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Where Do I Need To Carry A Bear Canister?

If you’re planning any lengthy backpacking trips, there is a good chance you will have to use a bear canister at some point. Many National Parks, National Forests, and thru-hikes require them, and so it’s useful to learn where you need to carry a bear canister so you don’t get caught out.

Many National Parks, National Forests, and Thru-hikes require that you use bear canisters, or bear-resistant food containers. Most notably, agencies require bear canisters in grizzly populated areas. These agencies also require the use of bear canisters in areas where black bears are present.

Below, we’ll go through lists of the key National Parks and trails, so you can see where you do and don’t need to carry a bear canister. We’ll also give you any more necessary details for these places, so you fully understand what you need before you plan your trip.

17 National Park Bear Canister Regulations

1. Denali National Park

Do I Need A Bear Canister In Denali National Park?

You do need a bear canister in Denali National Park. Denali National Park ‘recommends’ using bear-resistant food containers (BRFC) when camping in the park. You can get one for free from Denali National Park after purchasing your backpacking permit.

My wife and I were issued a BRFC when we backpacked Denali. It was awkward, and I had difficulty fitting it into my backpack. I suggest that you purchase a canister ahead of time, practice with it, and make adjustments before your trip.

2. Yellowstone National Park

Do I Need A Bear Canister In Yellowstone National Park?

You do not need a bear canister in Yellowstone National Park. Appropriately hanging food is acceptable within Yellowstone, but it’s good practice to take one if you have the space.

3. Yosemite National Park

Do I Need A Bear Canister In Yosemite National Park?

You do need a bear canister in Yosemite National Park. You are not allowed to use counterbalance food hangs in the park.

4. Zion National Park

Do I Need A Bear Canister In Zion National Park?

You do not need to carry a bear canister in Zion National Park. Zion is home to many mammal species, but bears are rare and only live in the high country.

5. Rocky Mountain National Park

Do I Need A Bear Canister In Rocky Mountain National Park?

You do need a bear canister in Rocky Mountain National Park, as black bears make their home within the park.

6. Bryce Canyon National Park

Do I Need A Bear Canister In Bryce Canyon National Park?

You do not need a bear canister in Bryce Canyon National Park. Bryce Canyon National Park is home to many mammals, including the black bear, and the Park ‘highly recommends’ using a bear-resistant food canister during your time inside the park.

The Bryce Canyon visitor center makes BRFCs available for loan, free of charge to any camper, backpacker, or hiker.

7. Grand Canyon National Park

Do I Need A Bear Canister In Grand Canyon National Park?

You do need a bear canister in Grand Canyon National Park. When in the backcountry, the park mandates that you use their large metal boxes.

8. Olympic National Park

Do I Need A Bear Canister In Olympic National Park?

You do need a bear canister in Olympic National Park. Bear canisters are required in Olympic National Park primarily on the coast (due to a raccoon problem), as well as in the Royal Basin, Sol Duc/7 Lakes Basin, 5 Mile Island, and Enchanted Valley.

9. Glacier National Park

Do I Need A Bear Canister In Glacier National Park?

You do need a bear canister in Glacier National Park. Glacier is home to one of the largest remaining grizzly populations in the lower 48 states. Glacier NP is also home to the more docile black bear, while not as aggressive, still requires safety precautions.

10. Grand Teton National Park

Do I Need A Bear Canister In Grand Teton National Park?

You do need a bear canister in Grand Teton National Park. Both grizzly and black bear roam freely in Grand Teton National Park. As with most National Parks, bear canisters are available for use in the park for free at backcountry permitting locations.

11. Mount Rainier National Park

Do I Need A Bear Canister In Mount Rainier National Park?

You do need a bear canister in Mount Rainier National Park, because black bears roam the park. They scavenge, and like human food, so bear canisters are required.

12. Desolation Wilderness National Forest

Do I Need A Bear Canister In Desolation Wilderness National Forest?

You do need a bear canister in Desolation Wilderness National Forest. With bears being able to gain access to some hanging food containers, the Tahoe Forest Service highly recommends that backpackers use approved bear-resistant food containers in Desolation Wilderness National Forest.

13. White Mountain National Forest

Do I Need A Bear Canister In White Mountain National Forest?

You do need a bear canister in Mountain National Forest.

14. Green Mountain National Forest

Do I Need A Bear Canister In Green Mountain National Forest?

You do need a bear canister in Green Mountain National Forest.

15. Big Bend National Park

Do I Need A Bear Canister In Big Bend National Park?

You do need a bear canister in Big Bend National Park, as it is home to 30 to 40 black bears who roam around backpacking campsites. The park provides bear-resistant storage lockers at all Chisos backpacking sites and primitive roadside sites.

16. Isle Royale National Park

Do I Need A Bear Canister In Isle Royale National Park?

You don’t need a bear canister in the Isle Royale National Park because there are no bears on the island. While the park is well-suited for bear life, the 14-mile icy water crossing prevents them from reaching the island.

17. Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Do I Need A Bear Canister In Great Smoky Mountain National Park?

You don’t need a bear canister in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, even though there are some black bears around. However, the Park has set up several bear trash cans, bear poles, and bear cable systems. These systems help you safely store your food out of a bear’s reach.

17 Thru Hike Bear Canister Regulations

1. The Appalachian Trail

Do I Need A Bear Canister On The Appalachian Trail?

You do need a bear canister on the Appalachian Trail. While 40% of the trail’s campsites have bear cables, boxes, and poles, not all sites are safe from bear scavenging. Therefore, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy recommends using a bear canister.

