Best time to travel to Glacier National Park, MT

Grizzly Bears in Glacier National Park in Glacier National Park, MT

These top-of-the-food-chain predators impress with their size, speed, and long claws

Grizzly Bears in Glacier National Park
Grizzly Bears in Glacier National Park
Grizzly Bears in Glacier National Park
Grizzly bear

Only about 800 grizzly bears have remained in Montana, and the majority of them live in Glacier National Park, which is rightfully called the bear country. Glacier National Park boasts the largest bear population in the Lower 48 States. A subspecies of brown bears, grizzly are large predators that weigh around 600 lb (272 kg). They are omnivores, feeding on roots, berries, acorns, nuts, mushrooms, insects, and mammals. Sometimes grizzly bears even kill and eat black bears. Grizzlies are also skilled fishers, especially during salmon runs. They have huge claws for digging and a distinctive hump which makes them easy to recognize. They can reach a speed of up to 30 miles per hour (48 km/h). Grizzly bears also have a reputation of being the second most dangerous bear species after the polar bear.

Grizzly hibernate during the winter months, but when the weather starts to warm up in the spring, they emerge from their dens, looking for food. That usually happens in April. Their breeding season lasts from May to July. When temperatures drop, bears go back into hibernation. The cubs are born in January and spend their first months of life in the den.

Encounters with grizzly bears are quite common on the east side of Glacier since bears often descend to lowland meadows and forests searching for food in the summer. The biggest chance to spot a bear is in Many Glacier Area, especially on Grinnell Glacier Trail, Iceberg Lake Trail, Cracker Lake Trail, and Logan Pass. Grizzly sightings have been reported on Highline Trail and Hidden Lake Trail.

Keep in mind that bears are dangerous, so it's prohibited to approach them closer than 100 yards (about 90 meters). Make a lot of noise when hiking in the bear country, so a bear can hear you and run away. If you can't avoid the encounter, use a bear spray to deter bear attacks. Bears are most active early in the morning, late in the day, or after dark.

Practical info

Where are grizzly bears commonly found in Glacier National Park?

On the east side of Glacier National Park, particularly in the Many Glacier Area, grizzly bears are quite common. If you're keen to spot one, head to Grinnell Glacier Trail, Iceberg Lake Trail, Cracker Lake Trail, Logan Pass, Highline Trail or Hidden Lake Trail. Bear in mind that grizzly bears are dangerous and it's against the rules to approach them if you're closer than 100 yards. Show more

What time of year should I visit Glacier National Park if I hope to see grizzly bears?

April to November are the best months to observe grizzly bears in Glacier National Park. During spring, once the weather begins to warm up, grizzlies emerge from their dens and begin searching for food. The breeding season runs from May to July, while September to November is when bears look for food before hibernating. Show more

What is the minimum distance I should keep from grizzly bears in Glacier National Park?

In Glacier National Park, keeping a distance of fewer than 100 yards from a grizzly bear is strictly against the rules. Remember, bears are dangerous, so you should make a lot of noise to alert them when you're nearby. If a bear tries to charge you, use bear spray to deter it. The most important thing when dealing with a grizzly is to provide plenty of space to avoid any unwanted interaction. Show more

What precautions should I take to ensure my safety when hiking in areas known for grizzly bear activity?

When hiking in areas that are known for grizzly bear activity, make sure to make a lot of noise as you go. Hike in groups and keep bear spray within reach, too. Check with the local ranger station for any known grizzly activity and be sure to follow any guidance or warnings you see posted. It's vital to remember that bear habitats are safer in winter, but summer is the optimal time to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures. Show more

Is bear spray an effective way to protect myself if I am attacked by a grizzly bear?

Yes, bear spray is considered one of the most effective means of deterring a grizzly bear attack. The spray should have a range of at least 25 feet, and you should know how to use it prior to your trip. Keep the spray in a holster, accessible at all times, and don't forget to replace it regularly. Show more

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Last updated: by Olga Valchyshen