Hikers Need Rescue After Following Non-Existent Trail On Google Maps

After several hikers got lost while following a trail on Google Maps, a search-and-rescue group in British Columbia has released some sage advice: Don’t use Google Maps for hiking.

In the last two months, two separate hikers got lost and needed rescue while following a Google Maps trail north of Mount Fromme, an area with steep cliffs located near Vancouver. A third hiker died in the area two years ago in the same area, the CBC reported.

The search-and-rescue group, North Shore Rescue, has now successfully petitioned Google to have the non-existent trail removed from its map app, it announced Nov. 6 on Facebook.

There are several “lessons learned” the group shared in its post. First, if you’re going to hike with a phone as guidance, try to use an app made specifically for hiking, like CalTopo or Gaia. Second, they recommend “a good old fashioned paper map and compass.”

The Three T’s

This is also another good reminder to always practice the Three T’s:

  • Trip planning (research beyond looking at Google Maps would have shown no trails in this area).
  • Taking the essentials: This individual had minimal gear, inappropriate footwear for the terrain, and no flashlight making it impossible to spot him from the helicopter in the prevailing environmental conditions),” North Shore Rescue wrote.
  • Training: Obtain the knowledge and skills you need before heading out. Also, know and stay within your limits.

On Nov. 4, the group rescued a hiker stranded on a cliff on the backside of Mount Fromme. The hiker had “attempted to climb Fromme from the Kennedy Falls area,” the group said.

That echoed another rescue from a month earlier in the same area. A hiker called 911 while stuck on a cliff on the backside of Mt Fromme.

“The hiker phoned 911 and said he was hanging on and wasn’t sure how long he could [keep] holding on,” North Shore Rescue reported. It described a complicated helicopter operation to rescue the stranded hiker.

“This subject was located exactly on the cliff where a hiker fell to his death two years ago,” North Shore Rescue wrote. “The back of Mt Fromme is extremely steep and dangerous.”

It’s not the first time that Google Maps has led hikers astray. A handful of hikers on Scotland’s Ben Nevis were injured in 2021 after the map app led to technical terrain.

That led Mountaineering Scotland and the John Muir Trust to issue warnings about the dangers of relying on digital technology to navigate wild places.

So if you’re looking to go exploring, it might be time to lay the phone aside and brush up on your compass skills.

Andrew McLemore

An award-winning journalist and photographer, Andrew McLemore brings more than 14 years of experience to his position as Associate News Editor for Lola Digital Media. Andrew is also a musician, climber and traveler who currently lives in Medellin, Colombia. When he’s not writing, playing gigs or exploring the outdoors, he’s hanging out with his dog Campana.