Hiking Accident Prevention: Losing The Trail In The Great Smoky Mountains

S T O R I E S   P A S T   A N D   P R E S E N T

Cautionary Tales For Back Country Hikers


Mother-Daughter Hike Ends In Grief


In October 2018, Mitzie Susan Clements, 53 and her daughter were on their way down, while hiking Clingman’s Dome – Forney Ridge Trail, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Her 20-year-old daughter, who was hiking ahead of her, lost sight of her mother.

After a week-long search, Mitzie Clements’ body was found in a rugged off-trail area, typified by very thick vegetation and a steep, very rocky hillside.  The cause of death was hypothermia.  A helicopter removed her remains. 

At the time of their hike, the weather conditions were foggy, and temperatures were in the 40s.  According to a park official, it was raining, and approaching darkness, making it difficult to miss trail intersections.  

News articles about this story are provided in the highlighted links listed below.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina,  is the most visited national park in the United States.

Online News Sources

Asheville Citizen-Times, October 4, 2018 Great Smokies hiker found dead this week is 11th death in park this year. By Karen Chavez

Asheville Citizen-Times, October 4, 2018 – Staying safe in the outdoors: Hiking death in Great Smokies a reminder of forest dangers,  By Karen Chavez

Citizen-Times.com (Citizen Times) April 3, 2019 Autopsy Reveals Cause of Death For Woman Who Went Missing in Great Smoky Mountains,  By Karen Chavez

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Trip Planning Resources For Hikers and Backpackers


Hiking Into Oblivion: Extreme Heat Kills Unprepared Hikers

Rise In Preventable Fatalities From Heat Stroke

NBCNews.com – June 21, 2021 Grand Canyon hiker dies on Tonto Trail during extreme heat: The 53-year-old backpacker was found dead in the Grand Canyon on Sunday, when the high reached 115 degrees, By Phil Helsel

MSN.com – June 21, 2021Hiker Dies In Extreme Heat, Another in Critical Condition, By Paige Austin (Palm Canyon Trail, Borrego Springs, California)

KVOA.com – July 13, 2021Some Phoenix hiking trails to be restricted in extreme heat, Associated Press

National Parks Traveler.org – June 22nd, 2021Deaths Rising In National Park System, By NPT Staff (Heat related)

10News.com (San Diego) Jul 12, 2021Heat-related helicopter rescues soar, By Adam Racusin


Huffpost.com – Sept 8 , 2020Santa Monica Closes Trails After Hiker Dies In Extreme Heat Other hikers were rescued as record temperatures topped 110 degrees, By Mary Papenfuss

ABC News, November 4, 2018  Two People Have Died In Remote Parts of Western Australia In One Week — But Experts Say Most Outback Deaths Are Preventable, By Sarah Collard

ABC News, October 28, 2018 – Man Dies of Suspected Dehydration After Group Hiking In Kalbarri National Park Runs Out of Water, By Sarah Collard.

ABC News,  November 8, 2018  Remote Australian Deaths Prompts Warning Outback Travel Dangers Could Rise, By Emily Smith

ABC.Net.au, November 25, 2018 German Tourists Wandered 17km off Central Australia Hiking Trail Before Dying Of Dehydration, Heat Stress, By Neda Vanovac

Irene Pastore, is a Certified Personal Trainer, fitness blogger, health educator, and speaker. She has 25 years experience teaching exercise in New York City.  To read her complete bio, visit the About Page.

Hiking Accident Prevention: Learn The Risks of Slot Canyon Flash Floods


 Monsoon Season Brings Sudden Flooding 

SLOT CANYONS are funnel-shaped rock formations, found in the American southwest. They are wide at the top, and narrow at the bottom. Slot canyon formation is caused by water rushing through sandstone or limestone rock.  Southern Utah has the most slot canyons in the world.

SLOT CANYON FLASH FLOODS are often caused by storms miles away.  Slot canyon flash floods are dangerous, and can be life threatening.

