Be a Weather-Ready Explorer

Hiker watches dark storm clouds
Weather conditions can quickly change. Keep a ‘weather eye’ on the sky when you are out in the park.

NPS Photo

Are you planning an adventure to one of our national parks? You may be visiting a park with a different climate and terrain than you are used to at home. It is important to understand the weather patterns and conditions of this new environment and be weather-ready BEFORE YOU GO.

  • Check out your park’s website or give them a call. Park websites can provide you with specific information on what weather to expect when you’re exploring.

  • Look out for active alerts or closures. Park alerts will let you know if there are any dangerous conditions or closures within the park.

  • Ask a ranger! When you arrive at the park, ask about:

    • Locations within the park that are high-risk for weather hazards. For example, there may be peaks, points or fields that regularly experience lightning strikes.

    • Safe places to take shelter around the park.

    • Warning systems that can provide notification on severe weather.

  • Have a Plan B, just in case! Be flexible and adjust your plans if the weather is not ideal. If the forecast calls for afternoon thunderstorms, plan activities such as hiking for the morning.

  • Think about the season. Pay attention to seasonal temperatures, precipitation levels, common weather conditions, and severe weather risks when planning your activity.

  • Take off on your adventure at the right time of day. In the spring and summer, most thunderstorms come in afternoons, but they can occur at any time. Participating in activities in the early morning is a great way to reduce the possibility of encountering severe weather and avoid strenuous activities during the heat of the day.

  • Set departure and arrival times before heading out. Know how far you plan to travel and how long your journey will take. Keep the distance and time in mind so that you know how long it takes to get to safe shelter if severe weather occurs.

  • If the weather becomes threatening, find safe shelter immediately. Pay attention to the weather while you are exploring the park. If you start to notice clouds building and getting darker, the wind picking up speed, temperature dropping, or you hear thunder, seek safe shelter.

  • A ‘Watch’ means be prepared! “Severe weather is possible in and near the watch area”

  • A ‘Warning’ means take action! “Severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. This indicates imminent danger to life and property.”

  • Check the weather forecast. Take a look at the local weather forecast before you leave for the park and again when you arrive. Weather conditions may have changed.

  • Sign up for Weather Notifications. Sign up for text and email weather reports and updates, such as NWS Wireless Emergency Alerts. Just remember, not all parks have cell service, so check in with park rangers for alerts before you go on your adventure.

  • Listen to the NOAA Weather Radio. NOAA provides the latest weather conditions and forecasts even for remote areas that may not have cellular coverage.

  • Get inside of a sturdy building if bad weather is approaching. Sheds, storage facilities, porches, pavilions/picnic shelters, and rain shelters are NOT safe locations during severe weather.

  • Drive to the closest shelter. Enclosed vehicles such as cars, trucks, buses and vans can provide a safer shelter if you are unable to make it to a building. Sheltering in cars is not safe during certain weather conditions, such as tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes.

  • Be cautious of any new hazards and risks. The park terrain may look different after a severe weather event has occurred. Be careful of your surroundings as rocks may be slippery and trees may have fallen. Do not go near downed power lines, avoid areas of flooding, mudslides and washed-out roads.

  • Report hazards to the park. Let the park know of any hazards as a result of weather, like trees that may have fallen, mud or rock slides, washed out trails and roads or down power lines.

  • In an emergency, call 9-1-1. If there are any injuries or an emergency situation, call 9-1-1.

Learn more about the different types of severe weather that you might encounter in the park:

Lightning strikes

When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors

Flood waters
Flash Floods

Turn Around, Don't Drown

Sunrise at Death Valley
Extreme Heat

Beat the Heat

Flooding on roadway after hurricane

Take Action!

Tree debris on road

Go Indoors

Snow-covered roadway and trees
Winter Weather

Bundle Up!

Last updated: January 15, 2020