Half Mountain and Longs Peak with snow reflected in Bear Lake

NPS/ K.Daugherty

What is Hypothermia?

With elevations in Rocky Mountain National Park ranging from 7,800 feet to over 14,000 feet, weather and conditions can change quickly at any time. One safety topic to be aware of year-round is hypothermia.

Hypothermia is the "progressive physical collapse and reduced mental capacity resulting from the chilling of the inner core of the human body." A person can experience hypothermia even on nice sunny days. Exposure to frigid bodies of water and sudden mountain storms can turn a pleasant day into a bitterly cold and life-threatening experience.

How to Prevent Hypothemia?

To prevent hypothermia, work to avoid getting chilled and wet. Dress for the conditions you may encounter and dress in wicking layers, so that you can take off and add layers of clothing as needed. Avoid clothing that will absorb and hold water, like cotton t-shirts and jeans.

Always pack an appropriate jacket for the anticipated conditions - remember conditions at 12,000 feet will be considerably colder and more windy than those at 7,000 feet. Even during the summer season, pack a warm winter hat, warm gloves and extra wool socks. Always pack a rainproof layer.

It is easy to slip and fall, especially on mountain trails and near bodies of water. Never walk, play, or climb on slippery rocks or logs, especially near waterfalls.

What are the warning signs of Hypothermia?

  • Uncontrolled shivering

  • Slow or slurred speech

  • Memory lapses and incoherence

  • Lack of coordination, such as immobile or fumbling hands

  • Stumbling, drowsiness, and exhaustion

If you or someone around you is experiencing symptoms, seek shelter from the weather and get the subject into dry clothes. Ensure they have a barrier between the ground and themselves. Keep the subject awake, and give them warm, non-alcoholic drinks.

Work to get professional medical help immediately.

A group of Hikers on the trail to Flattop Mountain


Last updated: January 20, 2023

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1000 US Hwy 36
Estes Park, CO 80517


970 586-1206
The Information Office is open year-round: 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. daily in summer; 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Mondays - Fridays and 8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Saturdays - Sundays in winter. Recorded Trail Ridge Road status: (970) 586-1222.

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