Smoky Mountain Thanksgiving

 

The Great Smoky Mountains are a place for families to come together and remember what life is all about. There are many things for us to be thankful for this season, and with Thanksgiving nearing we thought we could share what we are most thankful for!

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1. We are thankful for the Great Smoky Mountains! Being surrounded by these majestic mountains day in and day out is such a blessing. If you’re walking through or driving, you’re sure not to miss just how beautiful they are. We are SO glad we get to enjoy them year round! US-NationalParkService-ShadedLogo.svg.png

2. We are thankful for the National Park Service! This year, the NPS turned 100 years old! Without their aid and effort, the Smokies might not have made the Number One spot on the Most Visited National Park List. They strive to preserve our natural beauty and work hard to ensure that it stays that way and we are so very grateful.

 

3. We are thankful for the Seasons! We can not believe how much our surroundings change throughout the year. We were fortunate enough this Spring to walk through the wildflowers and spot a few salamanders! Summer was a hot one, but it made for lazy lake days and pleasant walks through the shade trees. Fall is still here and the colors are bountiful!

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4. We are thankful for all of the Attractions! There is no shortage of things to do in the Smokies. The area has everything you can think of! Tanger Outlet is the perfect spot to catch a bargain. Dollywood offers a family fun approach with shows and high flying coasters. We have go-karts, ferris wheels, mini golf, and more!

5. We are thankful for all of our visitors! Without all of our wonderful guests, the area would not be what it is today. It makes us SO happy that SO many people share our love of the Great Smokies! With over 10 million visitors to our Mountains, there’s no surprise in the amount of joy that is shared each year.

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6. We are thankful for our firefighters! With the drought we have had recently, the area is full of wildfires. Our firefighters have been working so hard to put out these natural and man made fires to their best ability, to help make sure that our land (and air quality!) is preserved.

 

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This blog is sponsored by ERA In The Smokies Realty and Rentals located at 207 Parkway in Gatlinburg. For more info. on a Gatlinburg Cabin for your Smoky Mountain Vacation or all the reasons to move to the Smokies, call 1-800-309-0277. ERA In The Smokies is a leader in chalet and Log Cabin Rentals and Real Estate Sales in the Gatlinburg area.

 

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Motorcycle Trails!

 

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Gatlinburg, TN has attracted many visitors traveling by motorcycle over the years. With it’s winding roads and gorgeous mountain views, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a wonderful place to have fun riding motorcycles and take in the beauty of the mountains. Throughout the many different motorcycles trails there are quaint mountain tours offering culture and history to visitors. Stop in each town and have a meal and discover what the natives have to offer. The trails range from moderate in difficulty to strenuous in difficulty for all levels of experienced drivers. Have fun and remember to always put safety first when riding!

Here is a complied list of great motorcycle trail in the Smokies:

