If you’re looking for an inexpensive family vacation, national parks seem like the perfect place for rest and relaxation in nature. While the natural elements create beautiful landscapes that are usually safe and enjoyable, wild animals and nature itself can put you and your family in an unsafe situation. Before you go adventuring from one park to the next in search of peace and quiet, make sure you pay attention to any posted warning signs and stay alert at all times. You also want to pick your destination wisely. Here are five dangerous parks in the U.S. you may want to skip.
1. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The Grand Canyon is home to incredible sightseeing and tons of tourists willing to hike the difficult trails in the extreme heat. Covering 1.2 million acres, this national park is one of the most visited in the U.S., but it also has the highest death toll of any park. Backpacker explains the Grand Canyon claimed 21 lives in 2012, and there were also 348 search and rescue missions. The vastness and beauty of this park makes it easy for visitors to forget they need to be prepared for the elements.
The majority of the search and rescue missions in 2012 were for those who were between the ages of 20 and 29 — this is likely because younger hikers are more likely to ignore the warning signs that line certain trails in the park. The intense Arizona heat can quickly bring on exhaustion and dehydration, and many hikers overestimate their fitness level, leaving them stranded in the sun. If you do plan to take a hike in the Grand Canyon, it’s important to have a set plan in mind, to not stray from the trail, and to be prepared. Without the proper precautions, you could end up in a dangerous situation.
2. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
This mountainous park in Wyoming is home to beautiful sights, rocky terrain, and tons of wildlife. Its beauty attracts many families who are looking for the perfect campsite and hiking trails, but being in the wilderness isn’t without its dangers. When you’re in Grand Teton, you’re in bear country. The park requires visitors follow the park’s food storage regulations, as bears that get into human food can often become aggressive and threaten the safety of campers.
PJ Media explains that while the wildlife can be a huge safety threat for some, it’s the treacherous mountain trails that are often most problematic. Those who decide to hike through the mountains need to be prepared for the change of climate and difficult terrain, as falling, drowning, and hypothermia have led to fatalities before. Even experienced hikers need to be alert.
3. Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
For skilled climbers who want to find the most challenging mountains without traveling all the way to Mount Everest, Denali National Park and Preserve is home to North America’s tallest peak, Mount McKinley. Outside Online says this mountain has an 18,000-foot vertical rise from its base plateau that’s incredibly difficult for even the most experienced climbers. Those who hope to climb to the peak typically take three weeks to accomplish the task, and only about half of them actually manage to do it. In 2011, seven climbers died, and in 2012, another six lost their lives to the mountain, four of whom were caught in an avalanche.
Denali National Park is incredibly dangerous because many climbers underestimate the mountains. The weather can prove unpredictable when you’re climbing, and exhaustion is common. There’s also plenty of dangerous wildlife, such as grizzly bears and wolves roaming the chilly landscape.
4. Padre Island National Seashore, Texas
This park is home to sandy beaches around of the Gulf of Mexico, and families frequently can be found camping within the two established campgrounds in the park area. While wildlife and weather won’t pose any real dangers here, there’s a different kind of threat lurking around this park. The Corpus Christi Caller-Times says immigrants and drugs often sneak over the Mexican border since much of the terrain is underdeveloped. It’s gotten worse over the last few years, which poses danger to tourists and visitors who want to enjoy the natural landscapes of the park.
5. Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada and Arizona
This park boasts beautiful weather and it has tons of water recreation that you’ll love. Boating, kayaking, and canoeing are all common here, with tons of picnic areas and desert hikes for those who don’t love the water. But you’ll want to be extra careful when visiting Lake Mead National Recreation Area, as it’s home to tons of criminal activity that’s spilling over from the urban areas of nearby Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Sun reports there were 98 violent attacks against Lake Mead rangers in 2002, and that number has not seen much improvement in recent years. There’s a law enforcement shortage in the area as well, making it hard to stay on top of criminal activity.
As for those enjoying the water, there are lots of boating accidents and drowning incidents, which have been linked to alcohol and drug abuse. Boat safety training is required by law enforcement before taking to the lake, and alcohol is banned late at night, but this hasn’t halted reckless behavior. You may want to consider another lake vacation.