A Guide to Hiking the Pacific Crest

Pacific Crest Hiking Guide: Bears

There's no getting around it -- the Pacific Crest Trail runs straight through black bear and grizzly bear habitat. And some sections of the pathway have seen a lot of bear activity. While unprovoked attacks are rare, the bears will try to get at your food. And they're pretty clever and agile. Don't tempt fate; in the Sierra Nevadas, for example, whenever there have been bear injuries, the injuries have always been associated with improper food storage [source: National Park Service].

Bear canisters are the most effective way to keep bears from food, and are required in some areas. In some parts of the trail where there's a lot of bear activity, the National Park Service has installed food storage lockers for your use -- large, metal containers where you can stash your goodies. Bear boxes -- basically the same thing as food storage lockers -- have also been installed along a 50-mile (80-kilometer) section of the PCT in the Sierra Nevadas. But it's probably best to carry a canister. Before you purchase one, however, make sure it's on the list of canisters approved by the National Park Service [source: Pacific Crest Trail]. And remember that the 2.5-pound, 11.8 liter canister will take up weight and space in your pack -- so plan accordingly!