I have posted on this in the past but it's good with the hiking season in full swing to reiterate safety tips.
On parking areas -
Some things to keep in mind to avoid possible theft and car damage.
- Check with other clubs and their specific trails for parking issues. Don't hesitate to contact these groups ahead of time for parking advice. Facebook also has many groups related to specific trails that can give advice on safe parking.
- Take your oldest, beat-up vehicle to leave at the parking lot. Or get a ride to and from the trailhead (better to pay someone for the ride then to pay lots of money for a broken window or lose money to stolen items). Another option is to look for alternative parking near to the trail and get a ride up or walk to the trailhead. A place of business, for example.
- Consider leaving the car unlocked to avoid windows being broken (though most safety sites advocate locking it). But with that said, if you do choose to leave it unlocked, leave NOTHING valuable in the car! Take ALL ID, loose change (conceal change under a rock at the trailhead if you forget to take it out at home), and take wallet, cell phone, etc with you. Better yet, leave everything at home you can't carry with you in your backpack or day pack. Locking items in the trunk doesn't mean the thieves can't force the trunk open or break a window to get at it.
- Leave some unsavory items on the seat and / or back window to discourage thieves. Underwear. Dirty socks. Grungy clothes, etc.
- If you see vandalism or are a victim of vandalism, report it immediately to the local authorities. If it occurs on the AT, go to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website and file an incident form. A park ranger evaluates it and contacts appropriate authorities along with making the hiker community aware. Also on the AT - The Appalachian Trail Conservancy posts on its website trouble spots with parking. Be sure to find out where there have been incidents and avoid parking there.
- In all honestly, one does park at their own risk, no matter where you are at.