Safety and Conditions

It’s no secret: Outdoor recreation is gaining popularity on the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM), but it is especially important to understand that ultimately – your safety is your responsibility. That said, planning is an important step in being prepared and ready for your adventure. Remember, the Monument can be very unforgiving, and its wild character should not be underestimated. And although overnight stays on the monument do not require a permit, free permits are available at any of the local Visitor Centers and are highly encouragedThe permit system can become crucial in the case of a search and rescue. Below are some best practices to keep in mind when recreating on the GSENM: 

  • It’s always a good idea to let people know your itinerary and when you expect be back
  • Travel in groups rather than by yourself
  • Before beginning any of your Monument adventures, make sure you've planned your way in, and planned your way out 
  • Know the extended weather forecast
  • Carry extra clothing, blankets, food and water for emergencies
  • Remember, cell phone coverage across the Monument is sparse if at all

Cell Phone Coverage

While a cell phone may help in an emergency, do not rely on your cell phone. Cell coverage outside established towns may be poor or unavailable. Be prepared to follow other recommendations to ensure a safe trip.

Flash Floods

Flash floods can occur at any time of year, but they are most common in July, August, and September. Checking the local weather forecast is advisable, but you should realize that conditions change quickly, and it is impossible to predict where heavy rain will occur.

  • Avoid narrow canyons and washes during stormy weather.
  • Be aware of changing weather conditions.
  • Know your escape routes.
  • If you’re hiking in a stream, be aware of rising water levels or stronger currents and sudden changes in water clarity.
  • Educate yourself on the terrain you are entering.
  • Realize that dry washes are a result of previous flash floods.

By entering a narrow canyon or wash, you are assuming a risk.

If flooding begins, seek high ground and wait for the water to go down before attempting to walk out. Do not enter a narrow canyon if storms threaten. Never camp in a wash bottom.


Hypothermia is a rapidly progressive mental and physical collapse due to the chilling of the body’s core. It is caused by prolonged exposure to cold, and is greatly intensified by wetness, wind, exhaustion, and lack of food. Hypothermia can, and often does, strike in temperatures above freezing.

The signs and symptoms of hypothermia are progressive and the onset is rapid. Watch for early signs in members of your group. Victims are usually unaware that they are becoming hypothermic. 

Treat hypothermia by:

  • Actively rewarming the victim.
  • Getting victim out of wind and rain and removing wet clothing.
  • Moving to a heat source – a fire, inside a dry sleeping bag, or skin to skin with a healthy person.
  • Giving victim warm drinks like herbal tea, soup, or sugar water. Do not give victim caffeine or alcohol!

River Safety

  • Tell someone where you are going, when you expect to return, and where to call if you don't.
  • Be sure your white water skills and experience are equal to the river and the conditions. NEVER BOAT ALONE.
  • Wear a Coast Guard approved type III - V, properly adjusted lifejacket at all times when you are in or near the river.
  • Know your limits of swimmers rescue and self-rescue on white water rivers. Know when and how to swim for an eddy.
  • Reduce injuries by wearing protective foot wear and proper clothing designed for river running.
  • Helmets are required for Kayakers and canoeists at all times. Rafters must wear helmets in Class IV and above water.
  • Be prepared for extremes in weather, especially cold. Know about the dangers of hypothermia and how to deal with it. When air and water temperature add up to 120 degrees or less, hyperthermia is a high risk. Wear a wet suit and booties in spring to early summer and always in Class V water. Know early signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and dehydration in hot weather. Remember certain medications can complicate these types of environmental injuries.
  • Know how to recognize and react to river hazards such as holes, wrap rocks, undercut boulders and walls, rock sieves, and horizon lines across the river.
  • Carry a first aid kit and know how to use it. Learn or review medical aid responsibilities and CPR. Avoid rattlesnakes and poison oak, but know how to deal with emergencies if someone is unlucky.
  • Never run a rapid unless you can see a clear path through it. Watch out for new snags after winter and spring floods.
  • Allow the craft ahead of you to pass through the rapid before you enter it. This will avoid a double disaster if the leading boat blocks the channel.
  • When in doubt, stop and scout. If you are still in doubt? Portage.
  • Remote rivers through isolated wilderness should be approached with caution, since aid is difficult or impossible to obtain in case of an accident.

Summer Heat Safety

Summer temperatures in this area may reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid heat-related illnesses:

  • Consume at least 1 gallon (4 liters) of water per person per day. 
  • Avoid hiking in the middle of the day when it is the hottest. 
  • Wear a hat, a long sleeved shirt, and sun screen. Bring your sunglasses.
  • Eat well before hiking and bring food on your hike to help replace the electrolytes/energy used.

Adults require 4 quarts of water per day and up to 8 quarts for strenuous activity at high elevations. A 25% loss of stamina occurs when an adult loses 1 to 1 ½ quarts of water. To maintain higher energy levels and avoid dehydration, drink frequently. It is important to begin drinking before you actually feel thirsty. Don’t forget to treat your water!

Snake Safety

Always be alert when traveling through thick brush or rocky Outcroppings. Use a walking stick to check under brush or around crevices where recoiled snakes could lay. Wear high-top boots or snake chaps if available. Use care when moving piles of brush, logs and tarps. Most people are bitten by either accidentally stepping on the snake or while trying to kill the snake. On average, about 20% of all bites inject venom. The best first aid in case of bites is to transport the victim to a first aid clinic or hospital as soon as possible.

Think Before You Drink -- Giardia

Only water from developed maintained systems at recreation sites is safe to drink. Open water sources are easily contaminated by human or animal waste. All water should be treated to prevent giardiasis. This intestinal parasite can leave you feeling miserable for weeks. Boiling your drinking water for 5 min is the best way to kill the organism