Beat the Heat at These High Altitude Escapes

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There’s nothing like spending a warm summer day on the trail, in the water, or gazing up at the stars from your campsite. But when Mother Nature turns up the heat, you don’t have to stay inside! Keep climbing to cooler temperatures and keep reading for tips to reduce the risk of altitude sickness on your trip.

Manti-La Sal National Forest


Two metal picnic tables and a fire ring situated above a blue-green lake

Manti-La Sal National Forest (US Forest Service)

Encompassing pockets of mountains, canyons, forests, and high-elevation lakes across central and southeastern Utah, the Manti-La Sal National Forest offers sweet relief from the desert landscapes of nearby Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Elevations range from 5000 feet (1524 m) around the Wasatch Plateau to 12,000 feet (3658 m) in the peaks surrounding Moab.

Joe’s Valley in central Utah is a high-elevation playground with several scenic ponds and lakes and endless recreation offerings. Joe’s Valley Reservoir sits at 7000 feet (2134 m) and is great for bouldering, fishing, and boating. Take it slow in a canoe or take it up a notch on water skis, there’s room for everyone to enjoy! The campground features accessible campsites, some with lake views and some with shade.

Nearby Potters Pond (8900 ft / 2713 m) offers standard and equestrian campsites that are mostly shaded and situated near two ponds. Paddle on the water or ride the surrounding trails (by horse, bike, or OHV) to take in all the area has to offer.

Spring Mountains National Recreation Area


A female and male hiker pose for a photo with an expansive valley in the background

Spring Mountains National Recreation Area (Mark Traupmann, Share the Experience)

Located northwest of Las Vegas, Spring Mountains National Recreation Area is a popular local getaway. Comprised of rugged mountains with towering cliffs, steep hillsides, and deep narrow canyons, the area provides a break from the heat of the surrounding desert landscape. Choose from five picnic areas and stay for the day or stay longer at one of the four campgrounds. Elevations range from 3000 feet (914 m) in the valleys to nearly 12,000 feet (3658 m) at Charleston Peak.

The Mount Charleston Wilderness extends across the highest elevations of the Spring Mountains Range, where around 40 miles (64.4 km) of excellent but strenuous hiking trails cover the spine of the range. You can also start at Sawmill Picnic Area and Sawmill Trailhead for bathrooms and more than 35 miles (56.3 km) of trails for hikers and equestrians to explore, with mountain bike access to all but 13 miles (21 km) of those trails.

Know Before You Go and recreate responsibly in this unique environment to have the best experience possible while preserving this destination for generations to come!

Olympic Peninsula


A couple crosses a footbridge through a mossy forest

Olympic National Park (Stacy Garfield, Share the Experience)

Rainy winters bring cool, sunny summers to the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state. Daytime temperatures average between 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 27°C) while nighttime temperatures are in the low 50s (10 to 12°C).

Located on the southwestern side of Olympic National Park, Quinault Valley is your gateway to alpine meadows, dazzling lakes, and an enchanting rain forest. There are several gentle, short trails to explore the unique environments and history of the valley. Graves Creek Campground and North Fork Campground offer primitive, first-come, first-serve camping. While the weather tends to be cooler in this region, plan ahead and prepare for rain and possible thunderstorms.

Olympic National Forest surrounds Olympic National Park with even more awe-inspiring beauty and excellent recreation opportunities. Waterfalls (PDF) are a popular draw across the forest and park, with many of the best falls accessible by short hikes.

Flathead National Forest


A motorized boat makes waves in a mountain lake

Flathead National Forest (Cole Erickson, US Forest Service)

Situated in the heart of the Rocky Mountains in northern Montana, the Flathead National Forest is the pinnacle of natural beauty. The Forest encompasses 2.4 million acres (971,246 ha) of wilderness, lakes, streams, rivers, excellent fishing and wildlife viewing.

Within an hour’s drive of Glacier National Park, Swan Lake Recreation Area is a great place to hike, fish, and paddle. If you’re planning a one-day getaway, the day use area has a lakeside reservable group site, picnic tables, a boat launch, and swimming beach. The campground also offers access to the beach and a boat ramp, with canoe, kayak, and paddleboard rentals available. Most sites are reservable, but some are offered on a first-come, first-served basis to meet the needs of busy summer schedules. At 3300 feet (1006 m), temperatures tend to be cooler along the lake, but be sure to check conditions before setting out.

Add Swan River National Wildlife Refuge to your itinerary as well, with its wildlife and bird observation area located within one mile (1.6 km) of Swan Lake campground.

San Gabriel Mountains National Monument


A hiker navigates a narrow trail on the side of a barren mountain

Angeles National Forest (Michael Thompson, Share the Experience)

San Gabriel Mountains National Monument is the backdrop for 15 million people in the Los Angeles Basin. Split between the Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests, the National Monument provides year-round recreational activities, including hiking, hunting, nature viewing, picnicking, water activities and horseback riding and camping.

The San Gabriel Wilderness ranges from 1,600 to 8,200 feet (488 to 2499 m) in elevation, offering rugged experiences for every kind of adventurer. Believe it or not, snow may be present at the highest elevations year-round, making conditions very different from what they might be at your starting point. Stay up to date on conditions at higher elevations and learn how to prepare for variable weather conditions.                                

Be mindful of fire restrictions before setting out – hot summer temperatures and dry windy days could impact your visit.

Play it Safe at High Elevations

A man stands with his hands on his head and takes in the view after finishing a long mountain hike

Glacier National Park (Patrick O'Sullivan, Share the Experience)

Altitude sickness, or Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), is brought on by a lack of oxygen and failure to acclimate to an environment with less oxygen according to experts at Symptoms include persistent headache, difficulty sleeping, dizziness, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting. AMS can affect anyone, regardless of age, physical condition, or high-altitude experience.

If you experience more than mild discomfort from AMS, you should descend immediately. AMS symptoms will worsen if you continue to ascend and may impair judgment. Here are some ways to reduce your risk of AMS:

Remember to pack plenty of water and sun protection for your trip and go out and #BringHomeaStory!

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