Tips for Hiking in Grizzly Bear Country
Learn from Yellowstone's top hiking and backpacking company how to hike and camp in bear country.
One of the biggest appeals of Yellowstone is the amount of wildlife that you will encounter. And, one of the most favorite wildlife sightings you can have is with a bear. Luckily, there are plenty of bears in Yellowstone National Park. The park is home to black bears—which may be black, brown, or cinnamon in color, and to grizzly bears.
It is recommended to stay at least 100 yards from a bear at all times. They can be dangerous when they feel threatened or stressed. Below, are tips for hiking and backpacking in bear country, and everything else you need know about bear country.
Tips for Hiking in Bear Country
Our top tips for hiking in bear country:
- 1. Carry bear spray: every visitor center and gift shop in the park sells bear spray, and it is available for rent at Canyon Village.
- 2. Hike in a group of three or more: groups of this size are less likely to surprise a bear and cause it to react.
- 3. Make noise while you are hiking: some people carry bear bells, but you can also just talk to your hiking partners while walking. You want a bear to hear you coming, so you don’t catch it off guard.
- 4. Be aware of your surroundings: this way a bear doesn’t catch you off guard.
- 5. Avoid hiking at dusk or dawn: this is when bears are most active.
- 6. Watch for signs of a bear, like scat, markings on trees, or tracks: you may be able to tell how recently a bear was in the area, or which direction they were headed.
- 7. Don’t go off-trail: the further you stray from the trail, the more likely you will encounter a bear.
Tips for Backpacking in Bear Country
When backpacking in Yellowstone, the above tips apply, as well as a few more. Below are the recommendations for backpacking in bear country:
- 1. Use the bear box, or food pole at your backcountry campsite, if provided.
- 2. If a bear box or food pole is not at your campsite, you must bring your own bear cannister.
- 3. Store all items with a scent in the bear box, food pole, or bear canister: this includes clean or dirty dishes, cooking utensils, food, trash, toiletries, and stoves.
- 4. Make sure you empty your pockets of wrappers and other trash: the last thing you want to do is forget about a granola bar wrapper and go to bed with it in your pocket.
- 5. Set up your tent at least 100 yards from where you cooked, stored you food and cleaned your dishes.
- 6. If you see a bear entering your camp, make noise to scare it off, and make sure that it doesn’t get any of your food.
Bear spray is a non-lethal spray that should be used to deter aggressive bears. It temporarily reduces the bears’ sense of smell and sight, and allows you to quickly leave the area. There is also proof that a bear who is strayed will be less likely to approach humans in the future, thus reducing the number of bears that are killed by people using self-defense.
Bear spray should be kept in a easy-to-access location, like a hip holster, or side-pocket of a backpack, that way you can use it on demand if needed. And when aiming, try to shoot it at the bear’s feet, because it creates a cone of spray. But don’t think too hard, if a bear is charging you, just spray in the space between you.
You can watch a video about how to use bear spray here. It never hurts to be prepared for bear country.
Join a Guided Hiking Adventure
Yellowstone National Park is home to some of the most epic and amazing hiking vacations in the world. Wildland Trekking offers trips with the best of Yellowstone: geysers, waterfalls, views, wildlife, solitude, adventure and fascinating natural and cultural interpretation.
Guided Yellowstone treks are all-inclusive which covers permits; local transportation (excluded on certain tours); meals; equipment; safety systems and professional hiking/wilderness guides; all of which allows visitors to maximize their time in Yellowstone and focus entirely on enjoying the Park.
YELLOWSTONE ADVENTURE TOURS
- GUIDED BACKPACKING ADVENTURES: these are for people interested in an authentic Yellowstone adventure away from the roads and crowds.
- LLAMA TREKS: on these innovative trips, guests hike with light day packs and camp near in stunning backcountry locations.
- INN-BASED PACKAGES: these tours are all-inclusive packages with lodging, amazing daily hikes, expert guides, meals, transportation and more!
- CAMPING-BASED HIKING PACKAGES: camping-based hiking packages provide all-around hiking experiences of Yellowstone on wonderful outdoor vacations.
- DAY HIKE TOURS: maximize your day in Yellowstone on a fully guided, award-winning hiking tour on one of the Park’s best trails.