HURRICANE, Utah (ABC4) – As search and rescue leaders in Washington County are seeing more hikers getting lost in Southern Utah, officials are warning recreators of the do’s and dont’s when exploring new territory.
Donielle Morgenstern is visiting a trail in Hurricane with her daughter from out of state.
“What are the trails near us and then we Googled it, and then put it into our Google Maps and this is the trailhead,” she says.
While Morgenstern is an experienced hiker, she says she didn’t really know what to expect when arriving at Gould’s Wash via Three Falls Trail for the first time.
“Google showed us what the trail was and that is what we were going to follow,” she says.
This is a common occurrence for recreators, according to search and rescue officials in Washington County and Zion National Park.
“There’s more and more apps out there like ‘All Trails’ that are producing sort of these wayfinding experiences or trails that are not even necessarily trails the park would designate as such but people are trying to explore new areas,” says Daniel Fagergren, Zion National Park’s Chief Ranger.
“A lot of people will look online look at a trail, think it’s great and then get there start at the trailhead and within a mile the trailhead disappears, it goes off five or six different directions and they end up getting lost, or not having enough supplies,” says Sergeant Darrell Cashin with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
Rangers say just this year there have been over 160 rescues in the park and in Washington County, about 45 rescues involved someone getting lost or not being prepared.
“A lot of our calls kind of fall in that line of people not understanding what they’re getting into or researching it well enough or talking to people who have actually done the trail,” says Cashin.
Officials say instead of relying on applications or the internet, hikers should keep a local map and tell someone where they’re going to be and how long they’re expecting to be out for.
“I would definitely say do your research before you come, I like the motto if you don’t know, don’t go and it’s definitely our motto in Wyoming,” says Morgenstern.
Search and rescue leaders say it’s also important to stay with someone and keep enough clothing, food, and water in case the hike goes longer than expected.