Man Pleads Guilty After Leading 140 Person Hike at Grand Canyon

by Samantha Whidden

A Washington state man reportedly pleads guilty of organizing a rim-to-rim hike at the Grand Canyon National Park for 139 people when the size of groups was limited in October 2020. 

According to Pheonix’s Fox 10, Joseph Don Mount said he did violate the Grand Canyon National Park’s rule about linking hike group sizes. In return, he now has two years of probation. He is also to not enter any of the national parks located in Northern Arizona during the probation years. 

The Grand Canyon National Park began limiting the number of hike visitors to 11 people five years ago. This rule is to help prevent trail overcrowding. The restriction is remaining in place throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The rule also prohibits splitting large groups into smaller groups. Mount was warned about the size limit. He originally stated that he was taking only a group of 12 hikers.

However, investigators say that Mount began organizing the one-trip, even recruiting prospective hikers, posting an itinerary. He also ended up listing those who sign up for the trip. Mount ended up collecting thousands of dollars in registration fees for the hike. This was to cover guide services, transportation, and other costs. He charged each hiker $95.

The Hiking Group Organizer Was Warning About Group Sizing at the Grand Canyon Numerous Times

Also, prior to the trip, Mount was receiving warnings from the park, when National Park Service Ranger, Timothy Hopp, gained access to the Facebook group of the hikers discussing the trip. Hopps claims he had reminded Mount of the group size “approximately a dozen times.” 

Hopp also told Mount that the groups over 30 were strictly banned from hiking rim-to-rim before the pandemic. Mount again denied to Hopp that he was organizing the 100-plus group and insisted that he was only planning a trip for a small group. Which would consist of family friends and rugby players. 

Mount also posted on the Facebook group stated about his talk with Hopp. He also said that he had “a target on [his] back” and he was stepping down as the hiking group’s leader. He did continue to encourage the group in following through with the plans. 

Mount’s attorney says his client had good intentions in trying people together. Some of the hikers were single or of the same religious father. This was a way to take a break from the isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The attorney says many of the hikers who committed to the trip were confronted by park employees about the group’s size. Meanwhile, other hikers on the trail complain about Mount’s group not practicing social distancing or wearing masks in order to prevent the spread of COVID. They also were causing clogs in paths and delaying itineraries.