Traveling To a National Park this Summer? Prepare For High Temperatures!

Searing heat that has settled over the Southwest has National Park Service officials urging visitors to prepare for the high heat and know their limitations

Summer inspires us all to go outside and explore the great outdoors. High temperatures and the risk of heat illness can happen in any national park environment whether it’s an urban, historical, mountainous, or desert park. Be prepared for high temperatures and the increased risk of heat-related illnesses while recreating.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s one thing that many Americans (and Canadians) can affirm right now: It’s freaking hot. In case you still had any doubts, the hottest place on Earth is as hot as it’s ever been—at least in terms of recorded temperatures in modern times. Death Valley National Park recorded a high temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54.4 degrees Celsius) on Friday (July 9, 2021) and 129.4 degrees on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service. When dawn broke Sunday, the low temperature was a sweltering 107.6 degrees Fahrenheit (42 degrees Celsius). By the late afternoon, the mercury has swelled to a blazing 128.6 degrees. The combination of the two produced the highest daily average temperature ever recorded on the Planet: 118 degrees.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Those temperatures come as Death Valley and other areas in the Western United States continue to be blanketed by scorching heat. The Friday temperature matches 130 degrees recorded in August 2020. While some weather watchers point to a 134-degree measurement in Death Valley on July 10, 1913, that record has been widely disputed—with many in the meteorological community are suspicious of that mark because of temperatures recorded that day in nearby areas. But, that is still hot, brutally hot, especially for the unprepared in the park.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Expect high temperatures of 110 degrees to 120 degrees. Drink plenty of water and carry extra,” reads a warning on the park’s website. “Avoid hiking (after 10 a.m.). Travel prepared to survive. In the case of a heat related illness, get to a cool place and seek help as soon as possible.”

At Grand Canyon National Park, “an excessive heat warning” was in effect last weekend for the lower portions of the Grand Canyon with temperatures reaching 115 degrees. Elsewhere, an excessive heat warning was also posted for Zion National Park

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada, the National Park Service (NPS) encouraged visitors to recreate responsibly if they came to the park during this summer’s “record high temperatures.”

“During this time of unprecedented high temperature visitors are asked to consider rescheduling visits to when weather conditions improve. Many visitors and staff have experienced heat illness as temperatures exceed 110 degrees during the day,” park staff reported. “You can recreate responsibly by packing plenty of water and salty snacks, visiting early in the morning or late in the evening when temperatures are less extreme, and by keeping your outdoor activities short in duration.”

Lake Mead National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Mead has been under a severe heat wave since late June. High temperatures in the park are anticipated to be over 110 degrees for the next few days and over 105 degrees for the next several weeks, a park release said. Current forecasts show that lows are not expected to be below 80 degrees for the foreseeable future, it added.

Rangers have been very busy responding to multiple medical emergencies caused by the excessive heat. The call volume is extreme and unfortunately not every request for assistance can be granted, the park said, adding that, “visitors are cautioned to prepare for their visit assuming no ranger response.”

Heat related deaths and illnesses are preventable. Despite this, around 618 people in the United States are killed by extreme heat every year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heat-related illnesses happen when the body is not able to properly cool itself. While the body normally cools itself by sweating, during extreme heat, this might not be enough. In these cases, a person’s body temperature rises faster than it can cool itself down. Heat illness can lead to serious complications and cause damage to the brain and other vital organs and can lead to death if not treated quickly. Heat strokes, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, sunburns, and heat rash are all examples of heat-related illnesses.

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most heat illnesses happen from staying outdoors in the heat for too long. Drinking alcohol can increase the risk of heat illness. Older adults, the very young, and people with mental illness and chronic diseases are at highest risk. However, even young and healthy people can be affected if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather.

Check the weather before you head out. Sometimes the weather can make your activity unsafe. Remember that the mountain, trail, lake, or canyon that you are planning to hike, climb, or boat on will still be there another day when the conditions are better.

Organ Pipe National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For practical tips on staying safe in the outdoors this summer, click here.

Worth Pondering…

“‘Heat, ma’am!’ I said; ‘it was so dreadful here, that I found there was nothing left for it but to take off my flesh and sit in my bones.”

—Sydney Smith

Stay Safe this Summer by Using These Outdoor Heat Hacks

Heat Safety

High temperatures can be dangerous for humans and their pets. Make your visit to a national park, state park, or other recreation areas memorable for the right reasons!

Last year, as temperatures soared into the triple digits in Texas, staff at 39 Texas State Parks handled 132 heat-related illnesses in humans and pets. Now that summer has begun and temperatures are steadily climbing, consider these six heat hacks for staying safe in the outdoors. Then read about heat illness and care of your four-legged friend while on the trail.

Golfing in Hurricane Valley near St. George, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heat Hacks

Plan your trip with these heat hacks in mind.

Here are the top six heat hacks recommended for park visitors:

Hydrate

Drink at least 16 ounces of water every hour in the heat to replenish your body and prevent dehydration. Don’t forget to bring enough for your four-legged family members too.

Horse back riding in Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Block the Rays

Apply a generous amount of sunscreen before heading outdoors. Apply liberally and frequently and reapply every couple of hours and after swimming or sweating.

