Park Rangers Warn of Extreme Heat Amid Hiker’s Death in Grand Canyon

Rachel Acenas
By Rachel Acenas
July 3, 2024US News
Park Rangers Warn of Extreme Heat Amid Hiker’s Death in Grand Canyon
The West Rim of the Grand Canyon in the Hualapai Indian Reservation near Peach Springs, Ariz., on Jan. 10, 2019. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A 69-year-old hiker died at Grand Canyon National Park on June 29 after collapsing on a trail, said the National Park Service (NPS), which has issued repeated warnings due to heat.

Texas resident Scott Sims was hiking on the South Kaibab Trail en route to an overnight stay at Phantom Ranch, a popular stopover for hikers, when he collapsed, the NPS said in a statement July 1. The area is the only lodging for hikers below the canyon rim and can only be reached by foot or mule, or by rafting the Colorado River.

“The Grand Canyon Regional Communications Center received a report of a semi-conscious hiker on the River Trail, approximately halfway between the Silver Bridge and Black Bridge near Phantom Ranch,” the NPS said.

Mr. Sims then became unresponsive and a bystander began CPR, the park service said. Paramedics also responded but were unsuccessful in their attempts to revive him.

The agency warned that temperatures in the summer on exposed parts of the trail can exceed 120°F in the shade. Park rangers have advised against hiking in the inner canyon between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the hottest part of the day.

“Be aware that efforts to assist hikers may be delayed during the summer months due to limited staff, the number of rescue calls, employee safety requirements, and limited helicopter flying capability during periods of extreme heat or inclement weather,” the NPS said.

The exact cause of Mr. Sims’ death is currently under investigation by the Coconino County Medical Examiner, the park service said.

From 2014 to 2019, hiking was the second deadliest recreational activity, behind driving, according to an NPS report published online.

This is the second hiker death in the Grand Canyon this year. A 41-year old hiker died last month under similar circumstances. The man was hiking out of the canyon from an overnight stay at the Bright Angel Campground near Phantom Ranch, according to a June 17 statement by the NPS.

The deaths come as sweltering temperatures grip much of the U.S., especially the southwest region of the country which includes California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. The Grand Canyon, which became a national park in 1919, is situated entirely in Arizona and attracts five million tourists every year.

“Sunny and hot today. Hiking into the canyon during midday is not advised,” the NPS posted on its website Tuesday amid scorching temperatures.

The agency warned hikers that the temperature is expected to reach 105 degrees below 4,000 feet. The South Rim will hit 90 degrees, according to Tuesday’s alert.