Here’s how to safely take on the Grand Canyon in the summer heat

Jul 11, 2024, 4:35 AM

Visitors hike on Memorial Day in the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park on May 25, 2020 in Gr...

Visitors hike on Memorial Day in the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park on May 25, 2020 in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. PSAR Supervisor of the park, Meghan Smith, offered tips for braving the summer heat at the canyon. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — A Grand Canyon National Park official on Wednesday advised hikers to take extra caution after the park has seen three deaths in recent weeks.

The hikers, all men aged from 41-59, were each planning for overnight stays in the canyon.

Meghan Smith, Grand Canyon’s Preventive Search and Rescue Supervisor, told KTAR News 92.3 FM the extreme summer heat warrants a special level of caution.

“We can tell you with great certainty and fact that the heat exacerbates all and any underlying preexisting medical conditions,” Smith said. “And people should be very cautious and aware and really honest and real with themselves and their primary care about the activities that they plan to engage in when they’re here at Grand Canyon or recreating within any national parks.”

The support staff at the park, which includes 70 volunteers and seven seasonal staff, focuses on engaging with visitors one-on-one to help keep expectations realistic and ensure safety.

How can hikers prepare to take on the Grand Canyon?

Smith referenced the park’s waterline construction project, which will cause closures beginning in October and cost over $200 million in total, noting it will impact the park’s water availability for visitors and emphasizes the importance of preparing as a hiker.

In addition to bringing extra water, Smith says hikers can prepare by checking the park’s social media platforms, such as Facebook and X, where safety advisories are shared. They can also review the National Park Service’s list of Ten Essentials, which includes items like first-aid supplies and food.

Speaking of food, Smith said balancing salt and water intake is important, especially as heat can keep the appetite off the hiker’s mind.

“People often forget about food … We see a lot of hypernatremia here, so we wanna make sure people are balancing their food and water intake,” Smith added.

Keeping an eye on the rest of your hiking party is another good way to avoid heat incidents, calling 911 immediately for fainting episodes.

It’s also important to know your limits, so if the trails down into the canyon are too difficult, consider a different activity such as walking or biking the trail at the Rim, where Smith says a cooler breeze and easier access to resources make it a safer endeavor. The temperature difference between rim and river averages about 20 degrees at any given time of day.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Balin Overstolz-McNair contributed to this report.

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Here’s how to safely take on the Grand Canyon in the summer heat