At the Sawtooth Society, we believe we need to do our part- advocating for Idaho by guiding new visitors towards better practices when recreating in our beloved SNRA and showing what it takes to protect the Idaho mountains. Please enjoy recreating in the SNRA while being a respectful visitor. Learn more at Sawtooth National Forest – Hiking

Idaho forests saw a staggering increase in visitors last year. This also meant a greater amount of trash, damage to campsites, and an alarming amount of dog feces as well as human waste along trails. Reports of inexperienced hikers and campers abusing their stay times were also on the uptick as people sought refuge from the confines of a pandemic – as well as a reprieve from growing populations within our state. Following is a basic checklist for items often overlooked when hiking in Idaho. We hope you will find it helpful whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a newbie exploring the SNRA for the first time.

Are you dressed for the climate?

  • Dress in layers
  • Proper socks, footwear, bring a hiking pole

Are you prepared for the elements?

  • Sun protection- hat, long-sleeved shirt/pants
  • Insect protection- same as sun protection as well as an environmentally friendly repellent
  • Make sure you have medications you may require
  • Bring a basic first-aid kit 

Where are you going?

  • Maps are helpful if you aren’t sticking with a well-traveled trail. Check out the Sawtooth Society’s trail maps
  • Cell phones die and service will not always be available
  • Tell someone or leave a note where you are going and when you expect to return
  • Brush up on trail etiquette: Trail Sharing

Do you have food and water? 

  • Even the most experienced hikers will tell you that sometimes a hike takes longer than you planned. Make sure you have enough water for the entire hike. Water filters are great if there is a water source. Portable, high-energy snacks are also ideal.

Where will you dispose of your garbage? 

  • It is imperative trash is packed out. Not only is it damaging to the environment, but it is also toxic to the animals that may ingest it. Bring containers to haul out your garbage. Bring extra for those you encounter that need one.
  • To learn more about the Leave No Trace Policy visit Leave No Trace.org

Nature calls when in nature- are you prepared?

Do you know what to do if you encounter wildlife?

  • Wear bells to alert wildlife of your presence
  • Carry bear spray that is within reach
  • Keep food stored away
  • Do not feed wildlife
  • Do not harass wildlife or endanger yourself or others trying to get the perfect photo
  • Learn more about encountering wild animals: Fish and Wildlife Service- Basic Tips

What does your pet require?

  • Fido needs water too- don’t assume there will be water sources on your trail- especially during low water years
  • Dogs unaccustomed to hiking can develop sore, cracked pads which can become debilitating if severe. Know when your pet has had enough 
  • Pets can become overheated even at higher elevations. Find shade and let them rest
  • If your pet is off-leash will it be safe if it encounters another dog on the trail
  • Flea and tick prevention should be considered
  • It’s great if you have biodegradable waste bags for picking up after a dog- it’s not great or ok to just leave them on the trail. No matter how inconvenient and smelly it’s your responsibility to take it with you
  • Understand that wildlife encounters can and do occur

What’s at stake?

  • Emergency rescues put everyone at risk and are costly to taxpayers- yes, all of us
  • Damage- trails need to be maintained and repaired from overuse and people not staying on the trails- Learn how to help Idaho trails at VolunteerAdopt or Fund-A-Trail
  • Impacts on wildlife- creatures become stressed by the increase in human presence, affecting their diets and habitat. Feeding wildlife is also harmful to their existence

We’ll see you out there this season enjoying the crazy amazing beauty of the SNRA, taking in the Sawtooth Mountains as their peaks pierce the brilliant blue sky. If we all do our part we can continue to preserve, protect, and enhance the Sawtooth National Recreation Area for generations to come.

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