Bedford Fire Department dispatched crews equipped with a drone and set up a command post at a trail leading to the summit on Saturday. When the drone was deployed, its thermal camera imagery quickly located the hikers.
Rescuers on the ground followed the drone’s location and found two men who had set off on the trails before dusk without proper lighting or emergency equipment, according to Bedford officials.
No injuries were reported and units returned to service at 8:30 p.m.
The National Park Service says it’s one of the most popular trails in all of Virginia, noting it is a strenuous climb up to the rocky summit, which is 3,875 feet.
“This peak has attracted hikers for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The 1.5-mile trail ascends 1,300 vertical feet through the forests to spectacular 360 degree views of the Peaks of Otter and surrounding landscape,” the agency’s website reads.