We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The Tripadvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Trailhead theft---a new twist

Destination Expert
for Grand Canyon National Park
Level Contributor
12,365 posts
74 reviews
79 helpful votes
Trailhead theft---a new twist

While people have often been advised against leaving things of value in cars parked at trailheads, this one is new to me. Friends just told us that the catalytic converter was stolen from their Prius 2 days ago, while it was parked at a popular trailhead near Seattle.

While I had heard about this theft problem, I had no idea that it was such a big threat here, nor that it might occur at a trailhead parking area in broad daylight. Apparently the Prius is the most popular target, because their CC's are deemed more likely to be in good condition ( since the gas engine does not operate much of the time the car is on the road). But other vehicles are also vulnerable---mainly pickups and SUV's with higher clearance, so the thieves can get underneath to do their dirty work without jacking up the car.

I am posting this for the benefit of visitors who will be renting cars (especially SUV's) to access trailheads for hiking this summer. Regulars here routinely advise travelers that most rental car contracts contain a prohibition against driving on unpaved roads. Many are going to do so anyway, deeming the risk of actually causing damage to the vehicle to be fairly low if they are careful. They are probably justified in thinking that----at least until they consider this additional possibility.

I think we will use our electric Chevy Bolt to access our hiking this summer instead of our SUV.

7 replies to this topic
Level Contributor
5,799 posts
1. Re: Trailhead theft---a new twist

There are times I’m so glad to be driving a beater...

Eugene, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Eugene, Springfield
Level Contributor
12,601 posts
207 reviews
114 helpful votes
2. Re: Trailhead theft---a new twist

Local news showed a video of a guy pulling between two cars in a shopping center lot, getting out of the car and scuttling under the car next to him and back into his own car...with a catalytic converter...and driving off. Took less than a minute.

They sell the converters to scrap dealers who can get good money for the rare earth minerals in them. Legislation is in the works to make sure scrap dealers keep records on all such purchases (or stop them from purchasing altogether except from reputable businesses).

No tips for easy preventive measures come to mind.

Battle Ground...
Level Contributor
482 posts
2 reviews
1 helpful vote
3. Re: Trailhead theft---a new twist

My son's Ford Ranger '99 truck was stolen last month in SE Portland (popular Hawthorne district neighborhood). There is a facebook page "PNW Stolen Cars" dedicated to helping people track down their stolen vehicles and I notice that there are plenty of "beaters" reported stolen on that page. It's really awful.

Our local paper reported a few days ago the death of a converter thief. Facebook commenters on the article were not sympathetic. One comment reported 5 cars at Battle Ground Lake State Park had converters stolen overnight last weekend. https://www.columbian.com/news/2021/may/28/man-found-dead-under-car-at-vancouver-shop-idd/

King of Prussia...
Level Contributor
1,159 posts
33 reviews
41 helpful votes
4. Re: Trailhead theft---a new twist

We have rented a car to visit National Parks a few times a year since the last 5 years. I have never worried about it. We don’t go to any isolated places. There are always people around in the parking lot. I feel helpless as we like to rent a small SUV.

Destination Expert
for Portland, Sunriver
Level Contributor
16,821 posts
116 reviews
258 helpful votes
5. Re: Trailhead theft---a new twist

I have heard of this and it happened to a friend of mine at a trailhead a while ago up on the mountain loop.

We don’t even keep our vehicle registration or insurance card in our vehicles anymore. We used to take them with us in our packs, but now it is legal to just have a photo of them. So one less thing to worry about.

Mercer Island...
Level Contributor
7,764 posts
6 reviews
3 helpful votes
6. Re: Trailhead theft---a new twist

There are kits to put cables around your cat to make theft difficult. Also read to paint them with fluorescent, high temp paint and then engrave your VIN. Priuses and pickups seem especially vulnerable.

Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
39,676 posts
60 reviews
46 helpful votes
7. Re: Trailhead theft---a new twist

Yup, we are seeing a lot of catalytic converter theft here too, sadly. High clearance vehicles are more susceptible.

Reply to: Trailhead theft---a new twist
Get notified by e-mail when a reply is posted
© 2021 TripAdvisor LLC All rights reserved.

This is the version of our website addressed to speakers of English in New Zealand. If you are a resident of another country or region, please select the appropriate version of Tripadvisor for your country or region in the drop-down menu.