Utah is home to five national parks, the third-most of any state in the country, and 43 state parks scattered across its territory, which together account for hundreds of square miles of wilderness area. These public parks attract millions of visitors every year, not all of whom act in a lawful and respectful manner. Enter Utah park rangers, whose duty it is to ensure a positive interaction between park visitors and the state’s natural treasures.
US citizens can start along the path to becoming a park ranger in Utah four years in advance by obtaining a college education. Candidates must also have an excellent work ethic, an upstanding personal character with no serious criminal convictions, and enjoy working with the public.
Park Ranger Positions with the Utah Division of State Parks and Recreation
Education – Holding a bachelor’s degree is a base requirement for state positions. Having a relevant degree is also a way to qualify for federal park ranger jobs with the national parks located in Utah.
Relevant areas of study include:
- Law Enforcement
- Political Science
- Crime Scene Investigation
- Criminal Justice
Online Application – Vacancies for park ranger jobs are posted on the state’s employment website. Prospective applicants will need to monitor this site and can apply through the job announcement when it is made available. Applications will be screened to ensure they meet the minimum requirements, especially in the area of education.
- Strayer University - Bachelors of Science Degree in Criminal Justice
- Michigan State University - Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice
- Saint Joseph's University - Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice
- Penn Foster - Online Wildlife and Forestry Conservation Career Diploma
Candidates who make it through the initial screening will be invited to move on with the rest of the application process, which includes:
- Personal history and background investigation
- Psychological evaluation profile test
- Drug screening and medical exam
- Polygraph test
Park Ranger Training – Before being admitted to their training academy, new park rangers will need to complete a Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) Entrance Exam and a physical assessment test that covers:
- Cardiovascular endurance
Park rangers are trained as law enforcement officers in addition to the instruction tailored to their wildlife specializations. This takes place at the Utah POST Academy for park rangers and covers:
- Foot, OHV, watercraft, and vehicle patrol
- Trail management
- Arrest and restraint techniques
- Suspect questioning
- Wildland firefighting
- Hunting, fishing, and endangered species regulations
- Performing necropsy examinations
- Animal rescue
Federal Park Ranger Positions with the National Parks Service
The federal park ranger job class is completely separate from state-level positions. These park rangers are employed by the federal National Parks Service and are in charge of managing Utah’s five national parks:
- Arches National Park
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Canyonlands National Park
- Capitol Reef National Park
- Zion National Park
There are several different classifications of federal park rangers, with entry-level requirements including either of the following:
- GL-05 level:
- Bachelor degree in a relevant subject
- A year of specialized work experience in a park ranger-related subject
- A combination of experience and education
- GL-07 level:
- One year of graduate-level study in a relevant subject
- One year of high-level specialized work experience in a relevant field
- A combination of equivalent education and experience
Park rangers with a job description that includes an emphasis on law enforcement may also be required to complete a Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program (SLETP).
Applications for federal park ranger positions must be submitted online through job announcements posted on the main federal employment website.
All in a Day’s Work for Utah’s Park Rangers
Candidates interested in becoming Utah park rangers will wonder what a typical day is like in the life of a ranger. The simple answer is that there are no typical days, although two recent events help to demonstrate the range of possibilities. Park rangers put their lives on the line every day to ensure the safety of tourists. Indeed one recent rare case involved a ranger who was shot nine times at the Poison Spider Mesa trailhead near Moab. He would go on to make a full recovery and eagerly return to work.
In another incident, a man was recently booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility following a crime that occurred in the Washington County portion of Zion National Park. Park rangers noticed a parked car on the side of Kolob Terrace Road and upon further investigation saw what looked to be marijuana inside the vehicle, which was also emitting a strong smell of burnt cannabis. When rangers located the vehicle’s owner a few hours later he turned over several bags of marijuana, hashish, and additional drug paraphernalia.
In another recent case, a park ranger happened to be in the right place at the right time to rescue a man who had fallen through the ice on the Great Salt Lake. The man had been hunting and went to retrieve a felled duck near Antelope Island but had fallen through the ice with his dog. The ranger was able to roll out onto the ice far enough to throw a flotation device to the hunter, who made his way back to solid ground.
