Bear Awareness in Glacier National Park

I don’t want to scare you (or anyone else who reads this), but I think one should be very aware of bears when hiking in Glacier National Park.

It can be a dangerous proposition if you are not constantly aware of your surroundings, make plenty of noise and carry a can of bear spray with you even on small walks. I’ve experienced two close calls with bears that I’d like to share.

The first one I’ll tell about occurred at the Prince of Wales hotel. My family and I spent the night there in 2004. After a great dinner at the hotel, my wife and I took a short walk down to a pond about a half mile from the hotel. The trail is an old logging road. On our way back to the hotel we ran into a female black bear with two cubs.

We were headed back to the hotel and they were directly coming our way back to the pond. They would not give up the road. We watched them for about five minutes and they just kept walking directly towards us.

We made noise, it didn’t matter. The road is sort of a culvert and we ran up the hill of the culvert and got about fifty yards above and away from the bears. We watched them walk by us from a safe distance. That time we had no bear spray with us. It was not cool.

Another time (July 2001), I was solo hiking from Granite Park chalet on the loop trail and ran into a female grizzly with two cubs. The bears had not seen me so I slowly (after taking out my bear spray) started walking backwards up the trail. The bears were foraging about maybe one hundred yards down on the trail from me.

As I started walking backwards, I slipped and fell onto the ground. Unfortunately, this got the bears’ attention.

The two grizzly cubs slipped off into the forest and that momma grizzly bear ran up the trail so fast. I couldn’t believe it!

There I was, sprawled out on the trail with my back and pack on the ground. The absolute worst situation to be in.

The bear ran up to me and I could clearly see her teeth and claws. She was salivating heavily, but not making any noise. She was about three feet from my left foot.

I started talking to her, as I’d read that’s what one should do. “I’m sorry for disturbing you mamma! Don’t mean you no trouble. If you’ll just let me slide by you’ll never see me again.” I didn’t look at her directly.

She slowly turned away and walked off about 20 yards. Then, she turned back at me and charged me again!

She didn’t hurt me this time either. I was having an out-of-body experience. Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, she sauntered off. I never used my bear spray.

Even as I write this I’m starting to shake again. So, I tell this story because it really happened to me.

You need to be very aware of your surroundings and be prepared for anything when hiking in Glacier National Park.

Do I still hike in Glacier? You bet I do – as often as I can. But I take it very cautiously and try to be aware of what’s going on not just in my immediate vicinity, but as far ahead as I can see.

I listen carefully. All my senses are acutely alive. And, I never hike without bear spray. That stuff will save your life.

Comments for Bear Awareness in Glacier National Park

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Apr 26, 2011




by: Alexandra

Hi Ed,
thank you for sharing your experience!

I have never been to Glacier National Park, but I am planning to go this summer. I have been in Waterton twice, and both times I was lucky enough to see bears, not grizzly but black bears. Still amazing, and both times we were inside the car, not hiking.

You see, my big fear is precisely to encounter a bear while hiking!

I have read a lot about what to do if you find yourself in a situation like this, but I always think, “Please God dont let me forget it!” …

Stay calm and do not let fear control you otherwise you are lost!

I moved from Mexico to Alberta only 3 years ago and I loved hiking since the very first time, but of course I am always scared of what may be waiting ahead of the trail.

My husband says I think “too much” lol. But I can’t help it.

I love the idea of seeing a grizzly bear, but I hope it is while I am inside a car or maybe our camper, not hiking! =)

Apr 02, 2009



Good Points

by: Perry

Hi Ed,

Very good points made. I definitely agree that grizzly bears have the potential to be dangerous and you must be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Too many times you see people in Yellowstone or Glacier exiting their cars and inching WAY too close to bears for the sake of a photograph.

That said, while many smart hikers still have had close encounters with bears, the likelihood of serious injury befalling hikers and backpackers is rare.

Bottom line: Don’t let the fear of grizzly bears deter you, but rather compel you to buy bear spray and to be intelligent and aware while hiking.



Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It’s easy to do. How? Just click here!

Simply click here to return to Do you have a Question About Glacier National Park?

Like this article?

Like This Site?

Speak Your Mind