Famous hikers who disappeared have been a topic of interest in many circles, especially hikers and other nature lovers.
Every day, hundreds and thousands of people set off on a hike. They aim to explore different trails of the world with their friends or family members by their side. Some individuals hike because they want to maintain their fitness levels, while others partake in it because it brings them peace.
Many famous hikers who disappeared include Alfred Beihartz, Glen and Bessie Hyde, and Larry Jeffery. These are only a few names out of the thousands of hikers who have disappeared in the past century. These hikers are nowhere to be found, almost like they vanished into thin air.
Even though many search parties have been conducted for these hikers, many vanished without leaving any clues behind. Some were children, while others were experienced hikers who had been hiking for a better part of their lives. Where they went remains a mystery to this date since their remains have not been discovered either.
Here, we have made a list of all the famous hikers who disappeared over the years. We have included accounts from their closest family members, cross-checked the news, and given you an honest account of what happened, where they were headed, and how many years it has been since anyone last heard of them.
Famous Hikers Who Disappeared
Glen and Bessie Hyde, 1928
Before news of them vanishing surfaced, Glen and Bessie Hyde were at the Grand Canyon, enjoying their honeymoon. In October 1928, they used a boat to travel down the Colorado River and planned to make their way through the Grand Canyon similarly. In fact, if Bessie had been able to accomplish this, she would have been the first woman to have sailed down the Grand Canyon.
Even though Glen had had his fair share of sailing through angry rivers before, this was a new challenge for Bessie. Before they disappeared, it was found that the couple ran into other boaters. These boaters reported feeling that Bessie was unsure of their journey and wanted to go back home, but Glen kept trying to motivate her. Their incentive was that once the trip was completed, a paid lecture tour would be waiting for them. More than an adventure, this hiking trip could make Glen and Bessie Hyde rich, making the odds even greater.
A few months after their disappearance, the couple’s boat was found in the winter. It did not look wrecked or broken. It was full of essentials needed for the trip with one missing aspect- the couple was nowhere to be seen. Many theories emerged about the Hydes’ disappearance- did they try a challenging hike and were unsuccessful? Did they have a fight that ended with one of them killing the other? Or were the couple kidnapped? There are many reports of what happened to the couple, and over the years, many strangers have reported seeing Bessie Hyde in different parts of the world.
Alfred Beihartz, 1938
Alfred Beihartz was a four-year-old who is said to have been the first individual to have drowned in the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Whether or not Alfred drowned still remains a controversy but the fact of the matter is that he disappeared into thin air. Alfred was hiking with his family in the park during the July 4 weekend near the Roaring and Fall Rivers when suddenly, he was nowhere to be found.
His father took him bathing in the river, after which he wanted to accompany his family friends 500 feet ahead who were upstream. Together, he and his father set food in the river. However, after a few hours, they found that Alfred was nowhere to be seen when the entire family returned to camp. Immediately, they started searching the premises, and within 45 minutes, more than 100 Civilian Conservation Corps started searching the area, but Alfred seemed to have disappeared into thin air.
One day after his reported disappearance, a couple called to report a boy who looked like Alfred in an area called The Devil’s Nest. This was about 6 miles from where Alfred was last seen. However, by the time the authorities got there, the boy had disappeared again.
For ten days, 150 men searched for Alfred. These men also used bloodhounds, but since their search was unsuccessful, the Park rangers wrote off Alfred’s disappearance as an unfortunate drowning incident.
Paula Welden, 1946
Bennington Triangle is a paranormal area located near Vermont’s Long Trail and Glastonbury Mountain in Green Mountain National Forest. Between 1945 and 1950, there were lots of mysterious disappearances here, earning the location its infamous name. In fact, there were many disappearances around the same area in future years that have been linked to supernatural events. Paula Welden is the second individual who went missing from this area during the mentioned time period.
Paula was an eighteen-year-old who, in December 1946, set out to hike the Long Trail. She was dressed for a lengthy hike- a simple pair of sneakers, coat, and jeans, and she set out to complete her venture. According to the clothes she wore, it is speculated that she was planning to return home before it got dark. After all, the temperatures would drop below freezing point in the night, and Paula did not go equipped with the necessary material to continue a lengthy journey. Paula’s roommate, on record, said that Paula had told her that she would be back in a while and was going for a “long walk.”
As she made her way to the trail, she was greeted by several individuals. However, when Paula did not make her way home after dark, her roommate alerted the school, and soon, everyone started searching for her. Classes were put to a stop so that students could help search the premises for Paula. At first, the search was disorganized, but soon, the police from the two neighboring states got involved, and together, everyone started to comb through the area. After several hours and days, there was still no sign of Paula, and friends and family members came up with their theories that could match Paula’s wild disappearance.
Did she elope with her boyfriend? Did she commit suicide? Was she kidnapped? Did she freeze to death because of her clothing? Her body was nowhere to be found, so no one knows what happened to her to this day. A rumor erupted that the trail she disappeared from belonged to a creature called the Bennington Monster. Was it possible that this creature was responsible for Paula’s disappearance?
