Hiking Safety

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.