  1. Gatlinburg, TN tour NC, TN- Approximately 225 miles round trip. Travel along the Blue Ridge Parkway heading West and onto Gatlinburg, TN. Abrp terrific road with abundant scenery. Time permitting, drive onto Pigeon Forge, TN and then return home after lunch.
  2. Cherohala Skyway tour NC, TN- Approximately 320 miles round trip. Truly a road in the sky! Typically less traffic than the Blue Ridge Parkway and much more isolated. Arrive in Tellico Plains, TN and have lunch along the river. Return home on the same road with a totally different view of the scenery.
  3. Cherokee/Casino tour NC- Approximately 180 miles round trip. Ride the Blue Ridge Parkway over to Cherokee and learn about the Indian heritage in the area. If you are a gambler, Harrah’s Casino offers an abundance of gambling diversions to take your money.
  4. biltmorefront3Biltmore Estate tour NC- Approximately 65 miles round trip. Ride the Blue Ridge Parkway into Asheville and then to the Biltmore Estate, “America’s Castle”. Spend as much time as you like exploring the Estate and Gardens and have lunch while you are there.
  5. Oconee Forest/ Highlands tour NC, SC and GA- Approximately 150 miles round trip. Travel through a canopied forest and up a back road to highlandsHighlands. This is one of the more spectacular curvy mountain roads around. Have lunch in the quaint mountain village of Highlands and experience some great shopping afterwards and then head home.
  6. Deals Gap tour NC, TN- Approximately 200 miles round trip. Travel to Bryson City and beyond to Deals Gap and the “Tail of the Dragon”, 318 turns in 11 miles. This is the longest trail in the Smokies, but possibly the most rewarding.tail of the dragon
  7. Hot Springs tour NC- Approximately 160 miles round trip. Travel scenic mountain roads to North Carolina’s only natural hot water springs/baths. Be careful, the springs really relax you.
  8. The Newport Trail tour TN- Enjoy scenery of mountain streams, rivers, mountain coves and valleys, town of Newport, TN and the river gorge.
  9. The Dandridge/ Douglas Lake Trail tour TN- Enjoy scenery of mountain streams, river gorge, mountain coves, mountain lake, historic town of Dandridge, TN, Douglas dam and bypass around Pigeon Forge, TN.
  10. The Waynesville/ Cherokee Trail tour NC, TN- Enjoy scenery of mountain streams, river-cut canyon through the Great Smoky Mountains, quaint mountain resort towns and the Cherokee Indian National Reservation. A final ride over the high range of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a grand finale for this scenic and entertaining trail.
  11. The Maggie Valley/ Blue Ridge Parkway Trail tour NC, TN- Enjoy scenery of mountain streams, river-cut canyon through the Great Smoky Mountains, a quaint mountain resort town with regional amusement park combined with spectacular views at roadside overlooks, picnic areas and quiet trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway for one of the most popular motorcycle trails for locals and visitors alike.

Stay at an authentic mountain cabin with ERA In The Smokies and travel to all of the fun motorcycle trails!

Things to do in Gatlinburg- For Kids!

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When vacationing in Gatlinburg, many visitors look for something fun to do with their kids. There are a range of activities to participate in from hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to riding bumper cars in downtown Gatlinburg. There are many cheap or free things to do in Gatlinburg also if you are on a budget. At the Nantahala Outdoor Center right before the National Park in downtown Gatlinburg, kids can climb the rock wall while you shop for new camping gear.Climbing_with_NOC_(001) The NOC is a great place for the whole family. There are several Ripley’s attractions throughout downtown Gatlinburg  including Ripley’s Aquarium in the Smokies with an interactive kids area, live mermaid diving shows and a specially designed kid friendly penguin exhibit, Davy penguinsCrockett mini golf, Ripley’s Haunted Adventure, Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze and Candy store, Ripley’s Moving Theater, Ripley’s Fun Zone, and the famous Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum. Ober Gatlinburg also has a lot to offer not only in the winter months, but in the summer months as well. Ride the Aerial Tramway from downtown Gatlinburg up to Ober Gatlinburg and enjoy the best views of the Great Smoky Mountains. After you get to the top, visit the Wildlife Encounter where you can see Bears. While on your visit to Ober Gatlinburg spend a few hours Ice Skating, ride the Alpine Slide, the Scenic Chairlift, the Blue Cyclone Rapids water slide and Ober’s Lightin’ Raft Ride and alpine slideShoot-the-Chute. There is also a fun-filled Amaze’n Maze and a Kiddie Land and Rides for children.

Gatlinburg also offers Zip-lining, Whitewater Rafting, hiking, biking, horseback riding and fishing noc raftingspots. You may book zip-lining and white water rafting trips through the NOC in downtown Gatlinburg as well as rent bicycles for the day and get information about where to go fishing. The Sugarlands Visitors Center is also a great place to take your children for free where the whole family can learn about the history of the park and go through the wildlife museum inside the Visitors Center. Get information about the Junior Ranger program and the activities that your children may participate in for free. Cades Cove is also an excellent place to take your family in the park. Take a ranger led hayride through Cades Cove for $14.00 per person.

