ELKINS, W.Va. — In light of dramatic increases in visitation in the Monongahela National Forest in eastern West Virginia, officials are advising guests to plan ahead when arranging to visit the forest, which protects more than 921,000 acres, including vast uninhabited regions.
Forest Supervisor Shawn Cochran says the visitors may now find parking areas full and trails busy on weekends throughout the year and especially in summer, and guests should prepare to make alternate plans when they encounter crowds.
“We have seen increased visitation on the forest the past few years, and we expect the same this year,” Cochran said.
“And that is a wonderful thing. We want to make sure everyone has the information they need to be safe and have fun while enjoying their national forest this Memorial Day holiday and all summer long.”
Forest staff are advising visitors to review the following tips and rules to make sure their visit is safe and rewarding.
- Check the forest website to see the latest safety alerts and closures here.
- If the parking lot is full at the location you want to visit, have a backup plan for another place to visit. Look here for ideas.
- Carefully monitor campfires. Never leave a campfire unattended. Extinguish your fire completely. Keep pouring water on it until all remains are cool. If it is too hot to touch, it is too hot to leave.
- If you plan to visit a designated wilderness in the forest, educate yourself on what that means here. You might be surprised to learn that you need to be self-sufficient. There are no bathrooms, trails are often unmarked, and cell service may be unavailable. Group sizes are limited to ten persons.
- Cell service is spotty throughout the forest, and if you get into trouble you may be on your own for a while before help can reach you. Be sure always to tell someone where you are going and when you plan to be back. Be aware that you are responsible for your own safety and for the protection of those around you.
- Enjoying the water? Wear a life jacket. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 85% of all boating-related fatalities were not wearing a life jacket.
- Be prepared for all types of weather, and check weather conditions often. Sudden storms are common in the mountains of West Virginia and may cause flash flooding. Take action and move to higher ground if needed.
- Swimming is not permitted at lakes in the Monongahela National Forest, except for at designated swimming areas at Lake Sherwood and Blue Bend. Even at those locations, lifeguards are not provided, so never swim alone, and always monitor children.
- Be considerate of others.
- Pay attention to your surroundings.
- Obey all signs and posted restrictions.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Follow the Leave-No-Trace principles.
For more tips about recreating responsibly and safely in the national forest, review the following responsible recreation tips.