Safety in the Parks and on the Trails
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Cattle are large animals, weighing 1,000 pounds or more. While not aggressive by nature, if aggravated, cattle can respond in a potentially dangerous manner. If you encounter cattle on the trails, try not to startle them. Keep your distance and walk around them rather than through them. Don’t get between a calf and its mother; they are protective of their young. Don’t try to get close to, touch, or pet them. Always keep your dog under control. For more information on hiking safely near cattle, see our Safety Tips for hiking near grazing animals.
Before you leave home
Bring enough water for you and your dog(s).
Bring snacks and toys if needed.
Make sure you have a leash (six-foot maximum) for each dog, and a harness.
Bring doggie waste bags - better to bring several, just in case.
Know your dog’s limits - how far can he or she go before tiring?
Check the weather where you plan to hike. On warmer days, walk shaded routes and avoid going out during the hottest times of the day.
At the trailhead and during your hike
Upon arrival at the trailhead or parking area, keep your dog(s) on-leash--dogs must leashed in all parking lots, picnic areas, developed areas such as lawns and play fields, and on some trails. They must be under voice control at all times. Read the posted dog rules. They must also remain on-leash 200 feet in from the trailhead or park entrance, which allows a "cooling off" period for your pet excited to be outdoors.
During your walk, watch for signs of thirst, hunger, and fatigue. You know your dog best, so pay attention to the telltale signs that only you may know.
On the trail, take rest stops for yourself and your buddy. Dogs appreciate some time in the shade to cool off, too.
Very important! If your dog deposits waste along the trail, pick it up in your dog waste bag or one provided at the park. Please take it with you - do not leave it on the side of the trail. These bags are often forgotten and remain for someone else to pick up. Everyone likes to see a clean park, so please do your part.
Be sure to keep your dog close, there are many dangers for dogs in the parks. They can also transmit poison oak to their owners if they are allowed to romp off trail. Be aware that many people are afraid of dogs despite an owner's belief that their dog is a friendly one. And many people do not appreciate an uncontrolled and overly friendly dog jumping on them or their children.
After your hike
Make sure your dog is properly hydrated, fed, and has a place to cool down.
Check for ticks - if the tick has attached, your dog will be focusing on that spot.
Check for foxtails and other weeds in their coat, nose, paws, and ears.
Note: When hiking with children, consider trail conditions, weather, and the physical conditions of the kids. Start with low mileage and work your way up. Remember that kids tire easily and are more affected than adults by rain and cold conditions.
Make sure you and your child have good footwear and socks, no open-toed shoes.
Bring lots of water and snacks.
Wear sunglasses, sunscreen, a hat, and dress in layers or bring a change of clothes for the child.
Bring a first aid kit, sting and allergy care, hand wipes, and tissues.
Stay on the trail and keep your charges within eyesight.
Teach your child to stay with a buddy.
Enforce the rule: Do not touch, just use your eyes.
Leave things where they are.
No running, shouting, screaming.
No littering – pack out what you pack in.
ActivitiesWhen walking or hiking with kids, keep incentive treats with you. If a child is having a hard time getting up a hill and the view at the top is not enough to keep them going, establish stopping points where the child will get a treat. Keep granola bars, trail mix, or energy treats handy. The number of stopping points depends on the child: establish more at shorter distances for younger children. The more stopping points, the smaller the treat.
This is a great time to play age-appropriate games. Try “I Spy” and “20 Questions.” Find shapes in the clouds during rest stops. See what you can find on the trail to teach them about nature and hold their interest.
Give responsibilities to kids 12 years and older. For example, let them keep the map and lead the way. Put them in charge of water and snack breaks. If you have an old or disposable camera, let your child be photographer for the day.
Park district firefighter gives tips to prevent fires in the parks.
More about reducing wildfire risk
Personal Safety and Crime Prevention
Parks police officer gives tips to prevent auto burglary in the parks.
