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The 3 Most DANGEROUS National Parks in California ❌ ☠️

National Parks are meant to be a place of beauty and serenity, but they can also pose a risk to safety. 

We’ll be revealing the 3 most dangerous national parks in California in order of deaths per million visitors (so the last one on this list is the most dangerous in terms of deaths.)

We’ll also cover the potential dangers so you know exactly what to look out for, and the highest cause of death will also be revealed for each park.

You’ll be shocked at what the leading causes of death are! 🤯

We’ve used a mixture of data from this article and this article while focusing ONLY on national parks in California. 

3. Death Valley National Park

death valley national park
Death Valley National Park

Coming in as the 3rd most dangerous national park in California, Death Valley is known for being the hottest place on Earth.

But you might be surprised at what the biggest cause of death is.

Before we get to the numbers, let’s cover some of the potential dangers in this national park.

Potential Dangers

Extreme Heat: Dehydration and heat-related illnesses are common due to high temperatures​​.

Single-Car Accidents: Often due to excessive speed or not following road safety rules​​ these can be fatal.

Dangerous Animals: Rattlesnakes, scorpions, and black widow spiders are present in the park​​.

Hantavirus: Spread by rodents, this virus can be found in the park’s mice species​​.

Flash Floods: Sudden storms can cause dangerous flash floods, especially in canyons​​.

Mine Hazards: Old mines in the park can be unstable and contain hazardous gases​​.

Toxic Mine Tailings: Contain high concentrations of harmful chemicals and metals​​.

Backcountry Travel Risks: Travelers in remote areas need to be self-reliant and well-prepared​​.

Now for the figures…

Stats 📊

  • Deaths per Million Visitors: 3.4
  • Average Annual Visitors: 1,213,505
  • Total Deaths 2010-2020: 41
  • Top Cause of Death: Motor Vehicle Crash 🚗

2. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

sequoia and kings canyon national park (1)
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park

The second most dangerous national park in California is the jointly administered Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

These parks are famous for their giant sequoias and rugged wilderness, but lets see what dangers this place poses.

Potential Dangers

Falling Trees: Dead or weak trees can fall without warning, posing a risk to visitors​​ (and these are BIG trees!).

River Dangers: The parks’ rivers are powerful and cold, making drowning a very serious threat to life.

Wild Animals: Encounters with animals like bears can be dangerous​​.

Falls: This place is super popular for climbers and hikers so falls can happen, leading to steep (and sometimes fatal) drops.

Poison Oak and Insects: Can cause illness and disease​​.

High-Elevation Hiking: Comes with its own set of risks, including altitude sickness​​.

Motor vehicle accidents: A significant risk in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park due to winding mountain roads and varying weather conditions.

Now for the figures…

Stats 📊

  • Deaths per Million Visitors: 4.4
  • Average Annual Visitors: 1,710,912
  • Total Deaths 2010-2020: 75
  • Top Cause of Death: Falls ☠️

1. Redwood National Park

redwood national park california
Redwood National Park, California

Coming in 1st place for the title of most dangerous park in California is Redwood National Park, known for its majestic redwood trees and diverse ecosystems.

Let’s find out what you need to look out for while you explore the magnificent redwood trees of California.

Potential Dangers

Sneaker Waves and Tides: Powerful, unpredictable waves and tides can trap visitors or sweep them out to sea​​.

Tsunami Risk: As the most tsunami-prone area in the continental U.S., visitors should be prepared to move to higher ground during an earthquake​​.

Roosevelt Elk: Can be aggressive during calving season and rut, posing a danger to visitors​​.

Black Bears: Encounters with bears can be dangerous, especially if they become accustomed to human food​​.

Motor vehicle accident: The narrow and winding Howland Hill Road presents a specific danger, highlighting the risk of motor vehicle accidents within the park’s lush forests and scenic routes.

Mountain Lions: While sightings are rare, these animals can pose a threat to hikers and campers​​.

Poison Oak: Contact with poison oak can cause severe skin rashes​​.

Tick Safety: Ticks in the park can transmit diseases like Lyme disease​​.

So which one of these takes the top spot for danger?

Stats 📊

  • Deaths per Million Visitors: 4.7
  • Average Annual Visitors: 446,973
  • Total Deaths 2010-2020: 21
  • Top Cause of Death: Motor Vehicle Crash 🚗

So there you have it folks!

Out of the three most dangerous national parks in California, motor vehicles are the biggest cause of death for 2 out of 3 of the parks!

Pesky humans and their cars.

So the moral of the story?



Megan Jones is a travel expert and founder of Traveller's Elixir, who has been travelling the world full time since 2021. Megan's travel tips been featured in numerous media outlets including Metro, Timeout, Thrillist and more.

Learn more about the Traveller's Elixir Team.

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