Which national parks see the most search and rescues?

Utah Department of Public Safety team members prepare to hoist a victim with the help from Washington County Search and Rescue Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. Deputies hiked in the last mile to reach a woman stuck in the snow in the Kolob Canyons region of Zion National Park.

Utah Department of Public Safety team members prepare to hoist a victim with the help from Washington County Search and Rescue Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. Deputies hiked in the last mile to reach a woman stuck in the snow in the Kolob Canyons region of Zion National Park. (Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue)



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ST. GEORGE — On Monday, search and rescue crews in Utah's Washington County took off into Zion National Park on snowmobiles and snow bikes after a backpacker was reportedly stranded in snow.

After about an hour and 40 minutes, rescue crews found the woman, who told officials she had been slipping in and out of consciousness and eating snow to stay hydrated.

"She got to the top of Hop Valley by the arch in Kolob Fingers, and there's 2-3 feet of snow in there," Sgt. Darrell Cashin, with the Washington County Sheriff's Search and Rescue, told St. George News.

"I think the deputies said that it was like 15 degrees (Fahrenheit) up there, so it was very cold. She's going through the snow and she gets stuck — physically stuck. She can't move. She can't get out. But she has a SPOT device that she can text with, so she texts out, 'I need help.'"

Monday's incident will be added to the list of hundreds of search and rescue efforts carried out in Zion National Park since 2018, the country's third-most visited park.

In that three-year period, crews were called out to 285 rescues, the sixth most of any park in the country.

That's according to records requests filed by the group Outforia, which recently compiled a list of the county's national parks and recreation areas that saw the most search and rescues since 2018.

Here's what they found:

  • Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona: 785
  • Yosemite National Park, California: 732
  • Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, California: 503
  • Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho: 371
  • Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado: 341
  • Zion National Park, Utah: 285
  • Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah: 279
  • Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming: 224
  • Olympic National Park, Washington: 204
  • Arches National Park, Utah: 202

The report comes as parks around the country are seeing record visitation. By Oct. 2021, both Grand Teton and Yellowstone had the most visitors ever in a single year, respectively, according to government data.

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There's a strong correlation between park visitation and the number of search and rescues. Of the 10 most visited national parks in 2020, six of them are on Outforia's list — Yellowstone, Zion, Rocky Mountain, Grand Teton, Grand Canyon and Olympic.

Meanwhile, Sequoia and Kings Canyon is a mere five hour drive from Los Angeles, and Utah's Glenn Canyon National Recreation Area is home to Lake Powell, a tourist and boating hotspot.

With 1,868 incidents, California is at the top of the list of states with the most search and rescues, followed by Arizona at 1,643.

Utah is third with 1,043 search and rescues carried out across the state's "Mighty Five" national parks and other recreation areas.

Utah Department of Public Safety officials hoist a victim with help from Washington County Search and Rescue on Monday. Deputies hikd in the last mile to reach a woman stuck in the snow in the Kolob Canyons region of Zion National Park.
Utah Department of Public Safety officials hoist a victim with help from Washington County Search and Rescue on Monday. Deputies hikd in the last mile to reach a woman stuck in the snow in the Kolob Canyons region of Zion National Park. (Photo: Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue)

Not all search and rescue attempts are successful, and sometimes the incident is closed — or considered resolved — despite the missing person not being found. Six of the 202 incidents at Arches National Park during the last three years were closed before the person was rescued, the highest of any park on the list.

And sometimes the case can go on for months, even years, before the search and rescue incident is deemed closed. According to Outforia, "there may not be a missing person involved but an incident being investigated, leading to numerous cases remaining open."

At 101, Mount Rainier National Park had the highest number of open search and rescues since 2018 by a long shot. The park had only 146 incidents during that time frame, and open search and rescues account for 69% of the park's cases.

North Carolina's Blue Ridge Parkway came in second at 28 open incidents, and Rocky Mountain National Park is third at 19.

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Kyle Dunphey

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