Going hiking or camping can be an incredibly peaceful experience, but it can also be quite risky. Between dangerous animals, unsafe terrain, and unfamiliar paths, there are plenty of potential hazards for novice adventurers. Thankfully, search and rescue teams are constantly on call in case anyone has a problem.

And while those response teams have to file reports on each of their cases, there are still some details that even they can’t explain. In fact, just about every single missing hiker case is muddled by some weird facts and occurrences rescuers still can’t explain years later.

In northwestern Arkansas, there’s a beautiful nature preserve surrounding the largest sandstone crevice in the United States. It has an ominous name, however: Devil’s Den State Park. It lived up to that moniker in 1946.

Arklohoma Hiker

The Van Alst family decided to take a camping trip in the park. Unfortunately, eight-year-old Katherine wandered away from their tent; a search began, but no sign of the child turned up.


By the sixth day of looking, morale was low. Nearly a week in the wilderness is an eternity for a young girl, after all. But then the search party made a shocking discovery in a cave.

Rick’s Hiking Blog

It was Katherine, alive and seemingly unharmed! She calmly walked out of the cave as if nothing had happened. Everyone was stunned; how had this girl survived?

Ancient History Et Cetera

Katherine simply stated, “Here I am.” When park rangers pressed her for further details, she claimed she couldn’t remember what happened. This wasn’t the first or last weird detail in some of the world’s strangest missing hikers cases.

For instance, in the 1940s, right around when Katherine went missing, college student Paula Welden told her roommate that she was going for a hike. She grabbed a ride to Green Mountain Forest and set off on the Long Trail.

Hours later, Welden still hadn’t returned. Witnesses confirmed that she had made it to the trail and started her hike, but she was never seen again. By every measure, she had seemingly vanished from the Earth.

This was a fate shared by Glen and Bessie Hyde, who, in November 1928, took a honeymoon trip to the Grand Canyon, with plans to boat down the Colorado River. Something strange must have happened after they left the dock, though.

However, the couple never reached their destination and, months later, their boat was discovered on the banks of the river. It was upright, in good condition, and still full of supplies.

Grand Canyon National Park

To this day, no one is quite sure what happened to the newlyweds. A popular theory speculates that one vacationer murdered the other before fleeing to start a new life under their identities.

Odd disappearances kept piling up. Oregon’s Umatilla National Forest has incredible vistas, which are made possible by steep terrain. The Parkins family wanted to take in the view, so they visited the area with their two-year-old in tow.

USDA Forest Service

Unfortunately, little Keith vanished from the family’s side shortly after they arrived. While he was found less than a day later, there was something unsettling about where he ended up.

Cade and Molly

The boy was found 12 miles away, and on the other sound of multiple mountains. How could a two-year-old walk that far in less than 24 hours? Rescue teams never managed to find that out…


…just as they never figured out to Dennis Martin, who, during a camping trip in Great Smoky Mountains National Park split from his siblings to play a prank on their parents. Dennis, however, never held up his side of the bargain.

The family couldn’t find him and called search and rescue, but even their skilled trackers couldn’t locate Dennis. They did receive one strange tip, however, but it was so bizarre that no one investigated it.

Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association

Someone claimed they spotted a large, hairy “bear-man” with something slung over his shoulder. That something could have potentially been a young boy. On second thought, maybe it’s best not to investigate that theory.

Shortly after, California firefighter Mike Herdman decided to head into Los Padres National Forest with his dog. The pair, however, quickly went missing. What could have happened to the athletic hiker and his pet?

Los Angeles Times

After six days of searching, the duo was found. The dog had survived but, Mike, unfortunately was dead. The rescue team concluded that he had accidentally fallen, but that didn’t explain one strange detail they noticed.

A Skirt In The Dirt

Mike wasn’t wearing any shoes. What could have inspired a lost hiker to remove his shoes on such rocky, uneven terrain? Even the search and rescue team couldn’t be sure.


