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How to Hike Safely in Bear Country

Wildlife watching is one of the main reasons visitors come to Yellowstone, and a bear sighting is the most coveted of them all! Remember that all of Yellowstone National Park is bear habitat-- from the north to the south, and the boardwalk to the backcountry.

Bears have made a remarkable recovery inside Yellowstone National Park-- do your part to protect and preserve this essential part of Yellowstone. Aggressive bears and bear-caused injuries ultimately lead to the bear being removed from it's home in Yellowstone or killed. Bears are an important part of Yellowstone's ecosystem and need visitors to be bear aware!

Nomadic By Nature and the National Park Service recommend the following precautions when hiking and camping to ensure safety for yourself and any bear that you may encounter (these are not in any particular order, they are all equally important):

1. Stay alert! Although this may seem like common sense, it is easy to be entranced by the beauty surrounding you or let your mind wander, after all, that's the main reason you go hiking in the first place. But when hiking in bear habitat, you must stay vigilant and aware of your surroundings.

2. Hike in a group. The National Park Service recommends hiking in groups of three or more, saying that "91% of the people injured by bears in Yellowstone since 1970 were hiking alone or with only one hiking partner".

3. Make noise! Just talking amongst your group is sufficient. By making noise, you are trying to alert any potential bear in the area of your presence. Most negative bear encounters occur because a person surprises a bear. If you find yourself hiking through thick vegetation with low visibility, in fog, near a loud stream or in windy weather, you will want to talk a little louder, or yell "hey bear" every once in a while, to keep a bear updated on your location.

4. Carry bear spray in an accessible location (not inside your backpack-- you want to be able to use it on a dime, without having to adjust any of your belongings). Bear spray is a non-lethal deterrent that is proven to stop aggressive bears. It is not necessary to pull bear spray on every bear you come across-- assess the situation and use bear spray on a charging or threatening bear. You can read what the National Park Service says about how to use bear spray safely.

You can buy bear spray at most retail shops in Yellowstone and each gateway community just outside the park. Or, you can rent bear spray at Canyon Village inside Yellowstone.

5. Keep your campsite clean! Bears are smart and have an amazing sense of smell, so they are able to find new food sources quickly. If a bear finds human food, they are likely to keep coming back for more and it leads them to become aggressive towards humans when they come back. Keep a clean camp by storing all food, garbage or any item with a smell (toothpaste, lip balm, etc.) in a safe place such as your car or bear box in the frontcountry, or hanging it or using a bear can in the backcountry.

6. Sleep 100 yards away from cooking area. Most backcountry campsites in Yellowstone have designated spots for cooking, sleeping and hanging your smelly items. Make sure your explore your site to find the best place to cook and pitch your tent at least 100 yards away from your cooking location. It is also important to clear all of your pockets of food or wrappers before heading to sleep.

7. Understand bear management areas. Park biologists have determined certain areas in Yellowstone that are rich in elk and bison carcasses, making them excellent feeding grounds for bears during certain times of the year. In order to reduce unwanted aggressive bear encounters, the park restricts activity in these areas. Do your research and learn about bear management areas before traveling to Yellowstone.

Remember that there is an average of one bear-caused injury each year in Yellowstone National Park-- more people have been injured by thermal burns in hot springs than by bear encounters.

Being prepared and aware is essential when hiking and camping in bear country, your safety and the safety of the bear depends on it!

Choosing to go on a backpacking trip with Nomadic By Nature is choosing safety!

  • All guides are trained in bear safety and how to navigate a bear encounter.

  • Nomadic By Nature provides bear spray to every guest that wants to carry it.

  • We supply all the necessary items needed to hang and store food and smelly items, and take care of hanging them while at camp.

  • Our backpacking trips are always safety in numbers, you will never be alone while hiking.

  • Guides have years of experience in Yellowstone's backcountry.

Join us a a guided backpacking trip this summer!


Featured Trip: Dunanda Falls

This 3-day guided backpacking trip to Dunanda Falls is great for people with limited time, but want to experience one of the most incredible waterfalls in Yellowstone National Park.

The trip allows us to backpack into our campsite, and leave it set up for two days, as we go explore Dunanda Falls. Since we have camp already set up, we can spend as much time as we want soaking in the warm hot springs, as Dunanda Falls pours over the side of it's cliff in the background.

Come check out waterfalls and hot springs on this epic backpacking trip!

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