Lost on the hiking trail? 6 ways to improve your chances of getting found

It’s the time of year when summer hiking is at its peak — and so are streams of headlines about missing hikers. Wandering off the trail is the most common reason people get lost.

You never want to be that person. And if you do get lost, you want to stay safe and get found. Quickly. The best advice, of course, is not to go missing in the first place.

“We teach ‘stay found,’” says Jane Simpson, chairwoman of the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter’s Wilderness Travel Course, a popular outdoor skills course with a strong emphasis on navigation. “I can’t emphasize enough the importance of learning navigation basics, which really boils down to common sense. Even if you don’t take map-and-compass training, know where north and south are, where you started, and basically where you are in the world.”

By that Simpson means paying attention to your surroundings, which begins before you leave your house. Look at an online map or go to Google Earth for a basic orientation. Will you be hiking a ridgeline? Dropping into gullies? What prominent peaks are visible in the vicinity? Any stream crossings?

On the trail, carry a paper map, she advises, even if you use a smartphone app such as Gaia GPS that tracks your route. “Even a sketchy map will point out major features: Mountain X, River Y. Though you do need to know how to orient it. You need to know north and south.”

But what if after all that you still get lost? Here are six tips to help you get found…


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