In a word: absolutely. Bear spray is a must-have for hiking or backpacking in Grand Teton National Park. Of all the national parks in the lower 48, Grand Teton might be the #1 spot where you will need bear spray. It’s home to a large population of both black and grizzly bears, and large swaths of the park remain quite wild, meaning you could run into a bear almost no matter where you are.
As with most parks, if you’re not going deep into the woods, you are probably fine. If you plan to stay nearby the visitor centers, lodges, and other people-heavy areas, you likely won’t see any bears. If you plan to hike more than 3-4 miles, however, you will be firmly in bear territory, and a can of bear spray is a must-have.
I hiked about 50 miles on several trails in Grand Teton National Park during a recent visit, and there was only one trail that I would say bear spray isn’t needed: the 3.5 mile, flat hike to Taggart Lake. That trail is heavily trafficked, doesn’t go into the backcountry, and is generally not the place you are likely to see a bear. That means you are probably fine in the Jenny Lake area, unless you are alone in the early morning or late evening. Every other trail, however, I would have felt vulnerable without bear spray. On my trip, I saw 4 bears, and a fifth one entered my campsite in the middle of the night!
Just for fun, here’s a GIF of a video my wife took of the grizzly mother and cub we very nearly startled – I almost walked right up to them, because I couldn’t see them in the shadows while wearing sunglasses. Talk about a goof!
Where to get bear spray for your visit to Grand Teton
- The best option: renting from Teton Backcountry Rentals
- This little store is right on the edge of Jackson as you drive out to the park. It’s super easy to rent bear spray, which costs $8/day as of September 2023. They even have an instructional video on how to use bear spray, which is great for people who have less experience with it. This is how I got my bear spray for the trip, and it’s how i’ll do it every time I visit in the future.
- Runner-up: purchasing in Jackson or at a visitor center
- Renting for $8/day only makes sense if it’s less than a week. If you’ll be in the Teton area for more than a week, you can save money by simply buying it outright. Fortunately, bear spray is everywhere in Jackson – at the grocery stores, gift shops, outdoors centers, and at the National Parks visitors centers. Most of the time, it costs $45-50 for a single can, and many stores sell two-packs for $80. Again, those prices are accurate as of September 2023.
- Also an option: buying on Amazon before you go
- You can usually find bear spray cheaper online, particularly through Amazon. While you can’t bring bear spray on a plane, buying online is a good way for people driving out to the park to save a few bucks.
Dig deeper: The Best Bear Sprays
Below is a photo of myself, my wife, and our best friend at the trailhead for our Grand Teton backpacking trip – each of us had rented bear spray from Teton Backcountry Rentals, and it made us feel safe and secure the entire time. You can see the bear spray attached to the belts on our packs.
Probably. While it might not be 100% necessary for every person in your party to have their own can of bear spray, it is what I’d recommend. At the very least, it’ll mean you never have to share the bear spray or leave someone without it if you split up for a moment on the trail or at a campsite.