HIKERS and bushwalkers are being asked to take additional precautions in the last days of school holidays after a recent spike in incidents, requiring emergency services.

The Lerderderg State Park, Werribee Gorge, and the Grampians National Park are among several sites which have kept Victoria State Emergency Service (VICSES) volunteers busy over the past six weeks, prompting 15 separate search or rescue operations.

In the Grampians, volunteers are frequently dispatched to the Cool Chambers, at the bottom of the Pinnacle track, Bridal Veil Falls, and Mackenzie Falls. Mount Cole and Mount Langi Ghiran are also well-known hotspots, with several would-be bushwalkers becoming injured on their descent.

Each search requires around eight Victoria State Emergency Service volunteers in three vehicles, for an average of four hours, amounting to 32 hours of volunteer time for each rescue.

This does not including the work undertaken by Parks Victoria, Ambulance Victoria, and Victoria Police Search and Rescue personnel.

Parks Victoria urge people to be well prepared and choose the right hike for their abilities and the conditions.

It’s important to consider how recent wet and windy weather might have impacted your planned walking track.

When planning your walk, use trusted sources of information like the Parks Victoria website.

Visitor Guides on park specific pages have maps and information about walking difficulty and estimated duration, based on the Australian Walking Track Grading System.

There are also important and timely updates on park or track closures. Hiking or bushwalking apps can be helpful as a guide, but use crowdsourced information by hikers of varied experience levels.

A listing for a one or two-hour round trip, made by an experienced hiker, might take you much longer depending on conditions and your level of fitness.

Key tips to stay safe on the trail include: Choosing the right hike, making sure you allow enough time to complete your hike in daylight, planning ahead, checking the weather forecast, letting someone know where you are going and when you plan to return, and avoid walking alone.

Dress and pack appropriately – wear the right clothes for conditions (e.g. sturdy shoes, weatherproof jacket), take plenty of food, water and spare clothing, have a fully charged smartphone, torch, local map, and first aid kit.