Female Hiker Killed by Excessive Heat in Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

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Grand Canyon national park, Arizona, hermit trail
Hermit Trail. Credit: NPS

On June 20 at approximately 1:15 p.m., the Grand Canyon Regional Communications Center received a report of a backpacker experiencing heat illness on the Tonto Trail near Monument Creek.

The backpacker, Michelle Meder, 53, of Hudson, Ohio, was on a multi-day backpacking trip from the Hermit to Bright Angel Trail. Hiking down the Hermit Trail on June 19, she became disoriented and later unconscious. On June 20, responding rangers determined Meder to be deceased; the cause of death is believed to be heat-related. On June 20, the high temperature at Phantom Ranch was approximately 115°F (46°C).

Park Rangers at Grand Canyon National Park strongly urge visitors to Grand Canyon, especially inner canyon hikers and backpackers, to be prepared for excessively hot days in the coming weeks. In the summer, temperatures on exposed parts of the trail can reach over 120°F (49 °C) in the shade. Park rangers do not advise hiking in the inner canyon between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Most people who need emergency medical help in the canyon due to heat illness are hiking between these hours.

Hiking in extreme heat can lead to serious health risks, including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, hyponatremia, and death. 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 National Park Service (NPS) encourages hikers to recreate responsibly. Grand Canyon trails do not close due to inclement or hot weather. There are ways to safely hike below the rim for those prepared, well-acclimated to the climate and elevation, have the appropriate gear, and have prior experience hiking in steep, desert terrain. Visitors should evaluate their level of experience and plan accordingly. For more information on hiking in the summer months in Grand Canyon, visit www.nps.gov.gov/grca/planyourvisit/hike-smart.htm.

The NPS is investigating the incident in coordination with the Coconino County Medical Examiner. No additional information is available at this time.

Grand Canyon National Park, located in northwestern Arizona, is the 15th site in the United States to have been named as a national park. The park’s central feature is the Grand Canyon, a gorge of the Colorado River, which is often considered one of the Wonders of the World. The park, which covers 1,217,262 acres (1,901.972 sq mi; 4,926.08 km2) of unincorporated area in Coconino and Mohave counties, received more than six million recreational visitors in 2017, which is the second-highest count of all American national parks after Great Smoky Mountains National ParkThe Grand Canyon was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979. The park celebrated its 100th anniversary on February 26, 2019.

Hermit Trail

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