Bear Safety and Sightings in and Around Glacier National Park

When people visit Glacier, almost all of them want to know “will I see bears?” The answer is: maybe! There are certainly bears in and around Glacier National Park. Many of our guests have seen grizzlies or black bears (thankfully at a safe distance), which is why we provide bear spray for free during your stay at The Way Less Traveled.  

For several years now, we have had mother grizzlies and cubs pass through our property. Our second story deck provides a safe perch from which our guests have photographed these incredible creatures. Often mom will be digging up rodents while the cubs wrestle. The Flathead River and Garnet Lake are just a couple hundred yards away, offering even more food sources. 

A lot of people also ask: “what is the difference between black and grizzly bears?” Here’s the answer:

Grizzly Bear with white claws
  • Grizzlies have a humped shoulder, a flat (dish-shaped) face, circular ears, and white claws.
  • Black bears do not have a hump, but do have more pointed faces, pointed ears, and black claws.

Regardless of which species you see, you’ll want to stay at a distance of at least 100 yards, and carry bear spray whenever you’re outside of buildings. Bear spray can be purchased or rented from several outfitters in West Glacier, but if you stay at The Way Less Traveled Bed and Breakfast, we have several cans you may borrow during your visit! If you are wanting to watch a video on how to use bear spray, we recommend this tutorial from the NPS. It is also wise to travel in groups and avoid places frequented by bears (such as a berry patch).

Bear bed in grass

Although there is a significant bear population in Glacier National Park, bear attacks are very rare and only two have been fatal in the past thirty years! Both incidents occurred when a lone hiker stumbled upon a mother and two cubs. All that to say, keeping distance is vital, and hiking within groups is always safer.  This picture is of a bear bed and was taken less than a quarter of a mile from our bed and breakfast. A grizzly mother and Cubs had spent the night and left this distinct, car-sized imprint in the grass.

grizzly bear scat

If you plan to camp within Glacier National Park, it’s vital that you secure your food and other belongings in bear-proof storage. Every year there are reports of bears ransacking vacant tents because food was left in them. You cannot be too careful when it comes to these powerful creatures. If you follow the recommended guidelines, you’ll likely avoid any trouble.

When hiking in our area, be bear aware! Keep on the lookout for tracks, bear scat, bear beds, and other evidence of the animal. The worst thing you can do is surprise a bear, so be on alert. We have included some examples of bear signs. If you see these, just be extra cautious, make noise, and stay on frequented trails! For more information on bear safety, we recommend the NPS website.