How Many Hikers Get Lost a Year? What to do if You Get Lost

How Many Hikers Get Lost a Year?

Hiking can be a great way to get some exercise and enjoy the solitude of nature. However, if you’re planning on hiking, especially in isolated or remote areas, there are some basic precautions you should take to help prevent you from becoming lost while hiking.

While you might think you would never get lost while hiking, it might surprise you to learn just how many hikers get lost a year?

While the number varies from year to year, on average around 2,000 hikers get lost each year while hiking. Leading to numerous Search and Rescue (SAR) operations being launched to locate and extract lost hikers.

Because of this, we created this how-to guide on the best ways to ensure you don’t get lost while hiking as well as what to do if you do wind up getting lost while hiking.

Why Do Hikers Get Lost?

Perhaps one of the best ways to make sure you don’t get lost while hiking is to learn how other hikers got lost so you can avoid their pitfalls and mistakes while hiking.

Below are some of the most common ways hikers get lost while hiking starting with the most common and ending with the least common.

Did Not Stay on the Trail

The number one way hikers get lost while hiking is by not staying on the designated trail.

So one of the best ways to ensure that you don’t get lost while hiking is to not venture off the trail and to make sure you stay on the designated hiking trail at all times.

While you might think there is no harm in heading off the trail for a short while to check something out, it’s very easy to get turned around and lost while hiking especially in densely forested areas or desolate areas with few landmarks.

Bad Weather or Storms

The second most common way hikers end up getting lost while hiking is due to bad weather or a storm rolling in while there hiking, causing them to become disoriented or lose their bearings.

While this might not always be 100% avoidable as it can be hard to predict mother nature, it’s always a good idea to check the local weather before you head out on a hike to ensure there are no reports of bad weather heading your way.

Falling Off the Trail

Often times while hiking there can be very narrow sections of trail with steep drop-offs or even cliff faces which can pose a serious risk to those hikers that get too close or are not paying attention, causing them to go over the edge or fall of the trail only to become disoriented and lost at the bottom.

So when hiking lookout for any drop-offs or cliff faces and give them the respect they deserve by giving them a wide birth as you pass.

Separated from Their Hiking Group

Another common way hikers get lost while hiking is that they get separated from their hiking group, which unfortunately was acting as their guide and navigation for the hike.

There are two things you can do to help avoid getting in this situation yourself, with the first being to make sure you always stay within visible distance of the party you are hiking with by not getting too far ahead or behind the hiking group.

The second way to avoid getting lost in this way is to never rely solely on someone else for your navigation while hiking, as every hiker in the hiking group should know the trail they are hiking on as well as how to navigate on their own.

Injury

The next way hikers can become lost while hiking is that they become injured or hurt while hiking and can’t hike back out from the isolated area they were hiking in.

While you might not be able to prevent injuries while hiking, you can take steps to ensure if you do become hurt or injured while hiking you don’t become stranded or lost.

The first of these ways is to never hike alone while hiking, that way in case you were to become hurt or incapacitated someone could hike out of the area to go get help. The second way is to always let someone know where you will be hiking and when you plan to return, that way in case you do get injured and don’t return when you said you were going to, someone knows to come looking for you and where.

Hiker Lost in Darkness

Darkness

Hikers can often get lost in darkness and at night while hiking, even if they are generally familiar with the area, as the lack of light can become very disorienting while trying to navigate, potentially causing them to miss specific landmarks or trail turnoffs.

So to make sure you avoid getting lost due to darkness while hiking, don’t get caught on the trails after dark, and make sure to leave plenty of time to get back to the trailhead before the cloak of darkness falls over the trail and causes you to become disoriented or for you to lose your way.

Failure or Loss of Equipment (GPS)

While this is the rarest way hikers get lost while hiking, failure, or loss of equipment such as a GPS unit while hiking does occasionally happen and can cause hikers to become lost if they don’t have a backup form of navigation or rely too heavily on external equipment for their navigation while hiking.

The best way to avoid becoming lost while hiking due to failure or loss of navigation equipment is to always carry a backup form of navigation in case you lose your primary source. Such as a good old-fashioned topographical map of the area and a compass. However, don’t wait to try and figure out these primitive navigation tools until after you have become lost as it can take a while to learn to navigate with a map and a compass.

What to Do if You Get Lost on a Hike?

According to the US Forest Service the best thing you can do if you get lost while hiking is to actually be prepared for such an event before you ever become lost through advanced planning.

