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Much like most wild things, Utah's hiking trails are beautiful — but they demand respect. Every month, there are Utah hikers who find themselves in dangerous situations. And these instances are relegated to backcountry areas. People are seriously injured or killed every year within sight of the valleys along the Wasatch Front.
While this isn't meant to scare you away from the great outdoors, it's important to understand the risks before you set off on your wilderness adventures. Too many unsuspecting hikers have found themselves ill-prepared for the dangers ahead of them. Tragically, some have even lost their lives.
To help you watch your step, here are the most dangerous hikes you should be aware of in Utah.
Mount Timpanogos (or "Timp" if you're in the know) could be Utah's most familiar mountain. The 15-mile hike to the summit and back is worth it for the stunning view, which stretches as much as 100 miles on a clear day. But before you grab those hiking boots, there are a few things you should know about this beautiful yet challenging hike. First of all, it's home to Utah's only real glacier — but it's deadlier than you might think.
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The U.S. Forest Service reports the "Timpanogos Glacier is one of the major sources of injury or death to hikers on Timpanogos, particularly when some attempt to 'glissade' (or slide rapidly) down it to save time descending."
Aside from the glacier, through the years other hikers have fallen to their deaths on the steep trail, perished in avalanches or gotten stranded because of harsh conditions. (Remember: Just because it's a sunny day below, that doesn't mean things will be clear and calm up top. Check weather conditions before you go.) The exact number of deaths associated with the mountain isn't clear, but hikers should definitely be prepared and cautious.
As the tallest point in Utah, you can bet that Kings Peak comes with a fair share of risk to hikers. Towering at 13,528 feet above sea level, the steep climb is just one of the obstacles you'll encounter. The air gets pretty thin up there and altitude sickness is a definite possibility, along with other risks associated with strenuous activity in extreme conditions.
Even experienced hikers struggle on a hike like this. In September 2020, KSL reported that a missing Idaho hiker died after falling 1,000 feet as he was summiting the peak.
If you want the bragging rights for climbing Utah's tallest point, make sure you prepare well in advance. Most sites agree that you'll need to plan a minimum of three days to make the roundtrip hike.
Peek a Boo Gulch in Escalante
This one may surprise you. The name "Peek a Boo" doesn't exactly strike fear into most people's hearts, yet Peek a Boo Gulch in Escalante made Active Junky's list of 30 Terrifying Trails. As a very narrow slot canyon, this hike is probably most terrifying if you suffer from severe claustrophobia. But it can also turn deadly pretty quickly in a flash flood, so beware!
Buckskin Gulch along the Utah/Arizona border
Backpacker Magazine lists Buckskin Gulch as one of the 10 Most Dangerous Hikes in America, calling it "gambling in the slots." Buckskin Gulch carries the same danger as most slot canyons: potential flash floods.
"The extended exposure to flash flood danger makes Buckskin one of the country's most dangerous slots: Rarely more than 10 feet wide, the eerie corridor is 400 feet deep at its junction with the Paria River," writes Backpacker Magazine's Kelly Bastone. "Most chilling: The entire length of sandstone wall is virtually insurmountable–except for a single escape hatch at the Middle Route, about 8 miles in from Wire Pass. Should thunderstorm-bloated floodwaters come charging down the tunnel, you're no better than a bug in a firehose."
Though there have been no fatalities to date, there have been some close calls. If you find yourself in the area, be sure to check the weather before you head out.
Delicate Arch hiking trail in Moab
It's a relatively short hike up to Utah's most iconic landmark (three miles roundtrip, according to the National Park Service), but the Delicate Arch trail in Moab can be treacherous — particularly when conditions are rough. The route is open and exposed to harsh weather elements. In warmer months, heatstroke and dehydration are real possibilities.
In December 2019, KSL reported that a California couple died after slipping on a steep slope near Delicate Arch. Since it was winter, rain, snow, and freezing temperatures played a part in the fatalities. Their son suffered serious injuries but survived.
The Maze in Canyonlands National Park
The biggest clue about this one should be in the name. The Maze hike in Canyonlands National Park is a vast series of backcountry trails in a remote area. (That makes it easy to get lost or in trouble quickly if you're underprepared.) This one also made Active Junky's list of 30 Terrifying Trails. According to Insider Magazine, no one has died hiking The Maze, mostly because of warnings that urge only experienced hikers to visit it. If you're up to the challenge, know that you'll probably spend a minimum of three days there. Overnight permits are required.
Keyhole Canyon in Zion National Park
Here's another slot canyon for the list, but this one has a more deadly history. A flash flood through Keyhole Canyon in Zion National Park killed seven hikers back in September 2015. According to KSL, the group was made of four men and three women — six from California and one from Nevada.
