Participation in outdoor recreation typically carries inherent risk. From changing weather to travel in remote places to potential wildlife encounters, there are plenty of hazards to be aware of while seeking fresh air in the Great Outdoors. Unfortunately, death is sometimes the result of this risk, even in some of the most popular and regulated national parks in the United States.
Among the 62 national parks in the United States included in the analysis, Rocky Mountain National Park was ranked as the 8th deadliest in the country and the deadliest in Colorado. From the period between 2010 and 2020, 49 deaths have occurred in the park, 18 of which were falls – the deadliest risk at parks nationwide. Other top killers at Rocky Mountain National Park included medical emergencies and environmental-related deaths.
Mesa Verde ranked 38th nationally with four deaths during that same period, while the Great Sand Dunes and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison tied in 44th with two deaths each.
At the top of the list was the Grand Canyon, with 134 deaths over the 10-year span, 42 of which were medical related and 27 of which were falls. Yosemite also had more than 100 deaths occur at the destination – 126 in total, including 45 falls.
Natural spaces can be dangerous. Aside from always being aware of the risks that exist, it's also important to follow posted signage and rules, as these are often put in place for the safety of the public. Avoid slick areas and exposed ledges, as falls are the deadliest hazard in America's national parks, accounting for 245 of 1,174 deaths in the data set – more than 20 percent.
This data was analyzed by Outforia with a Freedom of Information request. There were 62 United States national parks included in the study, with data from 2010 to 2020 being considered. See a full breakdown below:
Danger Parks Infographic by Outforia