From the majestic Rocky Mountains of Montana to the lush forests of Maine, bears are an integral part of the American wilderness. If you've ever wanted to witness these awe-inspiring creatures in the wilderness, this guide is for you.

I'd Rather Be Fishing T-shirt

We'll cover fun facts about bears, where to find them, and the gear necessary for a successful bear-watching trip. So pack your binoculars, and let's get this journey started!

Black bear sighting from hiking trail.

A Quick Intro to the Beautiful Bear

The two most popular species of bear in North America that you might see on a bear-watching trip are American black bears and grizzly bears (also known as the North American brown bear). Here are some quick facts about each species:

  • Black bears are smaller than grizzly bears, with males weighing up to 600 lbs. and females up to 400 lbs. They also have shorter claws and more rounded heads.
  • Grizzly bears are much larger, with males weighing up to 1500 lbs. and females up to 800 lbs. 
  • Black bears are most active during the day, while the grizzly bear is active day and night.
  • Grizzly bears are more aggressive than black bears and should be treated cautiously if you encounter one in the wild.
  • Black bears are generally shy and fearful of humans. However, black bears can become aggressive if they feel threatened or if they find food that they think is worth defending. 

A group of Grizzly bears hunting for fish in a river.

Tips for Seeing Bears in the Wilderness

Here are a few things to do to have the best chance of seeing bears in the wilderness. 

  • Research where bears are known to live and visit those areas. Avoid areas where there is a lot of human activity, as this will likely scare the bears away. 
  • The best time of year to see bears is during the summer when they actively feed on berries and other vegetation. 
  • Bears can be found in various habitats, including forests, mountains, and swamps. 
  • You're more likely to see bears if you go off the beaten path and explore areas with less human activity. 
  • If you encounter a bear, do not approach it, and be sure to give it plenty of space to move away from you.

3 Amazing Places in America to See Bears

The National Parks are great destinations to see bears in the United States.

Yellowstone National Park

  1. Yellowstone National Park
    Yellowstone National Park is one of the best places in the world to see and observe both black bears and grizzly bears. They are more active during spring, summer, and fall, so visit Yellowstone during those seasons. 
  1. Glacier National Park
    The Glacier National Park is home to black bears, grizzly bears, gray wolves, mountain lions, moose, and elk. You can see bears almost anywhere in Glacier National Park, but there are certain areas where they are most likely to be seen.
  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its rich biodiversity and thriving wildlife. This national park is considered one of the best for viewing bears. Approximately 1,900 black bears are living in the park. This is the highest concentration of black bears in the National Parks System.

The Right Gear for Your Bear-Watching Adventure

Before heading out to see bears in the wilderness, you'll need a few things. 

  • A good pair of binoculars will help you spot bears from a safe distance and get a better look at them. 
  • A good camera with zoom lens will allow you to take pictures or videos of the bears you see. 
  • If you’re able to take a raft or small boat on a river or mountain lake, you may capture some great views and memories.

 Bear watching by boat

But what should you wear when wandering into the wilderness to spot the beautiful bear? 

  • Wear layers: be prepared for both warm and cold weather. 
  • Wear bright colors. Bears have good eyesight, so wearing bright colors will help them spot you from a distance. 
  • Avoid wearing fragrances. Bears have an acute sense of smell, so avoid wearing a strong scent that could attract their attention.

Check out the wilderness-themed clothing here at Black Bear River for all your adventure (and bear-watching) needs. From Hoodies, Tees and Caps—they have something for every adventure lover! 

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