Even though Paula disappeared into thin air, the good thing about this search was that it united individuals and created the Vermont State Police- a force responsible for rescue missions and wilderness searches.
Larry Jeffrey, 1966
Larry Jeffery is a six-year-old who went missing near Mount Charleston, a 12,000-foot peak in Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest. After the little hiker walked off from his brothers, everyone started searching for him. Within just a few days, the National Guard, along with some bloodhounds, started their search party.
According to TV interviews and reporters, the likelihood was predators being around on that day was extremely low as the area was deserted and each passenger was being thoroughly checked. Hence, it is said that Larry was not kidnapped or put into a car. The truth is that it seems like he disappeared into thin air and oblivion.
Before he disappeared, Larry was wearing thin clothes, which is why authorities do not believe that he could have survived the harsh temperatures of the night. During their search, searchers lost and found the trail countless times. Evidence was also found that Larry had been surviving on berries and insects. However, for 16 days, 1,000 people looked everywhere for the boy, but their search was unsuccessful.
Dennis Martin, 1969
Dennis Martin, a 6-year-old hiker, was with his family close to the Tennessee-North Carolina state line. As a tradition for Father’s Day, the men in the Martin family decided to camp and hike on the trail in Smoky Mountain National Park.
Dennis, like any other child, planned to play a prank on the adults. He was accompanied by his brothers, who had planned to hide in different bushes around the campsite and jump out at the same time to scare their family members. An innocent joke, they thought that they would startle the adults and make them laugh. Everything went as planned, but the laughter died down soon when Dennis was nowhere to be found.
Park rangers, hikers, and family members immediately started searching for the little boy. The search proved unsuccessful, and that night, heavy rainfall started- bad news because this made searching for Dennis even more difficult.
For many weeks, the search for Dennis continued. In fact, it became the biggest search in the history of the National Park Service. One of the individuals who were part of the search was Dwight McCarter, a Park Ranger responsible for tracking down hundreds of missing hikers, even kids, for several years. McCarter was a seasoned hiker and knew how to track people. However, in Martin’s case, he was shocked by the lack of clues. His disappearance could not be understood by the best of trackers.
That evening, a family reported seeing a “bear-man” with something slung over his shoulder. It looked like a small child, but since the searchers did not follow this lead, we don’t know much and will never know whether it was linked to Martin’s disappearance. However, after this search, trackers realized that the more people part of this search, the more likely it is for clues to get trampled on.
Douglas Legg, 1971
Santanoni Preserve, the Adirondack Forest Preserve, was a popular spot chosen by the Legg family as they decided to go for a hike. However, Douglas’s uncle noticed some poison ivy on the way, and Douglas was sent back so that he could wear long pants to protect himself. The cabin that the family was staying at was a short walk but the eight-year-old never came back.
Even though many children have disappeared in national parks, this case is unique as Douglas was familiar with the woods. In fact, his family joked about what a great hiker he was. He was also fondly called a “mini-woodsman” since he knew the neighborhood so well. Douglas’s disappearance initiated one of the biggest search and rescue missions of Southern Adirondack as more than 600 individuals combed through the woods. Unfortunately, there was no trail and no clues that could lead them anywhere.
In this rescue case, dogs were used throughout the search. These dogs were trained to follow Douglas’s scent for more than 30 miles, even over all the rough terrains, the hiking ground had to offer. The mystery seemed unsolvable- how could such a small child travel such long distances? Some individuals found bear-like tracks, and even though black bears in the area were known to attack and drag victims to cover, it was unlikely that Douglas was dragged 30 miles away from his family’s cabin.
As the search for Douglas continued, the family became suspicious of each other. They also started blaming their friends for kidnapping the child, but the police assured them that Douglas had simply lost his way. Unfortunately, the “mini-woodsman” was never found.
Rudi Moder, 1983
Moder was a 27-year-old hiker who lived in West Germany before he disappeared. His roommate reported his disappearance six days after he had set out to hike over Thunder Pass and in the Rocky Mountain National Park. According to friends and family, Moder was an experienced winter hiker.
After searching for four-days nonstop, Moder’s gear, sleeping bag, and food were located in a snow cave. Over the spring and summer season, there were loads of search efforts that were made to locate Moder. The Larimer County Search and Rocky Mountain National Park teams have tried searching for Moder ever since.
Almost 37 years later, officials finally cracked the case- another hiker on the same trail reported finding remains of skeletons close to the Skeleton Gulch area as part of some avalanche debris. This is a popular region that many hikers take from June to October. Even though the rangers restarted the investigation, they could not finish it because wildfires erupted in the area. However, this was not before they found some of Moder’s other belongings, like boots, poles, and skis.
The German government and other officials also made some attempts to identify the remains they later found. They tried to tally dental records so that they could notify Moder’s family and give them some closure.
John Devine, 1997
In Northern Washington State, the Olympic National Park has a feature that is not as great as its mountains. According to Peninsula Daily News, four hikers have disappeared mysteriously in the past 25 years. One of these was John Devine, a 73-year-old hiker who set out in 1997 to hike from Mount Baldy into the park.
