"Real World Bear / Mice Aware" on the Georgia Appalachian Trail


Ok - so ...

Do y'all know that there is only ONE section of the ENTIRE Appalachian Trail - where it is required by law to carry a bear-proof food canister to store your food ? AND - that section is where traditional northbound Appalachian Trail thru-hikers begin their epic journeys (usually overburdened with far too much weight in their packs)? Do you know of the section and state that I am referring too? YES - YOU GUESSED IT ! That section is in Georgia !



BOTTOM LINE = because of folks not following "Leave No Trace" Outdoors Ethics" and common courtesies - if you camp in the 5 mile chunk of trail between Jarrad and Neels Gap on the Georgia Appalachian Trail between March 1 and June 1 - you need to carry a bear canister jug (like the one pictured below) to store your food in. Many weight approx 2 lbs EMPTY - the lightest brand we know of is below (and NOT inexpensive!).


Pictured: One Of The Lighter Approved Canisters On The Market Is The "Bearikade" - Weighing In At 31 Ounces (Empty) - Which Will Fit The Needs Of An At Thru-hiker (4 Days Between Re-supply)

How Does This "Fall Out" - As It Were - And What's The Bear Situation Like On The Georgia Appalachian Trail ?

1) Thru-hikers (Folks Who Are Hiking The Entire Trail And Obsessing On Ounces Of Pack Weight) Don't Want To Carry This Additional Weight And Many Times Ignore This Law

- Or -

2) Many Hikers Wisely Choose To Arrange Their Itineraries So That They Just Hike Through This 5 Mile "Bear Canister Zone". But - In Doing So - Many Are Compounding The Issue Again By Leaving Large And Careless Food Messes On Points To The North And South Of The Boundaries Of This "Canister Zone" On The Trail (Jarrad Gap To The South And "Cowrock" To The North - In Particular). Where Is It Now Not Too Hard For Even A "Newbie" Hiker To Trek Through This 5 Mile Zone.

If The Area Becomes Larger (As It Probably Will) - That Is Obviously Going To Present Complications.


TRY TO REMEMBER - These black bears are more scared of YOU than you are of THEM ! HOWEVER - they are much stronger, faster, have a much more sensitive sense of smell than a human being, and are smarter than the smartest dog that you will ever meet - so PLEASE RESPECT THEM AND THEIR SPACE ! By folks allowing them easy access to "people food" and trash - and "spoiling them" (acclimating them) - these very bright animals become quickly addicted to our food and learn quickly how to get to it again. The usual ending to even a slightly uncomfortable human / bear confrontation is the bear being shot by rangers - SO - EVEN IF YOU ARE EXHAUSTED AT THE END OF A LONG DAY OF HIKING - MAKE SURE YOU STORE YOUR FOOD AWAY RESPONSIBLY ! Elk once roamed these woods until they were hunted away. Wolves once roamed these woods in the same way. Mountain lions left us on their own accord when the deer populations dropped too low. Many folks complain that the trail seems almost "sterile" at times - with nery a bird or squirrel to be seen. If we'd like the bears to make our Appalachian Trail trips that much more exciting .... well - you get the point.

The purpose of hanging a bear bag is 3 fold.
1) Keep the bears safe by keeping them away from your food.
2) Keep your food away from bears so they don't get it instead of you - so you don't go hungry for a few days
3) Keep your food away from acrobatic mice so that you don't go hungry for a few days

ALSO - BE AWARE - at every Georgia Appalachian Trail Shelter there is a privy outhouse and a pre-constructed system of steel bear cables (convenient for 2 important aspects of following "Leave No Trace Outdoors Ethics". HOWEVER - those conveniences exist primarily for just the southernmost 80 miles of the trail (in Georgia ... in addition to the 2 national parks that the trail passes through and a few other scattered areas). AT MOST SHELTERS ALONG THE 2 THOUSAND LONG TRAIL - YOU POOP IN A CATHOLE THAT YOU (HOPEFULLY) DIG - OR HANG YOUR FOOD IN A TREE - THAT YOU (HOPEFULLY) KNOW HOW TO THROW.

The majority of folks that hike the AT simply do not hang their food at all if a steel bear cable system is not present - and many that do - DO NOT hang them effectively. There are a few methods to hanging a bear / mice bag - BUT THE METHOD THAT MOST CLOSELY RESEMBLES THE STEEL BEAR CABLE SYSTEMS AT THE SHELTER IS THE METHOD THAT THE TOP OF GEORGIA HOSTEL AND HIKING CENTER ENDORSES.


The "2 tree method" results with your food hanging 10 feet above the ground and at least 7-8 feet from either tree. this method also makes it harder for mice to reach your food

our location

Top of Georgia Hostel and Hiking Center

7675 US Hwy 76 E,

Hiawassee, GA 30546

Phone. 706-982-3252


contact us