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View of the Grand Canyon
SeanPavonePhoto | Adobe Stock

The 10 Most Dangerous National Parks in America

America’s national parks are beautiful—but they are also wild places that can be dangerous if you don’t follow outdoor recreation safety guidelines. Every year, people go missing or get hurt in national parks, but some national parks are deadlier than others.

Outdoor clothing company KÜHL decided to find out what the top ten most dangerous national parks in America are by analyzing data from all 63 national parks. 

The study looked at statistics from the National Parks Service and data from Google Maps, and assigned each park a weighted score using the following criteria:

  • Number of total deaths from 2007-2023
  • Number of missing persons from 2007-2023
  • Frequency of search and rescue missions from 2013-2020
  • Number of visitors to each park from 2007-2022
  • Amount of trail closures, alerts, and cautions due to animal presence
  • Number of park rangers
  • Proximity to hospitals

The Top 10 Most Dangerous National Parks in the United States

Mount Sandorf and Chistochina River, Wrangell Mountain Range, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska, USA, UNESCO World Heritage Site
Pecold | Adobe Stock

The most dangerous parks had more search and rescue missions, higher incidents of trail closures, and higher fatal incident rates than average. These are the most dangerous national parks according to the study:

  1. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
  2. Wrangell-St.Elias National Park & Preserve, Alaska
  3. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
  4. North Cascades National Park, Washington
  5. Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
  6. Big Bend National Park, Texas
  7. Denali National Park & Preserve, Alaska
  8. Kings Canyon National Park, California
  9. Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
  10.  Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

The Top 10 Safest National Parks in the United States

The safest national parks had lower-than-average numbers of missing persons and fatalities, minimal trail closures, and were well-staffed with rangers. According to the survey, these are the safest national parks:

  1. Gateway Arch National Park, Missouri
  2. Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
  3. Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska
  4. National Park of American Samoa, American Samoa
  5. Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas
  6. Gates of the Arctic National Park, Alaska
  7. Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
  8. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
  9. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
  10. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

What Are the Leading Causes of Deaths in National Parks?

Falls are the leading cause of death in national parks, accounting for 20.3 percent of fatalities. 

Other main causes of death in national parks include:

  • Falls (20.3%)
  • Drowning (12.9%)
  • Motor vehicle crashes (11.8%)
  • Other transportation (3.5%)
  • Hypothermia (3.4%)

National Park Safety Tips

Many national park incidents could have been prevented by following basic safety tips.

  1. Don’t lose your life for a photo. Stay away from steep dropoffs, cliff edges, and barriers.
  2. Obey all posted signs within the park.
  3. Be prepared with appropriate gear and adequate amounts of food and water.
  4. Always check the weather forecast and change your plans if storms are predicted.
  5. Stay on marked trails.
  6. Let someone know where you will go inside the park and when you’ll return.
  7. Maintain a safe distance from wildlife at all times. 
  8. Exercise caution when swimming in national parks. Never swim alone, and always wear a life jacket aboard watercraft.
  9. Pack an emergency kit with first aid supplies.
  10. Be careful when driving—don’t get so distracted by scenery that you forget to concentrate on the road, and don’t stop suddenly to look at wildlife or take photos. 

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