Safety In Baxter State Park (Off-Trail and Lightning)

Baxter State Park is famous because of the camping activities in a majestic natural environment.

You can enjoy breathtaking mountainous scenes, hiking, witness amazing sunrises, and bushwhacking. However, nature always has hidden dangers. Safety is essential when you are camping or participating in other activities at BSP.

What dangers will be encountered when going on the trip? What to look for? This article will share what you need to know to stay safe while traveling off-trail and experiencing lightning on your journey at Baxter State Park.

Lightning safety

Things you need to know about lightning

Things you need to know about lightning
Things you need to know about lightning

In thunderstorms, timely and proper handling can avoid unnecessary risks and minimize human loss and material damage.

Lightning is an electrical discharge phenomenon in the atmosphere between clouds and earth or between clouds with opposite charges.  Lightning can strike anywhere, any object or object, when there are enough elements forming lightning.

Lightning often occurs before, during, or even after rain. If your hair starts to erect and your skin starts to feel like it is crawling, chances are your position is about to be struck by lightning.  Take a safe place immediately.

Lightning can injure people in ways that strike down the victim’s location from above the cloud.

When the victim is standing next to an object struck by lightning, lightning can be launched across the air gap between the person and the object (called a lightning strike).

Lightning is an extreme random weather phenomenon, so there is no absolutely safe place to avoid lightning.

One way to help you realize that you are in a thunderstorm is thunder.  If you can hear thunder, it means you’re within close enough range to be hit by lightning.

Proactively finding a safe place for thunderstorms, especially during the rainy season, can significantly reduce the likelihood of being struck by lightning and avoiding health damage.  Find a haven immediately and follow these rules for your safety.

Safety measures against lightning:

Above treeline:

Safety measures against lightning
Safety measures against lightning
  • If you are in an upland area where trees cannot grow, observe, and find the lowest place closest to you and move quickly there.
  • Please do not move to wet, stagnant, or submerged soil as they may conduct electricity and put you in danger.  Be careful when entering areas at risk of sudden flash floods.
  • When you are outdoors, do not stand on empty land. Throw metal objects out of your body.
  • The lower, the better.  Do not touch any objects that conduct electricity.  The closer you sit to the ground, the less likely it will be hit by lightning.  But DO NOT lie on the ground.
  •  Touch the heels together.
  • Suppose lightning hits the ground before passing through your body. In that case, this action will help current flow into one leg and out the other, then out instead of flowing into the whole body.
  •  Cover your ears to avoid the risk of hearing loss when lightning strikes you.
  • Look for low-lying shelters like jagged cliffs, mango tree cliffs, or under a low tree to keep you dry and not absorb lightning.
  • In case you are at the top of a mountain, seek shelter in the lowest area, preferably with large boulders around so that you can be protected from the small boulders being rolled over.

Below treeline:

Below treeline
Below treeline
  • If you are below the treeline, move to solid sheltered areas or quickly get to your car.  While sheltering in a shelter, do not stick out and do not touch your car cover or metal conductor for safety.
  • Put on a raincoat and take off your backpack.  If your bag has a metal frame, keep it at least 30 meters away from where you are hiding.  If you have metal climbing canes, keep them in the same position as your backpack.
  • If you are on a lake, quickly swim ashore, get off the boat and stay as far away from the lake area as possible.  Do not swim in streams or lakes during a thunderstorm.
  • When choosing a hiding place, decide when the pool is dry, avoiding sunken areas where water can collect.
  • If you are in the forest, look for lower and sparse trees to avoid.
  • If not running to find safe shelter, do not use trees as shelter from the rain and avoid higher surrounding areas.
  • DO NOT seek shelter under a picnic tent, tall lone tree, or other objects to keep you dry.  They will attract lightning.  You can get wet in the rain, but it’s safer to find a way to cling to something that attracts lightning.
  • Do not stand near conductive objects such as aluminum boats, iron poles, and other devices that can attract lightning.
  • When there is a thunderstorm, one thing to note is the phone or other broadcasting equipment.  The signal waves will attract lightning to strike your location.


Do not stand in a group of people close together
Do not stand in a group of people close together
  • Do not stand in a group of people close together.
  • Do not gather all shelter groups in one place, but separate groups of shelters at a distance of more than 30m.  This minimizes the chance of multiple casualties if lightning strikes.
  • In fact, due to a dark, wet, windy, cold, noisy, and dangerous situation, allowing your team members to shelter in close friends will help reduce stress and fear levels.
  • When you notice unusual changes in the weather, you should notify your team to plan to move to a safe place immediately.

First aid:

For people who got struck by lightning, you need immediate first aid to protect their lives
For people who got struck by lightning, you need immediate first aid to protect their lives

For people who got struck by lightning, you need immediate first aid to protect their lives.

  • In addition to burning, lightning damages the nervous system, fractures, loss of hearing, vision, or memory.
  • If the person who has been hit by lightning faints (heart stops beating, stops breathing), must perform emergency breathing movements, artificial heart support.
  • Look for fractured areas, be especially careful not to remove victims if spinal fractures are suspected.  Let the burned areas dry and find the fastest way to get medical staff.

Traveling Off-Trail

Traveling Off-Trail
Traveling Off-Trail

Baxter State Park attracts skilled visitors because of its off-trail travel.  You will have the opportunity to bushwhack to new places that are less known to tourists.

