Bear Safety When Camping
Bear safety when camping in the Canadian Rockies is very important. The Canadian Rockies are home to modest populations of black and grizzly bears. Almost every year, bears are reported in at least one campground somewhere in the Canadian Rockies.
TYPES OF CAMPERS: When it comes to bear safety, there are two types of campers in the Canadian Rockies—car campers and tent campers. Parks Canada often refers to hard-sided camping and soft-sided camping. In this regard, soft-sided camping includes tents and tent trailers. At Lake Louise, for example, the campground is divided into two sections, one for hard-sided units and one for everyone else.
TYPES OF CAMPGROUNDS: The Canadian Rockies has two types of campgrounds—auto-accessible campgrounds (that you can drive to) and backcountry campgrounds (only accessible on foot). Many auto-accessible campgrounds have bear safety protocols in place for tent campers, such as bear-proof lockers.
All campers should adhere to these rules:
Check campground reports at park visitor centres for any campgrounds where bears have been sighted.
Read any warning or closure signs at the campground registration board.
Never leave food or garbage outside, or if you are tent camping, inside your tent. Even hard-sided coolers should not be left outside.
Keep bear spray handy, preferably within easy reach.
If you do see a bear, retreat to your hard-sided camper or vehicle. If you are in the backcountry, retreat slowly from the area.
For backcountry campers, additional rules apply:
Watch for bear signs, such as fresh droppings, diggings or tracks around your campsite.
Seal all food and garbage and store it in bear-proof lockers or hang it from the bear poles provided at most campsites. Where lockers or bear poles are not provided, pack 20 metres of nylon cord and hang food from a strong tree well away from your campsite.
Avoid cooking in your tent. Cook away from your campsite, wash cooking utensils immediately and dispose of dishwater well away from your campsite.
Further Reading About Bears
Bear Safety When Hiking is a page with safety tips for hiking in bear country.
Many books about bears are available, including some dedicated to bears in the Canadian Rockies. Please go to our Books About Bears page.
Guidebook author Brian Patton writes about his experiences with bears on this page Bears in the Canadian Rockies.