Staying Safe on the Trail

By Nikki Honosky, WVSU Extension Associate, McDowell County

Going hiking or ATV riding this summer? Here are some ways to stay safe on the trails.

Summer is in full force and the time for outdoor activities has returned. One of the most prevalent of these activities is taking to the various trails, whether they be for hiking or ATVs. These trails see a lot of activity this time of year, and you will need to be properly prepared before venturing out. Safety is important, and there are certain rules that apply to the trails that you need to know about in order to remain safe.

We’ll start by talking about safety on hiking trails. Before setting out, make sure you know what the weather forecast is and plan for it accordingly. Make sure you’re dressed for hiking with proper clothing and shoes. It would be advisable to bring a trail map or make use of other methods such as GPS in order to know where you are. Be sure to bring supplies such as food and water depending on how long you plan to be hiking. Try not to go by yourself as a safety precaution, but if you do, be sure to tell someone where you are and a time for your return. This will help so that if something happens, someone knows where you are and can help you.

Try to stay on the designated trails and not wander off. The trails are marked for your safety and it would be easy to get lost should you wander too far from the trail. Watch where you walk and put your hands. This can help you avoid anything harmful like poison ivy or snakes. Speaking of snakes, be wary of the wildlife. Any wildlife can be dangerous if it feels threatened or feels cornered. Also everyone has their limits as to what they can do. Try not to overexert yourself to try to prove something. Take your time and just enjoy yourself.

Now to deal with trails that are ATV accessible. The safety rules I’ll be mentioning apply to the Hatfield-McCoy trail specifically, but can probably be applied to other trail systems. If you wish to use the Hatfield-McCoy Trail, you must have a valid permit. You must wear the proper safety gear like helmets. No alcoholic drinks of any kind are allowed to either be consumed or carried. It is requested that you obey all of the signs throughout and that you stay on the marked trails. Avoid trying to enter areas where signs such as “no trail” or “no entry” are posted.

Drive at reasonable speeds and make sure that those driving the ATVs meet the age requirement for driving their vehicle. If you are signaled by those that work on the trails like a ranger, stop for them. Be sure you have some form of identification on you at all times. Also if you are below the age of 18, adult supervision is required. Try not to make a mess of the trails, which include no littering. There is also no camping allowed on the trails. If you want to go on the trails, remember that they are open from sunrise to sunset, so plan accordingly.

You can easily learn more about this by doing research on the Internet or by asking those that are experienced with going on trails for advice. If you have any questions, you can contact me at the WVSU Extension Office at the Welch Armory. I am available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and by appointment. Feel free to give me a call at (304) 320-5446.

What Do I Pack for an Off-Road Trail Ride?

By Chris Zeto, WVSU Extension Agent

In my last post, I talked a little about the many off-road trail options that exist in West Virginia. This time, we’ll discuss the items you’ll need to bring along on your next adventure. Before you venture out, even if you are an experienced rider, be sure you have the necessary equipment and gear you need to hit the trails.

For starters, remember to always wear an approved helmet and protective eyewear. Over-the-ankle footwear and gloves are also strongly encouraged for ATV riding. These basic items, along with a jersey and riding pants or water-resistant pants, not only offer greater protection than ‘everyday’ clothes, but also make riding much more comfortable. After all, what you wear on the trail is as important as what you wear off the trail!

Riding gear is encouraged because it protects you from the elements—including branches, bugs, mud and dust that may come your way. And should you crash your ATV, you’ll be glad your head, eyes and body are protected.

Below is a checklist of everything you need to make your next off-road trip a success.

On-The-Trail Checklist

  • Helmet
  • Protective eyewear – Goggles are preferred, but sunglasses or safety glasses are acceptable.
  • Over-the-ankle footwear – Boots are preferred, but high-top sneakers are acceptable.
  • Long, water-resistant pants are suggested – Shorts are accepted, but not encouraged.
  • Earplugs
  • Snacks
  • Water (and plenty of it)
  • Bug spray
  • Cell phone
  • Maps, because you cannot always count on GPS along the trails.

Off-the-Trail Checklist

  • Fresh T-shirt
  • Dry, clean pants
  • Change of shoes and socks
  • Toiletry bag to freshen up
  • Towel

Having these items along with you will ensure you’re ready to conquer any off-road trails that you encounter. Have fun but be safe!

Happy trails!

Chris Zeto is a WVSU Extension Agent for Community Resource and Economic Development in Logan County, working with Hatfield-McCoy Trails. Photo courtesy of Hatfield-McCoy Trails.

Off-Road Options for a West Virginia Summer Vacation

By Chris Zeto, WVSU Extension Agent

It’s summertime!

Are you still considering vacation destination options? Perhaps the beach? The zoo? An amusement park? Off-road trails?

Wait…off-road trails? What?

Yes, off-road trails can be one of the best family vacations you’ll find, especially right here in the Mountain State. Take time to explore the options in southern West Virginia by visiting the Hatfield-McCoy Trails. This off-road park offers more than 600 miles of thrill-seeking ATV, UTV, dirt bike and Jeep trails that will keep you coming back for more.

While traveling along these exciting trails, you will learn about West Virginia’s history by visiting the different ATV-friendly towns. Visit the town of Matewan to learn about the Hatfield-McCoy Feud and the infamous Matewan Massacre. Visit the town of Gilbert to learn how moonshine is made. Visit the town of Bramwell to tour some magnificent mansions. Visit the city of Logan and take a trip down the river in a kayak or canoe. While you are in town, don’t forget to stop by one or two of the wonderful local restaurants for some down-home southern cooking. With over 600 miles of trails, you won’t see the same spot twice and will fill your day with some lovely, scenic views. After a day full of exploring the trails and history, relax by the campfire while nibbling on a hot “s’more” and listening to some local bluegrass music.

Exciting vacation destinations are available all over West Virginia, even closer to home than you might think. It’s time to make your reservations and make memories that will last a lifetime. Next week on the blog, look for my checklist of items to ensure you’ve got everything you’ll need on your next trail adventure!

Happy trails!

Chris Zeto is a WVSU Extension Agent for Community Resource and Economic Development in Logan County, working with Hatfield-McCoy Trails. Photo courtesy of Hatfield-McCoy Trails.