The Ultimate Hiking Tragedy

Map of Appalachian Trail
Appalachian Trail–Image via Wikipedia
The Pocosin cabin along the trail in Shenandoa...
The Pocosin cabin along the trail in Shenandoah National Park (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two years ago, I wrote the post Stay Alert. Be Smart.  Hoping not to be controversial, I need to expand on this.

Fact: Since 1974, there have been nine documented murders on the Appalachian Trail. That’s just the A.T. And I haven’t researched hiking or camping murders off-trail.

Here is one account that details an A.T. murder, in this case two women slain in Virginia in 1996. The A.T. also averages one rape every three years.

With over three million hikers visiting various sections of the Appalachian Trail per year, the A.T. is relatively safe. But you need to stay alert and act smart. Hike with friends, and if something doesn’t feel right at a campsite, move on. Many of the attacks took place at or near shelters. I don’t think it is wise to overnight in a shelter alone; wait for other hikers to show up.

In some of these documented cases, attacks were made on two people hiking together and both were murdered. I can’t find an incident where three or more hikers were attacked. So, hike with friends. In the wilds, there is safety in numbers.

Appalachian Trail shelter
A.T. Shelter

Published by Ray Anderson

Hiker and writer. Have hiked the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, The Long Trail (Vermont), and some of the Continental Divide Trail. My trail name is "HAMLET." Have written three hiking novels (thrillers). The first one, "THE TRAIL," was traditionally published in 2015. My second hiking thriller, "SIERRA," released Oct 2016. Book three in my AWOL hiking-thriller series, "THE DIVIDE" releases from Turner Publishing 8/18/2020.

4 thoughts on “The Ultimate Hiking Tragedy

  1. I don’t want to make light of an awful situation … but 9 murders in almost 40 years sounds like good odds to me. You’re a lot more likely to be killed driving to the trail; every years something like 40,000 people die in car accidents in this country.

    Your advice is spot on, of course. I’m just replying because I’ve known a lot of people who love nature and the great outdoors, but are afraid to go hiking by themselves for various reasons, mostly to do with evil people they might encounter on the trail. (Last year, in my neck of the woods, a man killed his family, set fire to his house, and then hid out in a shelter he’d built near a popular hiking trail; this got a lot of local press because it was such a horrible event.)

    1. You make a very good point about the odds. I agree that to not hike by yourself is to –almost–not drive by yourself. I shall always hike. Happy trails!

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