Food, Trash Left in Enchanted Valley Habituates Bears, Closes Area to Camping
Trash and food left by hikers and consumed by bears in the Enchanted Valley of Olympic National Park have prompted a 30-day closure of the area to camping.
On April 15, trip reporter nnylyssim filed an account of backpacking in the Enchanted Valley in Olympic National Park. Her group "found a huge trail of pasta and trash that others had left behind."
"We cleaned up most of it," she said, "but it was very sad."
She also reported that a black bear who had clearly eaten from the food and trash was hanging around camp. Other visitors to Olympic National Park confirmed that at least one bear had consumed human food and trash, and reported seeing other bears unafraid of people.
The situation, for the safety of humans and bears alike, has prompted park staff to close the popular valley to overnight camping for 30 days. During the closure, rangers and wildlife biologists will monitor the situation.
Don't feed wildlife, for their safety and yours
"Bears that eat human food come to consider people as a food source, and are extremely dangerous,". "Sadly, bears have gotten into and consumed human food this spring in Enchanted Valley and we have closed the area to camping effective immediately."
How can you help?
Pledge to keep trails clean
Pack it in, pack it out. Along with securing food from animals and keeping your distance from wildlife, it's one of the most basic principles for keeping our beloved places as wild as you found them.
One of the appeals of backpacking is a wilderness experience, one where you spot an elk through the trees or feel like you could be the only person on earth sleeping under the stars. The truth is that over a season, hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of people visit popular backcountry destinations like the Enchanted Valley. How you behave while you're there has consequences for everyone who follows, as well as for the animals who call it home.
Proper food storage is vital to maintaining safe distances between bears and humans and is required in all park wilderness and frontcountry areas of Olympic National Park.
- Read the National Park's advice about keeping food and garbage safe from wildlife.
- Read how to hike in bear country
- Read how to ethically photograph wildlife
Trail open to hikers, camping closure details
The Enchanted Valley area is closed to all camping between Pyrites Creek and the O'Neill Pass trail junction.The six-mile section of trail between these two locations remains open for hiking, but there is no camping above Pyrites Creek or below the O'Neill Pass trail junction.
Olympic National park staff remind hikers walking this section of trail to stay at least 50 yards away from wildlife and to keep food, trash and all scented items properly stored and out of reach of wildlife at all times.
"We will re-open Enchanted Valley to camping as soon as we are able to do so," said Creachbaum. "When it re-opens, the use of bear cans will be required for all overnight use in the area."
Where to backpack instead
If you were planning an overnight trip to the valley this weekend, here are some tools to research an alternative. And remember, wherever you go, pack out your trash, and don't feed the wildlife.
- Check out the wilderness planning resources at the Olympic National Park Wilderness Information Center (in Port Angeles, open 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. daily) or give the center a call at 360-565-3100 a ring
- Try one of these early season backpacking trips on the Olympic Peninsula.
- Search the hiking guide for more ideas.
More tips for making a clean camp while backpacking
- The rule of 200 feet and other campsite tips
- Backpacking basics: trip planning and on the trail
- How to hang a bear bag