Some of the Park’s mountains remain pristine without trails to the top to stimulate the conquest of experienced hikers.  This is an exciting challenge for passionate hikers to explore.

Tips for better off-trail traveling at BSP:

Tips for better off-trail traveling at BSP
Tips for better off-trail traveling at BSP

Since traveling off-trail often takes place in pristine mountains, taking the tours will have an impact on the natural environment here.  The main effect of traveling off-trail to nature is the durability of vegetation affected by movement frequency.

Going off the trail will partly affect the vegetation in the area.  Excessive movement can wear out surfaces that form pathways.  The high frequency of travel with many tourists will significantly affect the lawns or natural areas if the rules are not followed.

If you are planning to join a traveling off-trail at BSP, here are some recommended tips to help you both make a safe trip while protecting your surroundings.

TIP 1: You should plan and prepare in advance.

You should plan and prepare in advance
You should plan and prepare in advance

If you don’t prepare and plan well, you will run into problems during your trip. The lack of research and the necessary knowledge can lead to situations where you will feel tired and make bad choices.

Planning and preparation in advance involve researching destinations and packing correctly. It would help if you learned the rules and notes for each location you will visit.

Anything can happen. Please prepare plans to cope with extreme weather and potential hazards, especially in emergencies. The off-trail traveling will take place in the allotted time. Therefore, you should schedule your trip to return on time.

Use compass and map to avoid using other markers such as paint, mounds, pennants.

TIP 2: You should choose a stable surface to camp.

You should choose a stable surface to camp
You should choose a stable surface to camp

It would be best if you used existing campsites and trails. Do not build up anything and avoid camping or trails forming to protect the natural environment.

When setting up tents, camps, or picnics, it would be better if you choose a position at least 61m away from rivers, streams, and lakes.

It would help if you kept your camping small and tidy.  Activities are concentrated in areas with no vegetation.

TIP 3: Dispose of all your waste properly.

Dispose of all your waste properly
Dispose of all your waste properly

This principle applies to everything from waste to human waste. The purpose is to help rehabilitate water resources.

Bring something in, bring all of them back. It would be best to check for garbage and leftovers at the campsite and surrounding area before leaving. Remember to clean up, put all the trash and leftovers in the bag.

You should dig a hole 16 to 21 cm deep and at least 61 meters away from rivers, streams, lakes, campsites, and trails. Pour your human waste into the hole. Then cover and fill holes after use.

In areas that have been severely affected, waste should be put in bags. You should clean and put all toiletries into bags.

TIP 4: Do not take anything that belongs to nature.

Do not take anything that belongs to nature
Do not take anything that belongs to nature

Preserve what’s already there.  You can explore without touching cultural or historic structures and artifacts. Leave rocks, trees, flowers, grass, leaves, and anything else natural if you find them, and avoid bringing anything foreign (earth, sand, animals, etc.) elsewhere.

TIP 5: Be careful with wild animals.

Be careful with wild animals
Be careful with wild animals

It would help if you avoid contact with wild animals. The best way to observe wildlife is by using a camera (with zoom lenses) or binoculars.

When you see a wild animal, the right thing to do is observe it from a distance. Please DO NOT follow or approach them.

When you see animals mating, breeding, nesting, raising children, and hibernation, you must stay away from them because animals can see you as a threat during their sensitive times.

TIP 6: Take care and pay attention to other travelers.

Take care and pay attention to other travelers
Take care and pay attention to other travelers

Treat others the way you would like yourself to be treated. This unwritten rule applies to everyone, every place, every time.

It would be best if you respected all travelers, always be polite, and avoid getting in the way of others.

Keep the sounds of nature still. Please do not make too much noise because it may ruin others’ experience.

Look after each other and be willing to help if anything happens along the way.

Some notes when traveling off-trail at BSP:

Some notes when traveling off-trail at BSP
Some notes when traveling off-trail at BSP

Besides, when bushwhacking at Baxter State Park, hikers must not paint, leave pennants, or any other way of marking that you have arrived at the site.

All camping at the BSP must be done within the allotted time. Therefore, you must prepare and plan to return to the designated overnight area or your car on time.  All overnight acts outside the regulation are prohibited.

It is your responsibility to ensure your travel companions’ safety. To ensure the visitors’ safety, BSP will ask you to provide a trip itinerary that includes the routes you plan to take, your trip’s timetable, and your return.  The Park can contact the nearest Ranger or Ranger Station if problems arise.

At the same time, you should prepare yourself for the emergency plan when something unexpected happens. It would be best for you to learn about the terrain and weather conditions in advance to design the most for your trip.

If you travel in groups, make sure the whole group stays close to each other, and no one is left behind.  Check the number of members continuously from the start to the end of the trip.  Each member must look after the other.

Knowing when to stop is also one of the critical decisions when traveling off-trail.  The constantly changing mountain weather will significantly affect your climbing ability. Fatigue or unexpected health problems can always happen.

You should know how to stop at the right time and not be obstinate to complete the trip when conditions do not allow it.  Stubbornness will have unpredictable consequences for you and even your team.  Know your team’s limitations so you can postpone the trip in time.

Enjoy and be safe.