Hiking & Camping in Bear Country


AIthough the risk of an encounter with a bear is low, there are no guarantees of your safety. Minimize your risks by following the guidelines below.

A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear
Do not leave packs containing food unattended, even for a few minutes. Allowing a bear to obtain human food even once often results in the bear becoming aggressive about obtaining such food in the future. Aggressive bears present a threat to human safety and eventually may be destroyed or removed from the park.

While Hiking
Make bears aware of your presence on trails by making loud noises, shouting, or singing. This lessens the chance of sudden encounters, which are the cause of most bear-caused human injuries in the park. Hike in groups and use caution where vision is obstructed. Do not hike after dark. Avoid carcasses; bears often defend this source of food.

If You Encounter a Bear
Do not run. Bears can run 30 mph (48 kph), or 44 feet/second (13 m/second), which is faster than Olympic sprinters. Running may elicit an attack from an otherwise nonaggressive bear. If the bear is unaware of you, keep out of sight and detour behind and downwind of the bear. If the bear is aware of you and nearby, but has not acted aggressively, slowly back away.

Tree climbing to avoid bears is popular advice, but not very practical in many circumstances. All black bears, all grizzly cubs, and some adult grizzlies can climb trees. Plus, running to a tree may provoke an otherwise uncertain bear to chase you.

If A Bear Charges or Approaches You
Do not run. Some bears will bluff their way out of a threatening situation by charging, then veering off or stopping abruptly at the last second. Bear experts generally recommend standing still until the bear stops and then slowly backing away. If you are attacked, lie on the ground completely flat. Spread your legs and clasp your hands over the back of your neck. Another alternative is to play dead: drop to the ground, lift your legs up to your chest, and clasp your hands over the back of your neck.

When Camping
Never camp in an area that has obvious evidence of bear activity such as digging, tracks, scat, or where animal carcasses are present.

Odors attract bears. Avoid carrying or cooking odorous foods or other products. Keep a clean camp; do not cook or store food in your tent. All food, garbage, or other odorous items used for preparing or cooking food must be secured from bears. Hang all such items at least 10 feet (3 m) above the ground and at least 4 feet (1.2 m) out from tree trunks. Treat all odorous products such as soap, deodorant, or toiletries in the same manner as food.

Sleep a minimum of 100 yards (91m) from where you hang, cook, and eat your food. Keep your sleeping gear clean and free of food odor. Don’t sleep in the same clothes worn while cooking and eating; hang those clothes in plastic bags.

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