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The Most Dangerous National Parks in the USA

The Most Dangerous National Parks in the USA

Ever wonder what the most dangerous national parks in the USA are? And does a dangerous park mean you’re likely to be eaten by a bear? 

According to our research, not so much! But there are other hazards. 

We’ll tell you the five most dangerous parks and how to lessen your risks there. 

Let’s take a look!

What Makes a National Park Dangerous?

Many factors can make a national park dangerous. Parks with rugged cliffs and rock formations, of course, have a lot of fall risks.

Other national parks can be dangerous for weather-related reasons like heat or rockslides.

Still, other parks have narrow, congested roadways that make them more prone to crashes. 

The Most Dangerous National Parks in the USA

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park includes one of the country’s most famous landmarks. In Arizona, tourists flock to see the Colorado River and the immense, colorful canyon it created. The pristine terrain also features a variety of wildlife to see. 

Grand Canyon National Park is also linked to more deaths than any other national park. Since 2010, 134 people have died there. Surprisingly, only 27 of those deaths were from falls. You’d expect that number to be higher, but hikers anticipate the canyon’s steep drop-offs, plus they’re easy to see. 

Forty-two hikers have died from natural, medical causes. Of these, most are related to the intense heat in the area.

The most significant way to make it safer is timing. Visit in spring or fall instead. The temperatures will be lower, and the crowds will be thinner.

Keep in mind: These are the most dangerous creatures in the Grand Canyon.

Durmitor National Park

If you plan to climb to the bottom of the canyon, it’s best to get started before dawn. This way, the most strenuous parts of the journey won’t be during the worst heat. 

As always, stay hydrated and observant of your surroundings. 

Yosemite National Park

People love Yosemite National Park for its undisturbed wilderness. Located in California’s Sierra Nevada range, Yosemite stuns with granite cliffs, waterfalls, and Giant Sequoia groves.

Yosemite is also the second deadliest national park. Since 2010, 126 deaths have happened there. 

Falls are the highest cause of death there. Tragically, many falls happen when people try to take the perfect photo and become inattentive. 

The Merced River’s strong current, as well as the waterfalls, are also dangerous, and 17 people have drowned.

The biggest safety tip is to be aware of what’s around you and sure of your footing. 

Between 2011-2017, 259 people have died worldwide in selfie-related accidents. In addition, many more selfie-takers injure themselves in similar falls. If you want to get a picture at a national park in a dangerous spot, have someone else take it. 

If you plan to be in the water, look up what the current is like at the time. Spring currents tend to be the strongest.

Pro Tip: Here’s the best free camping around Yosemite.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles the North Carolina – Tennessee border, is the most visited park in the country. In addition to the mountains themselves, the park includes old-growth forests, colorful wildflowers, and spectacular skies. 

It’s also the third most deadly national park. Since 2010, 92 have died here.

The most common cause of death is car accidents. With 12 million visitors yearly and nearly 400 miles of road, there are many opportunities for costly mistakes. 

The best way to avoid an accident is to avoid peak travel times. Visit outside the peak season of July 1-August 15. In summer, drive early in the morning or after 5 pm. 

Depending on your route, there may be other less-congested roads to take. 

More than bears: Here are the most dangerous creatures in the Smoky Mountains.

Sequoia NP and King’s Canyon

Located in California, these parks feature the world’s largest trees in addition to vast caverns and deep canyons. 

But one of the biggest attractions is the mountains. There are many rugged peaks here, including Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48. 

Falls and mountaineering deaths make this the fourth most dangerous national park. Since 2010, 75 have died here. 

The climbs here have an added danger thanks to their elevation. Even in warm summer months, there can still be snow and ice in higher altitude areas. Hikers don’t expect that, and it can be hard to see. Under those conditions, trails that would otherwise be easy become treacherous. 

The park service advises checking full conditions and not just the weather. Conditions are updated on the official website maintained by the National Park Service. 

They also advise bringing traction devices, should you find yourself needing them. 

Finally, be very careful near rivers or streams, especially in spring and early summer. Flowing water often still contains chunks of ice and snow, and that current can be as quick as it is cold.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park includes land in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. It’s the second most visited national park. One of the most distinctive features is the geothermal activity and geysers, such as the famous Old Faithful. 

Yellowstone is also the fifth deadliest national park, having had 52 fatalities since 2010.

As with the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the most dangerous thing in Yellowstone is the roadways. Car crashes account for most of those deaths. 

The roads in Yellowstone can get quite congested with all the auto tourists. Drivers there are prone to distraction as well, stopping to see animals, take pictures, etc. 

The park service recommends planning for congested roads and distracted drivers. Be ready to be patient and observant. If you want to take a picture or look more closely at something, please pull over rather than stop in the road. 

The famed geysers of Yellowstone are also, unfortunately, risky. Over 20 people have died in the park’s hydrothermal areas. So when the signs tell you what to do–and what not to do–take them seriously.

Stay Safe With Some Common Sense

Our national parks are full of wonder and wilderness that eludes us in our daily lives. They should be treated with reverence, and so should we treat ourselves that way there. 

While things happen beyond our control, we can minimize the risks of these parks. Usually, it’s pretty easy, like remembering to hydrate or adjusting your timing. And we didn’t think we’d have to say this, but don’t take selfies on clifftops.

Have you visited any of these dangerous national parks?

Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA

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  1. M Bruce Parker says:

    There are many informal boondocking sites near Yosemite NP. Uphill from the ranger station where Hwy 140 crosses the Merced River: No camping on the old RR bed downstream, but sq miles of open territory uphill due north. Switchbacks, so long vehicle and trailers need not attempt, but Class B: just fine. 2WD OK with only a little care.
    Similarly: The road to Foresta [south from Hwy 120 inside Yosemite] continues to several areas where one can sleep overnight. I’ve never been disturbed. Take care about telling the world.