Because of its swimming and rappelling sections, Keyhole Canyon is a technically advanced hike. Unless you're highly experienced, it's probably best to sit this one out until you have the proper gear and training.
Angels Landing in Zion National Park
This one should come as no surprise, but the No. 1 most dangerous hike in Utah is Angels Landing in Zion National Park. It's also one of the most dangerous hikes in the U.S., according to Discovery.com. With a series of switchbacks, hairpin turns, and rapid elevation gain, this is definitely not a hike for the faint-hearted. The last half-mile of the trail is the most treacherous. Just picture a 500-ft.climb with nothing but chains to hold onto while you tower 1,500 feet above the canyon.
DownTheTrail.com reports that 14 people have died after falling from Angels Landing as of June 2021. Some speculate that the trail is getting more dangerous due to its popularity. (Which is probably why Zion National Park is considering a lottery system to hike it.)
Of course, there's a reason why the hike is so popular despite the risks. The summit rewards you for your bravery in the form of breathtaking views of the whole canyon. If you're up for an adrenaline rush, aren't afraid of heights, and you're in good shape, it will definitely be worth your while. Just be sure to follow these safety precautions outlined by the park.
Stay safe on Utah's hiking trails
Hiking may come with some inherent risks, but don't let the isolated mishaps scare you off. As long as you're prepared, the chances of serious injury or death are minimal. To make sure you are prepared, the Utah Safety Council recommends having these 10 essentials on any hike:
- Appropriate footwear
- Extra food
- Extra clothing
- First-aid supplies
- Knife or multi-purpose tool
In addition, to keep you and your family safe, the council offers these hiking tips. Happy trails!
Celebrating Utah's uniqueness
Robert DeBry & Associates continues its dedication to bettering the quality of life in Utah by providing legal services to the Utah community. If you've been injured in an accident and need legal assistance, please contact our office at 801-699-9999.
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What is the most dangerous hike in Utah? ›
1 most dangerous hike in Utah is Angels Landing in Zion National Park. It's also one of the most dangerous hikes in the U.S., according to Discovery.com. With a series of switchbacks, hairpin turns, and rapid elevation gain, this is definitely not a hike for the faint-hearted.What is the most dangerous hike in United States? ›
America's deadliest hike is Mount Ranier in Washington State. It has claimed over 400 deaths. Anything but a “walk in the park,” Mount Ranier features extreme and fast weather changes, avalanches, falling rocks, and an unpredictable volcano. Hypothermia is common, along with broken bones, drowning, and heat stroke.Whats the deadliest road in Utah? ›
- Interstate 15. ...
- Roads in Salt Lake County. ...
- Utah Valley and Weber Davis areas. ...
- Interstate 80. ...
- Interstate 70. ...
- Highway 6. ...
- Moki Dugway Scenic Backway. ...
- Always drive safely.
I've hiked both trails, and must admit the final stretch to the summit of Half Dome is scarier and, indeed, very likely more dangerous than the trail up Angels Landing. Nowhere on Angels Landing does the trail head up a 600-foot stretch of slick granite that at points reaches a 45-degree angle.What is the hardest hike ever? ›
Everest Base Camp (EBC) The Everest Base Camp Trek in the Himalayas in Nepal is one of the most famous and also, the hardest hikes in the world.What is the most dangerous national park? ›
Deaths per Million Visitors: 9.8
Going by its per-capita death rate, Denali is by far the most dangerous national park—ten times more so than Great Smoky Mountains, which sees less than one death per million visitors.
Its popularity for hikers, skiers and climbers, and the bad weather that catches some of those people unawares, makes Mount Washington arguably the deadliest mountain in America. Since 1849, more than 130 people have met their demise on its heights.What is the most dangerous mountain to hike? ›
The main peak of the Annapurna massif is the most dangerous of the world's mountains, with a 29% fatality rate of everyone who tries to climb it. Since 1900, an estimated 244 expeditions have resulted in 72 deaths. The next most dangerous, is the Kangchenjunga is with a 29.1% death rate.What is the big 4 in hiking? ›
Going Ultralight With The Big Four. The fastest way to lighten your load is to replace one or all of the four largest items most backpackers carry: pack, tent, sleeping bag and pad.What is the #1 cause of death in national parks? ›
Drowning (668 deaths) is the Leading Cause of Death at national parks and national recreation areas. Drowning is followed by motor vehicle crashes (475 deaths), falls and slips (335), natural causes (285), and suicide (260).
What is the most dangerous wilderness? ›
- Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. ...
- Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana. ...
- Kruger National Park, South Africa. ...
- Jim Corbett National Park, India. ...
- Zambezi River, Africa. ...
- Ranthambore National Park, India. ...
- Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania. ...
- The Namib Desert, Namibia.
Last fall, investigators concluded that the family died of extreme heat stroke. Temperatures that afternoon reached 109 degrees Fahrenheit in the steep mountain terrain and the family had run out of water. A wildfire had burned off any shade canopy.What is the scariest road in America? ›
- Overseas Highway, Florida. ...
- Tail of the Dragon, North Carolina. ...
- Pikes Peak Highway, Colorado. ...
- Skyline Drive, Colorado. ...
- I-95, Florida. ...
- Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia. ...
- Interstate 70, Colorado. ...
- Dalton Highway, Alaska.
North Yungas Road, Or “The Road of Death” (Bolivia) Bolivia's “Death Road,” considered the world's most dangerous road, and it doesn't get its name for nothing! This single lane, dirt road, connecting La Paz to Coroico, clings precariously to the side of the Cordillera Oriental Mountains.What is the scariest road to drive in the United States? ›
Regarding the most fatalities per 100 miles, Interstate 95 (I-95) is considered the most dangerous road in America.Who should not hike Angels Landing? ›
There have been numerous deaths on the Angels Landing hike. If you have a fear of heights, you should not do this hike. There are sections that are very narrow with 1000-foot drops on either side. This is not the place to confront your fears.Why is Angels Landing so dangerous? ›
The truth is that Angels Landing is one of the most dangerous hikes in the country. People do fall off the edge of this very, very tall chunk of rock — there are no guardrails, after all.Is the Angels Landing Trail scary? ›
Why Is Angels Landing Hike So Scary? Angels Landing trail is strenuous and challenging for both the mind and body. We wouldn't recommend it for young kids or for anyone with vertigo, a fear of heights, or two left feet. For the final climb, you traverse a narrow ridge with anxiety-inducing drop-offs on either side.What is the most dangerous location on Earth? ›
- Death Valley National Park, USA.
- Volcano Tours in Hawaii, USA.
- Snake Island, Brazil.
- Skellig Michael Mountain, Ireland.
- Lake Natron, Tanzania.
- Oymyakon, Siberia.
- Danakil Desert, Ethiopia.
- Skeleton Coast, Namibia.
Accidents and Deaths
Only two deaths have been recorded online from falls on this hike, and (surprisingly?) only one involved a fall from the actual bridge.
Why is Devil's Path dangerous? ›
Devil's Path is a twenty-five mile hike through New York's Catskill mountains. It is called the most dangerous hiking path in the Northeast due to its rapid series of elevation gains and descents as you traverse five of the Catskill high peaks.What is the golden rule of hiking? ›
The best thing you can do when hiking is to remember the “golden rule”: treat others the way you would want to be treated. Here are some main points of hiking etiquette. Hikers coming uphill have the right of way. If you're descending the trail, step aside and give space to the people climbing up.What should you not do on a hike? ›
- Never go off the trail. ...
- Never play loud music. ...
- Never wear headphones while walking. ...
- Never drink alcohol while hiking. ...
- Never eat wild fruits. ...
- Never litter. ...
- Never attend nature's call near the stream. ...
- Never ignore any medical condition.
Katmai National Park (Alaska)
The majority of the bears in North America live in Alaska. The highest concentration of grizzly bears in the United States is in Katmai National Park. The park was established in 1918 to protect the brown bears that frequent the area, and today it's home to an estimated 2,000 grizzlies.
Between 1958 and 2021, there were only 29 open cold cases for missing individuals at national parks, according to Trail and Summit. The Grand Canyon and Yosemite make up over half of those missing cases, with the most having vanished from California's iconic Yosemite National Park.What we should not do in national park? ›
Approach an animal too closely - respect their privacy (around 20 m away) Drive fast, nor off the designated road/trail. Make sudden movements. Leave any litter in the park even if a basket is provided there.What is the mountain death zone? ›
The summits of the world's 14 tallest mountains are all found in what is ominously known as the “death zone,” which is typically identified as 8,000 metres (26,000 feet) above sea level. At these altitudes, the oxygen levels are insufficient to sustain human life for an extended period.What is the hardest mountain to climb in the continental US? ›
Mount McKinley, Alaska (20,320')
As the highest peak in North America, McKinley (or Denali as most call it now) commands respect. Though not Himalayan in altitude, it is considered one of the most difficult mountains in the world to climb.
