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WILLIAMSON — Healthy in the Hills, an outreach group formed by Williamson Health and Wellness Center designed to promote healthy living, is hosting a series of guided hikes this spring along seven popular trails in the Tug Valley area.

The Hiking for Health program recently hosted its first series of hikes to five destinations in Mingo County, and have around than 25 more guided hikes scheduled up until April 11.

According to the program brochure, the Hiking for Health project was designed to use the West Virginia hills as a beautiful backdrop for more active living opportunities and to promote mental health and wellness.

The program was first introduced during the fall of 2020 and received enough attendance to warrant a second series of hikes this spring.

“Since COVID hit last year, we’ve been trying to find different ways for people to stay active,” WHWC Active Living Director Alexis Batausa said. “This program not only encourages healthy activity, but it gives locals a chance to see parts of the county that they have never seen.”

Seven trails will be featured in the spring program:

  • Death Rock, Picnic Rock and Castle Rock, Williamson;
  • Hell’s Knob, Buffalo Mountain;
  • Flying Squirrel, Laurel Lake;
  • Historic Matewan Trail, Matewan; and
  • Devil’s Backbone, Mate Creek.

The difficulty of the hikes are listed from easy to very difficult, with the two shortest hikes being 1.2 miles round trip and the longest hike being 4.4 miles round trip.

“The only thing that changed from the fall is that three times throughout this spring season there are what we call the Weekend Warrior hikes, and people could knock out five hikes in one weekend,” Tug Valley Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Director and guide Wes Wilson said. “For example, if someone wanted to knock out their hikes during one particular weekend maybe when the weather is nice or they just have more free time or whatever the reason, they would be able to do that.”

Last weekend was the first of the Weekend Warrior hikes, with the remaining two scheduled for the weekends of March 27-28 and April 10-11.

Even though the program is free to attend, participants will be rewarded if they complete at least five of the seven hikes, with their choice of a set of hiking poles or a backpack.

Healthy in the Hills also encourages participants to take plenty of photos during their hike and use the hashtag “#coalfieldhiker” when posting photos on social media to be entered into a drawing for a pair of free hiking boots.

The Hiking for Health program is just one of many active living projects sponsored by the Healthy in the Hills Coalition. Other programs include the Lunch Walk Program, the Walk With Ease Program, various 5K walk/runs and more.

Hiking for Health is funded by the Pallottine Foundation out of Huntington, which pays for the hiking poles and backpacks given to participants, as well as the signage placed along the trails.

Healthy in the Hills is also partnering with local tourism groups including the Tug Valley, Matewan and Delbarton CVBs.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/healthyinthehills or call 304-235-3400.

Jarrid McCormick is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. He can be reached by email at jmccormick@HDMediaLLC.com.

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