More about personal safety and crime prevention tips
When planning your hike, consider your physical condition, the length of the trail and level of difficulty, and the predicted weather conditions. You can shorten or lengthen your planned route to meet your ability or to accommodate the weather. Before heading out, always tell a family member or friend where you are going, what trail(s) you are planning to hike, and when you expect to return. Take plenty of water, dress for the weather, and know the location of an emergency phone before you begin. When possible, go with a friend.
Use the following guidelines to determine how far to go and what level of difficulty suits you:
Easy trails are relatively flat and in good condition (paved or packed gravel). Length varies from 1 to 3 miles, generally taking 1 to 2 hours or less to complete. These trails are generally suitable for strollers.
Moderate trails have significant elevation gain (500-1000 feet), are 3-6 miles in length, and trail conditions vary from good to rugged. Hikes generally take 2-4 hours to complete. You must be in good physical condition and carry plenty of water, a high energy snack, and a first aid kit.
Challenging trails have significant elevation gain (1000+ feet), 6-20 miles or more in length, and trail conditions can vary from good to rugged. Hikes generally take from 4-8 hours to complete. You be in good physical condition and carry plenty of water, a high energy snack, and a first aid kit.
|- Water for yourself and your animal(s)
- Trail map
- High energy snacks
- Cash for fees when applicable
- First aid kit
|- Camera and binoculars (optional)
- Extra clothing
- Trekking poles (optional)
|- Flashlight (optional)
- Compass (optional)
- Insect repellent
The glossy leaves grow in sets of three (like the wild blackberry) and change from light green in the spring to pink or red in the summer. The “poison” is the oil found throughout the plant. Even touching the plant's stem can cause a reaction on the skin. Avoiding poison oak is the best way to avoid the itchy rash caused by touching the plant. Staying on the trail will help avoid contact. If you do come in contact with poison oak, wash immediately with soap and water. Calamine lotion relieves itching. If the rash spreads, see a physician.
Remember “Leaves of three, let it be; if it’s hairy, it’s a berry” (the hair being the thorns of a blackberry).
To report an emergency or a crime or suspicious activity that is in progress, call 911 or (510) 881-1121 from a cell phone, 24 hours a day. To report park rule violations such as reckless bike, skate or scooter riding, or a failure to properly leash or control a pet, submit a Park Watch Report by mail or by fax by downloading and filling out the Park Watch Report, which is also available in brochure boxes in many Regional Parks locations.
Although most snakes found in California are harmless, the northern pacific rattlesnake can deliver a venomous bite if provoked. Its coloration allows it to blend in with the soil, providing excellent camouflage. Rattlesnakes and gopher snakes have similar coloration, therefore rattlesnakes are often mistaken for its harmless cousin. Therefore, use caution and avoid any snake you see in the wild.
What to do if bitten by a snake
If bitten by a rattlesnake, stay calm and have someone call 9-1-1. The victim should remain calm by lying down with the affected limb lower than the heart. Wash the wound, if possible. (Rattlesnake bites are typically associated with intense, burning pain.) If you are by yourself, walk calmly to the nearest source of help. DO NOT RUN! If bitten by another kind of snake, wash the wound with soap and water or an antiseptic and seek medical attention.
Lyme disease is an infectious disease transmitted by the bite of a tick. It may be treated and cured with early diagnosis, but if not properly treated it may persist in the body for years.
How to avoid ticks:
1. Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and closed-toe shoes in tick country.
2. Tuck shirt into pants, and pants into socks.
3. Stay on trails! Avoid brush and grassy areas.
4. Use insect repellent on shoes, socks, and pants.
Check yourself, your children, and your pets for ticks frequently and thoroughly!
What does a tick look like?
In California, the western black-legged tick is the major carrier of Lyme disease. The adult female is reddish-brown with black legs, about 1/8 inch long. Males are smaller and brownish-black. Both are teardrop shaped.
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
Early symptoms may include a spreading rash accompanied by fever, aches, and/or fatigue.
What to do if you find a tick attached to your skin:
1. Pull the tick gently from the skin, using a tissue or tweezers (not with bare hands).
2. Scrape (a credit card works!) to remove any mouth parts left behind.
3. Wash hands and the tick bite with soap and water; apply antiseptic to the bite.
Prompt removal of ticks may prevent disease transmission.