Even if you’re only going on a hike that lasts a few hours, it’s always best to be prepared in case something goes wrong while hiking such as getting injured or lost.

How to Be Prepared in Case You Get Lost While Hiking

  • Always make sure to bring more than enough water and food for your hike so that you can make sure to avoid becoming dehydrated while hiking and to keep your energy up.
  • Have some form of navigation tool with you even if you are familiar with the area or trail such as a compass or a GPS unit. ((Typically your cell phone will not be a good source of navigation while hiking due to the lack of cell phone signal.))
  • While hiking always make sure you have either a topographical map or a trail map of the area you are hiking.
  • Have a small emergency kit with you while hiking including items such as matches, a first aid kit, and a blanket to help you survive overnight if needed.
  • Dress appropriately for your hike by wearing a good sturdy pair of hiking boots or trekking shoes and wearing several layers of clothing that you can shed or add as the weather and temperature dictate.
  • Know the trail you are going to hike before you hike it, by doing some basic research about the trail itself and making sure there are no special warnings or alerts such as bears or flooding that you should be aware of.
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4 Critical Things You Must Do if You Get Lost While Hiking

While it’s great to be prepared in case you get lost while hiking, it’s also equally important or even more important to know what to do in the event that you actually do become lost while hiking.

Below are the 4 critical things you must do if you get lost while hiking, to give yourself the best chance of figuring out where you are and getting back to safety.

Don’t Panic and Stop

As with most dangerous or emergency situations, the best thing you can do if you get lost while hiking is to try and stay calm and don’t panic as this can often lead you to make hasty and irrational decisions.

So if you find you have become lost while hiking remembers to stop, stay calm, and try to get your bearings before you do anything else.

Think and Retrace Your Steps in Your Mind

In your mind try to think back to how you got to this point or area if you become lost. Try to picture specific landmarks or unique features of the land such as streams or bodies of water or large rock outcroppings to help jog your memory.

By doing this you might be able to retrace your steps and found your way back to a familiar landmark or trail to help figure out where you are.

Don’t Walk Aimlessly and Use Your Navigation Tools

One of the worst things you can do is just start walking aimlessly with no real idea of where you are or what you are trying to get to. This is often a way to become even more lost and disoriented while hiking because you could be heading even farther away from where you came.

Instead, get your compass, map, or navigation tool out to try and figure out where you are as well as the general direction you have been heading so that you may reverse course to get back to more familiar surroundings.

Make a Plan

Based on your thinking and what you have figured out in regards to your bearing and the general area you believe you are in, use this information to formulate a plan of action on the best possible route to find your way back or to reach an area where you know there will be people and help.

If you cannot come up with a plan or route that makes sense, it’s best to stay put until you do, or until a rescue party is able to find or locate you.

Also as a last resort, you can follow a drainage ditch or stream downhill as this will often lead to a road, trailhead, or civilization. However, this should only be used as a last resort as this can often be a very difficult and challenging path to try and follow.

Jason is an avid lover of camping, hiking, and well just about anything outdoors. He is both a writer and editor for Outside Pulse and has been camping and hiking for over 20 years.

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About Me

Hi, I’m Jason, and I’m an avid lover of anything and everything outdoors. I’ve always loved camping and hiking for as long as I can remember. So I created this blog to share what I love as well as what I’ve learned along the way.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Here’s Why People Are Creeped Out By The Growing Number Of Missing Persons In Our National Parks

Dangerous…Dan

It sounds like an urban legend: an author and former policeman was on vacation when he was approached by two off-duty rangers who asked him to look into the number of people who go missing in the national park system. They were too afraid of retaliation to appear in uniform and asked that the national park they work for and the time period they met the author be kept secret.

The cases he found were strange and numerous enough that the man, David Paulides, has since written six volumes of work documenting the phenomena. The books, called the Missing 411 series, explore what Paulides calls a “mysterious series of worldwide disappearances defying logical and conventional explanations.” While Paulides isn’t the most reputable source (he’s also a cryptozoologist, having spent years researching Bigfoot) but his research raises questions that would make anyone wonder.

For instance, why is something so simple as a list of people currently missing in national parks so elusive?

Missing 411

The national parks service has no database where missing people are tracked across the system. Because of this, no one even knows how many people are currently missing in parks. There’s also the sheer volume of missing persons cases that would qualify as especially “strange”. A few examples:

Lillian Carney

[*] Lillian was from Masardis, Maine, which is 15 miles west of the Canadian boarder and surrounded by lakes, rivers, and ponds. 6 years old. She went missing August 8, 1897 at noon.

