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Never Fear: The Phobias

Use this step-by-step guide to beat 7 common backcountry fears. Plus, ideal hikes for overcoming–or avoiding–the source of your scare.
Panic snakesPhoto illustration by Stephen Beneski


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.

Safety Zone
On California’s Lost Coast, directions are simple: Hike south, keep the Pacific on your right.

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1 Comment

  1. t-j-f

    I am so sick of fear peddling. I really am.
    I’m sick of the media and politicians shoving it down our throats as well as hearing about it in incessantly in the hiking communities.
    If people are afraid then they should just freaking hide. Stay inside. Don’t leave the house. I couldn’t care any less.
    But I wish the rest of us didn’t have to be brought along to the Fear Dome and then have to deal with the aftermath.
    Oh wait. I actually do know why.
    Fear sells.
    And it disgusts me.

    Profile photo of t-j-f

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