Rangers at Death Valley National Park now urge all visitors to be mindful of the park’s dangerous summer heat after two men died within days of each other while hiking the same trail.
Both deaths happened while the men hiked near the Golden Canyon Trail in Death Valley. Temperatures on both days were in the triple digits.
Rangers caution all visitors to limit strenuous activity such as hiking to the relatively cooler morning hours — and be done before 10 a.m. They also encourage all visitors to drink plenty of water, eat salty snacks, and stay close to air conditioning.
“Incredible scenery can be viewed from vistas and overlooks within a few minutes walk from a vehicle,” Death Valley rangers note.
On Wednesday, August 18, Death Valley park staff received a report of a suspected heat stroke and CPR in progress at 1:40 p.m. near Red Cathedral along the Golden Canyon Trail in Death Valley, the National Park Service reports. When a search and rescue team and park rangers arrived, they confirmed that the 60-year-old man from San Francisco had died.
Then, on August 21, a 52-year-old man from Leawood, Kansas, was found dead by another hiker near the Manly Beacon formation along the Golden Canyon Trail, the National Park Service reports. A park service search and rescue team hiked in to recover the body.
Death Valley National Park, which is a two-hour drive from Las Vegas, is the hottest, driest, and lowest national park in the U.S. In the summer months of May to September, temperatures average over 100 degrees — and often exceed 120 degrees.
In fact, the temperature in Death Valley on July 9 was 130 degrees, the National Weather Service reports. What’s more, the official highest recorded temperature in the world was 134 degrees in Death Valley on July 10, 1913.
That summer heat isn’t unusual, either. In July 2018, daytime highs reached a temperature of 127 degrees for four days in a row.
Those summer temperatures are a result of Death Valley’s geography. The valley is a long, narrow basin sitting at 282 feet below sea level. It also is surrounded by high, steep mountains. Consequently, air over the valley warms in the sunlight and continues heating as it descends to the valley floor. The clear, dry air and relative lack of plant cover allow sunlight to heat the valley floor, which further heats the air.
Know Before You Go
If you plan to visit Death Valley during the summer, the National Park Service has several safety tips.
Drink And Carry Plenty Of Water
The NPS recommends visitors drink a minimum of one gallon of water per day to replace loss from sweat. More water will be needed if you are active. Electrolyte levels must be balanced, so the NPS reminds everyone to also eat salty foods and drink sports drinks.
Avoid Hiking In The Heat
Summer daytime temperatures in Death Valley get hot quickly. The NPS reminds visitors to hike in the (relatively) cooler morning hours and be sure strenuous activity such as hiking is completed before 10 a.m.
Travel Prepared To Survive
Stay on paved roads in summer, the NPS cautions. If your car does break down, stay with it until help comes. And of course, be sure to stow extra drinking water in your car in case of emergency.
Watch For Signs Of Trouble
Heat illness can be severe and even deadly.
“If you feel dizzy, nauseous, or get a headache, get out of the sun immediately and drink water or sports drinks,” the NPS explains. “Also, dampen your clothing to lower your body temperature.”