Please do your part to protect park wildlife and yourself by properly securing your food.
- All food, garbage, and scented items such as toothpaste, deodorant, sunscreen, toiletries, and chapstick, must be stored in bear canisters, hung from park bear wires, or hung at least 12 feet high and 10 feet out from the nearest tree trunk.
- Bears and most other wildlife are active 24 hours a day; have all food and scented items secured 24 hours a day.
- Bear Canisters are required in in some areas. See below for details.
- Bear canisters are required in areas where food cannot be hung at least 12 feet high and 10 feet out from the nearest tree trunk.
- On the coast, due to raccoon problems, bear canisters are required for all food, garbage and scented items. Hanging food bags is not permitted.
Food Storage Tips
- The first thing you should do when you arrive at your camping area is to secure your food, garbage and any other scented items. This includes canned food and dehydrated food.
- Bear canisters required for some areas and are recommended for all hikes. Hanging food with rope is not a guaranteed method of securing food. Bears can break your rope or break the branch your rope is over no matter how you hang it.
- Never store food in your tent or backpack! Tents, backpacks and other gear have been destroyed by bears because food has been stored in them. Avoid cooking or eating in tents. Do not leave food, garbage or any scented items unattended for any amount of time unless they are secure in a bear canister or on a bear wire.
- If a bear comes into your camp do not give up your food. Bang pots and pans and make noise to discourage further exploration.
- Wash dirty dishes immediately. Strain food particles and dispose of waste water at least of 200 feet from a campsite or water to prevent attracting wildlife.
- Do not dispose of food waste in the wilderness. Pack out all uneaten food and food particles. Treat food wrappers and other garbage the same as food. Keep a clean camp.
- Avoid odor-tainting your backpack. Carry food and garbage in plastic bags. Avoid cooking greasy or odorous foods.
- If your food is not properly stored, it may be confiscated and a $50 fine may be issued to protect visitors, property and bears.
"Bear Canisters" (Animal Resistant Food Containers)
Bear canisters are required in the following areas of the park:
- Enchanted Valley
- Sol Duc River/High Divide/7 Lakes Basin Loop including all camps adjacent to and enclosed by the Deer Lake Trail, High Divide Trail, and Sol Duc River Trail (High Divide Loop), and adjacent camps along the Mink Lake Trail, East High Divide Trail, and Cat Basin area.
- Royal Basin area - including Royal Lake and Upper Royal Basin
- All other areas where food cannot be hung at least 12 ft. high and 10 ft. out from the nearest tree trunk including the Bailey Range and other high elevation areas where trees are not suitable for hanging food.
- The entire Wilderness Coast.
Bear canisters are typically available for loan from the Port Angeles and Quinault WIC , but we do not guarantee the availability of bear canisters and occasionally run out over busy weekends. We do not reserve canisters in advance even for parties with backpacking reservations. Consider renting or purchasing your own bear canisters to ensure that you have them when needed.
For canisters provided by the park, a suggested $3 per canister donation helps to perpetuate the program and provide education materials.
List of approved "Bear Canisters"
Packing a Bear Can
With a little planning, it is amazing how much food you can fit into a bear can. If you choose the right foods and repackage them, you can maximize space. It takes a little effort and time but the results are rewarding.
Remember, all food, garbage, and scented items must be stored in your bear cans including canned food, dehydrated food, toothpaste, sunscreen, wrappers, etc.
Choose the right foods
Choose foods that are compact, compressible and high in calories such as rice, tortillas, jerky, pastas, nuts, dried fruits, peanut butter, nutritional bars.
Repackage your food
Take food out of its original package. This allows you to fit more food in your canisters and reduce garbage. Use resealable bags instead of bottles, jars and cans. Force air out of bags or packages. Cut out or save cooking instructions from boxes.
Plan your menu
Carefully count every meal that you will be eating. By doing this, you will save weight and space. At home, lay all food out on a table and plan each meal, snack, drink and condiments. Pre-measure and pre-mix food when possible.
Benefits of Using a Canister
- Less stress, increase peace of mind
- More time at camp to relax instead of trying to find just the right trees to hang properly
- Guaranteed food supply if bears or other animals visit your camp
- No aborted trips because bears ate your food
- More freedom to camp in many areas away from bear wires
- They make a nice stool to sit on
- Keeps some foods from getting squished in your pack
Are you tired of spending hours hanging your food or walking to and from bear wires? Try a bear canister. These containers are lightweight, cylindrical canisters specifically designed to be animal proof.
Bear canisters are the best method for securing food, garbage and other scented items from bears and other wildlife. They are lightweight, fit in most backpacks and will also help keep food like crackers, bread and other fragile foods from getting squished or broken.
Always carry a bear resistant food container when camping in the subalpine zone above 4,500 ft. in elevation or in other areas where trees are not large enough to hang your food.
Here are the bear cans we use: BearVault, Garcia Machine, Wild Ideas.
Where to Get Bear Canisters
Bear canisters may be available at the following locations:
- Olympic National Park Wilderness Information Center (WIC) in Port Angeles. Call for hours: (360) 565-3100. Available in person on a first come first serve basis.
- Wild Birds Unlimited east of Sequim (Highway 101 mile marker 276). Call for hours: (360) 797-7100. Bear canisters are issued to current permit holders traveling in the Northeastern region of the park
- South Shore Quinault Ranger Station (summer only). Call for hours: (360) 288-2525.
