Organisms use a variety of environmental cues to orient their movements in three-dimensional space. Here, researchers show that the upward movement of young Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) emerging from gravel nests is influenced by the geomagnetic field. Fish in the ambient geomagnetic field traveled farther upwards through substrate than did fish tested in a field with the vertical component inverted. This suggests that the magnetic field is one of several factors that influences emergence from the gravel, possibly by serving as an orientation cue that helps fish determine which way is up. Moreover, our work indicates that the Oncorhynchus species are sensitive to the magnetic field throughout their life cycles, and that it guides their movements across a range of spatial scales and habitats.