Backcountry Camping - Safety & Travel Tips
Backcountry Safety and Travel Tips
Be aware of standing dead trees when you select your campsite or a place for a break. Don't set up camp under dead limbs or standing dead trees; they can fall at any time.
Boil all water taken from natural water sources for at least one minute. This is the best means for avoiding water-borne diseases. If you choose to use a filter/purifier or purification tablets, follow the manufacturer's directions. Here is information on the natural water sources in Shenandoah National Park.
Be careful when crossing streams and when near waterfalls. Wet rocks are very slippery. During periods of high water, stream crossings are very dangerous.
Do not shortcut between switchbacks on steep trails. Shortcuts can be hazardous, and they also cause trail erosion and damage vegetation.
Poisonous snakes, stinging insects, poison ivy, and other potentially hazardous plants and animals are part of the natural environment of Shenandoah National Park. Be cautious as you explore. Remember, all plants and animals in the park are protected by law.
Do not bring saws, axes, and glass objects or containers into Shenandoah National Park's backcountry or wilderness areas.
Observe wildlife from a distance. Feeding or harassing wildlife is prohibited.
Team up with one or more companions for safety, and be aware of your surroundings.
Secure your valuables. Take them with you or leave them locked in your vehicle, hidden from view.
Bring a good map of the area. If you are camping in the backcountry or venturing off-trail at all, the hiking maps that you can download from this website are inadequate. Purchase a good, recent, topographic trail guide and map.
Winter. If you hike or ride in the winter be prepared to turn around, and have other precautions in mind in icy conditions. If you know how to use them, you may wish to have crampons, and possibly ropes and ice axes. Hiking, riding, and backcountry camping are available all year, even if Skyline Drive is closed for snow and ice (More about the park in winter). While the spring, summer, and fall are more popular times to backpack, many visitors enjoy camping in the winter woods. Do be aware that no fires are allowed in the backcountry, except at the Appalachian Trail huts and the day-use shelters. The huts are only open for long-distance hikers (backcountry camping for at least three consecutive nights). More about winter safety in the park.
Hunting Season. No hunting is allowed inside Shenandoah National Park. However, several trails and gravel roads go into the Rapidan Wildlife Management Areas where hunting is allowed. The topographic trail maps show these areas. During hunting season, be sure to wear blaze orange if hiking or riding on these trails. (For more information about hunting in Virginia...)