Tips for avoiding bear encounters

Bear Safety Tips

Hiking, Camping, Fishing

Take Special Precautions

Hiking, walking, camping, cycling and fishing in bear country takes special precautions. While bear attacks are very uncommon and black bears rarely become aggressive when encountered, it’s best to avoid bears by following these simple steps listed below, and to know what to do if an encounter happens.

Watch wildlife biologist Kim Delozier illustrate best practices for encountering bears in the video “Day Hiking & Wildlife.”

“I notice that after the hikers depart, the wildlife comes out, and the first place the animals go every time is the fire ring because hikers have half attempted to burn their food and trash, or spit their mint flavored toothpaste into these pits. The hikers move forward, but places remain immobile, animals become acclimated, and the next round of hikers pays the consequences.”

Chloë de Camara
Appalachian Trail Ridge Runner

To avoid bear encounters while…

solo hiking icon

…Hiking or Walking

  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Hike in groups and stay together.
  • Keep kids within sight.
  • Keep dogs on a leash or leave them home.
  • Make noise in thick cover.
  • Carry bear spray.
meeting a bear on the trail
dog hiking icon

…With Your Dog

  • Keep dogs leashed.
  • Do not let dogs chase or interact with bears.
  • If you encounter a bear while with your dog, back away and leave the area.


  • Keep a clean camp.
  • Don’t burn food scraps or trash in your fire ring or grill.
  • Do not store food, trash, clothes worn when cooking, or toiletries in your tent. Store in approved bear-resistant containers OR out of sight in a locked vehicle OR suspended at least 10 feet above the ground and 10 feet from any part of the tree. Local storage regulations vary.
  • Cook downwind and as far from your tent as possible.
  • Set up backcountry camps away from dense cover and natural food sources.

Carry Bear Spray & Know How To Use It

Keep bear spray accessible; it’s proven to be the easiest and most effective way to deter a bear that threatens you. It doesn’t work like bug repellent, so never spray your tent, campsite or belongings. Learn more about bear spray.

how to hang food from a tree

For instructions on how to hang your food, see this excerpt from The Backpacker’s Field Manual by Rick Curtis.