The Blue Ridge Parkway is a must-see – but part of what makes is so beautiful are its hairpin bends and spiralling curves. Observe speed restrictions (between 35-45mph) and go even slower during fog or wet weather
. Traffic can be heavy and there are an increasing number of cyclists and pedestrians along the road, plus motorhomes and caravans.
When hiking in the mountains, preparation is essential – most emergencies are down to poor planning.
Take appropriate footwear and clothing – weather can change rapidly even in summer. Bring a first aid kit, head torch, trail map and sufficient water supplies. Never cross swollen streams or hike at night, and most importantly of all – always let someone know where you’re heading, and what time you hope to be back. Do not rely on your mobile phone or GPS – both can fail in remote areas, when you need them most.
The National Parks Service has fantastic advice on safety precautions
in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – take a look here
There are two venomous snake species in North Carolina. Bites are rare and non-fatal
, but it’s wise to watch your step – and particularly where you place your hands when scrambling up tricky terrain.
Bear sightings are rare, but with some 11,000 living across the state’s forests and swampland, it’s always best to take precautions
. Prevention is better than cure when it comes to bear encounters – for once, we advise being noisy in the backcountry, which gives them chance to move away, rather than stumbling across you by accident. And never leave food around.
If you do happen to encounter a bear, remember it’s both dangerous and illegal to approach within 50m of it. However, you should never turn your back on it, and never run
. Backing away slowly is the best tactic, and you should always carry bear pepper spray – more advice from the National Parks Service here
June-November is the official hurricane season along the coast
. While big storms are rare (roughly one every three to four years), August and September are the most likely months for them to occur.
There have been a number of recent shark attacks off the coast of North Carolina – none have proved fatal
. While such attacks are widely reported, they are also incredibly rare; to put it into perspective, you are more likely to win the lottery than to be attacked by a shark.
You’re at far greater risk from rip tides than sharks
. These are easily survivable if you know how to respond – drowning generally only occurs when people try and swim against the current (this is impossible) and exhaust themselves. Instead, keep calm and try and swim diagonally
back to shore, or parallel to it; the further out you get, the weaker the current becomes, and you’ll eventually swim out of the rip. Fortunately, many beaches have lifeguards plus flags signifying waves as well as rip tides; never enter the water when there is a red flag – it’s both dangerous and illegal.
Look out for jellyfish
– they are common here, including the Portuguese man-of-war. If you get stung, apply vinegar and don’t rub it. Seek medical assistance if you notice any allergic reaction or sign of infection.
Check laws regarding drinking
; alcohol may only be purchased at certain times and may not be consumed in public places (such as parks and on the street).
Gun crime is notoriously high in the US, and North Carolina has very relaxed gun laws
. However, the risk for tourists is low.
You may be required to provide extra documentation if you are a lone parent traveling with a child, see the US Customs and Border Protection website for details