The trail you’re following fades out. A storm obscures trail markers. A cairn is missing. Suddenly, you have no idea which way to go.
The Real Risk
Lost hikers are typically found quickly. At Yosemite, the vast majority of lost hikers are rescued within a few hours, says veteran SAR ranger John Dill—and at the Grand Canyon, rangers locate most hikers less than a mile from where they went missing.
The 4-Step Fix
- Knowledge is your best defense. Take a course in reading topo maps, using a compass, and navigating with GPS.
- Tricky trail junctions ahead? Get detailed beta from rangers so you’ll be prepared for any potential trouble spots on your itinerary.
- Always leave word of your plans with friends and/or rangers. Though you probably won’t need it, just knowing that rescuers will be on the way if you run into trouble will help calm anxiety.
- Still terrified? Learn navigation skills, then get deliberately lost with a guide. Find your way back and you’ll be confident you could do it alone.
The Big Test
The Maze District in Canyonlands National Park is like New York for navigators: If you can find your way here, you can find your way anywhere. nps.gov/cany
On California’s Lost Coast, directions are simple: Hike south, keep the Pacific on your right. blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/arcata.html