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The 16 Most Dangerous National Parks in the U.S.

Michele Debczak
The Grand Canyon at sunset
The Grand Canyon at sunset / Eloi_Omella/iStock via Getty Images
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A family vacation to a national park can quickly turn into an emergency situation, as many of the parks are known for unpredictable weather, difficult terrain, and dangerous wildlife. They may also attract tourists who are new to hiking and underestimate the risks of exploring the wilderness. To see where visitors are most likely to get into trouble, check out this list of the most dangerous national parks in the U.S.

Outforia obtained data from the National Parks Authority to compile this list of the national park properties with the most search and rescue incidents between 2018 and 2020. Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona tops the list, with 785 incidents reported at the end of the last decade. The Grand Canyon is the second-most-visited park in the system behind the Great Smoky Mountains. It also features difficult hikes in and around the canyon that can lead to disaster for amateur hikers. Of the hundreds of cases included in the report, only four remain open.

Coming in at a close second is Yosemite National Park in California, which recorded 732 search and rescue incidents from 2018 to 2020. California's Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks had 503 incidents, and Yellowstone in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho saw 371.

Though the large majority of these cases have been solved, many of the people who go missing in National Parks are never found. This is more of a testament to how easy it is to get lost in the wilderness than it is to any supernatural conspiracies, as some urban legends suggest.

Regardless of your experience level, the list below is a good reminder to stick to the trail on your next national park visit. Here are more facts about the most popular national parks in the country.

  1. Grand Canyon National Park // Arizona
  2. Yosemite National Park // California
  3. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks // California
  4. Yellowstone National Park // Wyoming, Montana, Idaho
  5. Rocky Mountain National Park // Colorado
  6. Zion National Park // Utah
  7. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area // Utah
  8. Grand Teton National Park // Wyoming
  9. Olympic National Park // Washington
  10. Arches National Park // Utah
  11. Great Smoky Mountains National Park // Tennessee, North Carolina
  12. Glacier National Park // Montana
  13. Mount Rainer National Park // Washington
  14. Jewel Cave National Monument // South Dakota
  15. Buffalo National River // Arkansas
  16. Shenandoah National Park // Virginia
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