Officers discuss safety after finding lost Flat Top hikers

Two hikers were lost for nearly six hours

BOTETOURT COUNTY, Va. – Officers are reinforcing a message of safety after two hikers were lost on Flat Top Mountain for nearly six hours Sunday night.

According to the Botetourt County Sheriff's Office, they received a call about the missing hikers just after 9 p.m. Sunday and finally found them around 3 a.m. Monday.

"They got off trail, which is a primary thing," Blue Ridge Parkway supervisory law enforcement officer Jonathan Holter said.

Holter said getting lost is more common than many might think.

"Occasionally, in the fall, you will find where the leaf litter, because the trees are starting to drop their leaves, they will sort of cover up those areas where it's heavily trodden so you could see where the path is," Holter said.

Complicating the situation even further, the hikers last night were lost in the dark.

10 News caught up with an avid hiker and asked him about the challenges of the Flat Top Trail, where the two hikers got lost.

"When it gets dark, everything changes, particularly the trail and if you don't have much moon, you can get in trouble," Larry Darby said. "You could get confused about exactly where the trail is and once you walk 100 yards and it's dark and you're off the trail, it's going to be awfully hard to find it again."

So what can you do to make sure you're safe on your next hike?

"Stay on the trail, have some basic land navigation skills, watch the sun, watch your time, make sure that you're prepared foodwise, clothingwise," Holter said.

If it starts to get dark and you're not exactly sure where you're going, just turn around.

"Getting out at 2, 3, 4 o'clock in the morning is a much worse condition than turning around just shy of their destination," Holter said.