There’s no denying that the U.S. National Park System is one of the country’s greatest treasures. The parks are home to 84 million acres of land that sees over 300 million visitors every year. People come to see and experience nature at its rawest and most beautiful, from snow-capped mountains to lush green forests and unforgiving deserts. This is most likely the definition of heaven for outdoor lovers and camping will be a walk in the park (pun intended *wink, wink*) for the experienced. But for less seasoned adventurers, the American wilderness can be quite dangerous, even deadly.
For awareness, we’ve compiled a list of the most dangerous camping spots in the United States. Here they are:
Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier is the highest peak in the Pacific Northwest’s Cascade Mountains, standing at more than 14000 feet above sea level. The extreme weather condition in the mountain can be difficult for the inexperienced adventurer. In particular, the Liberty Bridge has proven to be the deadliest. Liberty Bridge accounts for 25 percent of summit climb deaths in the park, despite the fact that just a little less than 2% of hikers even make an attempt in the first place.
Glacier National Park
Both beautiful and dangerous, the Glacier National Park is a must-see in the Rocky Mountains with its graceful peaks and valleys, snow-capped peaks and gleaming glacial waters.
But exercise the utmost caution and be aware of your surroundings. Two to three people lose their lives in the park on average, each year. The main cause of death is drowning while avalanches and rockslides take their fair share. Death by Grizzly is more uncommon but it’s a grisly way to die. Again, be aware of your surroundings and take the utmost precaution.
To reinforce that advice, here’s a gruesome documentary recommendation about two teens mauled to death in the park, on the same night at two different campsites. There’s a book of the same name too.
Bright Angel Trail
With more than four million people coming to visit the Grand Canyon each year, it’s become one of the most frequented destinations in the country. Bright Angel Trail is one of its most popular trails. It is also its deadliest. The trail is a steep path at the bottom of the canyon and it’s actually safe enough. However, hikers have died of heart attack and heatstroke in the trail because of soaring temperatures.
A sort of oasis in the California desert, Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the country. While it can be a calm and peaceful haven, being just a few miles away from ritzy Vegas, park rangers actually consistently rank the lake as one of the most dangerous parks in the US.
Contrary to what one might think, it’s not the drunk party boaters that make up the majority of victims, party city neighbor or no. It’s the people who don’t understand the dangers and treat the lake as a swimming pool instead of the force of nature that it is. Drowning, boat and car accidents, and even assaults and other violent crimes are among the top causes of deaths.
Vermillion Cliffs National Monument’s The Wave is one of the most scenic and photographed landscapes in North America. It’s not easy to get a permit. The Wave’s rock formations’ fragility necessitates the limit of just 20 visitors allowed to hike out per day.
Winners of the lottery receive a map with directions and sent to go on their own. The trails are often unmarked so it can be difficult to navigate and getting lost is a possibility. But the real danger of the Wave is in the temperature that can exceed a hundred degrees some days. In 2013, 3 people died in The Wave in just a span of a month.
Great Smoky Mountains
America’s most visited national park also sees some of the most fatalities too. Aside from magnificent scenery, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park also has plenty of tricky, hairpin curves that can be loathsome to navigate. Knowing this, it may not come as a surprise that the park sees lots of car accidents. In fact, the majority of the fatalities in the park each year are caused by automobile accidents.
Aside from car accidents, falling off waterfall and bee attacks are also on the list. And let’s not forget that the park is also notorious for losing people. At least three have gone missing and have never been heard from again.
Lake Powell, majestic wilderness and stunning cliff formations are some of the things that Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is known for. Its pristine waters have made the park a popular swimming, boating, kayaking, and fishing destination.
It’s no surprise that it’s also a location for plenty of drownings and fatal boating accidents. Lake Powell is especially notorious for both. Did we mention the stunning cliff formations? Yeah, people die on those too, usually from cliff-jumping.
The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
The Organ Pipe Cactus is a tall cactus breed that can only be found in rocky deserts. They dominate the landscape, thus the park name.
This beautiful and desolate terrain is also home to the only wild jaguars of North America. But the desert is one of the most dangerous camp spots in the U.S., due to a different, arguably more threatening predator: humans. Drug smugglers and human traffickers are present in the area. A shootout between two smugglers and Mexican authorities resulted in the death of a park ranger in 2002. From 2003 to 2014, the majority of the park was closed to the public because of these illegal activities.
Camping and spending time in nature is always a worthy endeavor. We compiled this list not to discourage anyone from going to these places but to instead exercise extra caution. Happy camping!