintain a bear-safe campsite
- Store food, drinks and scented items securely (in your vehicle, a bear-safe container or a tree — never in your tent)
- Dispose of trash in bear-proof dumpsters, if available
- Wipe down picnic tables
- Burn food off stoves or grills
- Pitch tents away from trails in the backcountry
- Always sleep inside your tent
- Never approach or feed a bear
- Report aggressive bear encounters to the Utah Division of Wildlife
Take precautions while hiking
- Stay alert at dawn and dusk, when bears are more active
- Go with a group, if possible
- Make noise as you travel through dense cover
- Stay away from animal carcasses
- Store food, trash and scented items (such as sunscreen) in airtight plastic bags
- Keep kids in the center of the group
If you encounter a bear
- Stand your ground. Never back up, lie down or play dead. Stay calm and give the bear a chance to leave. Prepare to use your bear spray or another deterrent.
- Don’t run away or climb a tree. Black bears are excellent climbers and can run up to 35 mph — you cannot outclimb or outrun them.
- Know bear behavior. If a bear stands up, grunts, moans or makes other sounds, it’s not being aggressive. These are the ways a bear gets a better look or smell and expresses its interest.
If a bear attacks
- Use bear spray. Then leave the area. Studies have shown bear spray to be 92 percent successful in deterring bear attacks.
- Shoot to kill. If you use a firearm, never fire a warning shot — aim for the center of the bear and keep firing until it is dead. Notify the Division of Wildlife Resources immediately.
- Always fight back. And never give up! People have successfully defended themselves with almost anything: rocks, sticks, backpacks, water bottles and even their hands and feet.
If You Get Lost or Someone is Injured
- If you become lost, keep calm, stay dry, keep warm and get your bearings before proceeding.
- If it appears that you will need to spend the night in the woods, build a campfire to provide heat, light and comfort. A campfire will be invaluable in locating you if you have been reported missing.
- If you must spend the night in the woods, set up camp before darkness falls. Build a small shelter using dead branches and leaves.
- If you feel you can try to find your way out of the woods, remember that following streams downhill will nearly always lead you back to signs of habitation.
- Any person knowing you are overdue should contact Grand County Search & Rescue 435-259-8115
- In case of an accident, at least one person should remain with the injured person. Know and use basic first aid techniques. Others in the group should carefully note the location and contact Grand County Search & Rescue 435-259-8115