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Hiking in Bear Territory

Updated: Oct 25, 2022

Not quite sure what to do when you come across a bear while hiking? We're here to give you a quick list of what to prepare for while hiking in bear territory.

Table of Contents

Where do Bears live?

First things first, where do most bears live? Check out this link for an interactive map that tells you what types of bears are located within each National Park in North America.

  • Black Bears: 600,000 in North America, with the largest population of Black Bears found in California.

  • Brown/Grizzly Bears: 55,000 in North America, with the largest population of Grizzly Bears in Alaska, followed by Montana and Wyoming.

Tip: Make sure you have the 10 Hiking Essentials before heading out on a hike.

The below information was gathered from the National Park Service, as well as, rangers and research from our past trips.


Avoiding Encounters - All Bears

Be Aware

Most bears are afraid of humans. However, like any animal, they may act aggressive when startled or surprised. Therefore, it is important to be aware of your surroundings when hiking in bear territory and keeping your distance when encountering animals.

Smell and Color

Bears may be enticed to investigate anything that looks out of the ordinary, especially bright colors. You may want to avoid wearing bright colored clothes or sleeping in a bright colored tent when hiking/backpacking in a smaller group. Similar to color, bears will also be attracted to potent smells in search of food. This includes perfumes, colognes, deodorants, and of course, strong smelling foods. We recommend this odor-less deodorant when hiking in bear territory.


If you are backpacking, we recommend checking with the park before bringing any food. Most parks have restrictions regarding how to properly carry food while backpacking. This Bear Canister is certified on the approved products list for National Park backpackers. Be sure to leave your bear canisters locked and closed as much as possible in order for these products to be most effective.

When backpacking with a bear canister, be sure to place it at least 100 ft away from your campsite. Do not place a bear canister near a cliff or waterways (bears may knock the canister over), and do not attach a rope to the canister (bears could grab the rope and run off with it).

For day hikers without the need for a bear canister, we recommend packing high calorie, compact foods that do not have strong odors such as pastas, nuts, dried fruits, protein bars, granola bars, or rice. In order to reduce garbage and pack light, we advise taking all food out of its original packaging (jars/cans/wrappers) and consolidating into resealable bags in order eliminate crumbs and conceal odors. Of course, be sure to pack out any garbage and treat all garbage as though it were food that could attract bears.

Also Read: Camping Hacks

Never Hike Alone

The larger the group, the less likely you are to encounter a bear. As previously mentioned, bears are generally afraid of humans unless provoked. Most National Parks suggest not hiking in groups of less than 3.


Making Noise

In addition to hiking in groups, making noise will alert bears that you are coming near and prevent them from feeling startled or threatened. This can be as simple as having a conversation with those you are hiking with or jamming out to your favorite song.

Keep Your Distance

Lastly, if you are to encounter a bear, be sure to keep your distance. Leave at least 75 yards between you and the bear. Never approach a bear and stay on the designated trails.