Summer Hiking - Hike Smart

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HIKE SMART! Every year, scores of unprepared hikers, lured by initially easy downhill hiking, experience severe illness, injury, or death from hiking in the canyon. Join us as we explore how to have a safe and unforgettable adventure here in Grand Canyon, including tips from our experts on preparedness, hydration, and hiking in the heat. Special thanks to the Grand Canyon Conservancy, Xanterra, Delaware North, Bright Angel Bicycles, and Sandcast Media who helped make this video possible.

The Preventive Search and Rescue logo with the words 'Hike Smart'

The National Park Service urges CAUTION for all hikers during the summer months of May through September.

Before your hike, visit the Key Hiking Messages page and check the Backcountry Updates and Closures page for current information on trail conditions, water status, and weather affecting the backcountry.

Be aware that efforts to assist you may be delayed during the summer months due to limited staff, the number of rescue calls, employee safety requirements, and limited helicopter flying capability during periods of extreme heat or inclement weather.

Do not rely on physical strength alone, hiking smart will take you much farther. Rangers respond to heat exhausted hikers every day during the summer — don't let yourself become one of them! Use the information below to hike smart.


Don't Forget These!
10 Summer Hiking Essentials

  1. Water - Carry plain water and some form of electrolyte replacement. Keep in mind, only the Bright Angel and North Kaibab Trails have potable water spigots and these may be out of service due to time of year or maintenance issues.
  2. Food - Salty foods are preferred in order to balance water intake during the hot summer season. Our rangers routinely prefer salty snacks such as pretzels, crackers, and chips. Stop to eat often and consume twice as much as you normally would.
  3. First Aid Kit - Common canyon items include: hand sanitizer, bandaids, ace wrap, antibiotic ointment, and blister care.
  4. Map - While many trails are well-marked, maps are helpful tools.
  5. Pack - To carry the essentials. Ensure your pack is well fit and comfortable.
  6. Flashlight/Spare Batteries - Don't rely on your cell phone as a light source! Carry a flashlight and spare batteries that will allow you to hike out during the cool of the evening.
  7. Spray Bottle - fill with water for your own personal air conditioning system.
  8. Hat/Sunscreen - to keep the sun off you and protect your skin.
  9. Whistle and/or Signal Mirror - for emergency use.
  10. Waterproof Clothing - poncho or jacket; especially useful during monsoon season (mid-July to early September).

Don’t Force Fluids Drink When You Are Thirsty Rest and Eat Often

Ambient temperature, elevation, and exercise intensity and duration increase the physiological strain, calorie and water demands on our bodies. This makes canyon hiking more difficult than traveling the same distance on level ground or in cooler temperatures.

Fluid/electrolyte loss can exceed 2 quarts per hour if you hike uphill in direct sunlight and during the hottest time of the day. Because inner canyon air is so dry and hot, sweat evaporates instantly, making its loss almost imperceptible. Keep an eye out for salt rings on your clothes.

Even a mild level of dehydration can make hiking a lot less fun. The more dehydrated you become, the less efficient your body is at self-cooling. This puts you at greater risk for heat related illness. Over-hydration and lack of salty foods can be equally as dangerous, as this may lead to a life-threatening electrolyte disorder called hyponatremia.

The sensations of thirst and hunger are influenced by many factors, and should not be used as the only guide to replenishment. Eat and drink enough throughout your hike to replace the calories and fluid your body is using. Make sure that you balance your food and fluid intake, to avoid the risk of becoming exhausted, debilitated, or severely ill.

Wait for the Shade


Even if you are eating and drinking correctly you still need to avoid hiking in direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day. Sun temperatures are 15F to 20F (9C-11C) degrees hotter than posted shade temperatures. And keep in mind, the farther into the canyon you go the hotter it gets!

Plan your day so you are not hiking between the hours of 10am and 4pm. Take a break near shade and water to avoid the worst heat of day. Enjoy a predawn start and a late afternoon finish. Experienced desert hikers know that the timing of their hike is the most important factor in avoiding hazards. Most of the people who need emergency medical help in the canyon due to heat illness are hiking between 10am and 4pm.

Always bring a lightweight flashlight to give yourself the option of hiking out after dark in the event that illness, injury, or enjoyment should slow you down.

Warning! Summer thunderstorms bring lightning. Read more about Lightning Danger...

Average SHADE Temperatures at Phantom Ranch (provided by National Weather Service-Flagstaff)

*Please note temperatures in the full sun may be upwards of 20-30 °F warmer.
High (F) 57 63 73 81 91 102 104 101 95 82 68 56
Low (F) 35 40 46 52 61 70 75 72 66 55 44 36
High (C) 14 17 23 27 33 39 40 38 35 28 20 13
Low (C) 2 4 8 11 16 21 24 22 19 13 7 2

Stay Wet and Stay Cool


This is one of the best things that you can do for yourself, it will help decrease your core body temperature. Whenever you are near water, make sure that you wet (actually soak) yourself down. If you hike while soaking wet you will stay reasonably cool. This will make a wonderful difference in how well you feel, especially at the end of the day!

The Hazardous H's


HEAT EXHAUSTION - The result of dehydration due to intense sweating. Hikers can lose one or two quarts (liters) of water per hour. Rangers at Phantom Ranch and Havasupai Gardens treat many cases of heat exhaustion each day in summer.

Symptoms: pale face, nausea, vomiting, cool and moist skin, headache, cramps.

Treatment: drink water with electrolytes, eat high-energy foods (with fats and sugars), rest in the shade for 30-45 minutes, and cool the body by getting wet.

HEAT STROKE - A life-threatening emergency where the body's heat regulating mechanisms become overwhelmed by a combination of internal heat production and environmental demands. Your body loses its ability to cool itself. Grand Canyon has two to three cases of heatstroke a year. Untreated heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke.

Symptoms: flushed face, dry skin, weak and rapid pulse, high core body temperature, confusion, poor judgment or inability to cope, unconsciousness, seizures.

Treatment: the heatstroke victim must be cooled immediately! Continuously pour water on the victim's head and torso, fan to create an evaporative cooling effect. Immerse the victim in cold water if possible. Move the victim to shade and remove excess clothing. The victim needs evacuation to a hospital. Someone should go for help while attempts to cool the victim continue.

HYPONATREMIA (water intoxication) - An illness that mimics the early symptoms of heat exhaustion. It is the result of low sodium in the blood caused by drinking too much water and losing too much salt through sweating.

Symptoms: nausea, vomiting, altered mental states, confusion, frequent urination. The victim may appear intoxicated. In extreme cases seizures may occur.

Treatment: have the victim eat salty foods, slowly drink sports drinks with electrolytes, and rest in the shade. If mental alertness decreases, seek immediate help!


Introduction to Backcountry Hiking Brochure

This foldable brochure is for day and overnight inner canyon hikers. It gives information about hiking the Bright Angel, South Kaibab, and North Kaibab trails, as well as permit, planning, Leave No Trace, and Hike Smart information. It is distributed at park visitor centers and backcountry information centers.

The web version of this publication is formatted to print on standard 8.5 x 11 letter-sized paper. You may download Introduction to Backcountry Hiking (4.5 MB PDF file)

Last updated: May 28, 2024

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