Even though the trail is 39 kilometers and is known to be tough, Devine was an experienced hiker who had been hiking most of his life. On the day that Devine went missing, he had been hiking with his friend, Greg Balzer. Right before he disappeared, the two friends had split up as Balzer went hunting and Devine went hiking. Unfortunately, Devine never came back.
For one entire week, countless people looked for Devine. It was until a rescue helicopter crashed and killed three while injuring five that the search was deemed useless. By that time, weather conditions had also become bad, decreasing the chances of finding Devine. According to friends and family members, Devine would not have wanted more and more people to be at risk, which is why after the helicopter crashed, the search for Devine came to an end officially.
The crash of the helicopter is as strange as the way Devine disappeared in thin air. Before taking off, the pilot indicated that he would wait for five minutes before taking off so that the weather conditions could improve. However, a second later, the helicopter fell vertically without any prior warning to the side of a mountain, blowing up in flames.
Mitchell Dale, 2013
Mitchell Dale last went hiking to Spruce Tree House in southwestern Colorado. This 51-year-old was a seasoned hiker, and no one expected him to fall off the face of the earth as he did. The Stehling family wanted to explore national parks in the area, which is why Mitchel set out on his journey.
According to his wife, Mitchell was not great with directions- “directionally challenged” is the term that she used. Even though the hike was not hard, the Dale family never saw Mitchell after he said he was going out. According to a hiker, he could hear someone calling for help on the day Mitchell disappeared, while his wife believes he might have gotten lost and fallen into Navajo Canyon.
Even though drones were sent to find Mitchell- one of the sixty missing people in the National Park System, nothing seemed to bring back any clues. The official number has not been changed in a while, but many believe that hundreds of people have gone missing on the same route over the past few years.
The Dale family has still not given up hope on Mitchell. They believe that he lost his way and has not been able to find it back home ever since. To this day, Mitchell’s wife continues to look for her lost husband, hoping that he makes his way back home to her and his family each day.
David O’Sullivan, 2017
David O’Sullivan is a 25-year-old belonging to Ireland who, sixteen days before his disappearance, had set out to hike from the Mexican border. He was not an extremely experienced hiker, and with his bad luck with nature, the 180 miles he managed to hike are said to be challenging. According to messages exchanged with a friend, he found the terrain difficult but seemed to be enjoying it.
The journey was supposed to be for 2,650 miles, from the Pacific Crest Trail through American West’s mountains and then to the Canadian border. However, based on what we know, Idyllwild was where David was last seen. He managed to meet his friend in Santa Barbara, but after that, he disappeared. His parents had no contact with him, and his bank activity did not change.
Since David had told those close to him that he was going for a long hike, everyone knew that he would be out of touch for a while. Since he was on another continent, it took three months for him to be reported as a missing person. To this day, remains of his body are being looked for. It has been four years, but everything seems in vain.
Jennifer Coleman, 2021
Jennifer Coleman was a 34-year-old belonging to the area of Richmond, Virginia. She had gone on a solo hike but never got back home. Her vehicle was found parked on the Logon Pass, and even though 50 people searched for her, she was nowhere to be found.
Since high winds started blowing in the area, searching for Jennifer by air was deemed impossible. It is said that the following day, Jennifer was supposed to pick up her beloved dogs from a boarding facility, but she never ended up showing up. According to friends, she was an experienced hiker, and the chances of her losing her step seemed unlikely.
Cian McLaughlin, 2021
McLaughlin, an Irishman of 27 years of age, was in Wyoming, hiking in the Grand Teton National Park before he was reported missing in June 2021. According to locals, they last saw Cian walking toward the Taggart Lake. This trail lasts for 8 miles and is known to be a difficult one to complete. When Cian was absent from work the next day, he was reported as missing. The police found his car near the hiking site but two weeks later, the search was called off. This search included 45 helicopters and made use of high-tech tools that could point to any hint about his whereabouts.
Ever since, a hashtag (#FindCian) has been circulating on social media, and the US National Park Service, along with family members, have distributed posters with a picture of Cian, along with necessary details, so that the community can help identify and find him.
What’s mysterious is that the trail that Cian went missing on was known to be his favorite. According to the accounts of another hiker who was on the same trail, Cian was seen without a backpack. Hence, it is assumed that he decided to pay a visit to his favorite trail without the intention of hiking the full duration of it.
Joel Thomazin, 2021
Joel Thomazin, a 31-year-old hiker, has not been found since September 6. He went hiking in a park in Stanislaus County, after which there is no trace of him. According to a park ranger, Thomazin was seen on the first day of the hike close to O’ Shaughnesy Dam. However, this may be the last time he was ever seen.
For months, search teams looked for Thomazin. Today, his family believes that he lost his life while doing the thing he loved- hiking. His wife and 2-year-old son even started a GoFundMe to help raise funds for a memorial service.
The GoFundMe explained that since they had no proof of where is he, he is considered a missing person. If a missing person has been missing in the state of California for five years, only then will he receive a death certificate. Due to this reason, Thomazin’s wife cannot collect her husband’s social security, life insurance, and other necessary things.
About THE AUTHOR
I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.Read More About Peter Brooks