Hiking in Montana: How to Stay Safe and Avoid Bears

Montana Hiking Trail

Growing up, I didn’t have quite the appreciation I do for my home state of Montana as I do today. Even though my parents would take me on their hiking expeditions, I was usually strapped to their backs so I had no other choice but to sit in a carrier! As a teenager, I had no interest in the nature around me even though millions of people travel here every year to see it.

It’s only now that I am in my twenties that I have some to recognize that I live (or over the summer, anyway) in a pretty incredible place, and that hiking has become interesting to me again.

Here are some tips I learned while hiking with my parents or some I have picked up on my own.

Hike with a friend.

I don’t always follow this advice myself, but I’ve found that hiking with someone is a lot safer and a lot more fun than simply going alone. You want to choose a trail that you both feel comfortable with so one person doesn’t feel it’s too difficult or too easy. Also, if you run into any danger, having someone there can help if you need to get in contact with medical services or a rescue team.

Carry bear spray.

Though this is definitely specific to certain areas, when I hike with friends in Glacier National Park, we make it a point to know that our bear spray is easily accessible. (You would be surprised to know how many maulings occur every year!) Nothing is scarier than running into a mother grizzly and her cubs, so knowing which areas to avoid and which the bears like to frequent can help you to avoid a bear sighting. Also, I like to sing (either with friends or alone—not ashamed to admit) so animals know that I am coming and they have a warning.

Go earlier in the day.

It can get hot in the afternoons when you are planning on hiking in the summer, and the parks usually start to close in the early evenings unless you are camping, so getting there in the morning can help you deal with the heat and any crowds that you might want to avoid. When you end up hiking later in the afternoon, you can end up dehydrated or stranded if you are not able to make it back in time before closing. Having a plan and basic itinerary of which hike is best for you can actually save you from some serious consequences.

Have you ever been hiking in Montana or a nearby state? Have any tips?

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