Where to See Bears in the Canadian Rockies

Two species of bears and present in the Canadian Rockies, grizzly bears and black bears. Both are widespread and relatively common.

Bears are sighted on Canadian Rockies roads between April and October. Both species of bears come out of hibernation in April or May, and this period of springtime, until June, is the best time of year for seeing bears. There are two reasons for this:

1) Snow has melted in lower valleys and there is more food available, including dandelions along the edge of highways.

2) The Canadian Rockies is less crowded (with humans). As summer kicks in and crowds arrive, bears tend to move away from highways into remote valleys.

Although spring offers the best chance of seeing bears, you may see them at any time of year between March and October, and maybe even later some years if the weather is warmer and snowfall minimal.

The best place to see black and grizzly bears in the Canadian Rockies is along the highways. Reliable stretches of highway are the entire length of Icefields Parkway, Lake Minnewanka Road and the Bow Valley Parkway (Banff National Park), Maligne Lake Road (Jasper National Park), Highway 93 (Kootenay National Park), Highway 40 and Spray Lakes Road (Kananaskis Country), Akamina Parkway and Red Rock Parkway (Waterton Lakes National Park).

Away from the crowds, we usually see bears along the logging roads south of Hinton beyond Cadomin, on Columbia Valley logging roads, and on Highway 40 between Hinton and Grande Cache.

There are no particular sections of any Canadian Rockies highway where sightings are more common, but early in the morning is the best time of day for seeing bears.

Grizzly bears often take up residence for the summer on the slopes of Lake Louise Ski Resort, but if you want an (almost) guaranteed sighting ride the gondola at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Golden, where there is a resident grizzly bear named Boo.

For where to see bears elsewhere in the Canadian Rockies, visit these pages:

Where to see Bears in Banff
Where to see Bears in Jasper
Where to see Bears in Kananaskis Country

grizzly bear

A grizzly bear feeding on berries in Banff National Park.

Bear Safety in the Canadian Rockies

The chance to see bears in their natural habitat is one of the biggest draws of the Canadian Rockies. To help preserve this precious resource, obey regulations and use common sense. If you see a bear by the roadside:

DRIVE BY SLOWLY instead of stopping. This is the best way to minimize your impact on a roadside bear.

WARN OTHER MOTORISTS by flashing your hazard lights.

If you do stop, PULL OVER SAFELY without blocking the driving lane (ideally at a pull-off).

DO NOT LEAVE YOUR VEHICLE. Observe and photograph the bear from the safety of your car.

DO NOT GET TOO CLOSE. Please ensure that your vehicle is not crowding or obstructing a bear’s pathway.

DO NOT FEED THE BEARS. This may seem obvious, but it happens, most commonly when visitors through food out their windows when bears are present. Feeding bears endangers yourself, the bear, and other visitors, as they become aggressive when looking for handouts.

KEEP YOUR DISTANCE. Although it’s tempting to get close to wildlife for a better look or a photograph, it disturbs the animal and, in many cases, can be dangerous.

grizzly bear

A grizzly bear crossing a logging road in the remote mountains south of Hinton.

Further Reading About Bears

Canadian Rockies Wildlife PhotographyMany books about bears are available, including some dedicated to bears in the Canadian Rockies. Please go to our Books About Bears page.

Even if you are not a wildlife photographer, Canadian Rockies Wildlife Photography, an eBook by renowned wildlife photographer Wayne Lynch, is an excellent way to learn about Canadian Rockies bears, their habitats, and the best viewing opportunities.

Guidebook author Brian Patton writes about his experiences with bears on this page Bears in the Canadian Rockies.