Traveling in Bear Country

In Inyo National Forest, visitors must store food in a manner that prevents bears or other animals from gaining access. Bears that become accustomed to human food can become more aggressive and endanger humans and property.

Items that must be secured include food sealed in jars, cans, or foil packs. Non food items such as plastic bottles, water bottles, coffee mugs, pet food, empty cans, trash, wrappers, cosmetics, grocery bags, boxes, and ice chests must also be secured. Do not leave these items in your car or tent. Bears will break in to obtain them.

If a bear attacks a person, immediately call 911. If a bear causes property damage or obtains food please report the incident.
Bear Incident Report Form

Storing Food at Trailheads and Campgrounds

Sign for food storage locker listing tips for being bear aware.

Food storage boxes are provided at many campgrounds and trailhead parking areas.

  • Space in storage boxes is limited. Bring only what you will need during your trip.
  • Trailhead storage boxes are shared with other groups. Put your return date on your items.
  • Consider using soft insulated bags or smaller coolers to fit items in boxes.
  • Typical food storage box is 48"x30"x36"
  • Deposit trash in bear resistant trash cans, not in food storage boxes.

Bear-Resistant Food Containers

Example of a Bear-Proof Food Container Bear-resistant containers and panniers are the most effective method of food storage for  wilderness travelers. In all wilderness areas of Inyo National Forest, use of bear-resistant containers is strongly recommended. In eight specific areas it is mandatory to store food and refuse in a container designed to prevent access by bear.

Bear-resistant food storage containers are required in the following areas in Inyo National Forest:

  1. Bishop Pass Area
  2. Cottonwood Lakes Basin/ Cottonwood Pass Area
  3. Duck Pass / Purple Lake Area
  4. Fish Creek Area
  5. Kearsarge Pass Area,
  6. Little Lakes Valley Area
  7. Mammoth Lakes / Rush Creek Area
  8. Mount Whitney Area

Counter-balance hanging technique may be used to store food where portable containers are not mandatory. However, where trees are not adequate for hanging food you must use a portable food storage container. No other methods of food storage are allowed.

Neighboring parks and forests food storage requirements.

Proper Placement of Food Canister in Camp Area

Diagram indicating sleeping area should be 50 feet from food storage and cooking area.

Counter-Balance Method

Counter balance hanging technique may be used in areas where portable containers are not required. This method of food storage consists of hanging the food in two bags balanced 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, with no rope hanging down. It is extremely difficult to find an adequate tree and properly counter balance the bags. Counter balancing is not as effective as it once was. Even when it is hung properly, bears may figure out a way to get your food - some bears will chew the branches off trees to get the food. The counter-balance method is only a delaying tactic. Be prepared to actively defend your food. You may need to repeatedly scare bears away from your camp.

How to Counter-balance (provided by Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks)

More Information

Keep Bears Wild! Visit the website for information throughout the Sierra Nevada. Download an updated Sierra Nevada Food Storage Map.

Neighboring parks and forests may have different food storage requirements. Visit the parks website for specific information. 

Yosemite National Park - Bears and Food Storage

Yosemite National Park - Accepted Containers

Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park - Wilderness Food Storage