Where Are You Legally Required to Use a Bear Canister in Colorado?

The short answer, Maroon Bells Wilderness and Rocky Mountain National Park. But the specifics are a little more nuanced than that.  It is generally advisable to have a bear canister any time you plan to camp in bear country regardless of local regulations. Practicing good food safety keeps you and the bears safe. As the saying goes, “A fed bear is a dead bear.”

Note: Regulations are ALWAYS subject to change at any time. Always check with the local ranger station to confirm the most up-to-date rules.

1. Maroon Bells – Snowmass Wilderness 

IGBC approved bear resistant containers are required throughout the entire Maroon Bells – Snowmass Wilderness for all overnight stays. 

This includes popular activities such as the Four Pass Loop and Conundrum Hot Springs. Visitors without approved bear resistant containers will be ticketed and required to immediately leave. We’ve had customers rent bear canisters from us in the past and return to say that the rangers were DEFINITELY inspecting backpackers for bear canisters. Don’t chance it, the tickets are expensive.

2. Rocky Mountain National Park

In RMNP between April 1 and October 31, all food items and garbage must be secured inside a hard sided commercially-made carry in/carry out bear-resistant food storage container. 

**Note the “hard-sided” requirement in RMNP. Maroon Bells – Snowmass Wilderness allows all IGBC approved containers, while RMNP requires that they be hard-sided.

This is required for park wilderness areas below tree line and in the Boulder Field of Longs Peak, due to recurring wildlife incidents. Other methods of food storage are not permitted in the wilderness during this period.

Other jurisdictions reserve the right to require bear canisters as needed, and increased bear activity can occasionally result in increased regulation of food safety. ALWAYS check with the local ranger station where you plan to camp to ensure that you’re aware of any local or temporary regulations.

Have fun and be bear safe!

About the Author

Jimmy Funkhouser
Jimmy is the founder and owner of FERAL. When he is not exploring the hinterland of Colorado he can usually be found at one of his favorite Berkeley neighborhood watering holes with Sophie and Ace the shopdogs.

Follow Jimmy on Instagram at @jimmyfunkhouser.