Is It Safe To Tent Camp In Glacier National Park

By Charles •  Updated: 12/24/20 •  12 min read
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Are you planning a trip to Glacier National Park soon?  Maybe you want to bring your family to take in the majesty of the park. Maybe the trip is just a solo backcountry camping trip through the park.  Either way, if you enjoy tent camping, you may be worried about bears in the park and asking yourself one question in particular – “Is it safe to tent camp in Glacier National Park?”. 

As grizzly bear populations continue to recover, the numbers of human and grizzly encounters have also gone up.  As a result, a lot of fear has developed around the idea of tent camping in bear country. Of course, there are always risks involved when spending time in bear country. This does not change just because you are in a national park. However, if you take the proper bear safety precautions and always carry bear spray, there is no reason for you not to enjoy your tent camping trip to Glacier National Park.

is it safe to tent camp - grizzly on trail

Choosing Your Camping Spot In Bear Country

The key to having a safe tent camp in Glacier National Park starts with choosing a good camping spot.  Now, if you are planning on camping in one of the established campgrounds, then this choice has pretty much been made for you. However, when you are camping in the backcountry you should take some time and consider your camping spot carefully.

Watch For Bear Sign When Looking For A Spot To Place Your Tent Camp

As you are looking for a likely camping spot, you should be looking for any bear sign.  If you do happen to find some fresh signs that bears have been using the area, it is probably a good idea to move on to a different area.

Some of the examples of bear sign to look for when tent camping.

  • Fresh bear tracks.
  • Rubbed and claw-marked trees. Bears will rub or scratch their backs against trees, and this will sometimes peal the bark off. In addition, they will peal the bark off some trees and eat the inner layer of bark.
  • Larger rocks that have recently been flipped over. Bears will flip rocks to try to find insects underneath to eat.
  • Rotted wood (stumps, logs, etc.) that has been torn apart or shredded. While looking for food, bears will tear old logs and stumps apart to find insects
  • If it looks like someone has plowed or taken a rototiller to the ground, it is likely that a grizzly has been in the area.  Grizzly bears will dig roots and bulbs. When you find areas like this you should look at the parts of the plants that have not been eaten. If they are still fresh, a bear may be nearby.
is it safe to tent camp - Grizzly Track Comparision
is it safe to tent camp - Grizzly Tracks

Find A Tent Camping Spot Away From Established Trails/Roads

A bear is just like any animal or you and me.  They will take the path of least resistance whenever they can while traveling.

Do Not Set Your Tent Camp Too Close To A River, Stream, Or Lake Shore

Another natural travel corridor for bears are rivers, streams, and lake shores that do not have a lot of cover.

Stay Away From Open Ridges In Steep Country When Choosing A Tent Camping Spot

Again, a natural travel route for any animal, bears included, would be open ridges.

So, Where Should you Camp?

After all the areas I have listed were you should not set your camp, you may be asking where do you camp?

Setting Up Your Tent Camp To Stay Safe In Glacier National Park

After you have found a good camping spot you will have to properly set up your camp to stay safe while tent camping in Glacier National Park. Anytime you are camping in bear country, you need to separate your sleeping, cooking, washing, and food storage areas.

Store Food, Toiletries, And Trash Away From Your Tent Camp In Glacier National Park To Be Safe

Yes, I know I already mentioned this just a little bit ago.  However, this may be the most important step you can take to stay safe when tent camping in Glacier National Park or any bear country.  In addition, I want to cover this bear safety precaution in greater detail.

Of course, there is a chance you might run into a bear while hiking down the trail or while you are spending time relaxing or fishing at the river or lake.  However, a more worrisome situation arises if a bear smells your food, deodorant, toothpaste, or perfume while you are sleeping and comes to investigate.  Bears probably have the best sense of smell of any animal and can easily smell these items from miles away.

What Storage Containers For Food, Toiletries, And Trash Do You Need In Bear Country

You need to have a plan for your food and toiletry storage before you head out on your tent camping trip to Glacier National Park. First, you need to choose foods and toiletries that have less smell. Then, you need to take steps to make sure you reduce any smells and store it properly.

  • The next step up from a regular dry bag or stuff sack would be a bear resistant flexible food sack.  These sacks are made from a specially designed fabric that is made to keep bears from easily tearing open the bag. In addition, these bags IGBC certified and should meet most legal food storage requirements.
  • Finally, the best option for storage is a certified bear resistant container.  A bear resistant container can take many shapes and sizes from horse panniers to backpacking containers. They are hard sided containers that have some sort of locking mechanism. These containers have been designed and tested to withstand a bear getting into them, but they must be locked to work. 

What Are Proper Food, Toiletry, and Trash Storage Methods In Bear Country

I have said it before, but it is worth repeating. Make sure you are storing ALL your food, toiletries, and trash a minimum of 100 yards from you tent and DOWNWIND. If at all practical, it would be even better to store the food further away.

Make Sure You Cook Your Food In A Separate Area To Stay Safe While Tent Camping In Glacier National Park

Cooking is going to exaggerate the smells of your foods.  Therefore, make sure you are always doing all cooking and eating away from your tent.

Keep Your Tent Camp And Yourself Clean To Stay Safe In Glacier National Park

Again, you are trying to reduce the odors your camp produces.  This will lower the chances of a bear even finding your camp. Make sure you are constantly keeping your camp clean and, if you have been out for a while yourself, in bear country.

Keep Bear Spray With You And Accessible At All Times In Bear Country

To stay safe while tent camping in Glacier National Park you must be ready to defend yourself. You need to always have a deterrent at hand.

  • Most officials recommend carrying bear spray with you all times while in bear country.
  • According to these officials, bear spray is more effective than a gun. The bear spray will have a wider dispersal and is more likely to hit the bear.
  • Keep the bear spray in the tent with you at nights while sleeping.

So, Is It Safe To Tent Camp In Glacier National Park?

Tent camping in bear country is a potentially dangerous adventured.  However, if you follow the guidelines we have laid out to stay safe, you should avoid any major issues with a bear.

Bear attacks are do not happen that often when you consider how many people visit Glacier National Park each year. By learning these safety guidelines, you will help you protect yourself and other people and will stay safe while tent camping in Glacier National Park.

Feature Photo by Peter Vanosdall on Unsplash

Charles

Charles is a man who loves the outdoors. He moved to Wyoming specifically to spend more time in the mountains and wilderness. A hunter and fisherman, Charles knows how to enjoy nature and all that it has to offer. He is an outdoorsman through and through, and he wouldn't have it any other way. Charles is the President of Absaroka Enterprises, an company focuse on outdoor entertainment and endeavours. He's also an Editor for Alpha and Omega Outdoors, an online hunting, fishing, camping, trapping, and all around outdoors blog.

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