Top Hiking Safety Tips for Utah’s National Parks

Exploring Utah’s national parks is a dream come true for many hikers and park visitors. While we support Arches and Canyonlands, many of our supporters also look forward to exploring the red rock wonders of Zion and the unique hoodoos of Bryce Canyon. Each of these parks offer some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the United States. Yet with the rugged, natural beauty comes the responsibility to prioritize your safety. While it’s true that Arches and Canyonlands have world-class search and rescue teams, it’s best not to ever need them. So, here are some hiking safety tips to ensure you have a memorable and safe adventure.

Safely Exploring Utah’s National Parks

In addition to Arches and Canyonlands, Utah hosts three other national parks: Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef. Each park offers its own charm with a variety of hiking trails suitable for all skill levels. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a nature lover looking to take a leisurely stroll, there’s an opportunity to get out and explore for everyone. It is, however, important to be mindful of the parks’ varying terrains and weather conditions and be well-prepared for your hiking adventure.

Top 10 Hiking Safety Tips

1. Plan Ahead and Know Your Trail

  • Research Your Route: Familiarize yourself with the trail you’re planning to hike. Check the trail length, difficulty level, and any potential hazards. Park Service rangers at each visitor center are happy to share information and give recommendations.
  • Trail Maps and Guides: Carry a map and a guidebook. Even if you have a GPS, a physical map can be a lifesaver if your device runs out of battery or loses signal (which is common in many areas).

2. Check Weather Conditions

  • Stay Informed: Utah’s weather can be unpredictable, and change rapidly, especially in higher elevations. Check the weather forecast regularly, keep your eye on the horizon for changing conditions, and have a plan for shelter/protection. 
  • Check Conditions at Each Park: Weather and surface conditions throughout the mountains and canyons are ever changing. It’s not uncommon to encounter hot, sunny weather in Arches while stumbling into several feet of snow at Bryce in the shoulder seasons. If you’re on a road trip, consider searching “(national park name) web cam” to view real-time conditions.
  • Dress Appropriately: Wear layers to adapt to changing temperatures and conditions such as blazing sun and rain. Also, invest in moisture-wicking clothing to stay comfortable and dry during your hike.

3. Stay Hydrated and Pack Adequate Supplies

  • Bring Plenty of Water: Dehydration is a common concern for hikers, especially in Utah’s arid climate and high elevations. Carry more water than you think you’ll need. It could be a lifesaver!
  • Pack Snacks and Electrolytes: High-energy snacks like nuts, dried fruits, and energy bars can help maintain your energy levels. It’s also a good idea to consume electrolytes, especially if you’re drinking more water than you’re used to. In the absence of electrolyte drinks, salty foods can help serve the same purpose.

4. Wear Proper Footwear

  • Hiking Boots: Invest in a good pair of hiking boots with ankle support and a sturdy grip. This will help prevent injuries and provide traction on rocky or uneven terrain. They will also help protect you from prickly plants and dangerous reptiles you might encounter.

5. Protect Yourself from the Sun

  • Sunscreen and Hats: The sun in Utah can be intense. Apply high SPF sunscreen regularly and wear a hat to protect yourself from UV rays.
  • Sunglasses: Protect your eyes with UV-blocking sunglasses.

6. Know Your Limits

  • Don’t Overexert Yourself: Choose trails that match your fitness level and experience. It’s better to start with easier hikes and gradually take on more challenging ones.
  • Rest When Needed: Listen to your body and take breaks as needed. Fatigue can lead to accidents.

7. Stay on Marked Trails

  • Follow the Path: Straying off marked trails can lead to dangerous situations, including getting lost or encountering wildlife.
  • Respect Trail Signs: Pay attention to trail signs and warnings. They are there for your safety. Stacked rocks, or cairns, are an important part of trail marking in Utah’s national parks. It’s best to leave them as they are and not add to them.

8. Be Aware of Wildlife

  • Keep Your Distance: Utah’s national parks are home to a wide variety of wildlife. Observe animals from a distance and avoid feeding them. Make sure to scan the area before taking a break to sit down.
  • Bear Safety: In some areas, bear encounters can occur. Make noise to avoid surprising bears and carry bear spray if recommended by park authorities.

9. Inform Someone of Your Plans

  • Share Your Itinerary: Always let someone know your hiking plans, including your expected return time. This ensures that someone will call for help if you don’t return when expected. Pro-tip: send this person a selfie of you and the clothes you’re wearing.

10. First Aid Kit

  • Be Prepared: Carry a basic first aid kit to handle minor injuries like blisters, cuts, and scrapes.

Stay Safe and Have Fun

Hiking in Utah’s national parks is an experience like no other. By following these hiking safety tips, you can ensure that your adventure is not only enjoyable but also safe. Remember that preparation is key—plan ahead, pack wisely, and always be aware of your surroundings. 

Happy hiking, and enjoy the natural beauty that Utah has to offer!