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Are you prepared for your next visit to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks? Each year, park rangers respond to hundreds of search and rescue incidents (SARs) in Arches and Canyonlands. It can take hours to locate and extract injured individuals. Luckily, SARs can be prevented. In this video, rangers Collin and Kat talk about Preventative Search and Rescue (PSAR) and show you how to plan ahead, pack the 10 essentials, and hike safely in the park.
We want your trip to Canyonlands to be safe and enjoyable. Below are some of the potential hazards you may experience during your visit. Please become familiar with them, and keep them in mind while you're here.
Heat and Sun
During the summer, expect high temperatures, intense sunlight and low humidity. Eat plenty of food and drink at least one gallon (4 L) of water each day. Carry and drink water while you are engaged in any activity, such as hiking. Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing and a wide-brimmed hat. Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin. Consider saving strenuous activity for early mornings or evenings. Read more about weather conditions.
Hydration is essential in the desert, even in winter. Drink 1 gallon (4 L) of water per day. Water filling stations are limited in the park. Here's where you can find drinking water:
There is no drinking water at the Island in the Sky campground or anywhere at The Maze. Plan on bringing your own water or filtering water in the backcountry.
Canyonlands is an isolated and rugged environment. You may have to drive more than 50 miles (80 km) to find food, gas, lodging, or medical facilities, particularly from The Needles or The Maze. Make sure you have plenty of fuel before driving to Canyonlands. Do not rely on cellular telephones; there are many areas where they will not work.
Wild animals often carry deadly diseases, including hantavirus, bubonic plague and rabies. They may become aggressive without warning. Always view wildlife from the safety of your car or from a distance. Do not approach animals to take photographs, and teach children not to chase or pick up animals.
A few venomous animals live in the park, including midget-faded rattlesnakes, scorpions, and black widow spiders. It's unlikely that you'll see these animals. If you do, they will generally flee when approached. While a scorpion sting is likely to be mild (like a bee sting), anyone bitten by a black widow spider or rattlesnake should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Black bears are known to wander into the park from the Abajo Mountains, which border The Needles district. They have been sighted in Salt Creek Canyon and many neighboring canyons, as well as along the Colorado River. Backpackers in some of these areas may need bear canisters.
Lightning and Flash Floods
Storms and flash floods can be powerful and sudden. When lightning is present, there is no safe place outside. Return to your vehicle, or get indoors. If you can't get indoors, avoid lone trees, cliff edges, and high ridges. Crouch low to the ground. Never try to cross a wash that is flooding.
Climbing and Scrambling
Be careful near cliff edges, especially when conditions are wet or icy. Avoid loose rock when traversing slopes, and remember that slickrock is much easier to climb up than down.
Stay with companions while hiking; separation can mean getting lost. Do not count on a cellular phone to summon help; service will not reach into many areas of Canyonlands. If you become lost, stay where you are, and wait for rescue. Wandering will endanger your life and make finding you difficult. When traveling alone, always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return. Do not rely on GPS units to guide you into the park.
Winter temperatures can drop well below freezing. Hypothermia is a hazard in late fall, winter and early spring. When hiking during these times, carry extra layers of clothing, foul-weather gear and a flashlight. Be prepared to spend the night out if necessary. Even a few inches of snow can hide cairns and trails, or make slickrock areas impassable. Read more about visiting in winter.
Last updated: September 16, 2021