Grizzly Bear Clears the Highline Trail

Hikers forced to abandon the trail when grizzly bear comes through

By Xavier Flory
A grizzly on the Highline Trail in Glacier National Park. - Photo by Philip Granrud

If you’re going to run into a grizzly bear, best to do it away from 150-foot cliffs.

But that is exactly what happened to a North Carolina hiker who crossed a grizzly on Highline Trail in Glacier National Park this past week. When the bear and the hiker rounded a bend and saw each other, they both stood still for a second, before the hiker scrambled down the steep embankment and waited for the grizzly to pass, according to an eyewitness.

Photographer Philip Granrud, who observed the scene from Oberlin Bend, took a dramatic shot of the hiker hiding behind a boulder while the bear continued along the Highline.

“I wanted to show that all the bear wanted to do was to get from point A to point B. I’m a firm believer after going into Glacier National Park and photographing hundreds of bears, that generally bears just want to be left alone,” Granrud said.

Granrud watched the bear jump down onto the Highline Trail, and when he saw the lone hiker walking in the opposite direction, “it was obvious they were going to meet in the worst possible place,” he said.

“I knew there was a possibility it could end badly. The grizzly jumped up and stood at attention. The guy seemed kind of frozen for a second, but then he acted quickly and got off the trail.”

As the bear continued down the trail, other hikers cleared the path, but no one else had to slide down a steep embankment in order to avoid it, and no one tried to run away from the grizzly, according to Granrud.

This happened only days after a Texas man pepper sprayed and shot a bear on Mount Brown Lookout Trail in Glacier National Park. The Texan said that the bear charged him, and if so, it would not be the first case of bear aggression in the park this season. A female jogger was attacked by a bear north of Columbia Falls at the beginning of July, and a black bear had to be euthanized later that month after he charged a family picnicking in the park.

Although the North Carolina hiker acted quickly once confronted with the bear, he violated one of the cardinal rules that park officials recommend to stay safe: don’t hike alone. In order to avoid bear confrontations, park officials also recommend hikers to make plenty of noise while hiking; avoid hiking at dawn and dusk; observe bears from a distance; and leave a clean camp. Generally bears avoid humans and will only attack when surprised or if they feel threatened.

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