Using a bear hang is the most popular, yet highly unreliable way to store your food on the AT. Additionally, many campsites lack the appropriate trees. And that is why the Appalachian Trail Conservancy recommends the use of bear canisters throughout the length of the trail.

The Conservancy also points out that while hikers move along the trail, the animals remain in the area. Once an animal finds food, it will most likely return frequently to that site. A pattern emerges, and the area becomes unsafe for hikers.

2. The Pacific Crest Trail

Do I Need A Bear Canister On The Pacific Crest Trail?

You do need a bear canister on the Pacific Crest Trail. There are over 35,000 bears in California alone. While the Pacific Crest Trail Association recommends certain areas, they also note that bear canister use is appropriate throughout the length of the trail.

The Pacific Crest Trail Association states that thru-hikers should carry a bear canister “between Kennedy Meadows (mile 702) in the south and Sonora Pass (mile 1017) in the north and then again in Lassen Volcanic National Park (mile 1343-1363). We also strongly recommend carrying a bear canister in Desolation Wilderness near Lake Tahoe.”

3. John Muir Trail

Do I Need A Bear Canister On The John Muir Trail?

You do need a bear canister on the John Muir Trail, as it overlaps the Pacific Crest Trail for 160 miles. Therefore, as part of the Pacific Crest Trail, the John Muir Trail follows the same guidelines as the Pacific Crest Trail, and bear canisters are required.

4. Continental Divide Trail

Do I Need A Bear Canister On The Continental Divide Trail?

You do need a bear canister on the Continental Divide Trail, because several sections of the Continental Divide Trail meander through grizzly country. Additionally, black bears travel throughout the majority of the trail.

The Continental Divide Trail travels through 3 National Parks (Glacier, Yellowstone, and Rocky Mountain) and many special lands. It is best to abide by the recommendations in each situation.

5. Colorado Trail

Do I Need A Bear Canister On The Colorado Trail?

You do need a bear canister on the Colorado Trail, but only at certain parts. You are not required to carry and use a bear canister for the majority of the Colorado Trail. In certain areas called “corridor pass-throughs,” more strict rules apply.

6. The Long Trail

Do I Need A Bear Canister On The Long Trail?

You do need a bear canister on the Long Trail. While the Long Trail allows bear hangs, they discourage this usage. They recommend using an approved bear canister when hiking in Vermont’s Green Mountains, and subsequently, the Long Trail.

7. The Trans Adirondack Route

Do I Need A Bear Canister On The Trans Adirondack Route?

You do need a bear canister in one section of the Trans Adirondack Route. Bear-resistant food canisters must be used if you’re camping in the Eastern Zone of High Peaks Wilderness Area. This section of the route is approximately ten miles long.  

8. The Pacific Northwest Trail

Do I Need A Bear Canister On The Pacific Northwest Trail?

You do need a bear canister on the Pacific Northwest Trail. The Pacific Northwest Trail meanders through Glacier National Park, which requires bear canisters due to the dense grizzly population, along with the PCT, Olympic National Park, and the Cascades.

9. The Arizona Trail

Do I Need A Bear Canister On The Arizona Trail?

You don’t need a bear canister on the Arizona Trail, but it is recommended that you carry one.

10. The Florida Trail

Do I Need A Bear Canister On The Florida Trail?

You don’t need a bear canister on the Florida Trail. However, in a couple of places on the Florida Trail, bear bagging and hanging are recommended and required. In Big Cypress and the three National Forests, bear bag hanging is required and, in other locations, it is a good practice.

11. The North Country Trail

Do I Need A Bear Canister On The North Country Trail?

You don’t need a bear canister on the North Country Trail. However, the trail crosses 8 states, all of which have black bear populations. For this reason, we recommend following bear safety precautions when backpacking on the North Country Trail.

12. The Ice Age Trail

Do I Need A Bear Canister On The Ice Age Trail?

You don’t need a bear canister on the Ice Age Trail. There are black bears on the Ice Age Trail, so they do recommend that you hang your food. However, using bear canisters is still best practice.

13. The Hayduke Trail

Do I Need A Bear Canister On The Hayduke Trail?

You do need a bear canister on the Hayduke Trail, as it wanders through 8 National Parks, including Bryce and Zion. Both of these National Parks do not require bear canisters. However, Bryce does state that using a container is recommended when inside the park, so it’s best to follow this advice.

14. The Sierra High Route Trail

Do I Need A Bear Canister On The Sierra High Route Trail?

You don’t need a bear canister on the Sierra High Route Trail. However, because bears live in the area, you should take caution, and either hang your food or use a bear canister to be safe.

15. The Superior Hiking Trail

Do I Need A Bear Canister On The Superior Hiking Trail?

You do need a bear canister on the Superior Hiking Trail.

16. The Idaho Centennial Trail

Do I Need A Bear Canister On The Idaho Centennial Trail?

You do need a bear canister on the Idaho Centennial Trail, as it is home to many grizzly and black bear populations and therefore requires bear canister usage. They do say that, if you don’t have a bear canister, you can hang your food from a tree or snag, at least 10 feet off the ground.

17. Ouachita National Recreation Trail

Do I Need A Bear Canister On The Ouachita National Recreation Trail?

You do need a bear canister on the Ouachita National Recreation Trail. However, the trail also accepts counterbalance hanging as an acceptable method if you don’t have a bear canister.

Final Thoughts

Many National Parks and trails require you to carry a bear canister. It’s always best to do your research before heading out on your trip to see if you are required to bring one to stay in line with the park’s rules, but even if you don’t need to bring one, it’s still generally advised to do so.