Traveling in Bear Country

In wilderness areas within Inyo National Forest, visitors must counter-balance their food, or store it in bear-resistant containers. In some areas, visitors must store their food in containers that are designed specifically to protect it from bears. 

Bear-Resistant Food Containers

Example of a Bear-Proof Food ContainerBear-resistant canisters and panniers are the most effective method of food storage for backpackers and stock-users. Bears cannot open any of these containers. In all areas of Inyo National Forest, bear-resistant panniers and canisters are strongly recommended for food storage. For more information about bears, bear-resistant containers and how to pack them, visit .

In the following areas use of bear resistant containers is  mandatory:


Mammoth Lakes / Rush Creek

Duck Pass

Purple Lakes

Fish Creek

Little Lakes Valley

Bishop Pass

Mount Whitney

Cottonwood Lakes

Cottonwood Pass



In addition, national parks and national forests adjacent to the Inyo National Forest have food storage requirements. For information about food storage requirements throughout the Sierra Nevada,   click here...


Proper Placement of Food Canister in Camp Area

Properly placed bear canister


The Counter-Balance Method

Counter balancing food consists of hanging the food in two sacs over the branch of a tree. The food must be at least 15 feet above the ground, and 10 feet horizontally from the tree trunk. It is extremely difficult to properly counter balance food, and counter balancing is not as effective as it once was. Even when it is hung properly, bears may gain access to counter-balanced food. If you choose to counter balance your food, be prepared to actively defend it and repeatedly scare bears away from your camp. Even with this negative reinforcement, bears may figure out a way to get your food - some bears will chew the branches off trees to get your food bags. The counter-balance method is only a delaying tactic; eventually persistent bears will obtain counter balanced food.

Storing Food at Trailheads

Plan ahead so that you do not need to store food in your car. Bring only what you will need during your trip to the wilderness. At some trailheads, storing food in your car is prohibited, but food storage lockers are provided for your convenience. However, space is very limited. Leave bulky items, such as coolers, at home. Items that bears associate with food include plastic bottles, water bottles, coffee mugs, empty cans, trash, wrappers, cosmetics, grocery bags, boxes, and ice chests. Do not leave these items in your car or tent. Bears will break into your car or tent to obtain them. 


Sierra Interagency Black Bear Group


Sierra Interagency Black Bear Group 

Yosemite National Park Food Storage

Yosemite National Park Bear Canisters

Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park Bear Restrictions