- Forks Outfitters (Thriftway). Call for hours (360) 374-6161. The Forks NPS and USFS Recreation and Information Center (RIC) is CLOSED.
- Sport Townsend (Port Townsend). Call for availability and to reserve canisters: (360) 379-9711
- The Wildernest (Bainbridge Island). Call for availability and to reserve canisters: (206) 780-8527
- REI Flagship Store (Seattle). Call for availability: (206) 470-4050
In some areas, “bear wires” have been installed for hanging food between trees. These wires are usually located in centralized areas for several sites to share. Most wires are equipped with one or more cables for attaching and raising food bags off the ground, but in some cases an additional rope is needed.
Instructions for use of Bear Wire system: Secure food in a bag with a looped handle. Unfasten lower clip at base of tree. Lower the wire (like a flagpole) until upper clip is within clipping distance of food bag. Fasten clip onto food bag handle. Raise food bag by pulling wire. Refasten lower clip to ring attached at base of tree.
Multiple bags can be placed on each clip. If bear wires are not available, food should be stored in a bear resistant food container.
Bear Wire Locations (check with the WIC for an updated list)
Hurricane Ridge Area: Grand Lake, Moose Lake, Gladys Lake
Elwha Area: Boulder Creek, Appleton Pass, Boulder Lake, Humes Ranch, Lillian River Camp, Mary's Falls, Canyon Camp, Elkhorn, Elkhorn Horse Camp, Hayes River Camp, Camp Wilder, Chicago Camp
Sol Duc/Seven Lakes Basin Area: Bear cans are required
Hoh River Area: Mt. Tom Creek, 5-mile Island, Happy Four, Olympus Guard Station, Lewis Meadow, Martin Creek, Elk Lake, Glacier Meadows, C.B. Flats, Hoh Lake
Quinault Area: O'Neil Creek, Pyrites Creek, Wolf Bar, Elip Creek, Low Divide, Three Lakes,
Bear cans are required at Enchanted Valley
Staircase Area: Spike Camp, Big Log Camp, Camp Pleasant, Nine Stream, Two Bear Camp, Home Sweet Home, Flapjack Lakes, Four Stream
Dosewallips Area: Dose Forks, Burdick Creek, Camp Marion, Bear Camp, Dose Meadows, Big Timber, Diamond Meadows, Honeymoon Meadows (need rope), Jct. with LaCrosse Pass Trail, Lake Constance
"Need Rope" = 50 ft. of rope is necessary to throw over horizontal wire.
Duckabush: Ten-mile, Upper Duckabush Camp, Marmot Lake
Hamma Hamma Area: Upper Lena Lake
Coastal Areas: Bear cans are required
Food Hanging Techniques (where allowed).
- Tie one end of your rope to the base of the first tree and throw your rope over a branch about 15 to 20 feet off the ground.
- Throw the other end of the rope over a branch (15 feet to 20 feet high) on another tree that is at least 20 feet away.
- After attaching your food bag to the rope and securing one end to the tree, pull the line taut.
- Secure the other end of the rope to the base of the tree.
Carry at least 75 to 100 feet of rope for "bear hangs".
Stock users should be prepared to secure their own as well as any stock feed from bears and other wildlife. All food, garbage, and any scented such as toothpaste, deodorant, sunscreen should be stored in bear proof containers or panniers. Animal feed must also be secured from wildlife.
If your food is not being stored in bear resistant panniers, it must be hung from park bear wires or hang it at least 12 feet high and 10 feet out from the nearest tree trunk.
The Wilderness Information Center (WIC) in Port Angeles now has 2 bear resistant panniers available for loan. These are available for a $5 suggested donation per pannier per trip.
Wilderness and Bears
Black bears live throughout Olympic National Park from the coast to the mountains. Many visitors to wilderness areas or national parks love to see bears. They are fascinating and amazing creatures that we do not fully understand. In most cases bears fear people as much or more as we might fear them.
How do you feel about bears? Many people fear bears and other wildlife perhaps because they know very little about the animal. Learn more about bears and maybe you will learn to appreciate their wildness and their needs.
Their acute sense of smell can lead bears to unclean camps. If bears become accustomed to human food, they may become dangerous and aggressive. To protect visitors and property, park management may close an area to visitors or a park biologist may have to destroy an aggressive or dangerous bear. Two park black bears have died due to poor food storage by visitors.
Black bears and other wildlife have lived in Olympic's wilderness for thousands of years and are an essential part of the wilderness community. Many times we are intruding on their territory or feeding areas and should be sensitive to their need for wild undisturbed space. Human visitors should Leave No Trace and should not impact or harm wildlife during their visit to the wilderness community.
Natural food is one of the most important things to bears and if humans are disturbing or occupying feeding areas during critical feeding times, the survival of bears may be put in jeopardy. Try to avoid lowland grassy areas during the spring and early summer. The areas often provide the first good food source for bears when they wake from hibernation.
Bears, raccoons and other wildlife may become a nuisance by stealing food, damaging equipment or acting aggressively if food is not stored properly.
Nearly 40,000 people backpack in Olympic National Park every year. It only takes one careless camper to damage a small part of the wilderness community.
The Olympic wilderness and its community are your responsibility to protect.