10 Dangerous Places in National Parks

  • Vernal Falls

    Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park

    Yosemite's spectacular Vernal Falls demand respect, and several hikers have lost their lives after jumping the safety barrier to snap photos by the plunging water. Between 2006 and 2010, the park as a whole claimed the lives of 38 people, some plunging from Half Dome and others swept away in the Merced River. A teen also plunged over the park's 594' Nevada Fall at the beginning of the summer 2013 season.

    Photo courtesy of Frank Kovalchek

  • Bear warning along a Glacier National Park trail

    Huckleberry Mountain in Glacier National Park

    That sense of isolation you might feel while hiking in Glacier National Park is likely deceiving. With the greatest concentration of bears in the lower 48 states, researchers suspect there's a bear within a 1-mile radius of every backcountry campsite. During the late summer and early fall (huckleberry season), grizzlies descend upon Huckleberry Mountain. There have been 10 bear-related deaths in the park since 1967.

    Photo courtesy of Lee Coursey

  • View of snow-covered Mount McKinley

    Mt. McKinley in Denali National Park

    They say that freezing to death isn't a bad way to go, and many a hiker to the peak of Mount McKinley in Denali National Park has found out. This peak is the coldest on earth, with temperatures plunging to -75 degrees Fahrenheit in the winters and getting as cold as -23 degrees in the middle of the summer. Storms rolling in from the Pacific can trap unsuspecting climbers in giant snowdrifts and disorienting white outs – a recipe for disaster.

    Photo courtesy of Leland Jackson

  • Grand Canyon Visitors along Bright Angel Trail

    Bright Angel Trail in Grand Canyon National Park

    Many visitors to the Grand Canyon attempt to climb from the rim down to the river, particularly along Bright Angel Trail. Problems arise when hikers overextend themselves, trying to complete the round-trip hike in a single day, resulting in about 200 rescues along the trail each year. Soaring temperatures and a 4,380-foot altitude change can quickly lead to heat exhaustion and possibly death.

    Photo courtesy of Grand Canyon National Park

  • Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument at sunset

    Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

    The dangers found in Arizona's Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument have nothing to do with nature. Park officials estimate that some 1,000 people are in the park on any given night, most of them drug smugglers bringing their wares across the border. It's so dangerous that park rangers wear bullet-proof vests and carry assault rifles, and if the gunfights weren't enough, temperatures in the park can climb to well over 100 degrees.

    Photo courtesy of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

  • Hiking through the water in the Narrows

    The Narrows in Zion National Park

    Zion National Park's slot canyons, known as 'the narrows,' make for fairly easy hiking most of the time, but when storm clouds begin to form, you'd better head for higher ground. Up to 2,000 feet deep in places, this 16-mile narrow canyon is prone to sudden flash flooding, and even during dry season, hikers spend much of the time wading through frigid waters, making hypothermia a major concern.

    Photo courtesy of Jiashiang

  • Eruption in Volcanoes National Park

    Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii

    Spewing lava may seem the greatest danger at the Big Island's Volcanoes National Park, but it's actually the toxic fumes released by the molten rock which can be most hazardous. Unpredictable winds make being near such volcanic haze a potentially deadly gamble, as the 40 people who died in the park between 1992 and 2002 learned the hard way.

    Photo courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

  • Looking down into the maze

    The Maze in Canyonlands National Park

    If you're planning to hike in the Canyonlands National Park Maze District, you'd better have a compass, map and GPS. The area's system of interconnected canyons – including many dead ends – can quickly start to look the same to the inexperienced hiker, and should you get lost, it could take rescuers up to three days to find you. When water and shade are scarce, getting lost in the maze is perilous.

    Photo courtesy of Mike Renlund

  • The dunes at sunset

    The Dunes of Death Valley National Park

    California's Death Valley National Park is aptly named, as this swath of the Mojave Desert claims the lives of hikers each year from heat stroke and dehydration. Even driving through the hottest spot in the Western Hemisphere can be dangerous; every year, cars break down, often on roads that might not see another car for days or even weeks, and without plentiful spare water, things can quickly take a turn for the worst.

    Photo courtesy of John Bruckman

  • Alligator in Everglades National Park

    Swamps of Everglades National Park

    Florida officials estimate about five people are bitten without provocation by alligators in Florida each year, many of them in the Florida Everglades. Alligators aren't the only critters you'll have to contend with in this swampy part of the Sunshine State; the park is also home to four species of venomous snakes and thousands of mosquitoes – some known to harbor the West Nile virus.

    Photo courtesy of Eric Kilby