How to start


All you need to create a great picnic is something to eat and a beautiful place where you and your family can enjoy it.

Step 1

You can keep it simple by planning a snack or dessert picnic instead of an entire meal.

Step 2

Bring an old blanket to sit on or look for picnic tables nearby — or just sit directly on the grass or under a tree.

Step 3

Never feed wild animals. Avoid tempting them by keeping your food in a container or resealable bag before and after you eat it.

Step 4

Minimize trash by using reusable containers as much as possible. Plan to recycle or throw away any garbage you create. Leave the space as you found it or even cleaner.

Step 5

A picnic tastes even better when you’ve worked up an appetite. Consider making your picnic spot the destination of a short walk or hike.

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Exploration Ideas

  • Create a nature-inspired menu

    Try connecting your meal back to the natural world. What was pb&j before it was a sandwich? Your kids might be surprised to learn that peanuts come from a plant that looks much like the ones all around them. Remember to take out all trash you brought in and to not feed any animals.

  • Picnic in the rain

    A covered picnic shelter can be the perfect place for a rainy-day picnic. It can be an exciting adventure to put on raincoats and rain boots and head out into the weather — just make sure there’s no chance of lightning or thunderstorms.

What to Bring

  • Plenty of water, even for short hikes — a gallon per person per day is a good guide
  • Snacks such as fruit or trail mix and empty bags to collect any garbage
  • Sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Lightweight rain jacket

Safety Tips

  • Before you get on the trail make sure you have the local Forest Service Ranger District’s or Supervisor’s Office phone number with you. If someone gets hurt this should be the first number you call.
  • Always let someone know where you're going and what time you expect to be back.
  • Avoid going if a thunderstorm is in the forecast. Seek shelter in a car or house if you’re caught in a thunderstorm. If you're caught outside, the safest place to be is crouching in a cluster of trees — not in a clearing, out on water, or next to a lone tree.
  • Be mindful of the sun. Use sunscreen, seek shade, and drink plenty of water — even in the winter.
  • Animals have their own natural food supply so please don’t feed them.
  • Fruits and mushrooms can look tasty, but some are poisonous. To be safe, do not eat anything you find growing in the forest.
  • Railroad tracks are for trains only. Keep to the side and stay off the tracks.
  • Set a turnaround time when heading out that gives you plenty of time to get back before it gets dark. Expect to spend at least the same amount of time hiking back as you did hiking out.
  • Bring a small flashlight or another source of light with you if you'll be out close to sunset.
  • Animals have their own natural food supply so please don’t feed them.
  • Remember to be mindful of cars when you’re in a park near a road. Wear bright colors for extra visibility.