Is Social Media to Blame for Hawaiian Trail Rescues?

David Jenkins, Captain in the Honolulu Fire Department recently was interviewed by KHON2 News and had a theory as to why there are so many mountain trail rescues.  The theory goes like this: “People go on hikes, see these beautiful views, takes pictures, and post them,” says Jenkins. “Other people see them and, of course, they want to visit our islands and experience adventure. But sometimes they go and put themselves in jeopardy trying to recreate what they see on the Internet.”

Sharing your Hawaiian trail experiences with your friends on Social Media sites is fun to do.  Showing them where you went on your vacation and how awesome locations like the Kalalau Trail are seems harmless enough.  But can sharing these photos attract visitors that are not qualified or experienced enough to get to the locations they see in the photos?

As I’ve watched social media posts and conversations about exotic Hawaiian locations over the past many years, I’ve noticed there seems to be a lot of miss-communication out there.  For example, if one inquiring would-be hiker asked “Is the Kalalau Trail hard to hike?”.  They would get a variety of answers from other people ranging from “It’s a piece of cake, you’ll make it fine” to “It’s the hardest hike I’ve ever done, I had to turn back after hiking a few miles.”   Everybody is on a different level.  Telling someone you don’t know that a trail is “easy” or even a trail is “hard” can be misleading and lead to someone getting hurt or needing to be rescued.

Social Media can also bring more people who don’t necessarily respect the trail when it comes to following the rules.  Many experienced hikers have learned to show respect by packing out their trash, leaving no trace and living within the rules set up by the Parks.  Social Media can help to bring in traffic that could leave a wake of destruction in their path.  The video that surfaced back in 2013 showing the destruction of boulders in Goblin Valley, Utah is a good example of this.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love seeing all the awesome videos, pictures and stories from the Kalalau Trail and other awesome sites around Hawaii and other parts of the world.  I do think that we need to be responsible in our sharing to let others know that some locations may be difficult to visit and proper fitness, research, preparation and equipment are a must before they attempt them.  Also having proper respect for the location is a must.

There are many trails in Hawaii that range in difficulty level and are still very beautiful as demonstrated below.  If you are considering a visit, make sure you do your research and find the trail that is perfect for you.  The Kalalau Trail can be a difficult hike.  It is not only 22 miles round trip but there are many ups and downs and the trail can be very steep and narrow at times.

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