Hiker dies in Joshua Tree National Park as heat wave bakes Southern California

A Joshua tree, from which Joshua Tree National Park takes its name. A woman died this weekend while hiking in the park.
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

The death of a 56-year-old woman who was hiking in Joshua Tree National Park this weekend has prompted officials to warn visitors about the dangers of heat exposure as temperatures soar across Southern California.

The woman’s death is still under investigation by the Riverside County coroner’s office, but park spokeswoman Jennie Albrinck said the hiker showed signs of heat-related stress before she went unconscious.

Her name has not been released.

The woman was hiking with her family on Saturday in the Cottonwood area of the park, where temperatures hovered around 100 degrees, Albrinck said.


The family started about 10 a.m. on the Mastodon Peak Trail but missed a sign and unknowingly ventured toward Lost Palms Oasis. The group eventually reversed course.

On the hike back toward the intended trail, the woman lost consciousness after showing symptoms associated with heat exposure. The group remained behind while her husband rushed ahead to get emergency help, Albrinck said.

The park ranger responded about 2:30 p.m. and said the woman lacked a pulse and was not breathing. She was taken to an ambulance, where paramedics declared her dead.

Across Los Angeles and Ventura counties, the National Weather Service has issued heat advisories and red-flag fire warnings because of the dangerous mixture of gusty winds, dry conditions and persistent heat.

On Tuesday, temperatures in the San Fernando Valley will reach the high 90s; downtown Los Angeles and nearby neighborhoods will reach the high 80s to the low 90s; and coastal areas from Oxnard to Hermosa Beach will see temperatures reach the mid-70s.

The National Weather Service has forecast the Joshua Tree area to see temperatures above 100 degrees through Wednesday, with the heat dropping to the high 90s for the remainder of the week.

Officials at Joshua Tree, a 1,250-square-mile park that covers parts of the Mojave and Colorado deserts, urged visitors to use caution when planning hikes. In 2011, two European tourists were found dead after hiking on a day that saw highs of up to 105 degrees.

“All hikers in Joshua Tree National Park and the surrounding desert areas are strongly encouraged to take adequate water and food on any hikes, and avoid hiking in the middle of the day when it is the hottest,” Albrinck said in a statement.

Twitter: @MattHjourno


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