I'm not from the mountains.

Every time I go into the mountains I lose all depth perception. I can't tell by looking if a peak is 100 meters or a 1,000 meters above me. I have to stare hard and look for context clues (usually trees).

This has led to some hilarious problems.

  1. If I spend enough time in the mountains, will my depth perception improve?
  2. Are people who are born and raised in the mountains better at perceiving distances in the mountains?
  • 1
    Wow, I have read Death Perception in the Mountains and thought this sounds like an interesting topic o_O Still a good question, I think estimations (e.g. for the depth) is something which is just being learned with experience.
    – Wills
    May 23, 2014 at 6:15

3 Answers 3


The difference between someone who knows the elevation of a peak and someone who doesn't is a map. Always bring a map with you, learn to read it well, and keep it dry. You'll live longer.

  • I understand the importance of maps. My question is more about my personal experience of depth perception than it is about navigation problems. May 23, 2014 at 15:33
  • Alright, then I will say that yes, if you spend more time in mountainous terrain, you'll inevitably get better at judging distance and elevation, and people that have lived around the peaks will have a leg up. But the important point I'm trying to stress above all is that no amount of confidence will replace a map. May 23, 2014 at 22:53

Yes, and yes.

According to people I've talked to who work at the Grand Canyon, visitors from the western United States (especially the rural parts of the Mountain West) find the canyon more impressive than those from the east (especially the urban east). The prevailing theory is that they've learned to see long distances.

  • 1
    Sorry, so you're saying that people from the Western mountainy areas find the Grand Canyon more impressive because their depth perception is better? May 24, 2014 at 19:59

Unless you're talking way above treeline, you can get some idea by what the vegetation looks like at the top or how far the peak seems to be above the treeline. This works reasonably well in the White Mountains of NH where treeline is about 5000 feet and the tallest mountains a bit over 6000 feet. Below 4000 feet, this method isn't much good because you can't see the differences between a 4000 foot and a 2000 foot forest from a distance.

  • Also, you have to know the height of the treeline if you want to use it in your guess. In central/northern Germany the treeline is roughly 1000m´s lower than in the alps due to climatic conditions - that is about half the height. May 23, 2014 at 15:00
  • @Olin The tree line in the Sierras is about 7,000-9,000 feet. We frequently go up to 12,000 feet hiking on weekends. The tree line is frequently useful. I am just wondering if other people born in the mountains don't have the same problem as me. May 23, 2014 at 15:35

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