[*] Lillian and her parents went blueberry picking. (People going missing while picking berries is a theme in these cases.) They were there for a short amount of time, and the parents said she just vanished.

[*] They searched for an hour, and they got some people in the area to help.
By the following morning there were 200 searchers there, calling for Lillian. Paulides said when searchers are looking for someone, they call the person’s name, say that they are their friend and that they’re there to help. Paulides said in the Missing 411 cases, the searchers never get a response, which is strange if people are lost, cold, or hungry.

[*] On Tuesday around 300 residents arrive to search, and at 10am, a guy named Burt Polland (I do not know if that is spelled right) found her, somewhere between 2 and 3 miles from where her parents last saw her. There wasn’t much detail in the article about where they found her.

[*] While Lillian didn’t say a lot, she made an interesting statement: “the sun shined all the time while I was in the woods.” Paulides said that’s a wierd thing for a 6 year old to say. The weather was stated in the news article as being partly cloudy, and she had spent two nights outside and was missing for 46 hours.

[*] The interviewer commented that she must have been referencing something to say something like that and said while she described it as sunlight, it might not have been. He also said for the time period, you’re not going to find an area like that with very bright artificial lights.

John Doe

John Doe is a 3-year-old boy who was missing near Mount Shasta at 6:30pm and was found later at 11:30pm. This is how he recounted his “missing” time:

He tells a story that he is taken into a cave that he thinks is underground.
He says he knows it is dark outside but when when in the cave I could see the entrance and it’s light outside.

He said he is with a woman who looks like his grandmother, and he thought it was his grandmother.

In the cave he saw other things in the cave that look like people, but they are robots that aren’t moving.

After a while he figures out the woman isn’t his grandmother, even though she is nice and polite with him. He concludes she’s a robot. He said there was some unusual light coming from her head.

She started to get pushy, took out some sticky paper and put it on the ground and asked him to defecate onto it. He said he didn’t have to go and she got mad. He said he saw small guns and things around the perimeter of the cave, and they had dust on them.

Steven Kubacki

The case of case of Steven Kubacki, who went missing for 15 months then woke up in a field wearing different clothes.

[*] In February 1978, Steven, a student at the time learning German, went missing in the Michigan area, USA—-an area known as the “Great Lakes Triangle,” which is written about in a book by Jay Gourley[6] that talks about the disappearances of hundreds of ships, boats, and aircraft. Paulides said is a great book.

[*] Steven said he was going to go skiing.

[*] They found his skis and his poles on the beach of the Lake Michigan and footprints on the ice leading up to the lake. They flew over it. The footprints appeared to stop.

[*] They found his backpack in the same general area.

[*] In May 5th 1979, 15 months later, Steven walked up to his father’s door and said he didn’t remember much.

[*] He woke up in Pittsfield, 40 miles from his father’s house, lying in a meadow wearing clothes that weren’t his.

[*] He had a small satchel beside him with maps, that weren’t his

[*] Where he woke up was 700 miles from Lake Michigan.

[*] Reporters asked him if he would talk to someone. He said he didn’t need to, because he didn’t have any psychological problems.

[*] After 1983, Steven got a masters in linguistics, and a PhD in clinical psychology.

Paulides got in touch with him. Steve didn’t respond to his calls or emails.

There are also people who have self-reported strange incidents in the parks:

Dangerous…Dan

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— A woman and her son who have three hours of “missing time” while on a trail.

— Another woman’s account of finding herself “in a different location than she was” while hiking “About 3/4 mile into the hike on a well marked trail, I walked maybe five feet off trail to have a look at a brightly colored sign attached to a tree which gave the name of the national forest I was in. I read the sign, turned around to get back on trail, and literally the trail was not there.”

— Another veteran who recounts a bizarre experience hiking in a park with his son:

“As I looked back, I noticed that the trail I was walkin on lost all sense of familiarity. There were trees I didn’t see, certain plants I know for sure weren’t there before, etc. But regardless, I kept my composure and stared deeply into the woods to see what made that snapping sound. I scanned the area and didn’t see any life forms, but for some reason, my eyes started to fixate on a particularly unnerving dark section of the forest. For whatever reason, my entire body started locking up, and every single alarm bell in my head was pinging. No matter how hard I tried to focus on this dark patch, I couldn’t see shit. I had the weirdest sensation of being able to see each individual branch and plant in high detail, but I couldn’t focus on the scene overall. It was super blurry. I also felt my internal fight-or-flight mechanism flipping between the two decisions faster than a coin in a coin toss.”

