Traveling in Bear Country

The Inyo National Forest  requires proper food storage in all wilderness areas. In some places, visitors must use bear bear-resistant containers, designed specifically to protect food from bears. In all other areas within designated wilderness, visitors are required to counter-balance their food, or store it in bear-resistant containers.

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 because they cannot gain a purchase with their claws. We strongly advise all backpackers and stock users to utilize bear-resistant food containers in all areas. For more information about bears, bear-resistant containers and how to pack them, visit .

In these areas of the Inyo National Forest, use of bear resistant containers is  required. These areas include: 

 Bishop Pass Area

Cottonwood Lakes Basin/Cottonwood Pass Area

Duck Pass/Purple Lakes Area

Fish Creek Area

Kearsarge Pass Area

Little Lakes Valley Area

Mammoth Lakes/Rush Creek Area  

Mount Whitney Area

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