In the White Mountains, in the America state of New Hampshire, hikers are getting themselves lost at least once a week in summer, conservation officer Alex Lopashanski said.
“They try to follow a trail on their phone, which takes them into the woods, and they get themselves so lost,” he said.
New Hampshire Mountain Rescue Service member Rick Wilcox said many people he saves don’t have a map or compass.
“People think a magic cellphone is all they need and they go, ‘Let me check Google,’ and that’s where they go wrong,” he said.
Apps and online maps have disoriented hikers on both sides of the Atlantic.
In Scotland, mountaineers are warning visitors that Google Maps may direct them toward “potentially fatal” trails that would force them to trek over cliffs and rocky, steep terrain.
A number of visitors recently have relied on Google Maps to reach the summit of Ben Nevis, a 1345m mountain, according to a joint statement from Mountaineering Scotland, a climbing organisation, and the John Muir Trust, a charity that maintains natural areas in Britain.
Ben Nevis, a popular but dangerous climbing spot in the Scottish Highlands about 112km northwest of Glasgow, is the highest peak in Britain.
If hikers follow Google’s directions to the parking lot nearest the summit, the map points them to a route straight up the mountain. Even experienced climbers would struggle up that path, Heather Morning, a mountain safety adviser for Mountaineering Scotland, said in the statement.
“In good visibility it would be challenging,” Ms. Morning said. “Add in low cloud and rain and the suggested Google line is potentially fatal.”
Authorities recommend that visitors bring a paper map and a compass to Ben Nevis, even on the novice trails. For those willing to brave the mountain’s icy terrain, steep climbs and poor visibility, it is an eight-hour round trip to the summit from the visitor centre.
So the moral of the story is DON'T rely on smartphones and apps. Make sure you have a map - and know how to read it - and plan your trip BEFORE you go. For more info check out the NPWS' Think Before You TREK initiative.