While hiking can be a fun and rewarding experience, it can also be dangerous. Many hikers die each year in the U.S.while out on the trails.
Every year, hikers all over the world head out into the wilderness in search of adventure and breathtaking views. However, not all of them make it back home safely.
According to the National Park Service (NPS), 120 to 150 people die each year in the United States. Slips and falls are the most common cause of death, accounting for nearly 50% of all fatalities. Element exposure is another leading cause of death, especially among those who hike in remote areas.
Every year, hikers all over the United States set out to explore the great outdoors. Unfortunately, many of them do not make it back home safe and sound. In this article, we will take a look at how many hikers die in the United States each year and some of the most common causes of death while hiking.
Our hiking experts have scoured the web for the most recent data on hiking fatalities in the United States. We also searched several hiking forums and spoke to several experienced hikers to get their insights on the matter.
How Many Hikers Die Each Year in the U.S.
According to the National Park Service, an average of 120 to 150 people die while hiking in the United States each year. However, this number does not include deaths from suicides or accidents that occur off of designated trails. The number of hikers who die each year has been slowly increasing over time, likely due to the fact that more and more people are taking up hiking as a hobby. The vast majority of hikers who die are male (approximately 70 percent), and most deaths occur among adults aged between 20 and 50.
Now, these numbers might sound a lot, especially when you consider that there are millions of hikers in the United States. However, it is important to remember that most hikes do not end in tragedy. In fact, your chances of dying while hiking are actually quite low. For example, your chance of being struck by lightning is about one in a million, whereas your chance of dying while hiking is only about one in two million. So, don't let the numbers scare you away from enjoying the great outdoors!
Most Deaths Occur in The Big Western Parks
When looking at where hikers die each year, it is no surprise that the majority of deaths occur in the large western parks such as Yosemite, Glacier, and Yellowstone. These parks see millions of visitors each year, and with that comes a higher number of accidents and fatalities. That being said, you are not necessarily more likely to die while hiking in a western park than you are in any other park in the country. In fact, some of the smaller parks actually have a higher rate of death per visitor than the large western parks. For example, Denali National Park in Alaska has an average of one death for every 100,000 visitors, whereas Great Smoky Mountains National Park only has about 0.25 deaths per 100,000 visitors.
The U.S. National Park system contains some of the most stunning scenery in the world, which is why millions of people visit them every year. However, these same features can also pose dangers to unwary hikers and campers. In 2014, the Grand Canyon was the deadliest National Park, with 13 deaths reported. This was followed by Lake Mead (12 deaths), Mount Rainier (8 deaths), and Rocky Mountain (6 deaths).
The majority of these deaths were due to accidental falls, but there were also several drownings and one case of heatstroke. Although the number of deaths in U.S. National Parks is relatively low compared to other tourist destinations, it is still important to be aware of the risks before you set out on your hike.
Common Causes of Death While Hiking
So, what are some of the most common causes of death among hikers? The two most common causes of death are slips and falls and exposure to the elements (such as heat stroke or hypothermia). Slips and falls make up about 50% of all hiking fatalities. This is followed by drownings (15 percent), heat-related injuries (10 percent), lightning strikes (6 percent), and avalanches (3 percent). Other causes of death include drowning, avalanches, lightning strikes, animal attacks, and getting lost. Most of these deaths are preventable with some simple safety precautions.
Falling is the most common cause of death while hiking, accounting for approximately 50 percent of all fatalities. This is usually due to hikers losing their footing on uneven or slippery terrain.
Slippery rocks, steep drop-offs, and loose gravel are all hazards that can lead to a fall.In order to reduce the risk of falling, hikers should take precautions such as wearing sturdy shoes, watching their steps, and avoiding slippery surfaces. Hikers should also be aware of their surroundings and plan their routes carefully in advance.
A few years ago, we went on a hiking trip to Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. The park is notorious for its steep and slippery trails, and 12-16 people die each year from falls. The Mist Trail is the main culprit for most of these deaths because exhausted hikers take shortcuts and ignore the warning signs. We were very careful while hiking and made sure to take our time on the more treacherous parts of the trail. However, we still witnessed a few people falling and getting injured. One man even fell off a cliff, critically injuring himself. Luckily, a ranger nearby was able to help him, and he eventually recovered in the hospital.
Therefore, it is essential that hikers take precautions while hiking in order to avoid falls. Wearing proper footwear, being aware of your surroundings, and taking your time are all important safety measures.
