With the sunny weather and the abundance of hiking trails nearby, now is the best time to take advantage of what the Mountain State has to offer. With great parks and mountains in our backyard, a hike at a place like Cooper’s Rock or the Monongahela National Forest is a great opportunity to dis
cover why West Virginia is considered “almost heaven”.Take a moment to explore the great outdoors this summer, but before you go, the first step you make should be making sure that you are prepared to have a safe hike.
We’ve come up with 10 tips to make sure you get the most out of your hike and that you return home safely.
1. Get hydrated and eat before you go
- Drink water before you go on the hike. Staying hydrated is an essential part of staying fit and able to travel from Point A to Point B without a problem. It is easy to get dehydrated when the weather is warm, so always bring a water bottle with you and drink enough to replace what water you have lost. The American Hiking Society advises people to look out for headaches, an early sign of dehydration, since dehydration can put people at risk for heat stroke or other complications.
- Eat a meal before you go to make sure that you have enough energy. The American Hiking Society also recommends bringing extra food with you. This can help keep your strength up and keep you able to make it back safely.
2. Wear the proper clothing and footwear
- The proper clothing and footwear can help prevent injuries. Having shoes with good tread, like hiking boots or other shoes made for trails, can help prevent you from slipping and falling on a variety of ground conditions. In addition, wearing pants and shirts with long sleeves is a way to give you extra protection in the event that you fall.
3. Bring the necessary gear
- Make sure that you bring the right gear to get you through the hike. It is important to use sunscreen and insect repellent and reapply as needed throughout the hike.
- Make sure you bring a cell phone and that it is charged. If you have signal, it can help you call for help quickly. Bring a safety whistle. This can also be used to call for help in the event of an emergency.
- A small first aid kit and an EpiPen (if you have an allergy) are essential items to bring. These can help address some injuries that may happen.
- While this is not everything you might need, these items shouldn’t be overlooked when preparing to leave.
4. Bring a friend
- Hiking with another individual can help keep you safe. Having at least one person go with you can make sure that you both are looking out for each other and for safety hazards. This is also useful in addressing anything that may occur, since there is a greater chance that at least one person in your group will be able to try to find help.
5. Use a map and stay on the trail
- Many trails at state and national parks are marked and you are able to follow the markings along the trail to keep on the right path. A map will typically show what the color, or the symbol that is used to mark the trail that you are on. These are there for your safety and to make sure you do not get lost. Remember to keep a look out for trail markings to make sure that you are on the right path.
- Simple things like following a map and planning out your hike ahead of time can also prevent you from getting lost or winding up in an unsafe area. Especially, if the place you are at does not have marked trails.
6. Watch out for poisonous plants
- Plants like poison ivy or poison oak can definitely cause issues for those hiking in the woods. These plants are known to cause a rash when it comes in contact with skin. This can be particularly worse if a person has a severe allergy to the plant.
- There are repellents that can be applied to the skin before hiking to prevent a reaction or lessen the effects of the oil. There is also a variety of ways to cleanse the skin after coming in contact with the plant to reduce the chances of breaking out in the rash.
- The easiest way to avoid these plans is to make sure you know what they look like. This can help you avoid them in the first place and know whether you need to wash your skin and clean clothing or shoes to remove the oil (the oil from poisonous plants can stay in clothing for a good amount of time and cause future issues).
7. Look out for wild life and hazardous insects
- West Virginia is home to many species of insects and animals that could turn your pleasant day outside into a nightmare.
- There are two species of poisonous snakes in the Mountain State: the rattlesnake and the copper head. The simplest way to avoid them is to stay on the trail and to keep an eye out for them or anywhere they could be (under a rock or in a hole, for example). If you come across a snake, turn around and go back the other way.
- There are many other animals that you may encounter while hiking. In the chance that this does occur, keep your distance and limit any sudden movements.
- Also, look out for harmful insects. There may be yellow jacket or other stinging/biting insect nests on or near the trail. Ticks and mosquitoes are also present in West Virginia, so be sure to use bug spray containing deet to reduce the chance of being bitten by a disease-carrying insect.
8. Keep an eye on ground conditions and the trail ahead
- There are many things on a trail that can cause you to slip and fall. Things like wet stones or rocks, or other slippery surfaces can result in you falling forward or backward. The more steep the trail, the greater the risk of falling. Having shoes with enough tread or a hiking stick can help keep you stabilized as you navigate through the trail.
- Look out for changes in the trail’s surroundings. Be aware of any steep drops next to the trail and take precautions.
9. Tell someone where you will be and when you should be back
- The National Park Service recommends for people to let someone know of their plans before leaving. Simply telling a friend or family member where you are going and when you should be back is a good way to keep yourself safe in the event that you are lost or injured on your hike and are not able to find help. This is because they know generally where you were going and will know to call for help if you don’t get back around the time you said you were going to return.
- If you get tired, take a break. This is an easy way to help prevent injury help you return home safely.
These tips can help make sure that you adventure outdoors stays safe and enjoyable for everyone you are with. Take advantage of the good weather and the endless opportunities to see what all West Virginia has for us to do and see.