There goes my Tilley! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dress Smart

Wear light, loose-fitting, breathable clothing; a wide-brimmed hat (I prefer a Tilley), good walking shoes, sunscreen, and wet bandanas to keep you cool while in the sun. For pets, protect paws against blistering by hitting the trails during cooler times of the day when the ground isn’t hot or by putting booties on pets to help shield paws from the hot ground. Touch the pavement or ground with the back of your hand. If you cannot hold it there for five seconds, the surface is too hot for your dog’s paws.

Stay Salty

Food helps keep up energy and replace salt lost from sweating. Eating snacks such as jerky, granola, trail mix, pretzels, tuna, and dried fruit is a fantastic way to nourish your body while on the trails.

Hiking Catalina State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Buddy System

Two brains are better than one. It’s beneficial to have someone with you in hot conditions so you can look after each other on the trail. With high temperatures hitting the US and Canada, heat-related illnesses are common, and having a friend around to help recognize the early symptoms can save you from getting sick.

Hiking Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan Ahead

Study a trail map and take it with you. Average hikers move at 2 miles per hour, so allow yourself sufficient time to avoid hiking in the heat of the day. Be sure to rest in a cool or shaded area to recover from the heat if necessary. It is also a good idea to let someone know your hiking route before you hit the trails and what time you should be back. That way, if you become lost, people know where to look.

Hiking Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heat Illness

Look for these symptoms of heat illness.

Heat Strokes

  • Throbbing headache
  • No sweating
  • Red, hot, dry skin
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid, strong pulse
Hiking Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heat Exhaustion

  • Faint or dizzy
  • Excessive sweating
  • Cool, pale, clammy skin
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid, weak pulse
  • Muscle cramps

If someone shows signs of heat illness, take these steps:

  • Move person to a half-sitting position in the shade
  • Call 911 immediately
  • Treat based on humidity: If below 75 percent, spray the victim with water and vigorously fan; or above 75 percent, apply ice packs on neck, armpits, or groin
It’s a dog’s life! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heat and Dogs

Every year, dogs die after hiking with their owners in parks. Your dog will follow wherever you lead. But remember, your pet is wearing a fur coat and isn’t wearing shoes. Remember the five-second rule. Place the back of your hand on the pavement or ground. If you cannot hold it there for five seconds, the surface is too hot for your dog’s paws.

Photography in Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dog’s Hiking List

  • Leash (no more than 6 feet)
  • Collar with tags
  • Water
  • Food/treats
  • Dog booties
  • Plastic bags (for poop pickup)
  • Foot care
Staying cool in the shade along the Lower Colorado River, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For practical steps on staying cool in your RV this summer, click here.

Worth Pondering…

“‘Heat, ma’am!’ I said; ‘it was so dreadful here, that I found there was nothing left for it but to take off my flesh and sit in my bones.”

—Sydney Smith

Six Heat Hacks to Stay Safe This Summer

High temperatures can be dangerous for humans and their pets

During the summer, staying hydrated and cool is vital! Heat kills by pushing the human body beyond its limits. Most heat illnesses occur because the victim has been overexposed to heat or has overexerted his or her body for his or her age and physical condition. Anyone can experience a heat illness or even death from heat exposure especially from June to September.

The Springs at Borrego RV Resort and Golf Course in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Last summer, Texas’ temperatures soared to record highs and staff at more than 40 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWR) sites handled 134 incidents relating to heat-related illnesses in humans and pets.

The following six heat hacks are courtesy TPWD.

Hydrate: Drink 16 ounces of water for every hour in the heat

Canoeing at Myakka River State Park, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s important to drink at least 16 ounces of water every hour in the heat to replenish your body and prevent dehydration. Drink more water than usual. Avoid drinks with sugar, alcohol, and caffeine. Be sure to bring enough for your four-legged family members too.

Block the Rays: Apply liberally and frequently

Jungle Gardens on Avery Island, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Apply a generous amount of sunscreen or sunblock before heading outdoors. Be sure to reapply every couple of hours and after swimming or sweating.

Dress Smart: Wear light, loose-fitting, breathable clothing, a hat, good walking shoes, and a wet bandana

Okefenokke National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wear light, loose-fitting, breathable clothing; a wide-brimmed hat (we recommend a Tilley Hat), correct shoes, sunscreen, and wet bandanas to keep you cool while in the sun. For pets, protect paws against blistering by hitting the trails during cooler times of the day when the ground isn’t hot or by putting booties on pets to help shield paws from the hot ground. Touch the pavement or ground with the back of your hand. If you cannot hold it there for five seconds, the surface is too hot for your dog’s paws.

Stay Salty: Bring snacks like jerky, granola, trail mix, tuna, and dried fruit

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Food helps keep up energy and replace salt lost from sweating. Eating snacks such as jerky, granola, trail mix, tuna, and dried fruit is a fantastic way to nourish your body while on the trails.

Buddy System: Hike with a friend

Buccaneer State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Two brains are better than one. It’s beneficial to have someone with you in hot conditions so you can look after each other on the trail. With high temperatures hitting Texas, heat-related illnesses are common and having a friend around to help recognize the early symptoms can save you from getting sick.

Plan Ahead: Take a map and tell someone your hiking route

Fountain Hills, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Study the map and have it with you. The average hiker moves at 2 miles per hour, so allow plenty of time to avoid hiking in the heat of the day. If necessary, rest in a cool or shaded area to recover from the heat. It’s a good idea to let someone know your plan before you hit the trails and what time you should be back. That way, if you become lost, people know where to look.

Amelia Island, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.

—Yogi Berra