Hikers survive 24-hour ordeal in Zion National Park; helicopter rescue successful

ST. GEORGE — Two out-of-state hikers marooned in freezing temperatures for more than 24 hours were rescued from a remote part of Zion National Park via helicopter Saturday.

Left Fork of North Creek (Subway) in Zion National Park | Photo by Brian Moe / National Park Service, St. George News

The Utah Department of Public Safety and the National Park Service coordinated the rescue.

Sgt. Cameron Roden with the Utah Department of Public Safety told St. George News that the hikers were 26-year-old males from New York and Nevada.

The men had set out to hike the Subway route in Zion National Park from the top down on Friday, Jan. 20, but they didn’t return as planned. When park personnel received a report the men were overdue returning, they sent rangers and a rescue team up Kolob Terrace Road and prepared a landing zone for a helicopter from the Utah Department of Public Safety.

The helicopter crew used Forward Looking Infrared to locate the hikers. Then they lowered a rescue specialist, who assisted the hikers into the hovering helicopter using a hoist.

The Narrows is one of the most popular destinations in Zion National Park, which attracts millions of visitors annually, Zion National Park, Utah, Aug. 13, 2010 | Photo courtesy of the National Park Service, St. George News

The hikers were flown to a waiting National Park Service medical team for care. One hiker was dangerously hypothermic and transported to a hospital. According to a news release from the Utah Department of Public Safety, the hiker is now reported in stable condition. 

“This rescue could not have happened as quickly as it did without the support of the Utah Department of Public Safety and their St. George-based helicopter,” the news release said.

Chief Pilot Luke Bowman, Utah Department of Public Safety, said the crew trains to prepare for any situation they may face. 

“Although we cannot train for every scenario, the crew was well prepared for this mission and did an outstanding job evaluating the situation and coming up with a way to overcome the difficulties of this particular rescue,” Bowman said in a park service news release. “We appreciate working with the Rangers at Zion and their professionalism. They always do an excellent job thinking of contingency plans and providing great support to the crew during the missions.”

Zion Chief Park Ranger Daniel Fagergren said they appreciate their partnership with the Utah Department of Public Safety. 

“Their execution of this rescue was outstanding,” Fagergren said in the NPS news release. “Helicopters are not always available, and even when they are, conditions don’t always allow them to fly. Winter conditions create an extremely challenging rescue environment. Currently, many of our canyons drop to subzero temperatures at night, streams and pools are iced over and deep snow covers the trails at higher elevations.”

Fagergren cautions visitors to prepare for harsh conditions in the winter. He said visitors need to plan as conditions at Zion National Park can change quickly.

“It is essential that you prepare before you visit the park. Use the free resources provided by the National Park Service on our park website and the NPS App so that you know before you go,” Fagergren said. “When you get to the park, ask a ranger what to expect, and do not take risks that will endanger you or potential rescuers.”

A spokesman for Zion National Park, Jonathan Shafer, said the hikers were assessed by National Park Service emergency medical service providers after the Utah Department of Public Safety flew them out of the Subway Route.

“This incident shows how essential it is to know before you go. Winter can be an especially hazardous time to recreate in remote areas, and we’re thankful the Utah Department of Public Safety was able to send their staff and a helicopter to extract these hikers quickly,” Shafer said.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.

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