65-year-old hiker dies on popular Grand Canyon trail trying to complete hike


A man died after failing to return from a hike on Bright Angel Trail, the most popular hiking trail at Grand Canyon National Park

James Handschy used his personal locator beacon to alert the Grand Canyon Communications Center of an emergency around 1:30 p.m. Thursday, after attempting to hike from the South Rim to the river and back, the agency reported. 

National Park Service Rangers were able to trace the 65-year-old’s location to Bright Angel Trail, which is 1 ½ miles north of Havasupai Gardens.

One rescuer made their way to Handschy from Havasupai Gardens after reports came in that he was unresponsive. 

Additional search and rescue personnel were dispatched via helicopter. Handschy was declared dead by responding NPS rangers. 

A joint investigation into Handschy’s death will be conducted by the National Park Service and the Coconino County Medical Examiner, the agency stated. 

Here’s what you should know before you venture out alone on a hike.

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How many fatalities has Grand Canyon National Park reported in 2023? 

Handschy’s death was one of 10 other deaths that have occurred at the park this year, the Associated Press reported. 

Grand Canyon National Park, which draws millions of tourists from all over the world averages between 10 and 20 deaths annually, a park spokesperson shared with AP. 

Bright Angel Trail, like all trails leading into the canyon, is considered steep and difficult, according to the NPS. 

Despite the fact that the trail is well-maintained, making it easy to walk, hikers should note that the return hike back up and out of the canyon is far more difficult and requires much more effort. 

It will take twice as much time to get back up as it took to get down. 

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What’s the best way to prepare for a hike? 

With a number of deaths reported at the Canyon and elsewhere over the last couple of months, its important to hike smart. 

That includes checking Key Hiking Messages for trip planning and current weather, including trail information and closures before you head out on your hike. 

Here are some tips, courtesy of the National Park Service: 

  • Make a Plan – Once you have researched your trip and are confident in what to expect on the trail, communicate your plan to someone who will notice if you are overdue and report it to 911.
  • Check the Weather 
  • Pack Properly – Before your hike, it is critical to determine your needs for fluids and for snacks high in calories and salts. Consuming twice as many calories as during normal exercise is realistic for summer canyon hikes. The hike out of the canyon will likely take twice as long as the hike down. Wearing sun hats and cool, wet clothing will help regulate your core body temperature during warmer hikes.
  • Energy Balance – Your body needs energy-balancing: proper nutrition and hydration are critical to your hiking success

Going for a day hike? How to prepare, what to bring

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