Hiking is one of my favorite things to do while traveling. It’s a great way to get outside, breathe fresh air, and see some of the most beautiful landscapes imaginable. Hiking brings you closer to nature, and in some areas, that means closer to bears.
Hiking in bear country involves a higher risk. Bears will usually try to avoid humans, but there have been quite a few reported bear attacks in recent years, mostly in relation to hikers. Organizations, parks and wilderness areas are pushing education more and more to try to prevent these attacks, but often hikers just don’t take the proper precautions.
If you are planning to go hiking in bear country, please take these steps to ensure your safety.
Hiking in Bear Country
Hike in Groups
It is generally recommended that you hike in groups of 3 or more. The bigger your group, the less likely a bear is going to want to mess with you. More people also means more noise–I’ll tell you why that’s important in a minute. Hiking alone puts you at a much greater risk of danger, but if you do go alone, stick to popular trails at busier times of day.
Make Some Noise
This may seem counter-intuitive to a lot of people, but making noise while hiking is a good way to avoid bear encounters. If there is a bear nearby, “sneaking” up on it (by being too quiet) will startle it. A scared bear is an aggressive bear. Making noise–walking loudly, talking, singing, clapping–will alert it and it will most likely retreat. Bears don’t usually want anything to do with humans.
Stay on Marked Trails
It’s extremely important to stay on trails while hiking. Not only will this keep you from getting lost, but actual trails are going to have more people, more foot traffic, and more noise. This means bears are generally less likely to be around. Once you stray from the trail, you’re really out there on your own.
Carry Bear Spray
Bear spray is a major deterrent if you find yourself in a bear encounter. It works a lot like mace. That means it’s effective, but you should also make sure you know how to use it properly. Bear spray is pricey, but it’s well worth it when you find yourself needing it.
Do Not Run
Bear encounters do happen. Hopefully you’re carrying bear spray like everyone has warned you a million times. Whether you have it or not, absolutely do not run when you see a bear. That’s only going to trigger a reaction you don’t want–the bear is going to become defensive or aggressive. You’re more likely to get away from a bear by speaking calmly and then slowly backing away.
These are all basic precautions and guidelines. Please read more information here to learn more about what to do if you encounter a bear.
This post is not meant to stop you from hiking in bear country–they live in some quite picturesque areas, so it would be a shame to never see any of it. This post is simply a reminder to be respectful of nature, and to be prepared when venturing out in these areas.
Read Next: 4 Short Hikes in Grand Teton National Park
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