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Got lost while hiking in Arches, Glen Canyon or Zion?
Well, you are one of the hundreds who needed a rescue during the last several years in three of Utah’s most popular federal parks, which were rated in the Top 10 of public lands frequented by rescue crews sent to aid tourists in trouble.
Zion National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Arches National Park were ranked 6th, 7th and 10th in the country with more than 700 total search and rescue missions from 2018-2020, according to the digital publication Outforia, which received the data through a freedom of information request.
Outforia found that during those three years, rescuers responded to all of Utah’s federal public land a total of 1,043 times. This placed Utah third behind California and Arizona. Between 2018 and 2020, California had a reported 1,868 incidents, while Arizona had 1,643 missions.
The increase in search and rescue incidents across Utah and at these three national parks can be attributed to excessive visitors, new people to the outdoors and fatigue from the ongoing pandemic, says Cory McNaulty, associate director for the Southwest Region of the National Parks Conservation Association.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported last summer how Zion National Park, one of the busiest parks in the nation, had a higher than average number of searches and rescues over the past year. Zion has experienced an increase in visitors over the last several years, and saw over 5 million visitors in 2021.
Zion’s most famous hike, Angels Landing has had 13 deaths since 2010 and over 160 search and rescues in 2021, according to Chief Ranger Daniel Fagergren.
According to Outforia, Zion was sixth in the nation with 285 search and rescue incidents. Ranking seventh, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area had 279 search and rescues and Arches National Park was tenth with 202 search and rescues.
“I’m not very surprised. I mean people are getting injured, and in some cases losing their lives in the national parks,” McNaulty said.
The Outfortia study also found that Arches National Park had six cases of missing people from 2018 to 2020 but Kaitlyn Thomas, spokeswoman for Arches National Park, said that’s not true. In fact, she said, all people reported as missing in the park have been found.
Thomas also said Outforia’s count underestimated the number of searches and rescues at Arches.
“Arches National Park had 233 search and rescues between 2018 and 2020 and does not have any open or missing person cases,” Thomas told The Tribune, adding that these numbers from Outforia were never vetted through the National Park Service. “For us, they’re not correct.”
The National Park Service recommends visitors use their online resources and “plan like a park ranger” when visiting these protected areas.
Some tips include looking at the weather, planning for the visit and staying together.