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Mynatt Park, one of Gatlinburg’s City parks, is near downtown Gatlinburg. Take the family to the park for a picnic lunch, to play in the river, play on the jungle gym, or even play a fun game of tennis or basketball. All kids live candy, so while downtown visit any of the local Candy stores where the candy is made on site. Watch Saltwater Taffy being made at Ole Smoky’s Candy Kitchen.

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Stay with ERA In The Smokies and easily access all that Gatlinburg has to offer for the entire family!

Day Hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

Click here for Easy Summer Hikes!

There are many different trails to hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park ranging from easy to moderate to strenuous. Whether you’re looking for a quiet forest walk and wildflowers or a hike by the river to an amazing waterfall, there is a hike for everyone! Here are a list of the hikes you can complete in a day.

  1. Alum Cave- Features views and interesting geological features. 4.4 miles roundtrip and moderate in difficulty
  2. Charlie’s Bunion- 8.0 miles roundtrip
  3. Spruce-Fir Trail- Located in Newfound Gap/ Clingmans Dome, 0.4 miles roundtrip
  4. Laurel Falls- Located in Elkmont, 2.3 miles roundtrip and features a historical waterfall and stream
  5. Little Brier Gap- Located in Elkmont, features the Walker Sisters Place and is 2.3 miles roundtrip
  6. Grotto Falls- Located in Gatlinburg/ Mt. Leconte, features waterfalls and is 2.6 miles roundtrip
  7. Schoolhouse Gap- Located in Cades Cove/ Townsend, features a quiet forest hike and wildflowers and is 3.8 miles roundtrip
  8. Baskins Creek Falls- Located in Gatlinburg, features waterfalls and is 3.0 miles roundtrip
  9. Andrews Bald- Located in Newfound Gap/ Clingmans Dome, features panoramic views and is 3.5 miles roundtrip
  10. Porter’s Creek Trail- Located in the Greenbrier area, features waterfalls, streams, flowers and an old growth forest, 4.0 miles roundtrip
  11. Abrams Falls- Located in the Cades Cove area, features waterfalls and is 5.0 miles roundtrip
  12. Little River Trail- Located in the Elkmont area, features streams and seasonal wildflowers, 4.9 miles roundtrip
  13. Meigs Mountain Trail- Located in the Elkmont area, quiet forest hike, 4.6 miles roundtrip
  14. Hen Wallow Falls- Located in the Greenbrier area, features waterfalls, 4.4 miles roundtrip
  15. Huskey Gap (Newfound Gap Rd)- Located in Gatlinburg, features a quiet forest walk and is 4.2 miles roundtrip
  16. Chimney Tops- Located in Gatlinburg, features panoramic mountain views and is 4.0 miles roundtrip
  17. Cucumber Gap Loop- Located in Elkmont, features streams and seasonal wildflowers. 5.6 miles roundtrip
  18. Grapeyard Ridge Trail- Located in Greenbrier, features a historical Injun Creek steam engine wreck and is 5.8 miles roundtrip
  19. Deep Creek Headwaters- Located in Newfound Gap, features a stream and is 5.8 miles roundtrip
  20. West Prong Trail- Located in the Cades Cove area, features a stream and quiet forest walk, 5.4 miles roundtrip
  21. Curry Mountain Trail- Located in the Elkmont area, features a quiet forest hike and is 6.4 miles roundtrip
  22. Sugarland Mountain Trail (lower)- Located in the Elkmont area, features a quiet forest hike and is 6.0 miles roundtrip
  23. The Jump Off- Located in Newfound Gap, features panoramic mountain view and is 6.5 miles roundtrip
  24. Bullhead Trail- Located in Gatlinburg, features views and interesting geological features, 5.9 miles roundtrip
  25. Sugarland Mountain Trail (upper)- Located in Newfound Gap, features views and solitude, 7.0 miles roundtrip

It is important to always hike prepared. Here is a complied list of things to bring with you on each day hike in the Smokies during the Summer months.

