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Bears on JMT
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James Hemphill
(jhemp_00) - F
Bears on JMT on 02/28/2006 08:19:08 MST Print View

OK, so I am planning on hiking the JMT this July, and my question is about the bear situation on the trail.
I do most of my backpacking in the Gila Wilderness, NM and we dont have a bear problem here. They see you and run. The bears here are scared of humans and they dont mess with you. So I rarely even hang food, or cook away from camp, or follow any bear saftey protocols.
I know I need to bring a bear cannister from what others have told me, but do I need to follow the rules about cooking 100 yards from camp(Down wind), and storing food far from camp? And what about toothpaste and lotions?
Can someone who has done this trail or is very knowlegable on bears in california please help me. I feel my current habbits wont cut it.

Scott Peterson
(scottalanp) - F

Locale: Northern California
Re: Bears on JMT on 02/28/2006 09:02:02 MST Print View

My experience with bears "near" the JMT is basically...the closer you are to popular spots in Yosemite, the more conditioned to humans the bears are. On a loop a couple of years ago, we went pretty deep into the Yosemite outback and saw lots of signs of bears...but only actually encountered them at night at locations where humans stayed on a regular basis. Whenever we camped at spots that were not popular or more out of the way...we did not see them.

Inside Yosemite, a bear canister is required. If you get caught without it, it might cost $150. Interestingly, I have seen bears not touch canisters sitting right under a bear bag they managed to swipe. And once they got in the bag...they tried everything...including coffee and toothpaste.

Regarding the 100 foot triangle and so fourth. It is probably a good idea to be reasonable about keeping smells out of your camp....more for the nuisance of being woken by a bear in the middle of the night. But these are not if you make a mistake, there is a strong liklihood you will live to see another day.

cary bertoncini
(cbert) - F

Locale: N. California
be careful in Sequoia too on 02/28/2006 09:08:47 MST Print View

We ran into our worst bear ever there & have heard LOTS of problem bears in the Ray Lakes area over the years. Once over Forrester Pass heading north, need to be pretty careful for a while.

Our bear chewed off a 6 inch thick branch while hanging from a tree to get our bear-bag to drop (this was before mandatory canisters there). He was a pretty big bear and was not afraid of any 1 person - always took 2 or more people to run him off. With 1 person, he'd hold his ground and huff, maintaining eye contact.

Bernard Shaw
( - F

Locale: Upstate New York
Re: Bears on JMT on 02/28/2006 10:28:09 MST Print View

Now that there are lighter weight cannisters and the Ursack bag is approved, taking precautions for youreself and the bears is never easier.

Several things help immensely. One, get the smell proof bags from Ursack site. They markedly reduce bears knowing you are even there. Do place all odor materials in them.

Cook with boil only foods that have no cook time. Never camp the same place you cook. Camp away from lakes and popular places and streams. Camp higher up, less bears there.

Be especially careful around the crowded areas and areas where horses come and go.

In twenty years of using this method I have been fortunate to never see a bear, knock on wood.


Bob Gabbart
(bobg) - F
cooking away from camp on 02/28/2006 11:16:57 MST Print View

I did the JMT last year. Allways cooked away from camp and never had a problem. Even when camping in established camp sites we didn't have any problems. It's not a big deal to cook away from camp and is a nice break in the late afternoon. Give it a try.

Robert Miller
(procab) - F
Re: Bears on JMT on 02/28/2006 20:54:57 MST Print View


Let me introduce myself. I am the only person in the world who has never seen a bear on the JMT. I thru hiked it in 2003 and in twelve days I never saw a bear. What a disappointment! My father soloed 6 days on the JMT in 2004 and had a similar result. Seperately I too spent 6 days on it in '04 and saw none.

Bear incidents in Yosemite, and most likely the entire Sierra, peaked in 1998 and I believe most of the horror stories are from those boom years. Fortunately the Forest Circus has instituted policies that have cut bear incidents by 75 percent.

I camp in out of the way locations and cook in camp if you consider boiling water and pouring it in bag cooking. All my trash from the day goes inside the empty dinner bag and zipped shut. I've never had a bear come around at night. I guess I'm lucky.


Ken Walsh
(kwbackpack) - F
Rae lakes bad... on 03/24/2006 06:55:25 MST Print View

The Rae lakes area can be very bad as well as Yosemite. As many others have stated a few simple steps will greatly reduce encounters - cook somewhere on the trail in the afternoon and then hike further to make camp. Don't camp where everyone else does (this assumes you are doing zero impact camping). Even if you do all of these things have your bear canister (or this year Ursack with the aluminum insert). I haven't tried them yet, but the smell proof (reducing?) bags sound like a good thing.

