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Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks: 10 Tips For Hiking In Grizzly Bear Country

Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks: 10 Tips For Hiking In Grizzly Bear Country

My wife and I spend over 220 days each year in Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, hiking hundreds of miles each season. Grizzly bears are plentiful in all three of these national parks, and through the years we’ve learned several ways to avoid potential problems with these great bears. By learning the following information, you will then know how to hike in grizzly country with the least amount of risk. This will help make your national park hiking experience far more enjoyable.

Please keep in mind that grizzly bear attacks are extremely rare. Millions of people hike these trails each and every year, and very few encounters resulting in negative outcomes ever occur. These trails are among the top hiking trails in North America and are very much worth enjoying. By simply taking certain precautions while on these trails, hikers and grizzlies can happily co-exist without any problems occurring.

Your main objective while hiking in grizzly country is to avoid surprising a grizzly along a trail. Surprising a grizzly can activate its “fight or flight” instinct, which can potentially be a very dangerous situation. Therefore, many of the following tips are meant to help you avoid this from happening.

1. Talk Loud!
The human voice is the most effective sound you can make to let a grizzly know you’re in the area. It is our experience that talking loudly while hiking is far more effective than bear bells, and the National Park Service agrees. By talking loudly, calling out or singing, the bear will hear you coming far in advance and have plenty of time to avoid you.

2. Be Careful Near Loud Water.
Make sure you talk especially loud near what we call “Loud Water”, which are streams and rivers that are really roaring. This will insure the bear hears your voice over this noisy environment.

3. Be Careful Around Blind Corners.
Blind corners on a trail can sometimes pose a potential problem, so when approaching a blind corner, talk really loudly, call out or sing to avoid a face-to-face encounter with a grizzly bear.

4. Avoid Hiking Alone.
If you are hiking with a group of people, the chances of a problem decreases dramatically. If you’d prefer not to hike with a group, at least hike with one other person and make your presence known.

5. Avoid Hiking At Night.
It’s our general feeling that humans “own” the trails during the day, grizzlies own them at night. So we recommend that you try to avoid hiking during nighttime hours if you can.

6. Look Around.
Sometimes hikers have a tendency to stare at the ground below their feet as they hike. This is a bad habit for two reasons. One reason is they are missing out on unbelievably gorgeous scenery, and the other is that they are not looking for bears in front of them.

7. If You’re The First Hiker On The Trail…
If you think you might be the first person on the trail that morning, really be aware of your surroundings and talk, sing or call out louder than usual, especially around blind corners and loud water.

8. Never Approach A Grizzly.
If you’re fortunate enough to see a grizzly bear (from a distance) while hiking, enjoy this magnificent animal from afar and DO NOT approach it.

9. Carry Bear Spray.
My wife and I strongly feel that every hiker should carry bear spray, and every hiker needs to know how to use it. Also, keep your bear spray easily accessible. Never have it in your pack. Instead, have the spray on your hip for example, where you can quickly grab it if needed without having to remove your pack to get to it.

Please be aware that bear spray is not a “bear repellant”. Instead, it’s designed to be used as a last resort (at extremely close range) during an imminent bear attack. It is unlikely that you will ever need to use it, but if the situation ever arises, bear spray could help you avoid serious injury or worse.

Make sure your bear spray is not older than the expiration date. We replace our bear spray every year just to be on the safe side.

10. Check NPS Trail Reports.
The National Park Service provides daily trail reports that update hikers on the status of certain trails with regard to grizzly bear activity. These reports are located at all ranger stations, park lodges, campgrounds, general stores and hotels within the national parks.