The One National Park You May Want To Avoid Visiting In The Summer For Your Own Safety

Although it's surrounded by snow-covered cliffs, Death Valley National Park in eastern California (and stretching into Nevada) is famous all around the world not only for being the lowest place in North America but especially for its blistering heat. In the summer, in the lowest parts of Death Valley National Park, that heat becomes extremely dangerous, even deadly. Despite the obvious risks, tourists continue visiting this destination even in the heat of August. As enticing as the desire to experience such a unique landscape at its most extreme may be, you may want to reconsider.


Many people who travel to Death Valley in summer go to challenge themselves to a notoriously grueling experience, but with temperatures that can soar up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit, it might not be worth the risk just to be able to say that you accomplished it. After all, hikers have been killed by this harsh environment.

People have died in Death Valley National Park from the heat

Death Valley National Park has been ranked among the world's most dangerous parks, so it probably comes as no surprise that there have been fatalities there. On a Reddit post asking about the experience of hiking Death Valley in July, one user replied: "I've hiked Death Valley in July — Telescope Peak. Seriously, it's a bad idea. Several people die every year ... I'm a dispatcher and my wife is a Search & Rescue member. Not a month goes by that a rescue or a recovery happens ... Don't underestimate radiant heat. I've measured my clothing at 200+F and have had my boot bottoms melt."


There are far more fatalities at Death Valley than in most national parks, and the heat is a big part of that. Data from the National Parks Service, compiled by the law firm Panish Shea Ravipudi LLP, reveals that between 2007 and 2024, 62 people died in the park, some while attempting to hike in Death Valley in the summer. In July of 2023, one hiker collapsed in temperatures of 121 degrees Fahrenheit, and horrifically, that temperature also prevented the helicopter that might have saved his life from being able to be used. In June of 2022, park rangers discovered a vehicle in the park with a message inside that read, "Out of gas." Tragically, the car's owner was found less than 3 miles away. Temperatures in the park were as high as 123 degrees Fahrenheit.


Surviving Death Valley National Park

Considering how dangerous Death Valley National Park can be in the summer because of the high temperatures, scheduling your trip for another season is probably the most prudent solution. If you absolutely cannot, at least make sure never to descend to the valley floor in summer. Even if you're staying on higher ground, however, the National Park Service has some advice for how to survive the valley.


The most vital thing you should do is stay active and make sure you drink a gallon of water every day, but plan for more if you're hiking. Help yourself to some salty snacks or an electrolyte drink, too. And no matter how much water you're drinking, you should make sure to keep an eye out for signs of heat stroke. If you start feeling sick, it's time to get out of the sun and preferably into your air-conditioned car. Even if you're not planning to go far from your car, you need to be prepared for emergencies since a breakdown in the park can be deadly.