Hiking events

DEC issues safety reminder in Zoar Valley at start of hiking season

GOWANDA, NY (WKBW) – The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation issued safety reminders on Friday for anyone using Zoar Valley’s multiple and single use areas this summer.

The Zoar Valley spans nearly 3,000 acres across Erie and Cattaraugus counties. The size of the area, along with its deep gorges and cliffs, make it both scenic and potentially dangerous for hikers.

Hikers are entitled to views of waterfalls along Cattaraugus Creek, but the DEC warns that anyone using the area should stay on marked trails.

There are rescues in the multi-use and single-use areas of Zoar Valley every season. The DEC invites anyone using the areas to take the following security measures:

  • Log in and out of all trail logs. This allows authorities to make sure everyone is accounted for, but also to track your group’s last recorded location in the event of an emergency.
  • Follow all state forestry regulations, safety practices and advice on new signage in the area. Dozens of signs were added to Zoar Valley last season.
  • Stay on marked trails and keep in mind that some trails may have been shortened or changed since the last time you walked them.
  • Follow all DEC rules and regulations for the area. This includes banning camping, fires, alcohol and glass containers from the area.
  • Practice the Leave No Trace principles. Take with you whatever you bring into the area.

In July 2020, two hikers were rescued from the Zoar Valley Gorge. A month later, a 16-year-old girl died after falling from a ledge. Brooke Walker’s family worked with others who had lost loved ones in Zoar Valley to see the added security measures. The New York State DEC added more than 400 safety and warning signs, hired two new assistant rangers to patrol areas, and restricted some area access.

The DEC plans to add new ADA-compliant and accessible trails, with construction to begin in 2023.