Your Safety

A backcountry camper sets up his tent as he prepares his campsite.

In case of an emergency, call 800-732-0911

Most visitor injuries at Shenandoah National Park are while driving. Wildlife collisions are common, so protect the animals and yourself by driving the speed limit (35 mph) and slowing down if you see an animal. Do not stop in the middle of the road to take pictures. You may pull over if there is a safe place to do so. Drive very slowly in the fog since it will be hard to see cyclists, animals, or a stopped vehicle in the roadway.

Slips, trips, and falls
Wear proper, sturdy footwear when hiking on any unpaved trail. Watch your step and be prepared to turn around in dangerous settings such as a high water crossing or ice on the trail. Never walk around the top of a waterfall - wet rocks are surprisingly slippery and many people have been injured, some fatally.

The average human uses a quart of water per hour on a hot day! If you might be in the woods more than 20 minutes, bring plenty of water with you. The water in the streams and springs is not safe to drink. See backcountry travel tips for more information.

Never, ever feed wildlife! Not only is it illegal, but it is dangerous to the animal, and it may be dangerous to you.

Bears - (More bear safety...)
Do not approach or startle bears. If you see one while you are in your vehicle, remain in the vehicle. If you see one while outside, make your presence known by talking quietly and slowly back away. If the bear approaches you make noise such as yelling and clapping your hands. Most black bears will run away as soon as they realize you are a human. Keep them wild by properly storing food and disposing of all waste into the provided bear-proof trash containers. Bears can become very dangerous when they associate people with food.

Be alert for poisonous snakes. Copperheads and rattlesnakes are generally found on land but may sometimes be seen in the water. Use ordinary precautions, wear shoes and always carry a flashlight after dusk. If you see a snake, leave it alone! All animals in the park are protected by law.

Several species of ticks are common throughout the park and there is a risk of tick-borne diseases if one bites you. It is important to take precautions and to be aware of the risks.

When you are in tick habitat:

  • Use tick repellents with DEET according to manufacturer's instructions.
  • Wear light-colored clothing, long sleeves, and long pants with pants' legs tucked into socks.
  • Do frequent tick checks of yourself and children and pets with you.
  • Always check for ticks after any outdoor activities.

Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are among the serious ilinesses that can be transmitted by ticks and are known to have been contracted in Shenandoah. These diseases can go undiagnosed if the affected person is not alert to these diseases' symptoms, particularly if the patient's physician is in a region not usually affected by tick-borne illnesses.

If you find a tick attached to you, remove the tick and clean the bite site. If you become ill after a tick bite, even weeks later, see a health care provider. Some species of ticks are so small that you may never see them, so if you become ill after visiting an area where ticks are common you should inform your health care provider of the possibility of a tick-borne disease.

Download the Virginia Department of Health brochure: Preventing Tick-Borne Diseases in Virginia

Additional Information:
Center for Disease Control
Tick Resource Center

Poison Ivy
Poison ivy grows plentifully along roadsides, trails and the edges of parking lots, as a vine or a low shrub. The leaves are red in early spring, shiny green in summer, and an attractive red or orange in the fall. Each leaf consists of three leaflets.

  • Most people are sensitive in varying degrees to the sap of this plant, which makes skin itch, blister, and swell.
  • Avoid contact with all parts of the plant. If exposed, wash the affected skin with soap and water as soon as possible. It takes several minutes for the sap to penetrate the skin.
  • Remember: Leaves of three, let them be!
  • Do not burn campfire deadwood that is entangled with poison ivy leaves or vines. Soot from the fire can carry the sap through the air, and cause serious distress in the eyes, nose, and throat.

Backcountry Safety - including treatment of drinking water from streams & springs

Last updated: February 26, 2015

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Shenandoah National Park
3655 U.S. Highway 211 East

Luray, VA 22835


(540) 999-3500

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