Colorado hiker lost for 23 hours after taking a 'shortcut' in the mountains

Man hiking alone on trail
(Image credit: Getty)

A hiker became lost on a Colorado trail for 23 hours after taking what he believed to be a time-saving shortcut. As Chaffee County Search and Rescue North explains, the man was hiking through the mountains with a companion and his dog when he decided to take a detour that he believed would cut a chunk off his journey.

The hikers set off before sunrise, and by midday one of the pair had made his way back to the trailhead. He waited over 10 hours before eventually calling 911 to report his missing friend.

Six rescuers from Chaffee County Search and Rescue North began searching shortly afterwards, and managed to determine which route the lost hiker must have taken – a detour that added miles of trail and 1,400 feet of vertical gain. One of the rescuers spotted the missing man and dog around 2am the following morning at around 2am, exhausted but unharmed.

Stay safe on the trails

One of the golden rules of hiking as a group is to never allow yourselves to become separated, even if you usually prefer to walk at different paces. Not only could you become lost, you could also be injured on the trail and be unable to reach help.

If you choose to set off on a hike alone to get some quiet time to yourself, there are some important steps you should take to stay safe. Make sure you plan your route in advance and stick to it, unless there's good reason to deviate.

It's wise to stick to popular routes, but you should also carry a map and compass too – and know how to use them. Our guide on how to use a compass explains the fundamentals. The best GPS watch is a valuable tool, but you can't guarantee you'll always be able to get a satellite lock.

Make sure you carry your phone too, and tell someone where you're going and what time you expect to return. On a long hike, you could also agree to call them at regular times (every hour, for example) to check in.

Always stay aware of your surroundings (this isn't the time for your best running headphones) and follow any local guidance on wildlife, trail closures, or other hazards,

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.