Investigating Lost Hiker Found in Bobcat Fire Closure Area

The Angeles National Forest is looking into the unauthorized entry by a lost hiker who was found deep inside the closure area for one of southern California’s largest wildfires. The hiker, who texted a photo from a mountain ledge, was found on April 13 following two days of searching by mountain rescue teams and public assistance on social media. Footage from the search area shows wilderness landscapes scorched by last year’s Bobcat Fire.

The hiker was eventually located near Triplet Rocks, deep inside the Bobcat Fire Closure Area. The remote area is one of the least accessible locations in the San Gabriel mountains. It has no maintained routes and is noted for its steep, rocky terrain and Class 3 climbing. Popular hiking websites like, AllTrails, describe it as a “Closed” area. The Bobcat Fire, which swept the area in 2020, burned away nearly all forest signage or location markers. The hiker was bruised and marked by soot from wandering through the blackened terrain.

“The Bobcat Fire Closure Area is a Federally closed area,” said Captain Russ Tuttle, chief of Law Enforcement for the Angeles National Forest. “These areas are closed for public safety.”

In addition to public safety, Tuttle said the closure is important for forest recovery.

Tuttle noted, “Entering a fire closure zone is a misdemeanor crime. It can result in up to six months in jail and up to a $10,000 fine.”

The investigation follows upon numerous public phone calls to the Forest Service asking about possible consequences for the hiker after he was found in the middle of the fire closure area. The majority of the area east of the Angeles Crest Highway (SR-2) and west of the Highway 39, where the hiker was eventually located, is off limits to public access.

“It is a tough call,” said Tuttle. “We hesitate to use criminal action, as we don’t want to discourage people from calling for help when needed. We encourage people to call for help wherever they are in the forest. However, people need to know these areas are closed for their safety.”

The Bobcat Fire erupted in the Angeles National Forest on Sept. 6, 2020. It scorched more than 180 square miles of forest, destroyed 171 structures, including 87 residences, and threatened the Mt. Wilson Observatory. The wilderness landscape was devastated and will require decades to recover. The Bobcat Fire Closure area restricts all public access until April 1, 2022.

“We are so grateful for a happy ending to this search and appreciative of all the dedicated and skilled search-and-rescue teams involved, as well as, our online community.” said Capt. Tuttle. “However, the public needs to know these areas are off-limits for their protection and that of the forest.”

The Angeles National Forest plans to consider all legal options as it investigates.

Maps of the Bobcat Fire Closure Area are posted on the Angeles National Forest website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/angeles/

Bobcat Fire Closure Area Forest Order No. 05-01-21-03 can be found at:

https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd893936.pdf