10 People Who Went Missing in Rocky Mountain National Park

Situated within the rugged expanse of the Rocky Mountains lies Rocky Mountain National Park, a beloved tourist destination. Since its establishment in 1915, an unknown number of individuals have disappeared in the area. From seasoned adventurers to novice explorers, a select few have ventured into the park’s depths only to meet tragic fates, their stories shrouded in mystery.

This list delves into ten haunting tales of those who vanished within the confines of Rocky Mountain National Park. Each narrative unveils a chilling enigma, from the discovery of a long-lost skeleton to an eerie tale about two bizarrely linked men, offering a glimpse into the park’s enigmatic history.

Related: Top 10 Mysterious Missing Persons Cases

10 Joseph Halpern

On August 15, 1933, Joseph Halpern went camping in the park with a friend. After hiking Taylor Peak alone with an Army knapsack, Halpern disappeared. Halpern’s friends notified authorities when he failed to return from his hike. A snowstorm hit the area soon after, and an extensive search failed to discover any signs of him.

After Halpern’s disappearance, unconfirmed sightings of him surfaced across the United States, sparking speculation and intrigue. In December 1933, someone claimed to have spotted Halpern traveling with the Civilian Conservation Corps in Phoenix, Arizona. Subsequent sightings in the summer of 1935, including one with the Lewis Brothers Circus, added layers of mystery to the case.

Despite these reported sightings, Halpern’s whereabouts remained elusive, leaving investigators and Halpern’s loved ones grappling with unanswered questions and the haunting possibility of his fate.[1]

9 Alfred Beilhartz

Four-year-old Alfred Beilhartz was last spotted in the park on July 2, 1938. The boy went on a fishing trip with his parents and ten older siblings for Independence Day weekend. While on a trail near Fall River with his family, Alfred vanished.

Albert’s family initiated a search, which later involved park rangers who initially believed the boy had fallen into the river. Park rangers dammed and dragged the river for 6 miles (9.7 kilometers) but still could not locate Beilhartz. Alfred’s parents continue to believe that he didn’t fall into the water but got lost in the woods.

Search dogs tracked Alfred’s scent 500 feet (152 meters) uphill before reaching a fork in the path and losing the trail. A couple hiking 6 miles away and at several thousand feet higher later reported hearing a cry and seeing a small boy resembling Alfred on a high ridge in a dangerous area referred to as the Devil’s Nest near the top of Mount Chaplin.

Alfred was never found, and his case if no longer being investigated.[2]

8 Robert “Bobby” Bizup

Robert “Bobby” Bizup, a deaf boy, went missing from Camp St. Malo in Estes Park in 1958. One boy reported seeing Bobby extremely upset before Bizup disappeared. A former priest also acknowledged interacting with Bobby shortly before the boy vanished.

At the time of Bobby’s disappearance, the camp’s director told reporters that Bobby went fishing and failed to follow a counselor and other campers back to the lodge. A search party tried to find the boy but was unsuccessful. Days later, several counselors and boys climbed Mount Meeker and explored the area around the 11,000-foot (3,352.8-meter) elevation mark for Bobby but were also unsuccessful. The following summer, hikers discovered some of the boy’s remains several miles west of the camp, high on Mount Meeker.

In 2021, investigators found a piece of skull thought to be Bizup’s. A report later revealed that three counselors at the camp from which Bizup disappeared had later sexually abused children as priests. The skull was in the possession of Dr. Joseph McCloskey, a Catholic Church member and close friend of the priest who ran Camp St. Malo. McCloskey passed away in 1980, leaving his son to take possession of the skull. After watching a documentary about the disappearance, Tom McCloskey realized the skull most likely belonged to Bobby. Questions still remain, however, about the origins of Bobby’s skull.[3]

7 Rudi Moder

Rudi Moder, a 27-year-old mountaineer from West Germany, embarked on a solo ski mountaineering trip to Cameron Pass in Rocky Mountain National Park on February 13, 1983. Expected to return within two or three nights, Moder was reported missing by his roommates when he failed to return.

However, search teams faced challenges due to heavy snowfall, hindering their efforts to locate him in the Never Summer Mountains. Eventually, they discovered a snow cave containing Moder’s sleeping bag, gear, and food stockpile, providing the only clues. Despite continued search efforts throughout the spring and summer of 1983 and subsequent years, Moder remained missing.

Then, in August 2020, skeletal remains were found in the same area as the initial search, igniting a renewed investigation. Park rangers, with the assistance of the FBI, recovered skis, poles, boots, and personal items believed to belong to Moder. These discoveries led park officials to believe that the remains were indeed Moder’s. The German government was notified, and after nearly four decades, the closure of Rudi Moder’s disappearance marked the resolution of a long-standing cold case.[4]

6 Keith Reinhard

Keith Reinhard, a 50-year-old sportswriter from Algonquin, Illinois, took a 90-day leave of absence from the Daily Herald to work and recuperate in Silver Plume, Colorado. Reinhard later disappeared on August 7, 1988. Living in the back of an abandoned Catholic church at the time and selling matted photographs, Reinhard was also writing a novel. Reinhard has been described by friends as a free spirit who went to Colorado alone despite being married.

After going on a hike in the area south of Interstate 70, Reinhard was never seen again. He was wearing casual clothing and gym shoes and had planned to hike to the top of Pendleton Mountain. When Reinhard failed to return the next day, a widespread ground and air search was commenced. The search for Reinhard was stopped on August 14, 1988, after hundreds of searchers logged over 10,000 man-hours without discovering one clue. When a search plane crashed, killing one and injuring another, the search was called off.