During a flash flood, the water level rises quickly, within minutes, or seconds.  A flash flood can rush down a canyon in a wall of water 12 feet high or more.  

Hikers should check the National Weather Service, for an up-to-date report, before entering a slot canyon.  If bad weather is predicted, entering a slot canyon is dangerous, and may result in your death.

O N L I N E  N E W S  S O U R C E S

NPS.gov (National Park Service) –  Zion National Park Utah: The Narrows Safety 

NPS.gov (National Park Service) Monsoon Season 

MyUtahParks.com Be Aware of Flash Flood Dangers In Utah’s Canyons,  By Carly Everett  – 6/19/19

Blogs.Scientific American.comInstant Peril: Flash Floods and How To Survive Them.  Flash Floods Kill People Worldwide  Find Out How To Survive,  By Dana Hunter – 12/28/16

LATimes.com/Associated Press Report: Hikers Were Warned Before Flood,  9/30/97

CNN.com – 7 Dead In Zion National Park Flash Flood,  By Ralph Ellis – 9/17/15

OutsideOnline.com Special Report: The Keyhole 7,  By Grayson Schaffer – 5/24/16

ChicagoTributne.comUtah Floods That Killed 19 Show Dangers Of Popular Desert Canyons,   By Tribune Wire Reports – 9/17/15

Weather.gov (US National Weather Service)Floods  

OutsideOnline.com Surviving A Flash Flood In A Slot Canyon,  By Joe Spring – 9/11/13

Backpacker.com – The Manual: How To Explore A Slot Canyon,  By Kristin Bjornsen and Rebecca Kane – 2/14/17

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Trip Planning Resources For Hikers and Backpackers

Irene Pastore, is a Certified Personal Trainer, fitness blogger, health educator, and speaker. She has 25 years experience teaching exercise in New York City.  To read her complete bio, visit the About Page.  

Fox News Producer In Fatal Hiking Accident

Martin Burns, a Fox KTTV investigative producer and writer, died on August 25 in a hiking accident in the foothills above Altadena, California.  He was 56 years old.

Hiking alone in the Los Angeles National Forest, his body was discovered by another hiker, at the bottom of a steep ravine, below the trail that leads to Inspiration Point.

Copyright 2013 Irene Pastore, and Blue Moon Personal Training  

How To Prevent Hiking Accidents


  1. Getting lost on the trail, especially under extreme weather conditions.
  2. Unprepared for changes in the weather.
  3. Failure to learn about altered terrain conditions before your hike.
  4. Improper clothing and footwear.
  5. Insufficient food or water.
  6. Hiking under inadvisable weather conditions.
  7. Failure to bring necessary equipment, and equipment for possible emergencies.


Elizabeth Bervel dies hiking the wave in the Utah-Arizona border.   7/23/13

UCSD professor found dead on San Diego hiking trail.  7/6/13

Hiker dies after falling 12 feet while hiking the Snohomish County trail in Washington.  7/29/13

Hiker and two sons found dead on Missouri hiking trail.  1/14/13

Located in Pasadena, California, Eaton Canyon death toll rises.   8/9/11

Eaton Canyon death toll is five in two years. 5/5/13


Be prepared for changes in the weather: a drop in temperature, a sudden rainstorm, or heavy rains blocking out the trail

Be prepared for heat if you’re hiking in the desert.  Forego your trip if you know you can’t tolerate heat for long periods of time.

Be prepared for missing trail signs.  Always bring a map, and a compass to get direction.

Bring lightweight clothing that will keep you warm, and raingear to keep you dry.

Bring reliable flashlights.


Educate yourself before going out on the trail.   Whether it’s a day hike or a longer backpack into the high country, being prepared for your trip keeps your journey uninterrupted and safe.

The U.S. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior

Backpacker Magazine


National Weather Service

The Sierra Club

Appalachian Mountain Club

Copyright 2013 Irene Pastore and Blue Moon Personal Training