If there's an emergency that you can't handle without help, tell a ranger or phone the park's emergency line at 1-800-732-0911. Please understand that cell phones do not work everywhere in the park, particularly at lower elevations and in hollows.

  Personal Injury

Give first aid. Restore breathing and stop the bleeding, if necessary. Then, if the injury is severe, get help. Many park rangers are qualified to give first aid, and many are emergency medical technicians or park medics. When required and if available, rangers will administer advanced life support to seriously ill or injured visitors, and get them to the nearest hospital. If you take an injured visitor to a hospital please report the incident to a ranger as soon as possible, so that the safety hazard, if any, can be eliminated.

  Lost Person

If some member of your party went hiking and is now overdue, be patient. Give them a little extra time, because most hikes take longer than the hiker thinks they will. But if the missing person is hours overdue; if you have good reason to think the hiker may have overestimated his/her strength and endurance; or if the weather turns bad and you know your missing hiker is not equipped to cope with it, then get help.

When a child is lost the problem is more serious. Make a quick search of the area, but don't wait too long before you ask for help - especially if it's getting late in the day, or if the weather is turning bad. A small child lost in winter is an instant, full-blown emergency.

The behavior of a lost child who's too young to reason - say five years or younger - will often though not always follow a predictable pattern. They may choose the direction in which they believe safety lies and take off, going as fast and as far as their strength permits. They may quickly become frightened, and hide when a hiker or searcher comes near; and they may not answer when called by name. They are more likely to travel uphill than down, and they may climb a slope that's both steep and rough. They will probably go farther and faster then you think. For all of these reasons, get help promptly. Prepare ahead of time. Give your child basic rules to follow if they get separated from you. More basically, instruct them to stay with you at all times and not get ahead, behind, or wander off.


Snakebite is unlikely, but it could happen. (Prevention of snakebite is discussed here.) If someone in your party is bitten, try to keep them calm. See that they avoid unnecessary exertion. Get them to a doctor or hospital as soon as possible.

  Car Trouble

In spite of careful and prudent driving, an occasional park visitor will strike a deer (or, very rarely, a bear) with their car. If that should happen to you, remember that a large wounded animal - either bear or deer - can be dangerous. Stay away from it; there's nothing you can do to help it. (Do not try to load a wounded deer into your car with the idea of taking it to a vet.) Just notice where you are (note the nearest overlook or milepost) and report the incident to a ranger as promptly as you can.

Your car may break down somewhere along the Drive, or it may not start because of a weak battery, or you may run out of gas. A ranger may help you get started. For more serious problems a tow truck will be called from a nearby town. If your vehicle is broken down you can call for your own tow truck. If your vehicle is obstructing traffic or has been involved in an accident, please call Park Communications Center 800-732-0911 for assistance.

  How Can I Find a Ranger?

In the daytime, during the summer season, you can find a ranger at either visitor center. Concession personnel at the lodges or waysides will call a ranger for you. During the summer season campground entrance stations may be staffed during the day, and fairly late in the evening. Park entrance stations are usually staffed into the evening in summer.

Rangers patrol the Drive, but not on a fixed schedule. Patrol frequency depends on traffic, season, weather, and time of day - or on how many visitors are likely to need help. A ranger might pass a given point twice an hour on a Saturday afternoon in summer, or not at all on a winter night. If you can stop another driver, ask him or her to report your trouble to a ranger. If you're in trouble on a trail, ask another hiker to report it. (There's no harm in asking two different hikers to report your trouble. Rangers are in touch with each other, and with Headquarters, by radio. They aren't going to send two different rescue parties for you.)

The rangers maintain three offices in the park, in addition to those at Headquarters and the visitor centers. There are no set hours that they are staffed. The locations of the offices are: North District - Piney River, (mile 22.1) where the entrance is on the east side of the Drive just south of the entrance to the Mathews Arm Campground; Central District - Big Meadows, (mile 51.2) turn at the Big Meadows Wayside gas station, take the second right, the office is on your right just prior to entering the maintenance area; and South District - Simmons Gap, (mile 73.2) turn into the road on the east side of the Drive and the office is on the right.

  Telephones During Normal Conditions and in Special Circumstances Such as Hunting Season and Winter Storm Closures of the Drive

If you can reach a telephone at the locations noted below or have a cell phone, calling the park's communications center is the fastest way to get help. Cell phone service is fairly good along the Drive, but should not be depended upon as it is very spotty off the ridge. Communications Center staff can contact a ranger by radio and send him or her to where you are.

