Yosemite Food Storage

Are you wondering if you can leave food in your car in Yosemite?

Or what do you do when you encounter a bear, and you are alone?

Read along to find answers to many of your Yosemite food storage questions.

You can also get several other tips and tricks to make your Yosemite experience safe and enjoyable.

Bears at Yosemite

bears at yosemite np
Image: NPS.gov

Yosemite National Park houses many American black bears with robust appetites and a keen sense of smell.

The bears are also highly inquisitive and tempted to seek out our high-calorie meals. 

Bears regularly stealing human food can sometimes get violent, and to protect humans, they need to be put to death. 

You can spare a bear an avoidable death by correctly storing anything with a scent.


Disregard these regulations can lead to the detention of your food or automobile, a fine of up to $5,000 and the cancellation of your camping permit.

You may get other penalties to protect visitors, property and bears.

Be aware that these Yosemite food storage requirements have the same force and effect as federal law.

While packing for your trip, consider putting all your food and essentials in one bag for simple removal from your car once you reach Yosemite.

Yosemite Food Lockers

food storage
Image: NPS.gov

You must use bear-resistant food containers, ‘bear canisters,’ or food lockers wherever available. 

At every campsite, most trailhead parking lots and tent cabin accommodations, you will find metal food lockers.

Curry Village, White Wolf and Tuolumne Meadows, backpacker campsites in Little Yosemite Valley, and High Sierra Camp have lockers.

Additionally, lockers are available at all campsites at Upper Pines, Lower Pines, North Pines, Camp 4 and Wawona.

Learn more about Yosemite campgrounds and the facilities they provide.   

You must always latch the locker properly, even on the campground. 

A securely closed and latched locker prevents food access for a bear.

What is “Food”?

Regardless of packaging, anything having a scent qualifies as “food.”

This could contain things you wouldn’t usually think of as food, like unclean utensils for cooking and eating meals, bottles of water, canned goods and other items like shampoos, soaps and cosmetics.

Proper Yosemite food storage rules here apply to everything.

It might also include garbage and ice chests, even if labeled bear-resistant.

Take a 2-day tour of Yosemite National Park departing from San Francisco, packing food and following bear safety procedures for a memorable and safe day outdoors.

How Should You Store Your Food While at Yosemite?

Learn general Yosemite food storage tips in the following paragraphs to make your trip to Yosemite National Park more pleasurable.

In Picnic Areas and Campgrounds

  • Never store food inside a tent or a backpack.
  • Wash dishes right after using them.
  • Never turn your back on your meal, and keep it within easy reach.
  • You can keep food inside your car only during the day, as long as it is hidden and the windows are shut.
  • If your RV is built completely of solid, structural material with no cloth pop-outs, you can keep food inside.

Yet, hide the food and shut all windows and roof vents while the RV is not in use.

  • Do not keep food in a pickup truck bed or tied to the outside of a car.
  • Always remove food wrappers, baby seat crumbs, baby wipes and even canned goods from your vehicle.
  • As soon as you reach a campground, secure your food, trash and other smelly objects.
  • It is not wise to burn extra food, tea bags or coffee grinds in a fire.

A fire much hotter than ordinary campfires is necessary to burn organic material totally. Even partially burned material will attract animals to camps.

In Hotel Rooms and Cabins

According to Yosemite food storage requirements, you must store all your food in a room with closed windows and doors if you are not in the room. 

A cabin’s open window or entrance is an easy entry point for bears.

While Backpacking

  • All overnight hikers must carry bear-resistant food containers, sometimes known as ‘bear canisters’ in Yosemite. 

Counterweight food hangs are no longer legal according to the new Yosemite food storage practices. 

A bear canister is the only known and reliable way to keep bears from eating human food in Yosemite and the southern Sierra.

  • Choose foods like rice, tortillas, jerky, pasta, almonds, dried fruits, peanut butter and protein bars that are small, compressible, high in calories and have a mild smell.
  • You can remove food from its packaging to pack more food into your canisters while generating less trash. Rather than using bottles, jars, or cans, consider using resealable bags.
  • To prevent smelly backpacks from oil and crumbs, carry food and waste in plastic bags.
  • Bear-proof containers only work when they are closed and secured. Keep the container secured and closed at all times, even near a campground.
  • Use pots and pans as a bear alert by placing them on containers.
  • Avoid placing containers close to cliffs or any type of water source.

A bear might try to open them by rolling them down a hill or knocking them around.

  • Refrain from tying or attaching anything to a food container with a rope; a bear will take the item away with the container. 
  • Never throw away food scraps in the wild. Always pack a separate bag for storing all food scraps, wrappers, uneaten food and other garbage. 

What to Do If You See a Bear?

What to Do If You See a Bear
Image: NPS.gov

Due to bears’ innate dislike of humans, you might not see any bears while you’re there.

Keep your distance from bears if you observe them outside of human-populated areas.

Stay back at least 50 yards (a length equal to four shuttle buses).

If you spot a bear in a populated place or if one approaches you, cry loudly and angrily to scare it away.

Depending on the circumstances, you should act differently if you spot a bear. 

In any instance, call 209/372-0322 and leave a message or alert a ranger. 

You can dial 911 if a bear attempts to eat human food or won’t leave a populated area.

Keep in mind the Yosemite food storage practices to avoid bear encounters. 

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