Befuddlement among rescuers continued when, in 1957, a two-year-old went missing in Yosemite National Park. His parents immediately called for help and, before long, a rescue team was using bloodhounds to scour the park.

Eventually the dogs caught the boy’s scent and found him. He was missing his pants and sitting nearly 3,000 feet higher up a rock face from where he was last seen. How did he get up there?

Mike Murphy

His case, along with all the others, shows just how many strange things happen in unexplored depths of national parks. In fact, one woman had her own strange experience and lived to tell the traumatic tale.

As a nature-loving 60-year-old, Sheryl Powell was in heaven. Living in Huntington Beach, California, gave her the best of both worlds: the ocean was within earshot and forests and lakes were a short drive east. Paradise was about to get more dangerous, though.

Inyo County Sheriff’s Office

Sheryl and her husband, Joe, decided to take a trip somewhere different. They headed northeast towards the Nevada border. Driving past Death Valley and the Sequoia National Forest, they came to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.

The area is home to some of the oldest trees in the world, which twist skyward from the rocks. It’s also known for being a secluded and surreal pocket of nature. That made it the perfect spot for the couple to go camping.

Everything was coming together. The pair beat Los Angeles’ infamous traffic, made it to the park, and found the ideal spot to settle down. But then Sheryl mentioned that she had to get out of the car.


The couple brought their small dog with them and, after driving for several hours, it was time for her bathroom break. Sheryl took her for a quick walk as her husband re-positioned the car.

CBS San Francisco

When he returned minutes later however, something was strange. Sheryl and the dog were nowhere to be found. Surly they couldn’t have gone too far that quickly. So Joe began to look around.

Inyo County Sheriff’s Office

He spent an hour searching the area where he had last seen his wife. There were no clues; he was stumped. Joe returned to the campsite and decided he only had one choice left.

Inyo County Sheriff’s Office

Joe got out the emergency satellite phone and called for help. If he couldn’t find his wife, maybe trained professionals would have a better chance than he did. If nothing else, it was worth a shot.

A missing hiker will always generate a swift response, but this case was something different. Sheryl had instantly vanished from right behind her husband’s back within feet of their campsite. Something worse might be afoot, so time was of the essence.

Inyo County Sheriff’s Office

Before long, helicopters were circling overhead. Search crews with jeeps combed the underbrush while dogs sniffed for any sign of Sheryl or her pet. Despite those efforts, days began passed without any signs of life.

Inyo County Sheriff’s Office

They still couldn’t find any clues. Hope started to wane. Sheryl was somewhere out there in the baking sun without supplies; she was at risk of heat stroke, dehydration and snake bites. Her family began to develop a new theory, however.

California DFC

They suspected that Sheryl had been abducted. She wouldn’t have willingly wandered away from the campsite; her dog also had a bad leg, so it wouldn’t have led her away either. Someone or something had to have taken her.


Four days after the disappearance, rescue teams were searching approximately two-and-a-half miles from the campsite. Morale was running low, but they heard something out of place in the wilderness that gave them hope.

Inyo County Sheriff’s Office

Searchers found a small barking dog that matched the description of Sheryl’s dog, Miley. If she was still alive, maybe her owner was somewhere nearby! With cautious optimism, the team kept pushing ahead.

The search team inched downhill, fighting against the steep terrain. After about two-and-a-half hours of painstaking progress, they found something else. Someone quickly placed a call for a helicopter.

Malibu Search and Rescue

Sheryl had been found, exhausted but otherwise unharmed! She was airlifted out of the park by medevac and taken to a local hospital to recover and rehydrate. But what had happened over the past four days?

According to Sheryl, when she’d stepped out of the car, she was approached by a stocky man wielding a knife. As if that sight wasn’t shocking enough, he made a threat that instantly terrified her.

The man reportedly threatened to rape Sheryl. If she didn’t comply, he would use the knife on both her and her beloved dog. Sheryl made the only choice she could: flee the campsite across the rocks.


From there on, she stayed off main roads and traveled at night out of fear that the man would find her. She avoided him, but got lost in the process, only surviving cactus fruit and stagnant water.