Others say that there’s nothing mysterious about the disappearances at all, that it’s a normal amount of people to fall off a cliff, drown, or get eaten by bears. National parks, like many other systems in our government, are vast and don’t always communicate with each other (which is why there isn’t a database that lists all the missing people). Another explanation for the strangeness of the missing people is “lost person behavior”, typical behavior for people who believe they are lost is not always what we think it should be.

While there are many troubling cases if you dig deep enough, the same is true of missing persons cases at large. The world is a scary place full of mysteries we’ll never know the answer to.

How Many Hikers Get Lost a Year? What to do if You Get Lost

How Many Hikers Get Lost a Year?

Hiking can be a great way to get some exercise and enjoy the solitude of nature. However, if you’re planning on hiking, especially in isolated or remote areas, there are some basic precautions you should take to help prevent you from becoming lost while hiking.

While you might think you would never get lost while hiking, it might surprise you to learn just how many hikers get lost a year?

While the number varies from year to year, on average around 2,000 hikers get lost each year while hiking. Leading to numerous Search and Rescue (SAR) operations being launched to locate and extract lost hikers.

Because of this, we created this how-to guide on the best ways to ensure you don’t get lost while hiking as well as what to do if you do wind up getting lost while hiking.

Why Do Hikers Get Lost?

Perhaps one of the best ways to make sure you don’t get lost while hiking is to learn how other hikers got lost so you can avoid their pitfalls and mistakes while hiking.

Below are some of the most common ways hikers get lost while hiking starting with the most common and ending with the least common.

Did Not Stay on the Trail

The number one way hikers get lost while hiking is by not staying on the designated trail.

So one of the best ways to ensure that you don’t get lost while hiking is to not venture off the trail and to make sure you stay on the designated hiking trail at all times.

While you might think there is no harm in heading off the trail for a short while to check something out, it’s very easy to get turned around and lost while hiking especially in densely forested areas or desolate areas with few landmarks.

Bad Weather or Storms

The second most common way hikers end up getting lost while hiking is due to bad weather or a storm rolling in while there hiking, causing them to become disoriented or lose their bearings.

While this might not always be 100% avoidable as it can be hard to predict mother nature, it’s always a good idea to check the local weather before you head out on a hike to ensure there are no reports of bad weather heading your way.

Falling Off the Trail

Often times while hiking there can be very narrow sections of trail with steep drop-offs or even cliff faces which can pose a serious risk to those hikers that get too close or are not paying attention, causing them to go over the edge or fall of the trail only to become disoriented and lost at the bottom.

So when hiking lookout for any drop-offs or cliff faces and give them the respect they deserve by giving them a wide birth as you pass.

Separated from Their Hiking Group

Another common way hikers get lost while hiking is that they get separated from their hiking group, which unfortunately was acting as their guide and navigation for the hike.

There are two things you can do to help avoid getting in this situation yourself, with the first being to make sure you always stay within visible distance of the party you are hiking with by not getting too far ahead or behind the hiking group.

The second way to avoid getting lost in this way is to never rely solely on someone else for your navigation while hiking, as every hiker in the hiking group should know the trail they are hiking on as well as how to navigate on their own.

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Injury

The next way hikers can become lost while hiking is that they become injured or hurt while hiking and can’t hike back out from the isolated area they were hiking in.

While you might not be able to prevent injuries while hiking, you can take steps to ensure if you do become hurt or injured while hiking you don’t become stranded or lost.

The first of these ways is to never hike alone while hiking, that way in case you were to become hurt or incapacitated someone could hike out of the area to go get help. The second way is to always let someone know where you will be hiking and when you plan to return, that way in case you do get injured and don’t return when you said you were going to, someone knows to come looking for you and where.

Hiker Lost in Darkness

Darkness

Hikers can often get lost in darkness and at night while hiking, even if they are generally familiar with the area, as the lack of light can become very disorienting while trying to navigate, potentially causing them to miss specific landmarks or trail turnoffs.

So to make sure you avoid getting lost due to darkness while hiking, don’t get caught on the trails after dark, and make sure to leave plenty of time to get back to the trailhead before the cloak of darkness falls over the trail and causes you to become disoriented or for you to lose your way.

Failure or Loss of Equipment (GPS)

While this is the rarest way hikers get lost while hiking, failure, or loss of equipment such as a GPS unit while hiking does occasionally happen and can cause hikers to become lost if they don’t have a backup form of navigation or rely too heavily on external equipment for their navigation while hiking.