Utah Park Ranger Salaries
According to the Utah Department of Human Resource Management, the average beginning park ranger salary in Utah is $26,180. Under the general management of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, it is Utah State Parks which employs park rangers and manages the state’s 43 parks. Some of these parks include This Is The Place Heritage Park and Great Salt Lake State Park, both in Salt Lake City, as well as Utah Lake State Park in Provo.
The list below demonstrates how park rangers in Utah are paid:
Park Ranger I
- Minimum: $26,894
- Maximum: $42,640
Park Ranger II
- Minimum: $29,993
- Maximum: $47,528
Deputy Park Ranger
- Minimum: $21,652
- Maximum: $34,320
In the tables below is more salary information regarding other professional titles among park rangers in Utah:
Recreation Workers Salaries in Utah
Tour Guides and Escorts Salaries in Utah
Recreational Protective Service Workers Salaries in Utah
Arches National Park
As one of America’s most popular and memorable places, Arches National Park is visited by about one million people every year. Tourists come from across the world to experience the park’s remarkable features, wildlife, and fauna in an unforgettable experience. Park rangers under the employ of the National Parks Service fulfill important roles in the park that include:
- Maintaining law and order
- Ensuring visitors are safe
- Performing emergency first aid and rescue operations
- Leading guided hikes and talks
Protecting Visitors and Natural Landmarks at Arches National Park
Arches National Park would not be the safe and enjoyable place it is today without the commitment of park rangers. As the backbone of Arches, rangers do everything from rescue operations to collecting visitor fees.
One recent rescue involved a park ranger who happened to be in the right place at the right time. Not known for their farsightedness, 14-year-old boys can be apt to get into trouble. This is exactly what happened when one decided to run down a 45-degree embankment strewn with jagged rocks before falling and cutting his head open. Luckily a nearby park ranger was alerted and arrived on the scene after several minutes. She administered first aid to the boy and radioed for a medical evacuation to the area, which was out of cell-phone range. Thirty-five minutes later the boy was in an ambulance and stabilized thanks to the ranger’s efforts.
Park rangers also enforce the law and provide assistance to other law enforcement departments as needed. Two recent cases of this include:
- A park ranger who tracked a man who was armed with an assault rifle through the back country of Arches, alerting the highway patrol to the man’s whereabouts.
- Five park rangers who were placed on alert by police about a deranged truck driver heading towards Arches. The driver was driving on the rims of his wheels and had alerted authorities with his radio that he would not stop. Rangers evacuated the area he was heading towards and prepared for his arrival.
Park rangers also lead hikes and interpretive programs for visitors. These include:
- Fiery Furnace tour-hike
- Evening presentations at Devils Garden Campground Amphitheater on a variety of topics
- Providing information at the Arches Visitor Center
- History presentations about the park’s 10,000-year relationship with human
- Naturalist lessons on the park’s geology, wildlife and plants
Bryce Canyon National Park
Park rangers in Bryce Canyon National Park lead rescue operations, track poachers, and ensure visitors have an experience they’ll remember for a lifetime. Employed by the National Parks Service, these qualified professionals are trained to respond to the unique challenges that arise within the 35,835-acre park.
Rangers specialize in several areas including law enforcement, rescue, and interpretive presentations to ensure tourists are both safe and have an enjoyable experience in the park, which sees an average of nearly 1.3 million people a year. Bryce Canyon’s park rangers work in an environment that receives less than 10 inches of rain per year, is more than one-mile high, and offers some of the cleanest air in the country with more than 200 miles of visibility.
To become a park ranger in Bryce Canyon National Park, applicants will need to stand out from their competition. Going above and beyond the minimum park ranger requirements for employment is one way of doing this.
Job Duties of a Park Ranger at Bryce Canyon
The many duties of a park ranger in Bryce Canyon National Park combine to create an altogether enjoyable and safe experience for visitors.
Recently, park rangers led an emergency services training that included police departments, fire stations, and emergency medical services throughout Garfield County. The training focused on the incident command system. Personnel found an ideal training environment in the national park, especially for a search-and-rescue scenario.
This training would be put to the test in two incidents that occurred in the months following, the first involving the helicopter rescue of an injured hiker. Park rangers coordinated the rescue which is a rare event in the park because of its inaccessibility.
Later park rangers would be dispatched on a search and rescue mission after the friends of a woman who went on a small day hike alone noticed she had not returned by the following morning. Rangers located the exhausted backpacker by the second night and found that she had written notes for her loved ones because she did not expect to survive. Needless to say, she was very glad to see the rangers when they arrived.