For emergencies call: 1-800-732-0911

Phones nearest the gates:

Mile 0.6 Front Royal Entrance Station
Mile 31.5 Thornton Gap (U.S. 211 interchange)*
Mile 65.5 Swift Run Gap (U.S. 33 Interchange)**
Mile 104.6 Rockfish Gap

*Subject to change as this entrance station is redeveloped, the nearest phone is at the small brown building in the parking lot on the west side of Skyline Drive
**There is a phone on the side of the entrance station

Other phones:

Mile 4.6 Dickey Ridge Visitor Center
Mile 24.1 Elkwallow Wayside
Mile 51.2 Big Meadows Gas Station
Mile 79.5 Loft Mountain Wayside

  You Say You're Locked In?

Each of the three districts of Skyline Drive - north, central, and south - has a sturdy gate at each end that can be closed and locked. The gates are closed when snow or ice begins to accumulate dangerously. Rangers try to make sure that no cars will be locked in, but they may overlook one that's parked away from the Drive. In hunting season one or more sections of the Drive may be closed "During Hours of Darkness" to help control poaching. There's a sign at each end of the section to be closed, but you might overlook it, your hike may take longer than you expected, or your definition of darkness may be darker than that of the ranger who closes the gates. Try using a cell phone if you have one, or refer to the phone list above to find the location of the nearest phone to make contact with the communications center.

  Notes on Personal Safety

What comes now is a medium-sized solid block of advice. It's intended for safety-conscious readers who want to know the causes of accidents in the park so they can take precautions to avoid them. There are a couple of questions that park visitors often ask at the visitor centers.

Q: Are the bears dangerous?
A: Yes and no - mostly no. Visitor interest in bears is so strong that there is a separate section on them in just a little while.

Q: Are there poisonous snakes in the Park?
A: Yes, two species: rattlesnake and copperhead. They're fairly common in the park, although you're unlikely to see one - especially near the Drive or in a developed area such as a campground. Snakebite is rather rare in the park, but it sometimes happens so read on.

  Poisonous Snakebite

A study of poisonous snakebites in Virginia (outside the park) revealed several points of interest: almost one-third of the bite cases occur in July. The biting season begins in April and continues through October when the snakes hibernate.

The bite of a copperhead is rarely fatal to an adult, even if untreated. Rattlesnake bites are more dangerous. Any poisonous snakebite is especially dangerous to children. In the study just over half of the victims were under age 16.

On cool days in spring or fall you may see a snake on the trail, soaking up the sunlight. During most of the summer snakes stay under cover in the daytime. Daytime snakebites result from turning over stones or logs, gathering firewood, or thrusting a hand into bushes (for example, when picking blueberries). Snakes come out of concealment at night, and bite when they get stepped on.

Anti-snake precautions are simple: watch where you put your hands and feet. Don't sit down without looking. Carry a flashlight at night. And keep an eye on the kids.

Q: Is it OK to kill poisonous snakes?
A: Absolutely not! The park is a sanctuary for all wildlife. If you see a poisonous snake in the backcountry, walk around it. If you see one in a campground or picnic area, call a ranger who will remove it to the backcountry.

  The Cause of Accidents

Accident statistics gleaned from ranger reports are fairly consistent from year to year.

Falling is by far the biggest single cause of accidents and most of those injured are children... Children run on trails or in the campground, then slip, or trip and fall. Children take shortcuts where trails double back, and they slip and fall. Children climb trees and fall out of them. A more serious and smaller category of falls involves young adults, who fall over cliffs or waterfalls. Some of them will be cut and bruised; some will break bones, but unfortunately deaths sometimes occur.

Substance abuse from alcohol and drugs also find their way into ranger reports.

Auto, motorcycle, bicycle, and horse accidents form another significant accident category. Miscellaneous accident categories include cutting firewood, campfire burns, falling rocks, dog bites, and bee and wasp stings.

And that's about it. With more than a million visitors, the park is statistically a rather safe place, although things may be unpleasant for the handful of visitors who make the statistics.

  Special Precautions

Be alert! As you travel through the park you may notice many standing dead trees. Trees have been killed by insects, disease and severe winter weather. Oaks, pines and hemlocks have been particularly hard hit in certain areas. Visitors should be alert to the potential hazards of standing dead trees. As you are hiking, picnicking or backcountry camping be aware of these dead trees. Avoid areas with standing dead trees and dead limbs that could fall at any time causing serious injury or property damage.

If you have small children, keep an eye on them. Children seem to have a natural urge to throw rocks from high places. But trails often pass below high places, and rocks thrown from above can be lethal.

