22-year-old hiker Zachary Zernikwas found dead at the base of a cliff on Thursday, (Image via @VENTURASHERIFF/Twitter)

What happened to Zachary Zernik? Missing 22-year-old hiker found dead in California

Zachary Zernik, a 22-year-old hiker who had been missing since February 1, 2023, was discovered dead on February 2, Thursday morning. He was last seen on January 28, 2023, by his family. At around 9 am local time, Zachary Zernik’s remains were discovered in the Boney Mountain State Wilderness Park. The Ventura County Sheriff's Office has confirmed the same.

Authorities believe that Zernik’s death was accidental, and they did not locate any indication of foul play. The cause of death of the young hiker will be determined by an autopsy. Likewise, law enforcement officers were able to recover his car. According to authorities, an accident fall possibly led to Zachary Zernik’s death.

Law enforcement officials initially urged the public to contact them in case they knew anything about the missing 22-year-old hiker. Police are currently waiting for the actual cause of the death of Zernik.

It is with great sadness that at about 9am, Zachary Zernik was located deceased in Boney Mountain State Wilderness Park. Death appears accidental. No evidence of crime or foul play. Cause of death will be determined by the ME’s Office. Prayers to his loved ones.

A missing young hiker named Zachary Zernik was found dead at the base of a cliff

At roughly 8 am on January 28, 2023, Zachary Zernik was last seen. The resident of Thousand Oaks skipped work on Monday and was never heard from again. Police located his vehicle at the Wendy/Potrero trailhead. He was reported missing on Wednesday, and police led an extensive search to find the young boy.


Unfortunately, the searches went in vain as he was found dead on Thursday at around 9 am at the base of a cliff in the Boney Mountain State Wilderness area. Authorities mentioned discovering no indications of foul play and believed that an accidental fall had possibly killed Zachary Zernik. According to the police:

“His death appears accidental. There is no evidence of a crime or foul play.”
@VENTURASHERIFF Thank you to everyone who participated in finding him. This is so sad, may his soul rest in peace

A cause of death is yet to be determined after the medical examiner performs an autopsy on the remains. According to Ventura County Sheriff Cmdr. Jeremy Paris, police based their search for Zernik on a picture he sent to his friends on Saturday. Paris added that Zachary Zernik went to school with his son and described him as a “great guy.” Cmdr. Jeremy Paris continued:

“The family is extremely grieved.”

Police issued a statement addressing the tragic demise and said:

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones.”

Several search-and-rescue teams and community members were deployed to find Zernik

It has been discovered that the search procedure involves many search dogs, some 30 members of the search and rescue team, a sheriff's helicopter, and a search plane equipped with infrared technology.

Our Ventura County Search & Rescue team is made up of highly trained volunteers. And having just been briefed by them on the details of the search for Zachary Zernik I can tell you they are incredibly impressive & dedicated. Grateful they serve our community. @VENTURASHERIFF

Search-and-rescue teams, including Upper Ojai, Fillmore Mountain teams, and the East Valley, were involved in the search procedure. The public and various community members also helped in the search for the missing hiker.

According to Ventura police:

“The cause of death will be determined by the Medical Examiner’s Office pending an autopsy. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones.”

Zachary Zernik’s family is yet to issue a statement addressing his tragic death. He graduated in 2018 from Thousand Oaks High and studied bioengineering at UCLA. In 2019, Zernik reportedly also earned the rank of Eagle Scout. Authorities are not aware of the specific hiking route that Zachary followed.


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Edited by
Dev Sharma
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