  • Backpack, daypack or fanny packhike gear
  • Rain/Wind shield
  • Supportive Footwear
  • Extra socks
  • Extra clothing
  • Gloves
  • Water: full canteens, water bottles or hydration pack
  • Extra food: high energy snacks
  • Map and/or guidebook
  • Compass
  • Pocket knife
  • Flashlight
  • Whistle
  • Watch
  • First Aid kit
  • Insect repellent
  • Sun protection
  • Toilet paper (in a plastic bag)
  • Money/ ID

Suggested/ Optional Gear:

  • Hiking Pole
  • Bandana
  • Notebook with pencil
  • Camera
  • Binoculars
  • Cell phone
  • Napkins
  • Zip seal plastic bagsAbrams Falls Trail

Include in basic first-aid kit:

  • Roll bandages
  • Triangular bandages
  • Ace bandages
  • Butterfly bandages
  • Sterile compresses
  • Adhesive tape
  • Sterile gauze pads
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Miscellaneous band aids
  • Twine
  • Tweezers
  • Safety Pins
  • Scissors
  • Thermometer
  • Latex gloves
  • Tissues
  • Plastic bags
  • Small mirror
  • Antibacterial soap/wipes
  • Eye drops
  • Burn Ointment
  • Sunburn lotion
  • Disinfectant cream
  • Decongestant and Antihistamine tabletshiking-first-aid-kit
  • Anti-acids
  • Antibiotic cream
  • Aspirin/ Ibuprofen
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Diarrhea medication
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Poison ivy cream/ cleansers
  • Bee sting kit
  • Snake bite kit
  • Heat/cold packs
  • Personal information/ contact person
  • First-aid manual

Safety tips:

Never hike alone, give a family member or friend your hiking itinerary and estimated time of return, always stay on the designated trail, don’t hike too quickly pace yourself, start early, check the weather forecast before heading out, know where to get emergency medical care, watch for signs of heat exhaustion, don’t pack too heavily, never approach wild animals, and remember to always have fun!!

Waterfalls in the Smokies

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Few experiences in nature are more rewarding than taking a beautiful hike knowing there is a majestic waterfall waiting for you at the end. Waterfalls are commonly formed when a river is young at the time when the channel is often narrow and deep. When the river courses over resistant bedrock erosion happens slowly while upstream erosion occurs more quickly. As the water increases its velocity at the edge of the waterfall, it picks up material from the riverbed. The erosion capacity is increased when whirlpools created in the turbulence as well as sand and stones carried by the water stream. These whirlpools cause the waterfall the carve deeper into the into the bed and to recede upstream. Many times over a period of time, the waterfall will recede back to form a canyon or gorge downstream as it recedes upstream and will carve deeper into the ridge above it. The rate of retreat for a waterfall can be as high as one and a half meters per year.

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Waterfalls normally form in a rocky area due to erosion. There is usually a deep area just below waterfalls because of the kinetic energy hitting the bottom. Often, the rock stratum just below the more resistant shelf will be of a softer type, meaning that undercutting due to splashback will occur here to form a shallow cave-like formation known as a rock shelter under and behind the waterfall. Eventually, the outcropping, more resistant cap rock will collapse under pressure to add blocks of rock to the base of the waterfall. These blocks of rock are then broken down into smaller boulders by attrition as they collide with each other, and they also erode the base of the waterfall by abrasion, creating a deep plunge pool or gorge.

There are many waterfalls that are just a short hike away here in the Smokies, these include:

  • Laurel Falls- This 80 foot high waterfall is one of the most photographed waterfalls in the smokies. Located just a few minutes from downtown Gatlinburg, this trail is paved making it stroller, wheelchair and walker accessible.
  • Grotto Falls- Easily walk behind this 25 foot high waterfall just minutes from Gatlinburg off the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. This trail is 3 miles round trip and should take around 2-3 hours to complete.

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    Grotto Falls

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Laurel Falls

  • Abrams Falls- This 5 mile roundtrip hike along Abrams Creek is moderate, but worth it. The large amount of water creates a very deep pool, but swimming is not allowed because of the dangerous currents. This hike is in Cades Cove.

