• Bryce Canyon Amphitheater

    Bryce Canyon

    National Park Utah

Don't Get Zapped!

2006 summer lightning at Bryce Canyon National Park
2006 summer lightning at Bryce Canyon National Park
Gary Becker

Read below about lightning, and then take the Don't Get Zapped! Quiz to see how safe you are about lightning at Bryce Canyon National Park. After taking the quiz, you can print yourself a Certificate!

Lightning is dangerous!

One day a visitor came to Bryce Canyon National Park. He was standing under a blue sky, and all of a sudden he was struck by lightning and lost his life. He didn't pay attention to a dark thunderstorm that was only a few miles away. That storm sent out an unusual horizontal lightning bolt which killed him.

National Park Service arrowhead logo

National Park Service arrowhead


A National Park Service Ranger has the record for being zapped the most by lightning. Ranger Roy "Dooms" Sullivan was struck by lightning a total of 7 times over 40 years...and lived through every single strike! However, these are what lightning did to him:

  • knocked off his big toenail
  • burned off his eyebrows
  • set his hair on fire
  • threw him out of his truck
  • burned his chest, stomach and shoulder

We are sad about these tragedies, but there is some good news. Only 3 people have been killed by lightning at Bryce Canyon in approximately 20 years -- even though our National Park has the highest lightning hazard density in the state of Utah! As you can see, most of our visitors have a safe and memorable trip to spectaular Bryce Canyon. You can be safe, too! Read on to find out what you and your family need to know.


Lightning is electricity; thunder is a sound wave.

Although they are called "thunderstorms," it's not the thunder that is especially dangerous. Thunder is loud and scarey-sounding, but lightning can zap you.

Lightning is electricity, just like the kind that comes out of a home wall socket into a lamp or TV. Lightning is caused by tiny, subatomic particles that have a + or - charge. When they move from one cloud to another, or from a cloud to the ground...well, that's lightning!

As a lightning bolt travels in a micro-second through the air, it pushes apart the air. This "push" travels as a sound wave which is slower than the flash of lightning. That's why you see the lightning first, and then hear the thunder.

lightning scar on the trunk of a Ponderosa Pine

lightning scar on the trunk of a Ponderosa Pine

Barbara Mayer

What's the 30 - 30 rule?

The "30 - 30 rule" stands for 30 seconds, then 30 minutes.

30 seconds -- Let's say you're outside and you see lightning in some direction, even if there's blue sky above you. Start counting to 30 by saying, "one one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand," and so on. If you hear thunder before you get to "thirty one-thousand," then that means the storm is too close to you and you should go inside a building. The building could be the Visitor Center, or Lodge...or even one of the bathrooms near a viewpoint. A bus shelter with open sides will protect you from rain, but not from lightning!

If you can't go inside, you should get into a metal car, Park shuttle or school bus. If the lightning hits the vehicle, the metal will conduct the lightning around you, not into you.

Do not stand under a tree! As the picture shows, the tree could act like a lightning rod, bringing the electricity down to you! Many trees in Bryce Canyon National Park have been hit by lightning. In some cases, the tree has survived, but it has a scar. Look for these tree lightning scars as you hike along the trails.


30 minutes -- What's the other 30 of the 30 - 30 rule? Let's say you've been safe inside a building during a lightning storm, but you'd really like to go for a hike outside. When is it okay to go outside?

It isn't safe to go outdoors until 30 minutes after hearing thunder. So you think, "That's a looong time; what am I gonna do?" Hey, here's a good idea! Use that indoor time to do some of the activities inside the Junior Ranger booklet!

When does Bryce Canyon get lightning?

Bryce Canyon National Park thunderstorms usually happen in the afternoon. So, when you visit the Park, plan to get up early and go hiking in the morning!

According to the following information, which month is likely to have the most precipitation (as rain) and lightning?


Month Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May June July Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec.
Normal Precipitation (inches)













Average Number of Thunderstorms














See what you've learned!

Take the Don't Get Zapped! Quiz to see if you know how to be safe about lightning at Bryce Canyon National Park, and then print your own Certificate!

Did You Know?