Finally, as far as canister selection goes the Bear Vault is not allowed in Rae Lakes at the moment, it is still approved everywhere else while they investigate what happened last summer with a fair number getting popped in Rae Lakes.


Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Rae lakes bad... on 03/24/2006 09:02:12 MST Print View

I corresponded with the Forest Service regarding the Rae Lakes situation.

One or more bears discovered that if they sat on the side of a Bear Vault they could distort the lid so they could pull it off. The manufacturer informed the Forest Service that they are planning on coming out with a solution prior to this summer's hiking season.

Jim Busick
(earthroamer) - F
Re: Rae lakes bad... on 03/24/2006 10:26:27 MST Print View

Hey, hey, hey, smarter than the average bear.

Bob Gabbart
(bobg) - F
no bear on JMT on 03/24/2006 11:09:57 MST Print View


You aren't alone. I just hiked the JMT last summer and didn't see a single bear. I followed all the general precautions.


cary bertoncini
(cbert) - F

Locale: N. California
sometimes it's just bad/good timing though with bears on 03/24/2006 11:23:59 MST Print View

We were up in Dusy Basin one year. The week before we were there, a bear went on a marauding binge & hit EVERY SINGLE CAMP on either side of Bishop Pass before heading back down to South Lake area for a break. We ran into a climber who had to hike out and drive into Bishop for more food for his entire party, who were camped at Dusy.

Robert Miller
(procab) - F
Re: sometimes it's just bad/good timing though with bears on 03/24/2006 11:31:06 MST Print View


What year?

cary bertoncini
(cbert) - F

Locale: N. California
hmmm - I'm thinking 1997 on 03/24/2006 12:02:29 MST Print View

or maybe 1998

Bernard Shaw
( - F

Locale: Upstate New York
bears are like burglars on 03/28/2006 21:54:19 MST Print View

Bears are like burglars, if you leave your house locked with an alarm and lights one and neighbors watching, they just go to the next house until find one easy.

Bears in Dusy/Bishop are like in a spa, everything is provided they don't have to even search for it much.

Lazy backpackers, horse groups, etc. have taught the bears there to simply reach out and touch someone.

All I ever had to do was simply cook one place and camp far away from everyone. Common sense wins the day.

Anitra Kass
(Anitraten) - F

Locale: SoCal
Bears on the JMT on 04/12/2006 22:45:06 MDT Print View

Like many, I also did not see any bears on the JMT. I was hiking the PCT so I think I was there kind of early and maybe they were still hibernating (as I climbed Whitney on June 26, 2005). I was somewhat lax with my camping and cooking but I always used a bear box or canister (and boy did I get made fun of since many thru-hikers don't seem to carry canisters). I did see a bear at the bus stop at Happy Isles, it was chasing a deer down the street and was followed by a pack of tourists trying to get his picture.

I did have a friend who had a bear experience while camping at Thousand Island Lake. You can check it out here

Enjoy, I might be out on the JMT this summer myself, hope to see you.

catra Corbett
(DirtDiva) - F
bears on the JMT on 07/05/2006 21:20:04 MDT Print View

I have fastpacked the JMT 5 times in the last 4 years. One year(2004) I did a Yo Yo. I saw a bear cub a couple mile from Reds Meadow.

I train in Yosemite May- Oct. I run Ultramarathons. I have seen many bears on training runs Half Dome area. Snow creek trail. Glacier point area.


Colleen Clemens
(tarbubble) - F

Locale: dirtville, CA
Re: Bears on the JMT on 07/06/2006 08:15:00 MDT Print View

i have an acquaintance who works as a naturalist for one of the Sierra Nevada-area National Forests. she tells me that bears in the Sierra do not truly hibernate and are still active at lower elevations, even in the winter. just FYI.

we met a few bold bears in teh Yosemite backcountry, but teh only time we had a real problem was teh time we (stupidly) cooked diner in camp. yup. after an hour of snuffling and snorting outside our tent, i finally got up to run the bear off. he/she bluff charged me and then veered off and stole my husband's (empty) pack. i still thank God he/she only dragged it about 20 feet away. ohhh, if we'd lost that pack...

Bob Gabbart
(bobg) - F
bears and fishing on 07/06/2006 12:34:14 MDT Print View

How do you handle fish stink when fishing in bear country? When you pick up the fish to get the hook out you get the stink on your hand and then on your tackle. Any thoughts?