Considering that this is a fee free weekend in all national parks in the U.S., I would imagine that many people will be heading out to to take advantage of the Park Services’ generosity. No doubt many will be headed to the Grand Canyon, which is the second most visited park in the country, but as this article from the AP points out, it can be a very dangerous place for the unprepared.
According to the story, rangers at the Grand Canyon perform more rescues every year than any other park, including 300 helicopter evacuations a year. Many more are treated for exhaustion and dehydration, mostly because they come unprepared for the challenges of hiking in the dry, hot, canyon that is a difficult trek for anyone. Many suffer more serious injuries, such as broken bones and heart attacks.
The overwhelming majority of visitors, as much as 90% according to the NPS, begin their day at the South Rim. Many of them are caught off guard by the fact that the temperature at the canyon floor is actually 20 degrees warmer than it is at the rim, where they start the day. This unexpectedly intense heat, mixed with the exertion of the climb back out of the canyon, is what causes many of the problems for unprepared hikers.
So, if your weekend plans include a visit to the Grand Canyon, take plenty of water, go slow, and take time to enjoy the scenery. After all, you wouldn’t want to be one of those 300 people who need to catch a ride on a helicopter.