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    Abrams Falls

Ramsey Cascades- At 100 feet, this is the highest waterfall in the park. The water collects in a small pool where salamanders can be found. This is a strenuous 8 mile trip  will take 5 to 7 hours to complete, but the reward at the end is worth it. To get there drive 5.9 miles from Gatlinburg on 321, then turn right at Greenbrier, at mile 3.2 turn left at the sign for Ramsey Cascades onto the bridge that crosses the Middle Prong and drive 1.5 miles to the parking area.

  • Hen Wallow Falls- At the bottom of the 90 foot high waterfalls you can often find salamanders. During a very cold winter, the falls often freeze to form a beautiful ice formation. At 4.4 miles roundtrip, this hike is moderate in difficulty. Access this hike at the Gabes Mountain Trailhead at the Cosby Picnic area.

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    Hen-Wallow Falls

  • Mingo Falls- Just outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you can hike this moderate set of wooden stairs .4 of a mile to this waterfall. The access trail is at the Pigeon Creek Trailhead. From the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, drive south toward  Cherokee on US 441 and take the second bridge to the left and drive 4.5 miles to Mingo Falls Campground where the trail begins.

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    Mingo Falls

  • Rainbow Falls- A rainbow is visible on a sunny day when the mist creates a canvas. This 80 foot high waterfalls creates an impressive ice formation in the winter .This hike is 5.4 miles roundtrip and moderate in difficulty. The access trail is at the Rainbow Falls trailhead in the Roaring Fork area. From the Gatlinburg parkway, turn at traffic light #8 and follow the Historic Nature Trail into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Continue past Noah “Bud” Ogle cabin to the Rainbow Falls parking area.

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    Rainbow Falls

Waterfalls in the Smokies you can drive to:

  • Meigs Falls- The pull off for this waterfall is along Little River Road 13 miles west of the Sugarlands Visitor Center. This waterfall can be easily missed while driving so be sure to watch carefully for it!
  • Place of 1,000 drips- From the parkway in Gatlinburg, turn at traffic light #8 and follow the Historic Nature trail in the park. Take the Roaring Fork Motor Nature trail and continue to stop #15 at the falls.

These waterfalls are breathtaking, but make sure to hike prepared with plenty of water, snacks and hiking essentials in case of emergencies.

Have you ever seen Smoky Mountain Bull ELK?!

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“Willfully approaching within 50 yards (150 feet), or any distance that disturbs or displaces elk, is illegal in the park. Violation of this federal regulation can result in fines and arrest. Do not enter fields to view elk-remain by the roadside and use binoculars, telephoto lens, or a spotting scope to view the animals.”- Great Smoky Mountains National Park Service

Elk can also be dangerous. Female elk with calves have been known to charge people in defense to their young. Male elk have also been known to charge people if they perceive them as a threat to their domain. Please keep your distance to avoid these hazards. SmokyMountains_Elk

History of Elk in the park

At one time, elk inhabited the southern Appalachian mountains, but unfortunately, they were eliminated from the region by over-hunting and loss of habitat. The last elk seen in North Carolina was in the late 1700s when it was killed. The last elk was killed in Tennessee in the mid 1800s. By 1900, conservation organizations became concerned that the species would soon become extinct. In cases where a species has been eliminated from the area, the National Park service can choose to reintroduce them. In 2001 the Great Smoky Mountains National Park service began to reintroduce elk to the park. Twenty-five elk were brought here from the Land Between the Lakes National Reservation Area along the Tennessee-Kentucky border.