Cliffs and ledges are exposed to sudden gusts of wind that can throw you off balance. The rocks are often slicker than you might expect, especially if you're wearing smooth-soled shoes. All rocks, however small, are dangerously slippery when wet, or when covered with ice or snow.

There is no reason to go to the top of a waterfall. You can't see the falls from there. The rocks at the top of the falls are always slippery because of spray, moss, and algae. In Shenandoah even deer sometimes fall over waterfalls.

Protect your property. Lock your car. Don't leave valuables such as wallets, purses, cameras, or binoculars on the seat of a car, even if it's locked. Put them in the trunk.

If you are hiking in the late fall, winter or early spring, be aware of the dangers of hypothermia. Many of the trails cross streams, often well into the hike. Be aware of high water conditions. Check the hike description and if one or more stream crossings are involved and the weather is cold, do not attempt the hike unless you are sure of the water levels and the crossing situation.

Photographers: Please don't put the viewfinder or screen image up to your eye and then step back for a better view. You may have a serious accident.

Walking beside the Drive is unsafe; but in several cases it's the only way to get from a parking place to a trail head or other attraction. If you choose to go there on foot, give only part of your attention to scenery and camera; save most of it for the cars that are passing.

  Park Regulations

The park has a rather long list of regulations which have the force of law. Willful and knowing violations are punished. Copies of the regulations may be viewed on the Park website. Their purpose is to protect the park - its physical features, buildings, roads, trails, and other facilities; its plant and animal life - all of it; and its visitors.

To summarize only a few of the more important rules:

Don't collect anything: rocks, plants, animals (including insects), artifacts of former residents, or souvenirs. Leave everything where you find it (except nuts, fruits, berries). Unauthorized possession of any wild animal, dead or alive, or any part of one, or any flower or other plant material, is evidence of violation. To remember your stay in Shenandoah take pictures, or take notes.

Vehicles. Watch for posted speed limits. The limits are enforced and violators can be fined. No wheeled or motorized vehicle may be taken off the pavement. Snowmobiles are not permitted anywhere in the park.

Wildlife. It's illegal to kill, wound, frighten, capture, attempt to capture, pursue, feed, or annoy any bird or animal, including snakes and fish. When you see a deer or bear, observe it from where you are; don't try to get closer.

Fires. Permitted in fireplaces in campgrounds and picnic areas, at cabins, and at most shelters, but nowhere else. Be sure your fire is out before you leave it. Backcountry campers are required to use backpacking stoves.

Campers. Don't dig or level the ground. Keep your campsite clean. Don't clean fish or wash clothes at the campground hydrants, or in the comfort stations. Don't drain or dump water or sewage from your trailer except at designated places. If you have a radio or TV, keep the volume down, and turn it off by 10 p.m. Please be mindful of other campers and if using a generator check with campground managers for restrictions on use.

Don't fish without a Virginia state license, or camp in the backcountry without a park permit.

Pets must be under restraint at all times, crated in your car or trailer, tied up, or on leash. Of all the park regulations this is probably the one most consistently violated. Every year unleashed dogs, turned loose in a strange environment with irresistible new smells, take off from their owners and can't find their way back. Unrestrained dogs on the trails are an annoyance or worse to other hikers. But the most important reason to keep your pet under control is not for the sake of other people or the pet. It is because the park is a refuge for all the creatures that live there, and dogs, being dogs, like to bark at, chase, harass, or sometimes even kill them. Rangers have said that next to cars, domestic dogs are the second largest killers of deer in the park. Pete Syme, a member of the Association Board, reports that several years ago while sitting on a backcountry ridge in the Southern District he observed a doe running up the ridge, that stopped briefly to listen and look behind her, and then continued down the other side. She was not running flat out, but she was also moving more quickly than normal. He couldn't tell whether she was running because of confidence or exhaustion. Sure enough within minutes two large dogs, wearing collars, ran up the ridge and followed the doe down the other side. If the dogs caught her, they probably killed her. This drama was played out without a sound from any of them. It was eerie and it left a lasting impression on him. Keep your dog on a leash. Dogs are prohibited on ranger guided walks and on a few very popular trails (with a sign to that effect at the trail head). No animals (except service animals such as seeing eye dogs) are allowed in public buildings within the park. Do not leave your pet unattended in a vehicle at any time even if you have cracked the windows.

Visitors may possess firearms within a national park unit provided they comply with federal, state, and local laws. The role of the responsible gun owner is to know and obey the federal, state, and local laws appropriate to the park they are visiting. Please remember that federal law prohibits firearms in certain park facilities and buildings. These places are marked with signs at public entrances.