Grand Canyon Altitude Sickness: The Complete Guide And How To Avoid It
Grand Canyon is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, but you should know that altitude sickness can be a problem if you aren't prepared for it. In this complete guide, we'll inform you with everything you need to know about Grand Canyon altitude sickness, the different elevations, and how to avoid it.
Grand Canyon Altitude
Grand Canyon altitude averages around 7,000 feet (2,100 m) above sea level. It's ranked in the top 20 highest national parks in the United States.¹
Grand Canyon altitude - 7,000 ft to 8,000 ft (2,100 m to 2,400 m)
The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular national parks in the world, attracting millions of visitors each year. Located in Arizona, it is also home to some of the world's most beautiful and breathtaking sights.
The park actually sees over 5 million tourists every year, which makes it one of the busiest National Parks in the country. The Grand Canyon has a lot of different attractions and activities including hiking, sightseeing, rafting, camping and more.
Grand Canyon altitude can vary, here are the different elevations:
Grand Canyon Village elevation - 6,804 ft (2073 m)
Grand Canyon Altitude south rim - 7,000 feet (2,100 m)
Grand Canyon Altitude north rim - 8,000 feet (2,400 m)
Grand Canyon bottom elevation - 2,200 feet (670 m)
Grand Canyon altitude high point 9183 ft / 2799 m
Saddle Mountain Grand Canyon altitude - 8,424 ft (2,568 m)
At these Grand Canyon elevations, anyone who isn't used to being at such heights may experience altitude sickness.
Can You Get Altitude Sickness At The Grand Canyon?
Yes, you can get altitude sickness at the Grand Canyon with heights as high as 8,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level.
Altitude can start at altitudes above 6,000 feet according to the University Of Michigan.⁴ As a company based in Denver Colorado at a mile high though (5,280 feet), we see visitors commonly get altitude sickness.
Based on these factors, altitude sickness is a real threat at the Grand Canyon, especially if coming from sea level.
Altitude Sickness At Grand Canyon
Mountain sickness is a common condition at high elevations, and the altitude sickness at Grand Canyon is no exception.
The higher you go, the less oxygen there is in the air. This deprives your body of normal oxygen levels, and causes intense oxidative and other physiological stresses.
At these higher altitudes, you may experience nausea, fatigue, and headaches. Symptoms generally begin within 6-24 hours of upon arrival.
Altitude sickness at Grand Canyon may include these symptoms:
- dizziness or light-headedness
- difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- nausea (or vomiting in severe cases)
- fatigue or tiredness
- malaise or feeling sick
- loss of appetite
- feeling of weakness
- difficulty sleeping or insomnia
If you don't prepare properly, altitude sickness at Grand Canyon can be a real drag on your visit.
Is It Hard To Breathe In The Grand Canyon?
Yes, it can be hard to breathe for some people at the Grand Canyon.
This is one of the symptoms of Grand Canyon altitude sickness, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. What can worsen this condition is hiking or outdoor activities, which is typically what someone is doing at the Grand Canyon.
Oxygen levels at the Grand Canyon can be anywhere between 4%-6% lower than at sea level, definitely causing a strain to the body if not acclimated.⁵
How Do You Prevent Altitude Sickness In The Grand Canyon?
As one of the most popular destinations outside of ski resorts that has risks for altitude sickness, it's important to know how to prevent it.
To prevent altitude sickness in the Grand Canyon, besides taking altitude sickness medicine, it's about being properly prepared.
From years of experience and research being based in Colorado, we'll share our best tips below so you can be well prepared — that includes maximizing hydration, gradually acclimating, taking it easy and resting, limiting alcohol, and taking glutathione.
Do you get altitude sickness in Arizona?
Yes, you can get altitude sickness in Arizona.
While Phoenix sits at only 1,086 feet high in the Sonoran Desert, more than half of Arizona is at an elevation over 4,000 feet in elevation.
Destinations like the Grand Canyon and Flagstaff
that exceed 6,000 feet are where you are much more likely to get altitude sickness with the lower oxygen levels.
5 Tips To Avoid Grand Canyon Altitude Sickness
The Grand Canyon is an awe-inspiring sight, but if you aren't careful the elevation can leave you feeling sick.
It's important to understand how you can avoid altitude sickness. With our years of research being based in the high altitude state of Colorado, we'll share with you our best tips to avoid the Grand Canyon altitude sickness.
Here's 5 Tips To Avoid Grand Canyon Altitude Sickness:
1. Maximize Hydration
One of the most important things you can do is drink lots of water to maximize hydration.
It's easy to become dehydrated at higher altitudes like the Grand Canyon, especially if you're not used to them. Dehydration can cause symptoms similar to altitude sickness such as headaches, nausea and fatigue.
Hydration is also known to help with your blood's oxygen saturation level,⁶ which is critical at altitudes where hypoxia can kick in.
Experts often recommend to drink at least half your body weight in water each day — and we'd suggest even more if you're doing physical activity such as hiking at the Grand Canyon.
2. Gradually Acclimate
Another way to avoid Grand Canyon altitude sickness is to gradually increase your elevation.
For example if you live at sea level, fly into Phoenix first at 1,086 feet in elevation. Then drive to either Flagstaff, where most Grand Canyon visitors stay (about 75 miles away), or to the south rim. These are both around 7,000 feet in altitude.
Stay at these altitudes for a least a night or two to help your body acclimate before doing any intense activities at the Grand Canyon.
These steps will your body gradually adjust to the new altitudes.
3. Take It Easy & Rest
When exploring at high altitudes such as the Grand Canyon, it's best to start slow and exercise caution during your first few days at elevation so that your body has time to adjust to its new environment.
Try not to exert yourself too much during your first few days of hiking, take frequent breaks along the way. If you feel tired or short of breath while hiking, stop and rest for 15 minutes.
Sleep is imperative for allowing your body to recover and adjust to the new altitudes. Research pointed out by OrthoCarolina reveals that sleep can increase blood flow and help with oxygen in the cells.⁷
Many experts recommend 7-9 hours of sleep a night for optimal rejuvenation.
4. Limit Alcohol
While drinking alcohol at the Grand Canyon isn't of course very common, many will stay in Phoenix or Flagstaff with vibrant cities before visiting.
5. Take Glutathione
High altitudes like the Grand Canyon cause a lot of physiological stress on the body including free radical damage. And glutathione was actually found to be depleted in these conditions.
- Research out of India discovered glutathione to decrease by up to 45% in high altitudes.⁸
Glutathione is considered the body's master antioxidant. By supplementing this powerful amino acid, you can help replenish your glutathione levels to combat the oxidative stress.
To summarize our list of top researched tips — you should maximize hydration, gradually acclimate, take it easy and rest, limit alcohol consumption, and take glutathione.
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1. U.S. National Park High Points
2. Grand Canyon Elevation
3. Grand Canyon National Park Arizona
4. Altitude Sickness University Of Michigan Health Service
5. Oxygen Levels at Altitude
6. Tips to Boost Your Oxygen Saturation Level at Home
7. Sleep: The Secret Ingredient of Injury Recovery
8. Effect of high altitude (7,620 m) exposure on glutathione