Reinhard’s best friend felt that Reinhard had fallen and was still somewhere in the mountains. Others have proposed various theories about what happened to Reinhard. For example, Reinhard’s son thinks that Reinhard met with foul play while hiking.

The Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office’s Reinhard case is still open. Reinhard’s son placed a plaque in the Rocky Mountains National Park area, bearing his father’s words, “Oh God, I want to wander. I want to wander ’till I die. With the mountains as my living room, my only roof the sky.”[5]

5 Tom Young

Strangely enough, the novel that Keith Reinhard was working on when he disappeared was about Tom Young, another man who had gone missing the year before in the Rocky Mountains National Park area. A bookstore owner in Silver Plume, Colorado, Young went missing in September 1987.

Unfortunately, Young’s body, as well as his dog’s remains, were discovered outside Silver Plume in July 1988. Both were shot in the head. Although Young’s death was determined to be a suicide, some remain unconvinced due to the circumstances surrounding his dog’s death.

Reinhard was working out of Young’s storefront when he disappeared. One week after Young’s body was discovered, Reinhard went for a hike. Young and Reinhard were unrelated in all other ways… except for their connection to the same storefront. In 1990, Unsolved Mysteries even aired an episode about Young and Reinhard.[6]

4 Brian Joseph Perri

In July 2018, Brian Perri was reported missing after he went hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. Before disappearing, Perri texted a photo of himself at Mount Meeker’s summit to a friend. In the photo, Perri was wearing a hat and sunglasses and had a backpack. He was carrying minimal equipment at the time of his disappearance. Rangers later found his car in the parking lot at the Sandbeach Lake Trailhead.

The Rocky Mountain National Park Search and Rescue team, along with the Larimer County Search and Rescue team and the Rocky Mountain Rescue team, performed searches to try to locate Perri. A dog team from Larimer County Search and Rescue joined 54 individuals in the search efforts. Air resources could not assist search teams because they were all assigned to wildfire efforts at the time.

On July 28, 2018, park rangers reported finding a body at Mount Meeker’s summit. The body was believed to be that of Perri. At the beginning of August 2018, the coroner confirmed that it was Perri’s body that had been found. Park officials stated that they believed Perri fell 25 to 40 feet (7.6 to 12.2 meters) while hiking and landed at the base of a steep, almost vertical drop-off surrounded by large boulders and loose rocks.

Perri is believed to have passed away instantly. The discovery of Perri’s body marked the conclusion of the longest search the park had performed for a missing visitor in 15 years.[7]

3 Ryan Albert

A family member reported Ryan Albert from New Jersey missing in October 2018 after he went hiking in the Rocky Mountains. A senior at Rowan University in Glassboro, Albert was last seen in dark clothes with a backpack. A search was soon begun for Albert, who was overdue from a backcountry trek with plans to potentially climb Longs Peak.

Albert’s rental car was discovered soon after at the park’s Longs Peak trailhead. The search team faced challenges, including uncertainty about Albert’s exact trail route and severe weather conditions, which later suspended the search.

Months later, park rangers on patrol near Longs Peak in an area called the Trough found a glove that matched the brand Albert was believed to have been wearing. Then, on May 30, 2019, a team of four park rangers discovered Albert’s body covered in snow at a 12,300-foot (3,749-meter) elevation, which is around 1,000 feet (305 meters) below the Ledges portion of the Keyhole Route. This body was later confirmed to be Ryan Albert.[8]

2 Russell Jacobs

On September 16, 2022, Russell Jacobs set out to go hiking on Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. Jacobs later contacted his friend to tell him that he was hiking and lost, expressing concern about the weather due to being unprepared for winter conditions or sleeping at an elevation above 13,000 feet (3,962 meters).

Jacobs was also in contact with park rangers who ascertained his location and learned that Jacobs was trying to head toward the Agnes Vaille Shelter. Park rangers then lost contact with Jacobs. Rescue workers set out on a search for Jacobs but were challenged by winter weather conditions. The search team also set up shelter overnight in case Jacobs was still out trying to reach the trailhead.

Rocky Mountain National Park workers recovered Jacobs’s body and transferred him to the Boulder County Coroner’s Office. Jacobs was found approximately 80 feet (24 meters) above the Ledges area of the park following a long weekend amid adverse weather conditions.

The Ledges part of the park is located near the Keyhole Notch, which contains ledges flanked by a cliff. Painted marks on the rock in this area help hikers navigate. Snow and darkness, both faced by Jacobs, can make navigating this area much more difficult.[9]

1 Chad William Pallansch

On September 28, 2023, 49-year-old Chad William Pallansch left Fort Collins, Colorado, to embark on an ambitious 28-mile (45-kilometer) route that involved crossing the Continental Divide and traversing established park trails. Pallansch had not tried this route before but was a fit runner who had both trail running and marathon experience.

Pallansch’s vehicle was later discovered parked at the North Inlet Trailhead on the west side of the park. Pallansch sent a text while close to Mount Alice and again when he was 7 miles (11.3 kilometers) away from the Bear Lake Area.

Search efforts involved air reconnaissance, drones, heat-sensing fixed-wing flights, and dogs that were deployed at various locations in the park. Because winter weather conditions, including snow, hampered ground searches, rescuers resorted to aerial measures. Search operations were later suspended. Pallansch is still classified as missing by NamUs.[10]

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