How to Stay Safe Hiking in Yellowstone
Most who visit National Parks love the outdoors, especially getting out for a hike. In Yellowstone National Park, it can be more intimidating than other destinations to do so. The park is famous for its diverse wildlife, harsh terrain, and fast-changing weather. However, hiking in Yellowstone National Park is one of our top recommendations as local tour guides.
There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails within the national park, and everything from a one-hour to a 7-day hike is possible. Hiking in Yellowstone is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and something we recommend every outdoor enthusiast to enjoy.
Here are all our tips for staying safe while hiking in Yellowstone:
1. If you feel uncomfortable, hire a Yellowstone tour guide
If you want to enjoy the backcountry or hiking trails of Yellowstone but are nervous, take a guided hiking tour of Yellowstone or join a Yellowstone tour, such as CoveredGround Tours. Our local guides are experts in navigating the wildness of Yellowstone. They are aware of grizzly activity in areas around the park and can help choose hiking trails for you based on experience and difficulty.
It is also never recommended to hike alone in Yellowstone. If you plan to visit alone and want to hit the hiking trails, joining a Yellowstone tour is the best choice.
2. Be bear aware
Yellowstone is grizzly bear country. Grizzly bears are only found in a small portion of the United States, mainly Alaska, Montana, and Wyoming. Black bears typically weigh up to 300 pounds, while grizzly bears weigh anywhere from 300-650 pounds. And although grizzly encounters are rare, hiking in grizzly country requires additional preparedness.
When hiking, it is critical to carry bear spray. There should be one can of bear spray per person hiking. Most grizzly attacks occur during surprise encounters, so making noise or carrying bear bells while hiking helps ensure you do not sneak up on any grizzly bears. If you see a bear, do not run. Instead, back up slowly while avoiding eye contact.
3. Pack the essentials
Yellowstone is home to the most remote wilderness in the lower 48. Most hiking trails range from 1-10 miles, but packing properly is essential in Yellowstone. Most of the park sits above 7000ft, which means you also get dehydrated faster. You should never leave the trail without:
- 3 liters of water
- Bear spray
- Additional layers (yes, it can snow in June!)
- Bear bells
- Cell phone/GPS device
- Bug spray
- Ankle-supported hiking boots
4. Carry an emergency GPS beacon
Most of Yellowstone is out of cell phone service, even on main roads. If you plan to hike, invest in an emergency GPS beacon such as the Garmin inReach. The device is an emergency locator beacon, which can call help to your exact coordinates with the push of a button. If you or one of your group members gets lost or hurt in the backcountry, carrying a beacon could save a life.
5. Relay your plans to friends & family
It’s always a good idea to let friends and family know where you’re headed and when to expect you back. It’s a backup safety system so that they know to contact park rangers if you are overdue from your hike or backpacking trip.
6. Download offline maps and trekking routes
With most of Yellowstone being out of service, you’ll want to ensure you download offline maps on Google Maps and also through your preferred hiking app, such as All Trails. To download offline Google Maps, follow these instructions:
- Open the Google Maps App on your phone
- Type Yellowstone National Park into your search bar
- Swipe up on the location until you see three dots appear in the top right corner
- Tap the three dots
- Select ‘Download offline map’
- Adjust the region, and select ‘Download’
How to Stay Safe Hiking in Yellowstone
You won’t regret seeing some of the beautiful places only accessible by hiking in Yellowstone National Park. By following these safety steps and never hiking alone, you’ll have a fantastic time exploring some of the world’s wild ecosystems and landscapes. And if you’re worried about being nervous while on the trail, book a Yellowstone Hiking Tour or join a customized guided tour of the park. We’ll help ensure you explore the park safely and without stress!