Lost on the Trail: Investigation Hiking Wayfinding and Trail Navigation within the National Parks




Mitschke, Sara

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Every year, thousands of search and rescue (SAR) operations are performed to locate and save lost or missing persons in the national parks. Yosemite National Park is one of three National Park Service units with the highest occurrences for search and rescue operations (Heggie and Amundson 247). Yosemite’s Search and Rescue (YOSAR) team performs approximately 250 rescues per year. Nearly 70% of those rescues are to locate lost, missing, or injured hikers (Dill). The primary factors contributing to hikers becoming lost or reported as missing include losing the trail (and then being overtaken by darkness), taking the wrong trail, and miscalculating the time or distance of the planned route (Doke 44). Inadequate signage placement, poor typographic design, and lack of signage at decision points are among the issues found when analyzing wayfinding throughout the park. The results of the project will include preliminary designs of a hiking signage and marker system inspired by the Czech Hiking Markers Standard, Appalachian Trail marker system, and the trail difficulty ratings from the National Ski Areas Association. The purpose of this project is to investigate Yosemite National Park’s hiking trail wayfinding system in order to design an improved solution and to reduce the amount of SAR operations for lost or missing hikers.



Wayfinding, Environmental graphic design, Biomimicry, Hiking, National parks, Signage


Mitschke, S. B. (2020). <i>Lost on the trail: Investigation hiking wayfinding and trail navigation within the national parks</i> (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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