Park ranger gives tips for hiking safely.
As a general rule for beginners, hiking one mile on relatively flat terrain at a moderate pace takes approximately one-half hour. For hikes labeled “challenging,” or on days when the temperature is over 90 degrees, allow extra time and take more water! Hikers should wear sturdy shoes with ankle support.
Carry extra water and dog waste bags when hiking with dogs. Dogs should wear identification in case of separation. Carry a 6-foot leash at all times. Know which parks allow dogs off-leash and where dogs are prohibited.
Bicyclists are more susceptible to fatigue and dehydration when riding in heat and on steep trails. Take PLENTY of water and a high-energy snack. A six to ten-mile route on unpaved fire roads in the East Bay hills is a challenging route for an intermediate rider to complete in two hours. Easier, flatter, paved trails are ideal for family bicycle outings. Always wear a helmet; helmets are required for anyone age 16 or younger. Bring a bicycle tube patch kit and a bike pump in case your bike gets a flat. A bike bell is not required, but is useful for warning others when you are about to pass. Remember to yield to pedestrians. Before passing pedestrians, slow down and call out and/or ring your bike bell to ensure that you can pass safely. When approaching equestrians, call out and/or ring your bell and stop, whether you are seen or not. Ask for instructions on how to pass safely. On blind turns, slow down, call out and/or ring your bell, and ride in single file.
When planning your outing, consider terrain, temperature, humidity, and your horse’s condition. Chart a course that will allow your horse to drink at least once every hour. For an average horse, a hilly, 5 to 7-mile route should take about 1-1/2 hours. Learn to take your horse’s pulse and respiration rate. Always wear a helmet and wear sturdy boots. Keep your horse to the right or where safe when encountering others on the trail, and communicate: let other trail users know how to pass your horse safely.
Pavement conditions and steepness of grades are factors to consider when choosing a route suitable for wheelchairs. Wheelchair users tend to get cold faster than walkers or bikers, so bring something to keep warm and dry even if you do not expect cold weather. Traveling with a companion is recommended. See our Short-Loop Trails page for recommendations on suitable paved and unpaved trails.
Pavement conditions, steepness of grades, and skating ability are factors to consider when choosing a skating route. Paved trails have gentle to medium grades and smooth pavement; however, be prepared to encounter leaf debris, cracks, and uneven surfaces. You should have the ability to safely negotiate around road debris, dogs, bikes, and other trail users while maintaining control. Always wear a helmet, wrist guards, and knee pads.
Check trail signs for allowable user groups (i.e. cyclists, equestrians).
Hikers yield to horses; cyclists and skaters yield to hikers and horses.
Do not pick wildflowers, enjoy their beauty and leave them for others to enjoy.
Stay on designated trails. Do not cut switchbacks or take shortcuts!
Keep dogs on leash unless it is specifically posted that they can be off leash.
Do not litter--pack it in, pack it out.
Cyclists must call out and/or ring bike bells when passing.
Park district lifeguard gives safety tips for swim facilities.BEFORE visiting any East Bay Regional Park District swimming facilities, please take a few moments to download and review the official swimming Visitor Rules and Regulations.
Learn CPR: cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Updated with new CPR Guidelines (for non professional rescuers) issued by the American Heart Association.
- Drowning Prevention Information from the California Park & Recreation Society (CPRS)
- Fact Sheet on Drowning from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention
- Safety Tips for Preventing Drowning United States Lifesaving Association
- Water Safety Tips from the American Red Cross
- General Water Safety Tips - 65KB, 6 pp.
- Swimmer's Itch Information - 150 KB, 1pg.
Coyote, bobcats, deer, elk, wild pigs, and mountain lions are occasionally spotted in the parks. Their normal reaction is to run away. Some have become used to our presence and will continue their activities while being watched. Never feed, try to approach, or pet wild animals. Keep pets and small children near you in wilderness areas. Because of their size, these animals could become dangerous should they be surprised, confronted, or if they begin to associate humans with food.
If you would like more information on wildlife to watch for, ask for brochures at Regional Parks Visitor Centers.