5 Ways to Prevent a Trailhead Break-In

Have you ever wondered how to keep your car and the belongings in your car/truck/SUV safe while it is parked at a remote trailhead?

When I’m out on a solo hiking adventure or just out hiking with our trail baby one of my biggest fears is showing up at the trailhead after several miles and hours on the trail to discover that my car has been broken into, my tires have been slashed, and the spare water that I keep in my car has been consumed by some jerk.  And I’m stuck, alone at an isolated trailhead without cell phone reception.

I’m convinced that nothing would ruin a good day on the trails more than a trailhead break-in.  And it’s easy to get complacent, especially for those of us who think we live and play in safe places.  A little bit of common sense and street smarts are a vital part of break-in prevention.

1. Chose your trailhead wisely.  Stay informed, check the news or a good social media news monitoring site to see if there have been any trailhead break-ins in areas you want to explore.  If we hear of trailhead break-ins in Wyoming and Colorado we’ll keep you posted.  If there have been break-ins be extra vigilant when planning an adventure–but a recent break-in is no reason to stay home or avoid a trailhead since local authorities will likely be checking trailheads more often.

2. Keep a clean car.  I’m not talking about dirt and mud on the exterior of the car, cars are supposed to be muddy!  I’m talking about reducing the amount of clutter inside the car.  If a thief looks into a car and can see a bunch of clutter, loose change, and gear it’s an invitation to smash open the window with a rock and see what else they can find.

3. Park your car in a smart place.  Check the ground for broken glass or evidence of vandalism.  An article on the REI website recommends parking “your vehicle with the trunk or rear-access door facing the most exposed section of the parking lot,” to expose any thieves tampering with your vehicle.

4. Stash items in the car before you pull into the trailhead.  A lot of times we leave extra gear in our car while we are hiking, everything from food to clothing to a diaper bag for our baby. It’s inevitable that we aren’t going to carry everything we bring in our car to a trailhead. The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Department recommends stashing items like this in a trunk or other hidden place before we pull into the trailhead, chances are if someone wants to break into a parked car they are watching every move at the trailhead and they’ll pay close attention to where we are hiding our gear before we lock our doors and head out on our adventure.

5. Drive a beater.  Leave your beamer in the garage and bring your hoopty to the trailhead.  No thief wants to steal the am radio out of your grandma car or your old rusted truck.  Plus, old trucks are cool, especially in Wyoming.

Anyone have personal experience with a trailhead break-in?  What do you do to prevent trailhead break-ins?

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User Comments

  1. I am glad that you mentioned how reducing the amount of your clutter inside the car is a good way to keep the car safe from a break-in. Our car doesn’t contain valuables such as cash or gadgets, but I usually do not pay attention to other things in it such as my bag. I’ll make sure to have these cleaned up or even removed from my car so that thieves will not be enticed to break my car open. I’ll also have a security system installed in it just to have an added measure. Thanks for this reminder!

  2. Glen |

    We have the same trouble here in Phoenix Arizona, dashcams are going in some of the cars so that we can keep an eye on things.

  3. Pingback: Trailhead Break-in (Scenario) -Just Trails

  4. Pingback: Trailhead Break-in (Scenario) |Just Trails

  5. Ron |

    Great article. I can’t tell you how hard it is to walk away from my beloved FJ for a long hike. My nerves are shot thinking about it on the last mile back out.

    • Rebecca |

      Well, I have to admit that FJ’s are a pretty sweet ride so I can see why leaving one at a trailhead would be nerve-wracking!

  6. Ron |

    Helpful article Rebecca, thank you! My wife and I hike frequently and this is something on my mind each trip. Great tips for minimizing the risk of a break in.

    • Rebecca |

      Thanks, it’s something that’s on my mind a lot too. Mostly because I don’t think I’d want to walk all the way home after long hike!

  7. Uncle Bob |

    I was thinking more along the lines of:

    * fill the baby seat with lots of sweet goodies
    * open the back passenger door
    * wait for a bear to find his/her way into the back of the car
    * once he/she is in, slam the door shut and lock all the doors

    I’m pretty sure your stuff isn’t going to get stolen. least-ways, not till the food runs out

    • Al |

      I like it and I think a mountain lion might work too.

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