News Release

Washington man pleads guilty to guiding illegal rim-to-rim hike in Grand Canyon National Park

Many visitors gather around the Phantom Ranch canteen at the bottom of Grand Canyon
A large group of visitors gather outside of the Phantom Ranch Canteen at the bottom of Grand Canyon

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News Release Date: March 31, 2022

Contact: Grand Canyon Office of Communications

Following an investigation by Rangers of the National Park Service (NPS), on Friday, March 25, a man pled guilty for violation of the group size limitation on a rim-to-rim hike within Grand Canyon National Park. Joseph Don Mount was ordered to serve two years of supervised probation and is banned from all national parks, national monuments, and federal lands within the state of Arizona.

Court documents show that on October 24, 2020, the NPS investigated an allegation that Mount organized a 139-person rim-to-rim hiking group through the inner canyon without a permit. The inner canyon is defined as the area below the Tonto Platform from the South Rim and below Manzanita Resthouse from the North Rim. Prior to his trip, Mount was made aware that his group required a permit. The case was prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona. 

Since 2014, any organized group of 12-30 participants, or any non-profit group conducting rim-to-rim, rim-to-rim-to-rim, rim-to-river-to-rim, and/or extended day hikes in the inner canyon must obtain a Special Use Permit from the park's Commercial Services Division. Grand Canyon National Park implemented this regulation due to increased day use on inner canyon trails that has resulted in increased user conflicts.

Other issues related to inner-canyon use by large groups include: abandoning or caching gear on the trails; increased litter, including human waste; crowding at restrooms and attraction sites; an overburdened waste water treatment plant; vehicle congestion and crowding at trailheads; and general concerns over trail courtesy with other visitors.

Park rangers are also seeing an increase in unprepared and injured rim-to-rim participants resulting in additional search and rescue responses, which then results in an overall delay of all search and rescue operations. In 2021, Grand Canyon National Park Rangers responded to a total of 411 search and rescue incidents which broke a 20-year record for the park. 

Park rangers encourage all visitors who are planning a hike in Grand Canyon National Park to learn more about Trail Courtesy Practices That Leave No Trace  and How to Hike Smart. 

Last updated: March 31, 2022

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