Many times park ranger duties in Bryce Canyon are fun for both the rangers and visitors. Visitors can enjoy a number of programs led by rangers including:
- Full-moon hikes: flashlights are prohibited during these nighttime adventures. “Dark” rangers lead daring hikers a few miles across the moonlit national park.
- Dark rangers also put on astronomy tours complete with a multimedia show followed by telescope gazing at Bryce Canyon’s exceptionally dark skies.
- Hikes, including snowshoe hikes in the winter, are a staple activity led by rangers at locations across the park. These can be moderately strenuous and include a running commentary about Bryce Canyon’s ecology and geology.
- Rim tours are one of the favorite hikes led by rangers along the top of Bryce Amphitheater. Rangers mention a sprinkling of everything including anthropological history, cultural history, plant variety, and wildlife stories.
- Focusing specifically on the park’s unique and stunning geological features, rangers also offer tourists a regular half-hour presentation on geology.
- Rangers additionally lead a number of children and teen programs on a variety of interesting topics.
Deer Creek State Park
Tucked between Mount Timpanogos and the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Deer Creek State Park is less than half an hour’s drive from Provo and an hour from Salt Lake City. Primarily an attraction because of its location along the southeastern bank of the Deer Creek Reservoir, visitors also enjoy camping and other wilderness activities here.
Those partaking in maritime activities will do so on the pristine reservoir that serves as a source of drinking water to Salt Lake, Orem, Provo, and Lehi. The Utah Division of State Parks tasks its park rangers with ensuring operations at the campground and reservoir run without a hitch, while also making sure that visitors stay safe.
The duties of park rangers at Deer Creek State Park include:
- Managing park operations:
- Campsites and fees
- Deer Creek Island Resort
- Boat rentals and storage
- Activity and picnic areas
- Ensuring park rules and regulations are followed, as well as state laws
- Boating laws
- Campfire and barbeque rules
- Fishing regulations
- Conducting rescue and emergency operations on land or water
Park Ranger Job Responsibilities at Deer Creek State Park
Rescue – Paramount above all else a park ranger does at Deer Creek is the promotion of safety, especially on the reservoir. Some of the most difficult duties a park ranger encounters at Deer Creek are those related to rescues and drownings. That is why rangers place an emphasis on preventing this kind of tragedy, which does periodically occur at the reservoir for a variety of reasons:
- Boaters not wearing a life jacket
- Alcohol or drug intoxication
- Maritime vessel accidents
- Unsupervised children
- Hypothermia or under-estimation of water temperature
Park rangers tend to be most active in water rescues in spring when the reservoir temperatures are cold and the water can be moving fast due to spring runoff, and at high-use times in the summer. Cold temperatures were exactly what necessitated the rescue of a man who recently fell overboard a boat into the reservoir’s early April waters, which were just 40 degrees, despite the warm sunny day.
One Deer Creek ranger was recently presented with the National Boating Officer of the Year award for her part in rescuing 20 people from drowning at the reservoir over the course of her career.
Deer Creek’s hiking areas become prime winter sport trails after a good snow. Park rangers made a recent winter rescue near the Strawberry River Trailhead of a boy who accidentally drove his snow-machine into a tree. They were able to provide first aid to the young outdoorsman until a helicopter medevaced him to a hospital.
Interpretive Activities – Park rangers also put on informative and entertaining presentations for the visitors to Deer Creek State Park. These include:
- Presentations on how to clean a fish at the park’s fish cleaning station
- Rules and the proper way to wear a life jacket
- Boating safety tips
- Campfire safety and regulations
- Presentations on the park’s history and wildlife
- Activities for young children and their parents
Park rangers are also involved in putting on Wild West Days activities that happen over Memorial Day weekend. Participants are treated to a 45-minute train ride complete with cowboys and train bandits. Rangers also supervise a petting zoo, a mountain man exhibit and an actual teepee.
