What should I do if I become lost?

Visualize yourself doing each of the following.
It will help you remember and may save your life.

1) Stop where you are.

2) Admit that you are lost. Say it out loud.

Special note: Don't hike with someone who says, "I never get lost." What they are really sating is "I won't admit when I'm lost" and "I'm not very experienced." Experienced hikers know that everyone becomes disoriented once in a while. It's how they handle disorientation that shows that they are experienced.

Hint: It's easier to say, "I'm a little disoriented" than saying, "I'm lost."

3) Continue only when you can determine where you are and where you need to go. Don't start hiking until you have a plan. If that plan is unsuccessful, stop again.

Many people do find their way. However, many people don't. A natural tendency is to try to head for the city that they can see in a distance. This is usually the most dangerous option. Many searches have turned into rescues or body recoveries because of this natural tendency. There are only a few safe routes off many mountains, especially ours, and the few safe routes are usually blocked by dense brush which is un-passable unless you are on the trail. Remember: If you can see the city, then you are probably too high on the mountain to hike down safely without a trail.

If you decide to stay where you are: Use your whistle and signal mirror to attract attention*. If you don't have a whistle, begin yelling, "Help!" Continually listen for searchers who will be yelling your name. Start a fire if you can do so safely. It will keep you warm and will brighten your spirits. Most importantly, it will help searchers find you.

If you decide to continue hiking: (The vast majority choose this option) Pause every once in a while to use your whistle and signal mirror to attract attention*. If you don't have a whistle, begin yelling, "Help!" As you walk, drag a stick in the dirt behind you. Push hard to make a good mark. Once in a while, draw an arrow in the dirt to show which direction you are traveling so searchers don't follow the line in the opposite direction. If you are in an area where this is not possible, draw arrows with rocks or sticks. Do this until you are sure that you are no longer lost. All of these actions will help searchers find you in a fraction of the time.

Note: Most people don't use a whistle or yell for help when they are lost, usually out of embarrassment. This is very unfortunate because there are many people in the wilderness, usually closer than you realize, who can help someone who is lost, not just searchers.

Related FAQ: How can I avoid becoming lost?