Extreme Heat in the Grand Canyon

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Thermostat on the Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon

Thermostat on the Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon

Plan on going for a hike while visiting Grand Canyon National Park? Then make sure to be careful. Rangers rescue overeager hikers every year from inside the canyon, and sometimes the hikers never make it out alive. Extreme heat, lack of shade and limited water sources can turn into the perfect storm making a quick day hike into a life-threatening nightmare.

Heat Stroke Can Be Deadly

The National Park Service has erected countless signs along the canyon rim showing a fit male with the description, 'every year we rescue hundreds of hikers who look like this.' The signs are to warn hikers that no matter how good of shape they're in, extreme heat can lead to heatstroke and possibly death.

Recognizing Heat Stroke

Heat stroke can overcome a hiker quickly. Suddenly hikers struggle to move forward and make strong decisions. Early warning signs of heat stroke are typically loss of appetite, thirst and feeling fatigued. As the symptoms worsen headaches, fainting and vomiting can ensue. When starting to feel the symptoms of heat stroke it is important to drink fluids and eat a small amount of food. Also stop to rest and try to find some shade.

Tips to Avoid Heat Stroke

Heat warning sign at Horseshoe Bend near the Grand Canyon. Photo by Dave Krause

Heat warning sign at Horseshoe Bend near the Grand Canyon. 

First and foremost the most important way to prevent heat stroke is to set realistic goals and make sure to stick to them. Don't plan on hiking from the rim of the canyon to the river and back in one day. Instead plan on leaving early and picking a turnaround point where water is available.

Always make sure to carry more water than you think you need and have some salty snacks since you'll be sweating a lot. Covering up is also important since exposed skin can be a major cause.

Finally don't forget to let someone know your plans. If you don't come back on time they can alert rangers who can start a search and rescue effort.


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