After 12 hours of searching, OPP officers found 15 students from St, David Catholic Secondary School in Waterloo who went missing Thursday afternoon.

The group of Grade 11 students were part of a field trip to the Bruce Peninsula for an Algonquin hiking experience, with an emphasis on survival and outback camping.

The 15 students were separated from the other half of their group around 5 p.m. Thursday, one day after arriving in the area.

“Fifteen of the students missed a trail marker and went down the wrong path,” said Waterloo Catholic District School Board superintendent Dave DeSantis.

After attempts to locate the group were unsuccessful, OPP were called and began a search of the area.

After 12 hours of searching, the group was found around 5:30 a.m. Friday, near a cabin by the Bruce Trail – northwest of Cyprus Lake, where they were supposed to spend the night.

Police say the students were cold, but otherwise in good condition, and were returned to the rest of their group.

Students say they found the cabin, huddled inside and waited for help.

Back at St. David, relief washed over many students to learn their classmates had been found.

“I was quite concerned when I first found out, but it’s good to know everyone is back and safe,” said student Josh Kieswetter.

School board officials say they’ll investigate what caused the group to get separated and what can be done to prevent it from happening again.

“Something went awry and we want to make sure that we mitigate that,” said DeSantis.

OPP are reminding hikers that the Bruce Peninsula is one of the last true wilderness areas in southern Ontario, with limited cellphone coverage and next-to-nil vision once the sun has set.

Students on the trip were not allowed to carry cellphones as part of the wilderness survival element of the hike.

Ashley Davis-Annett of Waterloo outdoors store Adventure Guide says preparation is important before hiking in areas like the Bruce Peninsula, as is staying in one spot should you get lost.

“It’s imperative that you stay put,” she says.

“That way the search-and-rescue or the contingency plan can be played out. If you’re moving around, it’s very hard to find traces of the group.”

The students returned to Waterloo on Friday.