Traveling in Bear Country

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

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

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 visitors. Many trailheads and campgrounds have metal food storage boxes. Bear cannot open these containers. All food and scented items, including food related trash should be secured so bear and other wildlife cannot access the food or trash.


For more information about bears, bear-resistant containers and how to pack them, visit .

In all areas of Inyo National Forest, use of bear-resistant containers is strongly recommended. In several specific areas it is manditory to store food and refuse in a container designed to prevent access by bear. In these areas bear are no longer deterred by hanging food from trees or the counter-balance method of food storage.

In the following areas bear-resistant containers are required:

Bishop Pass Area, Cottonwood Lakes Basin/ Cottonwood Pass Area, Duck Pass / Purple Lake Area, Fish Creek Area, Kearsarge Pass Area, Little Lakes Valley Area, Mammoth Lakes / Rush Creek Area, and Mount Whitney Area

In addition, national parks and 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

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



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. Be prepared to actively defend your food. You may need to 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 and Campgrounds

Plan ahead so that you do not need to store food in your car. Bring only what you will need during your trip. At many campgrounds and trailheads, storing food in your car is prohibited, but food storage boxes are provided. Space in storage boxes is limited. Consider using soft insulated bags or smaller coolers to fit items in trailhead boxes. Deposit trash in bear resistant trash cans.

Links to More Information

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