Carry Heat? Officials Cite Dangers on U.S. Trails

Boobytraps in Massachusetts and Colorado, murderous Mexican drug gangs in Arizona…yikes.


It’s getting heavy out there. In three disparate, unrelated incidents, officials are warning of threats to mountain bikers, hikers, and campers in the Northeast, Rockies, and Southwest.

In Arizona’s Pinal County, the sheriff’s department has cautioned campers and hikers that bands of sicarios, Mexican drug assassins, are likely to be in southwestern parts of the county, looking to kill what are called rip crews, which steal drugs and money from gangs as they transport them across the Mexican-U.S. border.

“If you’re going to travel there, be armed,” said Sheriff Paul Babeau. “We are taking this threat seriously and believe that the public and my deputies deserve to know that there is an elevated risk of encountering gun violence in certain areas of Pinal County.

“I am concerned that when these cartel hitmen have armed confrontations with the rip crews in the deserts of Pinal County, innocent Americans and my deputies are going to be injured or killed. People who think that this is somehow far removed, that it’s happening in Mexico and that we’re all safe here, that’s not the case. This violence is occurring right here in our county.”

Well, that’s Arizona. Elsewhere, potential violence is being directed against mountain bikers, trail runners, and hikers.

In Massachusetts, cable snare wires were “maliciously hung” across bike trails in Franklin State Forest, Wrentham State Forest, and Freetown State Forest. The state Department of Conservation and Recreation has posted warnings in all three parks, as well as in nearby Gilbert Hills State Forest.


In Colorado south of Denver, riders discovered three-inch nails buried in the dirt on Little Scraggy Trail in the Buffalo Creek Recreation Area. Tim Fishback and Nick Kostecki were riding the newly open trail when Kostecki suffered two flat tires on a smooth section of singletrack. When Fishback rode back to help him, he, too flatted.

They investigated about a mile of trail and found three two-pound bricks with nails embedded in them buried in the soil.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Fishback told the Denver Post. “Someone manufactured these things. It took some effort to dig those holes and put those in there and they were spaced out a good bit. Somebody was trying to do some real harm and they were targeting bikers.”

Buffalo Creek is a symbol of successful partnership between the Forest Service and the mountain biking community. Working together over two decades, they restored a burned section of Pike National Forest and built the nine-mile Little Scraggy Loop with more than 1,000 hours of volunteer time.

“That’s the craziest thing,” Fishback said. “Mountain bikers built that trail. I rarely see anyone but mountain bikers on that trail.”

Photos by Tim Fishback, top, and Ben Freeman


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Steve Casimiro is the editor of Adventure Journal. Follow him on Instagram at @stevecasimiro.
Showing 10 comments
  • Zach

    We have had a similar issue in Frederick MD the past few years. A group or individual has been setting razor blade traps and wire snares for mountain bikers around the local trails. Its incredible what some feel is necessary to get their point across.

  • Dan Murphy

    When I rode my mtb a lot, those were the places I rode most of the time (in MA). Like Fishback said, you rarely saw other users in those places.

  • Zach

    Its scary the number of malicious booby traps that are starting to pop up targeting mountain bikers. As a trail runner/hiker and mountain biker, it shocks me that these people have no regard for the lives of others and harbor such an ill will against a group of people, especially when I’ve only experienced very positive interactions between these different groups of trail users.

  • Tom Tero

    I found a snare in Portland, Maine last year. Hung deliberately to snag someone on a bike around the neck. I saw it just in time to stop as my neck entered the snare. Had the police come and check it out but the perp was never found.

  • John Coe

    Just FYI: “According to the Tucson Sentinel, this frightening information about drug smugglers and hit men patrolling the area came as a surprise to Pima County Sheriff, Chris Nanos.

    “He told the Sentinel, “I’m just not sure where he’s getting his information. We’ve not seen any increase in activity in our area, and in fact, our referrals to Border Patrol have been decreasing in the last year or so. I hate to think that he’s grandstanding or anything, but I don’t know of anything or significant change that would make me issue an warning to my deputies in this county. If he has intelligence that’s different from mine, I would certainly be interested in that.”

    In other news: Sheriff Babeu’s running for Congress in AZ CD1.

  • Mischa

    I’m pretty sure the best way to avoid violence with mexican cartel hitmen is to carry a gun, right? I mean, that’s gotta deescalate any situation.

  • Luke

    Mischa, I thought the handgun was so you could shoot yourself in the event of an encounte in order to avoid being skinned alive or the like. I’m sure the sherif would not be suggesting that a lone biker with a handgun would stand a remote chance against an experienced cartel crew, likely with automatic weapons. 😀

    • Mischa

      I think there’s probably a pretty good movie in that scenario. Maybe a singlespeeder?

      ‘One Man. One Gear. One handgun.’

  • TJ

    So I guess there’s ZERO chance that it wasn’t some kids screwing around or maybe some freak hiker who laid those spikes, huh? It’s also proof positive that you HAVE to carry a gun, right?
    Anyone know how many hikers or bikers who have run across a grow have been killed? I’m pretty sure the answer is zero.
    So Sheriff Fear? Maybe you should do your freaking jobs and clear that area, huh? Might be a better call than encouraging the make believe Rambos to have a shoot out. Need a gun on the trail? You don’t belong on the trail.

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