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Rocky Mountain National Park


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High Elevation Nearly half of the visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park experience some symptoms of altitude sickness. Symptoms range from headache and dizziness to nausea and unconsciousness. Rocky Mountain has the highest average elevation of any national park; even the main road climbs higher than most U.S. mountains, to 12,183’! High altitude can also aggravate medical conditions such as heart and lung diseases. The only cure for altitude sickness is to go down to a lower elevation.

In general, High Altitude increases the chance of dehydration, severe sunburn, mountain sickness (headaches, nausea, dizziness), and the aggravation of pre-existing medical conditions. Drink several quarts of water per day to ward off dehydration. Wear and reapply sunscreen often. If you begin to feel sick or experience any physical problems descend to lower elevations.

Mountain Weather
A bright, sunny day can turn windy and wet within a matter of minutes with high winds and driving rain or snow. Be prepared for changing conditions and carry these essentials; raingear, map and compass, flashlight or headlamp, sunglasses and sunscreen, matches or other fire starter, candles, extra food and water, extra layers of clothing, pocketknife, and a first aid kit.

Hiking Tips
Stay Together!
The single most important factor in having a safe, enjoyable hike is to keep your group or family close together, and always within sight of each other. Be prepared for all types of weather, no matter what activity you are enjoying in the national park. Unforeseen weather conditions can change a short afternoon hike into an unpleasant experience. Severe storms can impose life threatening hazards only one or two miles from your car. Carry a windproof/waterproof outer shell and extra layers of clothing, even though the weather does not appear menacing. Be equipped with detailed topographic maps and a compass.

Lightning Start your hike early in the day, planning to get below treeline or to a shelter before a storm strikes. If caught above treeline, get away from summits and isolated trees and rocks. Find shelter if possible but avoid small cave entrances and overhangs. Crouch down on your heels. When horseback riding, dismount and tie horses securely.

Wildlife Approaching, feeding, or disturbing wildlife is dangerous - keep a safe distance. All park animals are wild and can injure or kill you. Be aware of what is going on around you. Know how to live with wildlife and what to do if you encounter a mountain lion or bear.

Mountain Lions
Never approach a mountain lion especially one that is feeding or with kittens. Most mountain lions will try to avoid confrontation. Always give them a way to escape. Don't run. Stay calm. Hold your ground or back away slowly. Face the lion and stand upright. Do all you can to appear larger. Grab a stick. Raise your arms. If you have small children with you, pick them up. If the lion behaves aggressively, wave your arms, shout and throw objects at it. The goal is to convince it that you are not prey and may be dangerous yourself. If attacked, fight back! Generally, mountain lions are calm, quiet, and elusive. The chance of being attacked by a mountain lion is quite low compared to many other natural hazards. There is, for example, a far greater risk of being struck by lightning than being attacked by a mountain lion. Report all incidents to a park ranger.

Never approach a bear. Keep children beside you. There is more safety in numbers; it is best to travel in a close group. If a bear approaches you, stand up tall, and make loud noises– shout, clap hands, clang pots and pans. When done immediately, these actions have been successful in scaring bears away.
However, if attacked, fight back!
Never try and retrieve anything once a bear has it. Report all incidents to a park ranger.

Streams, Lakes and Waterfalls They can be deceptively dangerous. Keep your distance. In winter, ice is thinner near inlets and outlets and over fast moving water. Purify drinking water to prevent giardiasis and other water borne diseases.

Giardia is a microscopic organism found in lakes, streams, and possibly snow. It also lives in the digestive systems of wildlife and humans. Giardia enters surface water when animals or humans defecate in or near water. Giardia can cause diarrhea, cramps, bloating, and weight loss. To prevent giardiasis, never drink water directly from a stream or lake. Bring water to a full rolling boil for at least five minutes or use a water filtration system that eliminates this organism.


Lawn Lake Area / Ypsilon Mountain
Lawn Lake Area / Ypsilon Mountain



Document Information
Source: National Park Service; magazinUSA.com
Last modified: 20070426
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