Too Much Water
Drowning is a serious hazard for hikers, especially when traveling through areas with strong currents or potential for flash floods. Approximately 20 percent of all hiking fatalities are due to drowning, making it the second most common cause of death on the trail. Many hikers underestimate the strength of currents and fail to take necessary precautions when crossing rivers or hiking in canyons. Even a small stream can become dangerous when swollen by rain runoff, so it's important to be aware of your surroundings and take extra care when hiking in areas with potential flooding.
Most drownings occur in rivers or lakes, but hikers should also be careful around swimming pools, hot tubs, and bathtubs. It is important to know your own limitations when it comes to swimming and never take unnecessary risks. If you are not a strong swimmer, always hike with a partner who can help in case of an emergency. In addition, hikers should always check the weather forecast before embarking on their hike. They should also avoid crossing bodies of water if they can't see the bottom or if the current is too strong. If you must cross a body of water, use a stick or rope to help you keep your balance.
Not Enough Water
While too much water can be dangerous, not enough water can also lead to serious health problems. Dehydration is a common issue among hikers, especially in hot weather. When hiking in warm or humid conditions, it is important to drink plenty of fluids and take frequent breaks in order to stay cool and prevent heat-related illness. Symptoms of dehydration include thirst, headache, dizziness, and dark urine. If you experience any of these symptoms while on the trail, it is important to find shade and drink plenty of fluids as soon as possible.
In addition to carrying enough water for yourself, it is also important to hike with a partner who can help if you become dehydrated. It is also a good idea to bring along electrolyte tablets or powder to help you stay hydrated. Electrolyte-rich foods such as oranges, bananas, and coconut water can also be helpful.
While lightning strikes are relatively rare, they can be extremely dangerous. According to National Geographic, the odds of being struck by lightning in the United States are about one in 700,000. Even though the odds are low, hikers should be aware of the dangers of lightning and take precautions when hiking in thunderstorm conditions. You are close enough to be struck by lightning if you can hear thunder.
When thunderstorms are forecasted, it is best to avoid hiking at all. However, if you must hike in thunderstorm conditions, try to stay off exposed ridges and away from lone trees. It is also important to stay away from bodies of water as they are often conductors of electricity. If possible, seek shelter in a cave or under a large tree.
If you are caught in an open area, crouch down low to the ground and make yourself as small as possible. Lightning can strike up to ten miles away from a thunderstorm, so it is important to be aware of your surroundings and take cover as soon as possible. Additionally, hikers should avoid using metal objects such as trekking poles or umbrellas. Metal is an excellent conductor of electricity and can increase your risk of being struck by lightning. If you are caught in a thunderstorm, it is best to find shelter and wait it out until the storm has passed.
Every year, thousands of people take to the trails to enjoy the great outdoors. However, hikers need to be aware of the dangers posed by extreme temperatures. In the summer months, heatstroke is a common concern. Hikers are often exposed to high temperatures for extended periods, and this can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Symptoms of heatstroke include headache, nausea, dizziness, and confusion. If not treated promptly, heatstroke can be fatal.
In the winter, hypothermia is a more prevalent danger. Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Hikers can become lost in frigid conditions, and their body temperature can drop to dangerously low levels. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, muscle weakness, and confusion. If not treated, hypothermia can lead to coma and death.
Hikers need to be aware of the dangers posed by extreme temperatures and take precautions accordingly. When hiking in hot weather, it is important to drink plenty of fluids and take frequent breaks. It is important to dress in layers in cold weather and pay attention to the wind chill factor. Additionally, it is a good idea to hike with a partner in case of an emergency.
Animals are the least likely danger hikers face, but they can still pose a threat. Bears and mountain lions are the most dangerous animals in North America, and attacks are very rare. However, if you do encounter a bear or mountain lion, it is important to stay calm and avoid eye contact. Try to make yourself as small as possible and back away slowly. If the animal does attack, fight back with everything you have.
Bees and snakes are also potential hazards on the trail. Bee stings can be painful, but they are usually not life-threatening. If you are allergic to bee stings, it is important to carry an EpiPen with you at all times. Snake bites can be more serious, but they are also very rare. If a snake bites you, it is important to remain calm and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Each animal requires its own risk mitigation strategy, but the best way to avoid an animal attack is to be aware of your surroundings and make noise as you hike. This will give animals time to move away before you get too close.
About THE AUTHOR
I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.Read More About Peter Brooks