Fun Facts about Elk

  • Adult male elk are known as “bulls” and weigh between 600 and 700 pounds
  • Adult female elk are known as “cows” and weigh about 500 poundscopper colored elk
  • Adults can be 7 to 10 feet long and stand 4.5 to 5 feet at shoulder length
  • Adult males have antlers that can grow up to five feet
  • Elk can live up to 15 years
  • Elk are vegetarian and eat grasses, forbs, acorns, bark, leaves and buds from shrubs and trees
  • Newborn elk weigh about 35 pounds and can stand within minutes of birth
  • In early spring, elk shed their antlers and immediately begin growing new ones
  • In late spring, elk shed their winter coats and begin to grow beautiful copper-colored, one-layer coats
  • The fall breeding season is known as “rut”
  • Elk can be seen in the Cataloochee Valley and in the field beside the Oconalufee Visitors Center

Beloved Black Bears

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Even though they look cute and cuddly, black bears are wild animals and are dangerous and unpredictable. While visiting the Great Smoky Mountains please do not approach the bears or allow them to approach you and do not feed them! “Panhandler” bears, who have had access to human food and garbage only live half of their normal life expectancy. Not to mention, you can be fined up to $5,000 and sentenced to six months in jail for feeding bears and improper food storage. Many areas around the country are rapidly developing to accommodate more housing. Because of their loss of habitat in North America, black bears are now confined to wooded areas or dense brush land. In the Smokies, you can often see a black bear in the Cades Cove area and many other areas in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Ober Gatlinburg also has a black bear exhibit containing bears.

About Black Bears

Black bears in the Great Smoky Mountains are black in color, but in other parts of the country they can be brown or cinnamon in color.  These creatures can grow up to six feet in height standing. A male black bear usually weighs about 250 pounds, while the female black bear generally weighs just over 100 pounds. However, by the fall, black bears can double their weight preparing for the winter months. This has been observed by the park staff as the black bears in this area have been documented weighing over 600 pounds. Wild black bears can live anywhere from 12 to 15 years. Unfortunately, because humans can be careless, these precious creatures sometimes do not live out their life expectancy because they are made to live on berries and when they eat trash it puts toxins in their bodies. black bear

Bears are most active during the early morning and late evening hours in spring and summer. Black bears can run up to 30 miles per hour, swim very well and also climb trees. They will often mark trees with their teeth and claws as a form of communication with other bears. Bears in the Smokies often make their dens at higher elevations in hollowed out trees. They enter dens in October and November and hibernation usually lasts between 3 to 5 months. A special hormone, leptin is released into the black bear’s systems, to suppress appetite. Because they do not urinate or defecate during dormancy, the nitrogen waste from the bear’s body is biochemically recycled back into their proteins. This also serves the purpose of preventing muscle loss, as the process uses the waste products to build muscle during the long periods of inactivity.

Safety Around Black Bears

Black bear attacks on humans are very rare. Between 1900 and 2007, only 60 people were killed in black bear attacks across North America. However, if you do find yourself in an aggressive encounter with a black bear, you should fight back with any object available weather it be a stick, a rock or even your shoe. The bear may be considering you as prey so you want to let it know that you are dangerous to them. Please report all black bear incidents immediately to a park ranger or the park service. Here are a few tips to better protect yourself from a dangerous black bear situation:

  1. When camping, never cook or store food in or near your tentbear_picnic_table
  2. Hang food and other items with strong odors (ie, toothpaste, bug repellent, soap, etc.) out of reach of bears. Hang items at least 10 ft above the ground and. If no trees are available, store your food in airtight or bear-proof containers
  3. Change your clothing before you go to sleep; don’t wear what you cooked in to go to bed and be sure to store smelly clothing along with your food/smelly items
  4. Keep the area clean. Be sure to wash dishes, dispose of garbage, and wipe down tables
  5. Burn garbage completely in a hot fire and pack trash out – don’t bury it
  6. Don’t surprise bears. If you’re hiking, make your presence known. Make noise by talking loudly, singing, or wearing a bell
  7. If you can, travel with a group. Groups are noisier and easier for bears to detect
  8. Keep in mind that bears tend to be more active at dawn and dusk so plan your hikes accordingly
  9. Stay on marked trails and obey the regulations of the area you’re hiking/camping in
  10. If you’re hiking in bear country, keep an eye out for tracks, scat, digs, and trees that bears have rubbed