Missing hiker’s body found in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park

The hiker’s body was found near a trailhead

Graig Graziosi
Thursday 21 July 2022 18:28 BST
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The body of a missing hiker has been found at Canyonlands National Park in Utah.

On Sunday night, the National Parks Service was notified that a male hiker visiting the park was overdue for his expected return. The hiker was reportedly taking a short hike near Elephant Hill in the Needles District of the park the day he set out.

According to KJZZ, the trail he was taking was 6.4 miles (10.2km) long and was rated as an "easy" out-and-back.

Easy rated trails typically have little to moderate elevation gain, tend to be well marked, and generally lack the features of more difficult hikes like rock scrambles or stream crossings. Out-and-back trails are trails that reach an endpoint, after which the hiker walks back the same way they came.

Search crews from the Canyonlands and Mesa Verde National Parks responded to the report. The San Juan County Sheriff's Office also dispatched deputies to help search for the man.

Officials announced around 10am on Tuesday that the body of the hiker had been found.

The hiker's body was found by the trailhead, which for most trails in national parks are located near parking lots, though some can be located farther away along other trails. The hiker either died at the start of his hike or near its end.

The San Juan County Medical Examiner's office is examining the body to determine a cause of death.

Police have not released the hiker's identity nor have they confirmed if the hiker is an adult or a juvenile.

Elephant Hill is an arid, desert climate, with much of the hike taking place in the open. Most of the surrounding vegetation is low to the ground, providing little in the way of shade. Though slot canyons and rock outcroppings can provide some shade, there are still large swaths of the trail that expose hikers to the harsh overhead sun.

The high temperature at Canyonlands on Sunday was 102F, or 38.8C. Even on an easy hike, spending several hours walking without carrying an appropriate amount of water and monitoring one's temperature can leave a hiker extremely ill or potentially kill them.

It is unclear if the hiker's death will be attributed to a heat-related malady, but park officials urge visitors, especially in desert parks, to properly research and prepare for any trail, regardless of its rating.

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