Nanga Parbat is one of the 14 eight-thousanders. An immense, dramatic peak rising far above its surrounding terrain, Nanga Parbat is known to be a difficult climb, and has earned the nickname Killer Mountain for its high number of climber fatalities.What mountain is impossible to climb? ›
The mountain most widely claimed to be the highest unclimbed mountain in the world in terms of elevation is Gangkhar Puensum (7,570 m, 24,840 ft). It is in Bhutan, on or near the border with China. In Bhutan, the climbing of mountains higher than 6,000 m (20,000 ft) has been prohibited since 1994.
What is a Level 5 hike? ›
Level 5: Moderate – Inclines start to get more intense. Gain and distance goes up. No Beginners, No Kids, Some Teens, Dogs, Hiking Footwear Recommended, Water Required. Level 6: Moderate – Simple switchbacks and distance increase. Endurance and Stamina required.How much weight should a hiker carry? ›
Pack Weight for Backpacking and Hiking
A loaded backpacking pack should not weigh more than about 20 percent of your body weight. (If you weigh 150 pounds, your pack should not exceed 30 pounds for backpacking.) A loaded day hiking pack should not weigh more than about 10 percent of your body weight.
A 14er is a term used to describe mountains that are at 14,000 feet or higher. Mountain climbing enthusiasts seek out these natural wonders to hike, climb, and simply enjoy. At 14,000 feet you have the normal challenges that you have on any other hike along with the added potential to get altitude sickness.What is the scariest hike in Zion? ›
Angels Landing has been recorded as one of the most dangerous public hikes in the United States. The top of the trail peaks off at a plateau, which is more than 1,000 feet high. But the most dangerous part of the hike involves a skinny land-bridge with a metal chain for guidance.Why is Angels Landing dangerous? ›
How dangerous is the Angels Landing hike? People have died after falling from the trail. Since the early 1900s, it is believed more than 15 people have died while hiking the Angels Landing trail. That includes five deaths in the past five years, two of which occurred in 2021.What is the hardest hike in Zion? ›
Perhaps the most dangerous trail in the park, as well as one of the most dangerous hikes in any national park in the country, is Angels Landing. Like Observation Point, this trail features a climactic-view, high above the valley with sheer drop offs all around.What is the toughest hike? ›
The Everest Base Camp Trek in the Himalayas in Nepal is one of the most famous and also, the hardest hikes in the world. Everest Base Camp at an altitude of 5,364m is where some of the best mountaineers in the world start their attempt to climb the highest mountain on the planet, Mount Everest.How many people fall off Angels Landing a year? ›
As you can see, from 2017 to 2021, an average of one person per year fell and died at Angels Landing.How scary is Angels Landing hike? ›
Why Is Angels Landing Hike So Scary? Angels Landing trail is strenuous and challenging for both the mind and body. We wouldn't recommend it for young kids or for anyone with vertigo, a fear of heights, or two left feet. For the final climb, you traverse a narrow ridge with anxiety-inducing drop-offs on either side.How hard is Angels Landing actually? ›
Check out this 4.4-mile out-and-back trail near Springdale, Utah. Generally considered a challenging route, it takes an average of 2 h 57 min to complete. This is a very popular area for hiking, so you'll likely encounter other people while exploring.
Is there a bathroom at Angels Landing? ›
Restrooms are available at Scout Lookout and The Grotto. Water filling stations are also available at The Grotto. To reach the beginning of the Angels Landing Trail, hikers must ascend the West Rim to Scout Lookout.Can beginners do Angels Landing? ›
But the trail to Angels Landing is far from a beginner-friendly hike. In fact, even those with some hiking experience will want to consider their abilities before attempting it. At 5.5 miles roundtrip and climbing nearly 1,500 feet in elevation, the trail is physically demanding.Is Zion park dangerous? ›
Zion National Park is one of the most beautiful places in the world, but it has many hazards: steep cliffs, fast-flowing rivers, severe weather conditions. Over the last ten years, 43 people have died during their visit.Can beginners hike Zion? ›
Yes, beginner hikers can absolutely do the Zion Narrows day hike! Even if you don't have much hiking experience, you will be perfectly fine hiking the Narrows.What is the steepest mountain in Utah? ›
Wellsville Mountains, Utah. The Wellsville Mountains in northern Utah are considered the steepest mountains on the continent.Where do people fall on Angels Landing? ›
The Chains Section is the Deadliest Place in Zion. The attraction of Angels Landing is its “living on the edge” factor of dangerous exposure. The last half-mile of the route, called the chains section, is dramatic and narrow. The path is only a few feet wide here, thinner than a sidewalk, and exposed to high cliffs.