The Spruce

Understandably, her family was overjoyed to have her back in one piece. “SHES ALIVE!!! This is the happiest day of our lives. We can’t thank everyone enough!!!!!!!” Powell’s daughter, Farrah, wrote on Facebook.

Sheryl’s escape provides a valuable message for any hiker. Make sure you have food, water, and other essentials accounted for; you should also be familiar with basic survival skills in case of emergency. But what happens when a dog, rather than a person, vanishes?

Liz and Graham Hampson considered themselves the ultimate dog parents. Though they have an adult human son, they devote most of their attention to caring for their schnauzers, Charlie and Theo.

The Hampsons lived in the quiet English village of Buttermere. Maybe it wasn’t the most exciting place in the world, but it was peaceful and gave their dogs plenty of room to roam around.

Coleraine Probus Club

The nearby Red Pike fell made for a fantastic walk. The rocky ground could pose a challenge to the unexperienced hiker, but Theo and Charlie had traversed it many times. They probably had every stone memorized, figured their family.

Striding Edge

One pleasant summer day in 2017, John had rare free time on his hands. He volunteered to take the schnauzers on a walk up by the fell. His parents told him to have a nice stroll.

Both pups, aged 7 years and 15 months respectively, were generally on good behavior. Since there weren’t any other people around they would bother, John decided to let them off their leashes for a while. Wouldn’t some wide open space do them good?

However, the unpredictable British weather threw John for a loop. A heavy mist rolled in out of nowhere, making it impossible to see just a few feet in front of him. He called out so Charlie and Theo would come back to him.

Daily Mail

But as the fog receded, neither schnauzer was anywhere to be seen. Trying not to panic, John scanned the landscape in every direction. He whistled. He prayed. Still nothing.

Meanwhile, Liz and Graham’s relaxing afternoon back home came to an abrupt halt. The phone rang, and neither could process the words coming out of the speaker. John said that their beloved dogs ran away.

The Sampsons were desperate to get their pups back home, though they knew the Red Pike fell posed too much land for just a few people to cover. Without help, they’d never get Theo and Charlie back.

Word about the lost pets got around quickly, and plenty of people stepped forward to help. Over 120 locals volunteered to help look! They didn’t turn up any leads after the first day, so one resident proposed a novel strategy.

The techie brought out his two drones! They flew all over the surrounding Buttermere area, scanning for two scared and hungry schnauzers. But after four days of searching, the dogs were still nowhere to be seen.

Sky News

Things weren’t looking good, and Liz and Graham’s hopes began to waver. They figured that their poor canines must be starving out there. And that sad thought suddenly transformed into a bright idea.

Graham, rifled through the refrigerator without stopping to explain to his wife what he was looking for. She saw him grab a package from one of the drawers and dash outside. He was headed for Red Pike fell.

Liz followed her husband out to the exact spot where John lost track of the dogs. She then understood that he’d carried a bundle of sausages out of the fridge, and they were now roasting over a small portable grill.

HuffPost UK

His plan was simple. If the hungry dogs hadn’t gotten far from where John had lost them, they would smell the crispy, sizzling sausages. And if he knew anything about Charlie and Theo, it was that they couldn’t resist a barbecue.


The couple crossed their fingers as the grill sputtered. Then, two tiny silhouettes appeared on the horizon. “When they first appeared it was like a mirage. I could not believe it was them,” recalled Liz.

Charlie and Theo returned! The moment proved overwhelming for their human parents, who couldn’t believe that their last-ditch strategy worked. However, they had one phone call to make before they could really celebrate.

John, now back at the naval base, had been in an awful way. When his parents called him to share the good news, they heard a chorus of cheers in the background as he told his sailor pals that the dogs were back.

Atlanta Metro Council

Nobody quite knows what Charlie and Theo, who happen to be father and son, got up to during their four days in the wild. Maybe they were busy with some heroics out there? Strange as it sounds, it’s happened before.

Lancashire Life