Body of Canyonlands National Park Hiker Found Two Days After Being Reported Missing

by Jon D. B.

The National Park Service has announced a mysterious death at Canyonlands National Park after a body was found near a trailhead.

According to NPS, The “male subject,” a hiker, was first reported missing after “attempting a short hike” near the park’s Needles District on the evening of Sunday, July 17, 2022. Canyonlands National Park staff received word of the missing man after his party reported him “overdue.”

The hiker was reportedly attempting a short hike from Elephant Hill in the Needles District. Springing into action, a joint search and rescue team comprised of Canyonlands and Mesa Verde National Park Service staff and San Juan County personnel set out to locate the individual.

Tragically, their search became a recovery, not a rescue. “At approximately 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, July 19, a body matching the description of the individual was located near the trailhead,” NPS reports Wednesday.

After recovery, the hiker’s body would transfer to the San Juan County Medical Examiner’s Office. An investigation into the incident is currently underway via San Juan County.

No additional information on the Canyonlands fatality is available at this time. But the park does suspect the recent heat wave as a culprit, and not foul play.

Canyonlands National Park Death Likely Result of ‘Extreme Heat’

“Before hiking in the summer months, visitors are strongly encouraged to plan ahead and prepare for extreme heat,” NPS cites of the death.

To prepare, all hikers should “ensure they are drinking plenty of fluids, eating snacks, traveling in the early morning hours, resting during the heat of the day, and dressing appropriately for the weather.”

The following National Park guides offer in-depth information on heat safety, which is paramount in western parks where daytime summer temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees:

In addition, Canyonlands National Park’s “Preventative Search and Rescue” video does an excellent job of educating visitors on heat safety:

“During the summer, expect high temperatures, intense sunlight and low humidity,” the park cites. To beat extreme heat, Canyonlands asks the following of all visitors during summer:

  • Eat plenty of food and drink at least one gallon (4 L) of water each day
  • Carry and drink water while you are engaged in any activity in the park, such as hiking
  • Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing and a wide-brimmed hat
  • Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin
  • Consider saving strenuous activity for early mornings or evenings

For more information on hiking safely in Canyonlands National Park, visit the park’s NPS safety page here. Stay safe out there, Outsiders.