Southern West Virginia Family Hiking 101

With the new trail guide out, it’s easy to choose a Southern WV hike for your family to enjoy.

Take a break along the trail and enjoy the view

Take a break along the trail and enjoy the view

If you’re new to the sport, there are some other considerations, too.

 Here are some tips for beginners planning a family hike: 

Gearing Up

Your feet are the most important consideration on a hike. Wear shoes specifically designed for hiking, and be sure they are broken in. If it will be a long hike, nylon liners under socks can help ease rubbing. Try to keep from getting your feet wet.

You also want to be prepared for any sort of weather, with ponchos and layers to remove or add. 

What to take

When you pack, don’t forget:

  • proper hydration. Pack more than you think you’ll need (at least 2 liters per person.)
  • snacks for the trail, like high-protein energy bars. Pepperoni rolls are a Southern WV trail favorite. PB&J is also a good trail choice.
  • a first aid kit with any medications, bandaids and disinfectant. For longer or more strenuous hikes, include supplies for potentially larger injuries.
  • bug spray! Ideally spray that also repels ticks
  • sunscreen, even for cloudy days
  • a map and compass. (You may get out of range for your phone or GPS!)
  • rain gear and layers, just in case. Weather changes abruptly around here
  • whistles in case someone gets lost

Choosing Your Trail

Research a trail before you take it. Know your limits. Choose a trail that’s going to be suitable for your weakest

Wear hiking shoes to traverse the trails

Wear hiking shoes to traverse the trails

hiker, and don’t push anyone too hard. For younger hikers, consider trails with interesting features, like waterfalls or large, unique rock formations.

Pay attention to whether a trail loops back to its beginning point, or if you will need to turn around to go back. If that’s the case, double back before anyone starts to get too tired.

Guided hikes can be a great way to explore an area’s more secluded trails. Local guides will know the area well, and can usually help pick out a great path for you.

Considerations for kids

If you’re hiking with children, remain flexible. You may think you’ve chosen a brief, easy hike, but if they’re not comfortable with it, don’t force them. It will make them moody on the trip, and will not build positive experiences with hiking.

While you’re hiking, find ways to keep them interested and engaging with nature. Spark their wonder. Bring along a magnifying glass and encourage them to stop and explore. A field guide can also help you answer their questions. Give them a fanny pack to pick up interesting things they find alone gut trail, provided it isn’t a protected area. 


Safety begins at the trailhead. Be sure to lock up your car to prevent anyone from breaking in.

Know which trails you are taking, and stick to them so you don’t get lost. Stay alert, and watch for wildlife, weather and hazards. Most snakes in Southern WV aren’t poisonous, but never assume. Seek medical attention if someone is bitten.

If someone is lagging behind, slow the pace and don’t force anyone to overexert themselves. Take water and snack breaks often to refuel and let everyone rest.

What are your family hiking tips?

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