Due to the remote nature of the NCT, safety should be a concern for all NCT hikers. The American Hiking Society has some good information on staying safe while hiking. Below are some tips for making sure that you stay safe while out on the NCT.
Things to do before you go:
- Leave an itinerary for your hike with someone at home
- Develop a plan for checking in with them during/after your hike
- Take note of “bail out points” on your planned route since cell phones don’t always work on the NCT in an emergency
Dealing with people
Sometimes people you run into can be the toughest part of a hike. Take simple common sense steps to protect yourself while out on the trail. Examples include not disclosing your destination to strangers, avoid camping near road crossings, be careful if hitchhiking, and “trust your gut” if someone or something just doesn’t seem right.
Be careful to protect yourself from heat-related illnesses and hypothermia while out on the trail. Be mindful of lightning, severe storms, and other environmental hazards common to the “North Country.”
Poison ivy and other poisonous plants are relatively abundant along the NCT. You should learn how to identify it and take measures to avoid getting it.
Ticks & Lyme Disease
Ticks are very common along the NCT. You should familiarize yourself with the different types and tips for preventing Lyme Disease and other tick-borne illnesses.
Generally speaking, there are not many animals found along the NCT that pose significant risks to humans or our pets, assuming they are properly restrained. That being said, you should still minimize potential encounters with wildlife especially at campsites – where problems are more common – by adhering Leave No Trace principles # 3 – Dispose of Waste properly and #6 – Respect Wildlife.
Hunting is a way of life in the North Country and much of the lands through which the NCT passes are open to hunting. You should read up on hiking safely during hunting season (http://www.outdoors.org/recreation/hiking/hiking-hunting-season.cfm / http://www.wta.org/hiking-info/basics/staying-safe-during-hunting-season) and check with the state agency to learn about hunting seasons & hunting hours and any specific precautions you should take.
About _ miles of the NCT does pass through Congressionally-designated wilderness areas. The wilderness areas include:
- Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness – Superior National Forest, MN (Kekekabic and Border Route Trails)
- Porcupine Lake and Rainbow Lake Wildernesses – Chequamegon National Forest, WI
- Sturgeon River Gorge (the NCT forms the boundary of the Wilderness area) and McCormick Wildernesses – Ottawa National Forest, MI
- Beaver Lake Basin Wilderness – Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI
In these areas, hikers need to be more self-reliant because there are restrictions on access (e.g. motorized vehicles are prohibited in most cases), the trail may be in less well-maintained, and these areas are generally very remote. To learn more about what wilderness is visit Wilderness.net. We also would like to encourage you to learn more about how you can be a good steward while visiting the NCT within wilderness areas.
In addition, some states have designated wilderness areas that the NCT passes through. Check with the appropriate authority for rules and regulations that apply.
All water sources found along the NCT in the backcountry (e.g. away from towns, buildings, etc) should be treated before safely drinking. Treatment can entail boiling, purifying via a chemical treatment, or filtering to remove harmful pathogens from the water making it safe to drink. For more information on treating water, visit the CDC’s website.
Hitchhiking is sometimes necessary while on a long-distance hike. If you do hitchhike, avoid hitching alone and be choosy in whose vehicle you get into. You should turn down rides if the situation does not feel right in any way. Always trust your instincts.
If you are a victim of crime or witness a crime while on the NCT, report the incident to the police or local sheriff’s department immediately. Always call 911 to report local emergencies. Once you are safe and are able to, please notify the North Country Trail Association ASAP.