Bear Canisters Required on Appalachian Trail in Pisgah National Forest

Not all bears are this cute and cuddly up close. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

Not all bears are this cute and cuddly up close. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

Opinions about bears on the Appalachian Trail vary from "you'll never see one" to "bears are more afraid of you than you are of them" to "bears will rip your tent and bags apart to get your food."

Each perspective is a little bit true; none is absolutely correct.

Wild bears of any color -- black, brown or white -- have even worse table manners than thru-hikers. If you leave your food within reach, bears are known to help themselves.

If you frighten or startle a bear, its first impulse might be to defend itself or its cubs. Or, it might run. The point is you never know which it will be.

Back in the Old Days of 1975, I built a log cabin with a friend on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. We ventured deep into the woods to select, cut, trim and haul trees back to our camp. I often asked what I/we should do if we encountered an angry brown bear.

The answer was always the same. They said, "Yell 'RHUBARB!!!' as loud as you can." Evidently, that would occupy your mind's last few remaining moments, in lieu of sheer terror.

Thankfully, the U.S. Forest Service has more worthwhile tips on how avoid or handle encounters with bears. They are all about bear canisters.

They remind backcountry users in North Carolina that bear canisters are required in:

  • the Shining Rock Wilderness
  • Black Balsam
  • Sam's Knob and
  • Flat Laurel Creek

areas of the Pisgah Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina.

A camping closure in the nearby Graveyard Fields area is still in effect, though the area remains open for day use.

A lovely Forest Service worker holding a bear canister. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

A lovely Forest Service worker holding a bear canister. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

All bear canisters must be commercially made; constructed of solid, non-pliable material manufactured for the specific purpose of resisting entry by bears.

"We've had numerous reports of bears having success in acquiring improperly stored as well as hung food, reinforcing that bear canisters are the best way to deter hungry bears," said Pisgah District Ranger Derek Ibarguen. "Visitor safety is of the utmost importance and canisters are the most effective way to safely store food and reduce bear-human conflicts."

These steps were taken after consultation with the N.C. Wildlife Commission because of human safety concerns following a situation where a bear entered a tent and removed a hiker's backpack earlier this year.

Bear Canister Guidelines

  • Do not store food in tents or in your sleeping bag.
  • Properly store food by using a bear proof container.
  • Clean up food or garbage around fire rings, grills, or other areas of your campsite.
  • Do not leave food unattended.

For more information visitors are encouraged to call the Pisgah Ranger District at (828) 877-3265.

Click Here for Forest Service Bear Canister Tips

Tags: Attractions, Appalachian Trail, Hiking, News, Closings, US Forest Service, Closures, Robert Sutherland Travel Writer, Conservation, and Safety

About the Author Robert Sutherland:
Robert Sutherland is a travel writer enjoying life. Robert has two adult daughters and six grandchildren.
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Bo L Boazy on Aug 21, 2015
I love that stuffed bear head picture! I cannot find one anywhere on the net to purchase.
Robert Sutherland on Aug 31, 2015

I took that picture at Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, GA. That's where Cabbage Patch babies hatch.

Perhaps they could help you, although I didn't see that item on their website when I checked for you.

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Hope that helps,

Luke Miney on Aug 25, 2015
The Appalachian trail doesn't run through the Pisgah National Forest area the only section a bear can is required is in GA from Jerrod to Neel Gaps a 5 mile stretch and it's only required if you camp overnight. This article is misleading to many and causing lots of confusion for people trying to research the trail. I kindly ask that you correct this misinformation.
Robert Sutherland on Aug 31, 2015
Luke Miney -- aka MrMcNasty: Indeed, the AT does run through the Pisgah National Forest, according to HikeWNC.into.

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Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail enters North Carolina in the Southern Nantahala Wilderness, before winding its way through parts of the Nantahala National Forest, across Fontana Dam, and up to the Tennessee state line within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It generally follows the state line and exits the northeast side of the park. This is where the trail enters the Pisgah National Forest.

For much of its remaining length within the state, the Appalachian Trail passes through Pisgah National Forest near the Tennessee border. It crosses I-40 and then enters the Harmon Den area. It passes over Max Patch Mountain, a very popular day hike, and then descends to the town of Hot Springs, where it goes directly through town and back into the forest on the other side. It climbs Lover's Leap Ridge, another popular day hike, before ascending to Rich Mountain and moving toward a more remote section of Pisgah National Forest known as Shelton Laurel.

The trail curves south through Sams Gap where it crosses Interstate 26. It ascends the ridge to Big Bald mountain, then begins descending again toward the crossing of US Hwy. 19E. After passing into Tennessee for a while, it resumes its climb to reach the summit of Roan Mountain - a very popular place for accessing the AT - and back into the Pisgah National Forest. The trail then descends around Hump Mountain and exits North Carolina and the Pisgah National Forest for good.
Robert Sutherland on Aug 31, 2015

Perhaps this link will help you, sir:

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Art Loeb on Nov 23, 2015
The Appalachian Trail does not go near the Shining Rock Wilderness. The bear canister requirement applies only to Shining Rock and adjoining areas in the Pisgah Ranger District (of Pisgah National Forest). The Appalachian Trail is in Appalachian Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest, which does not require bear canisters anywhere with in it.