Hiking at High Altitudes

A group of people work together to push a patient up a trail
With elevations averaging around 8,000 feet (2438 m) and reaching up to over 9,000 feet (2743 m) Bryce Canyon is a high altitude park. Though it's not too far away in mileage, that's nearly 4,000 feet (1219 m) higher than the Visitor Centers at Zion and Arches.

The higher you go, the less atmosphere there is pressing down, and the further apart oxygen molecules spread. As a result, at 8,000 feet effective oxygen levels are about 75% of what's found at sea level, and as oxygen falls the risk for altitude sickness goes up.

Even mild exertion in the park is likely to cause you to breathe faster as your lungs work to acquire oxygen and your heart to beat faster to better move that oxygenated blood through your body. Your hydration will suffer too from increased urine output and dry air.

While these responses are normal, our Search and Resuce team responds to a number of visitors suffering from acute altitude-related symptoms each year.

Who is at Risk?

While altitude sickness can affect absolutely anyone, those with preexisting heart conditions, risk of stroke, COPD, asthma, and other chronic illnesses carry an elevated risk of complications.

What are the Symptoms?

Altitude sickness symptoms can escalate quickly but often begins with:
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea

What can you do?

  • Stay hydrated (aim for a gallon of water a day and avoid alcohol).
  • Limit your exertion (5 miles at Bryce is likely very different than 5 miles at home).
  • If you notice early signs of altitude illness begin heading to lower elevations.
  • Address any concerns about exerting yourself at higher elevations with your physician before your visit.
  • Remember: Hikes in the Bryce Canyon amphitheater start at the top which means all returns will be uphill. Turn back before you become tired. Know and respect your own physical limitations.

Going down is optional, but coming back up is mandatory!

Last updated: April 17, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

P.O Box 640201
Bryce, UT 84764


435 834-5322
Phones are answered and messages returned as soon as possible as staffing allows.

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