Camping Safety

Camping with friends and family can be enjoyable, but there are some risks when staying in the outdoors. Play it safe and follow these precautions. As always, check to see if fire restrictions are in effect during your trip.

A ponderosa pine tree has fallen and damaged a food storage box and picnic table.
A pine tree has fallen and damaged a food storage box and picnic table.

NPS Photo

Falling Objects

Beware: Branches and trees may fall whether or not they are dead, and when there is no wind. Trees and branches have been falling more frequently, possibly due to drought and beetle damage. Visit our Tree Hazards page for information about how to stay safe.


Lightning is common in central California where storms can start suddenly. If you see dark clouds or lightning or hear thunder, move inside a large building or a vehicle (not a convertible). The tent and picnic shelter are not safe places to wait out a thunderstorm. Wait 30 minutes until after the last rumble of thunder before going back to the campsite.

If safe shelter is not available, crouch down on the ground (don't lie down). Don't stand near large, solitary trees. Stay away from open water or metal objects, which can carry lightning from a distance. Be aware that lightning can strike ahead of a coming storm, even when there is blue sky overhead.

A black bear cub in a tree
Be cautious if you see a bear cub. A mother bear is somewhere nearby.

Alison Taggart-Barone

Camping in Wildlife's Backyard

When you visit our parks and stay in campgrounds, you are in the home territory of a vast number of widlife species. Expect snakes, bears, deer, and other animals to be present in and around your campground, and learn how to react appropriately. Our Wildlife Safety page has some great tips if you are encountered by animals in or near your campsite.

Keep a Safe, Tidy Campsite

Storing food properly keeps both humans and bears safe. All food, trash, and items with a scent must be stored in food-storage boxes at each campsite. Learn how to protect your personal property, your food, and bears all at the same time.

Don’t let bears approach you, or your campsite. Wave your arms, make loud noises, and throw small rocks toward them (avoid hitting the face or head). Keep a safe distance but be persistent. Abandoning your food teaches bears that a meal comes from humans; the bear may hurt a person in the future to get food. If a bear does get your food, NEVER try to get it back.


River Safety

Some of our campgrounds are located along rivers. While it is tempting to swim and cool off in our rivers, drowning is the leading cause of death in the parks. People not intending on swimming often fall and injure themselves while climbing on the slippery shoreline rocks. Hypothermia is also common. To reduce the chance of injury or worse, our Rivers page contains some helpful tips on how to avoid risks.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless, nonirritating gas produced by the incomplete combustion of carbon-based fuels. To avoid exposure, never burn charcoal in closed spaces such as a tent or RV.

Firewood and Transporting Nonnative Insect Pests

Please don't travel with firewood, which can carry invasive species such as fungus, insects, or other pests that can threaten the health of a forest and its local wildlife. Help protect the parks by getting firewood at or near your campsite. Buy firewood at local markets, including those inside the parks, or gather dead and down wood near your site. Do not cut living or standing trees, and leave any remaining firewood after your trip.


Reduce Your Risk of Plague and Hantavirus

Plague and hantavirus are associated with wildlife found in these parks, but cases of human infection are rare.

Hantavirus is an airborne virus that comes from infected deer mice. Typically people contract Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome after they clean areas or are in enclosed spaces with the feces of deer mice. Avoid direct contact with mouse feces and report large amounts of feces found in food storage boxes, restrooms, or other enclosed areas to the nearest campground employee.

Rodents and their fleas can be carriers of plague, and humans can get plague if bit by an infected flea. The best way to avoid exposure to the plague is to avoid contact with rodents. If you see a dead rodent, notify a campground host or ranger.

Last updated: May 31, 2024

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Contact Info

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47050 Generals Highway
Three Rivers, CA 93271


559 565-3341

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