The best way to avoid becoming lost while hiking due to failure or loss of navigation equipment is to always carry a backup form of navigation in case you lose your primary source. Such as a good old-fashioned topographical map of the area and a compass. However, don’t wait to try and figure out these primitive navigation tools until after you have become lost as it can take a while to learn to navigate with a map and a compass.

What to Do if You Get Lost on a Hike?

According to the US Forest Service the best thing you can do if you get lost while hiking is to actually be prepared for such an event before you ever become lost through advanced planning.

Even if you’re only going on a hike that lasts a few hours, it’s always best to be prepared in case something goes wrong while hiking such as getting injured or lost.

How to Be Prepared in Case You Get Lost While Hiking

  • Always make sure to bring more than enough water and food for your hike so that you can make sure to avoid becoming dehydrated while hiking and to keep your energy up.
  • Have some form of navigation tool with you even if you are familiar with the area or trail such as a compass or a GPS unit. ((Typically your cell phone will not be a good source of navigation while hiking due to the lack of cell phone signal.))
  • While hiking always make sure you have either a topographical map or a trail map of the area you are hiking.
  • Have a small emergency kit with you while hiking including items such as matches, a first aid kit, and a blanket to help you survive overnight if needed.
  • Dress appropriately for your hike by wearing a good sturdy pair of hiking boots or trekking shoes and wearing several layers of clothing that you can shed or add as the weather and temperature dictate.
  • Know the trail you are going to hike before you hike it, by doing some basic research about the trail itself and making sure there are no special warnings or alerts such as bears or flooding that you should be aware of.

4 Critical Things You Must Do if You Get Lost While Hiking

While it’s great to be prepared in case you get lost while hiking, it’s also equally important or even more important to know what to do in the event that you actually do become lost while hiking.

Below are the 4 critical things you must do if you get lost while hiking, to give yourself the best chance of figuring out where you are and getting back to safety.

Don’t Panic and Stop

As with most dangerous or emergency situations, the best thing you can do if you get lost while hiking is to try and stay calm and don’t panic as this can often lead you to make hasty and irrational decisions.

So if you find you have become lost while hiking remembers to stop, stay calm, and try to get your bearings before you do anything else.

Think and Retrace Your Steps in Your Mind

In your mind try to think back to how you got to this point or area if you become lost. Try to picture specific landmarks or unique features of the land such as streams or bodies of water or large rock outcroppings to help jog your memory.

By doing this you might be able to retrace your steps and found your way back to a familiar landmark or trail to help figure out where you are.

Don’t Walk Aimlessly and Use Your Navigation Tools

One of the worst things you can do is just start walking aimlessly with no real idea of where you are or what you are trying to get to. This is often a way to become even more lost and disoriented while hiking because you could be heading even farther away from where you came.

Instead, get your compass, map, or navigation tool out to try and figure out where you are as well as the general direction you have been heading so that you may reverse course to get back to more familiar surroundings.

Make a Plan

Based on your thinking and what you have figured out in regards to your bearing and the general area you believe you are in, use this information to formulate a plan of action on the best possible route to find your way back or to reach an area where you know there will be people and help.

If you cannot come up with a plan or route that makes sense, it’s best to stay put until you do, or until a rescue party is able to find or locate you.

Also as a last resort, you can follow a drainage ditch or stream downhill as this will often lead to a road, trailhead, or civilization. However, this should only be used as a last resort as this can often be a very difficult and challenging path to try and follow.

Jason is an avid lover of camping, hiking, and well just about anything outdoors. He is both a writer and editor for Outside Pulse and has been camping and hiking for over 20 years.

Recent Posts

While most people are familiar with kayaking, they may not be as familiar with tandem kayaking. So in this blog post, we provide a full explanation of what tandem kayaking is. Plus we answer.

A backyard pool can be a great addition to your home, as it can provide hours of fun for your family and friends, and make the perfect spot for your next family get-together, party, or.

About Me

Hi, I’m Jason, and I’m an avid lover of anything and everything outdoors. I’ve always loved camping and hiking for as long as I can remember. So I created this blog to share what I love as well as what I’ve learned along the way.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Source https://www.outsidepulse.com/how-many-hikers-get-lost-a-year-what-to-do-if-you-get-lost/

Source https://thoughtcatalog.com/emily-madriga/2017/09/heres-why-people-are-creeped-out-by-the-growing-number-of-missing-people-in-our-national-parks/

Source https://www.outsidepulse.com/how-many-hikers-get-lost-a-year-what-to-do-if-you-get-lost/

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