6 Tips To Avoid Getting Lost While Hiking

avoid getting lost

Getting lost is not fun:(

Here are some tips to help you avoid getting lost while hiking. These simple tips will help you remain safe on your next hike.

Most of the time when new people go hiking you will be hiking along well-developed and maintained trails. However, even on those trails it is possible to make a wrong turn and lose the trail. I have found myself off the trail a few different times, which can be scary.  Here are some tip to help you avoid getting lost when you go hiking the next time in the Rocky Mountains or anywhere.

avoid getting lost6 Tips To Avoid Getting Lost While Hiking

Review A Map Before You Hike

This may seem so simple, but there are in fact a lot of people that never look at a map before hiking. Please just take a few minutes to look over a map and see where your trail goes.

When looking at the map take some time to study the major landmarks, other trails, rivers, creeks, or anything else that stands out. Does your trail just follow a creek along a valley or does it climb a ridge to a peak? These are all important to remember.   Then when you are hiking you can look for those features in the landscape to help you know where you are.

avoid getting lost

A map and compass can help you avoid getting lost.

Bring A Map And Compass

Ideally, you should bring a map and compass on your hike with you as a map is one of the essential items to bring along on a hike. The map and compass may prove invaluable in case you do actually get lost when you are hiking. A good map and knowledge of how to use a compass will enable you to find your way back to the trail.

Pay Attention To Your Surroundings

As you are hiking look around you to see where you are in the landscape. Don’t just be oblivious and stroll along as you won’t be able to figure out where you are if you get off the trail.

Do you see a cliff face, a river, a waterfall, or something else that is easy to spot from far away?

Form a Mental Map

This is an excellent tip that I found that is useful anywhere, including when driving around town or when hiking. As you walk along and see your surroundings form a map in your mind of where you are. This mental map will help you find your way back if you get lost.

avoid getting lost

Stop and look back sometimes. Photo via Flickr.

Look Behind You Sometimes While Hiking

This may seem like a weird tip, but it is important. When you are hiking you are always looking ahead of you at the landscape. When you are coming back to the trailhead on the same trail the landscape will look very different. Thus, it is a good idea to look behind you so that you can recognize your way. This is especially a good idea at trail junctions and such.

avoid getting lost

Watch the weather because fog or bad weather can roll in fast.

Pay Attention To The Weather

When you are hiking make sure you are paying attention to what is happening with the weather. Look up at the sky to see if you see big thunder clouds, or fog. If you are hiking and thick fog rolls in you may get lost before you know what happened.

I have experienced getting lost in the fog on a trail on Mt. Kenya. After hiking all day I decided to take a little stroll away from our tents to look around. I only walked about 100 meters away when thick fog rolled in and I found myself lost. It was a scary experience because I truly found myself lost.

At first, I thought it wasn’t a big deal and I went the direction I was certain our tents were in only to find myself at a cliff face the other way from our tents. I backtracked and tried again only to find I made a circle the second time and was back where I started. That made the sweat break out as I became a bit scared.

I kept my head and put the STOP principles for when you are lost into effect.  I remained calm, and finally found our tents close by. I felt immense relief at finding them again and felt foolish for letting myself get lost in the fog so close to our tents. It did leave a lasting impression on me and now I make sure I keep an eye out for fog and bad weather.