The 8 Best Hikes to See Bears Around the World

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When it comes to charismatic megafauna, bears top the list for almost everyone, and not just in North America. Hikers the world over trek the trail both scared and excited to spot one of these fuzzy apex predators, but as long as you stay from a safe distance, sighting bears can be a wildlife experience like no other. Head to these eight places to learn more about the world’s bears, from the most familiar to the most elusive, to those that may have disappeared.

Carpathians, Romania

carpathian mountains
carpathian mountains (Photo: Photo by Andrei Tanase: https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-walking-on-grassland-near-a-mountain-1994893/)

The virgin forest of carpathian mountains, the second longest mountain range in Europe, is the perfect home for a thriving population of brown bears, as well as lynx, wolves and chamois. Head toward Piatra Craiului National Park to spend two days with wildlife hiking along the limestone ridge that forms the crest of the park, or roaming low-lying woods and grasslands on a day trip to Curmatura Hut.

Kainuu Forest, Finland

juvenile brown bear in Kainuu
juvenile brown bear in Kainuu (Photo: “Juvenile brown bear (Ursus arctos), Viiksimo, Kainuu region, Finland” by Frank.Vassen is tagged CC BY 2.0.)

The brown bear is Finland’s national animal, and the boreal forests of the eastern provinces are its favorite hiding place. This part of Finland has only a small human population – the largest city is home to just 75,000 – leaving miles and miles of evergreen forest, pristine lakes and wetlands for wildlife. Spend a week on the 50 miles Bear Ring Trail for your best bet at drizzle-watching, as well as views ranging from cliff-lined, rushing rivers to open pine forest.

Shiretoko Peninsula, Japan

Kamuiwakka Falls and Mount Io Shiretoko Hokkaido
Kamuiwakka Falls and Mount Io Shiretoko Hokkaido (Photo: “File:140828 Kamuiwakka Falls and Mount Io Shiretoko Hokkaido Japan02sbs13.jpg” by 663highland is tagged CC BY 2.5.)

There are two species of bears in Japan: the Japanese black bear, which lives only on the islands of Honshu and Shikoku, and the Ussuri brown bear, which lives in Hokkaido and can reach almost the size of a bear. Kodiak brown. Head toward Shiretoko National Park on Hokkaido’s Shiretoko Peninsula (which has one of the highest concentrations of bears in Japan) to search for local brown bears on a 10-mile trek up Mount Rausu, the highest point in the park.

spectacled bear
spectacled bear (Photo: “Rare Spectacled or Andean Bear” by Steve Wilson – over 10 million views Thank you!! is tagged with CC BY 2.0.)

The spectacled bear, the only bear in South America, gets its name from the “frames” of lighter fur around its eyes. Living only in the cloud forests of the Andes, these tree-loving bruins (they often sleep and forage high in the branches) are mostly vegetarians. They are also the only remaining short-faced bear on earth. Go in search of these elusive rainforest dwellers in Bolivia’s Madidi National Park, where you can independently explore 19 km of trails in the Chalalan region or hire a local guide for a multi-day excursion.

Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

Polar bear, Greenland
Polar bear, Greenland (Photo: “Walking bear” by changehali is tagged with CC BY 2.0.)

The west coast of Greenland is home to around 2,200 polar bears, which roam, hunt and live in the tundra and sea ice. Polar bears can be aggressive, so keep a great distance and always make a bear-safe camp; some tourist organizations also recommend bringing an armed guide. Take a day or more to explore the 100 miles Arctic Circle Trailwhich crosses bear territory – mountains, tundra and a hundred lakes – from Kangerlussuaq to Sisimiut.

Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Mount Toubkal
(Photo: “2019-01-01_11-42-13_IMG_8956” by Max Dawncat is tagged with CC BY 2.0.)

First of all, the atlas bear, the only native African bear known to humans, is probably no longer around. Beginning in the Roman Empire, they were hunted for sport by humans in the region, and firearms increased the bear take rate exponentially until the 19th century, when the last was thought to be shot. There have been persistent rumours, however, of Atlas bear sightings in the mountains of Morocco for decades, although the vast majority of scientists believe them to be extinct. Still, if you dream of seeing a bear in Africa, the Atlas Mountains are your destination, and the scenery is beautiful enough to make a hike worthwhile even if you don’t see any bears. Head to the mountain village of Imlil to access Mount Toubkal National Park, where you can spend a few days climbing the peak or extend your trip to connect the many Berber villages inside the park.

Glacier National Park, Montana, USA

Grizzly bear rubbing on a tree in Glacier National Park
Grizzly bear rubbing on a tree in Glacier National Park (Photo: “Grizzly bear rubbing on a tree (Northern Divide Grizzly Bear Project)” by GlacierNPS is tagged with CC PDM 1.0.)

Black bears and grizzly bears call Glacier National Park home, and hikers spot them here more than almost anywhere else in the Lower 48. It’s estimated that about a thousand bears call the 1,583 square miles home by ( that’s an average of one bear for every 1.5 square miles). Hike to see bears in their favorite part of the park, the Many Glacier area, on the Iceberg Lake or Grinnell Glacier trails.

Pindus Mountains, Greece
Pindus Mountains, Greece (Photo: “25688: peak of Astraka and views to the north” by Granovetter’s Panegyrics is tagged with CC BY-SA 2.0.)

When most people think of Greece, they imagine Mediterranean coastlines and white stone villages, not jagged mountains roamed by bears. But Greece is actually home to more than 400 brown bears, most of them in the Pindus mountains to the north. Along with bears, this range is home to one of the world’s deepest river gorges and dense forests that also provide habitat for wolves and the endangered Greek wildcat. Climb the 7.5-mile round-trip trail to Flega Peak for stunning views of the surrounding range summit, two alpine lakes, and a chance to spot bears.

About Wesley V. Finley

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