News Release

Hiker Fatality on Tonto Trail in Grand Canyon National Park

A hiker descends down the Hermit Trail below the 'Cathedral Stairs.'
A hiker on the Hermit Trail below Cathedral Stairs

M. Quinn

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News Release Date: June 21, 2021

Contact: Joelle Baird, 928-606-3154

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. – On June 20 at approximately 1:15 p.m., the Grand Canyon Regional Communications Center received a report of a backpacker experiencing heat illness on the Tonto Trail near Monument Creek.

The backpacker, Michelle Meder, 53, of Hudson, Ohio was on a multi-day backpacking trip from the Hermit to Bright Angel Trail. Hiking down the Hermit Trail on June 19, she became disoriented and later unconscious. On June 20, responding rangers determined Meder to be deceased; the cause of death is believed to be heat-related. On June 20 the high temperature at Phantom Ranch was approximately 115°F (46°C).

Park Rangers at Grand Canyon National Park are strongly urging visitors to Grand Canyon, especially inner canyon hikers and backpackers to be prepared for excessively hot days in the coming weeks. In the summer, temperatures on exposed parts of the trail can reach over 120°F (49 °C) in the shade. Park rangers do not advise hiking in the inner canyon between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Most of the people who need emergency medical help in the canyon due to heat illness are hiking between these hours.

Hiking in extreme heat can lead to serious health risks including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, hyponatremia, and death. Be aware that efforts to assist hikers may be delayed during the summer months due to limited staff, the number of rescue calls, employee safety requirements, and limited helicopter flying capability during periods of extreme heat or inclement weather.

The National Park Service (NPS) encourages hikers to recreate responsibly. Grand Canyon trails do not close due to inclement or hot weather. There are ways to safely hike below the rim, for those who are prepared, well-acclimated to the climate and elevation, have the appropriate gear, and who have prior experience hiking in steep, desert terrain. Visitors should evaluate their level of experience and plan accordingly. For more information on hiking in the summer months in Grand Canyon, visit: Hiking Tips - Hike Smart - Grand Canyon National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (

An investigation into the incident is being conducted by the NPS in coordination with the Coconino County Medical Examiner. No additional information is available at this time. 

Last updated: December 14, 2021

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