Snow Canyon State Park
About 10 miles north of Saint George, Snow Canyon State Park is one of the most popular locations of its kind in the state. Throughout this 7,400-acre area that includes petrified sand dunes, lava flows, and cinder cones, park rangers ensure the smooth operation of the park while also making presentations and conducting patrols – along with the occasional search and rescue operation. Rangers also play a key role in park activities, which can include any of the following:
- Hiking tours
- Providing descriptive presentations about the birds, reptiles, plants, and animals in Snow Canyon
- Informing visitors about trails that are wheelchair-accessible or for horses, bikes, and hikers
- Junior ranger programs
The Utah Division of State Parks and Recreation ensures that only the best park rangers are chosen for employment in Snow Canyon by setting in place strict hiring and training requirements. Candidates who would like to become a park ranger in Snow Canyon State Park are advised to begin their preparations early, starting with an appropriate park ranger degree.
Working as a Park Ranger in Snow Canyon State Park
Once park rangers have made it through the hiring and training processes they can arrive with a sense of pride to their first day of work in Snow Canyon. By now, new rangers will be familiar with all the key details of the park:
- Elevation that ranges between 3,150 to 5,023 feet
- 38 miles of hiking trails
- 15 miles of horse riding trails
- Three-mile multipurpose-use paved trail
- Lava flows
- Sand dunes
- Access roads and points of rescue
Park rangers made headlines in the recent dramatic rescue of a lost jogger in Snow Canyon. It all started when a woman phoned authorities to notify them that her boyfriend had not returned after going for a jog in the park, and as it would happen, her boyfriend would also called 911 to alert them he was lost and without water. Park rangers were immediately notified and began a search that would last three days. Eventually the lost man was found by a search and rescue team, who then had to determine the best way to transport him to a waiting rescue helicopter that was balancing on a narrow spire.
Thanks to calculated thinking and extensive training, rangers were able to carry out this rescue mission successfully. However, no matter how many safety tips and warnings rangers give to visitors, deaths in the park have been known to occur. As difficult a task as this may be, park rangers in Snow Canyon must be prepared to deal with everything – including fatal accidents.
Park rangers also lead fun and interactive activities for visitors to Snow Canyon. This includes leading hikes, making park presentations, and organizing holiday celebrations.
Zion National Park
Zion National Park is home to dozens of amazing natural features, all contained within its 229 square miles. It lies over the convergence of three major geo-climatic zones: the Mojave Desert, the Colorado Plateau, and the Great Basin. In many ways it is a national park of dramatic contrasts:
- Mountains and valleys
- Forest and desert
- Birds and bats
- Rivers and scrubland
- Buttes, arches, and canyons
- Hot summers and freezing winters
Park rangers have the privilege of going to work every day in this natural splendor, which attracts an average of 2.8 million tourists to the area every year. The responsibility of ensuring the safety of visitors and the protection of the park’s natural beauty falls to the National Parks Service, which employs park rangers to do just that.
Prospective applicants for these positions can prepare for success by learning about the requirements for employment as a park ranger at the federal level.
All in a Day’s Work at Zion National Park
Each new day can bring untold experiences for a park ranger at Zion. There is no such thing as a typical shift in this line of work, as demonstrated by recent events.
Because of the sheer magnitude of park visitors, rangers are statistically likely to come into contact with a few bad apples. This has recently included:
- The arrest of a man on drug charges. Rangers became suspicious about an unoccupied vehicle parked alongside the road and upon looking through its open window saw what was later confirmed to be cannabis.
- The arrest of four park concession employees after rangers conducted an investigation into their suspicious activity. Park rangers ultimately discovered methamphetamine, LSD, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia.
Park rangers prefer rescue missions to making arrests. One recent success was the rescue of a man who fell 100 feet down Behunin Canyon and was rescued by park rangers around midnight. Because of the canyon’s remote location and inaccessibility, it took rangers about nine hours to hike to the man’s location, where they were able to administer emergency first aid and prepare him for an air evacuation by military personnel from the nearby Nellis Air Force Base.
Besides conducting law enforcement and rescue operations, Zion park rangers also get the chance to have fun alongside visitors while they lead a variety of programs. These include:
- Nature center youth programs – 30 to 45-minute presentations for kids and their parents about the natural wonders Zion National Park has to offer.
- Guided shuttle tours – seniors, the disabled, and exhausted hikers alike can enjoy a motor tour through Zion lasting approximately 90 minutes. Park rangers take eager visitors through the area’s breathtaking roadways, all the while providing a commentary about the local history, wildlife, and plants.
- Rangers also offer walks, talks, and other drop-in programs that cover specific areas of the park and include the most interesting local facts about the unforgettable natural environment and geology.