Bears in Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks

Many people often confuse these two national parks, their locations, and main attractions. Having visited Yosemite over a dozen times and Yellowstone three times I thought I would educate my friends on the differences in the parks and tell at least one funny bear story in the meantime. Yosemite is in the heart of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains while Yellowstone sits almost a thousand miles away in the NW corner of Wyoming, near the Idaho and Montana state lines.

The main attractions at Yosemite National Park in California include:
1. Half Dome – The towering wall of granite that challenges thousands of climbers every year.
2. Yosemite Falls among many other waterfalls that are easily accessible by any ability hiker.
3. The giant Sequoia trees (aka. Sierra Redwoods) that are spread throughout the park in 3 different groves.

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The main attractions at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming include:
1. Old Faithful – The geyser that shoots up over 100 feet in the air on a predictable time table of every 1 ½ hrs.
2. Thermal features all around the park, including West Thumb and Lower Geyser Basin. Yellowstone is actually a super volcano waiting to erupt. Signs of this are everywhere. Often you can see lava flowing throughout the park.
3. The Boiling River where one hot spring runs into the cold Gardner River and makes for a great hot tub.

Yellowstone N.P is home of the old school Cartoon Yogi Bear who in the show lived in the fake Jellystone Park. “Hey Boo Boo, there’s a pic a nic basket!” The cartoon started in the early 60’s and helped to educate people on the dangers of feeding bears or leaving trash out in camp sites. Although not the shows main purpose, it was much needed for the public to become more aware about the dangers of bears. From the early 1900’s to the 1930’s Yellowstone set up bleachers at their dumps to allow visitors to view the bears eating human trash and while the visitors sat in awe of the huge creatures a Ranger on horseback would talk about the habits and history of bears. Sounds like a good idea, right? Ha. Well after aggressive behavior and a few too many attacks the dump viewing bleachers were removed and the program was shut down. By the 1960’s all the trash from the park was being trucked out of Yellowstone.

Photo: for the latest blog story..

Yosemite N.P is home to one of my favorite bear stories. (I have many, and have been too close for comfort a few times with bears while backpacking). This story takes place while I was a tour guide for road trips in America. Driving the 15 passenger van full of European Tourists through the Yosemite Valley I noticed a couple cars pulled over and looking out their windows, a sure sign of wildlife! It was perfect because I had just finished telling the passengers that we had about a 50/50 chance of seeing a bear. A few of the girls screamed just at the word Bear! So I told them not to worry I would protect them if there was a Bear. Yeah I am that confident.. I slow down and look into the woods and sure as shit, there is a cub bear rooting around just 20 yards off the road. I pull over and tell everyone to get their cameras, there is a bear just off the road on the driver side of the vehicle. Luckily this part of the road was one way so at first the traffic didn’t jam up too bad. No one wanted to get out of the van so I took some cameras, got out and snapped some pictures. The bear was moving parallel to the road and had moved up a bit. So I got back in the car and pulled up 100 or so yards and parked again. Five to ten minutes had passed since we first spotted the bear and now there was a crowd forming because the bear was putting on a bit of a show. Most of my tourists had gotten out of the van and joined the crowd of about 25 people that were snapping pictures of the bear. I was near the back of the crowd, with one eye on my van that was still running in case a Ranger came by because he would surely tell everyone to get back in their vehicles and scare the bear away.

Surprisingly another five minutes and still no ranger, they usually are on scene of a wildlife sighting quickly, telling tourists to not stop and keep driving. With my one eye that was on the bear I noticed he was acting a little different, and he knew we were all watching him. Then it happened, the bear charged the group of picture taking tourists, I had everyone running past me, almost trampling me, back to their vehicles. I remember one guy in particular he had a really nice camera, probably worth 2 or 3 thousand dollars, he was like George in the Seinfeld episode, throwing little kids on the ground to get out of the building when the fire alarm went off. Haha. I stood my ground though and had a split second to decide, not to run back to the car but to run at the bear. I raised my arms, screamed, and charged at the bear. You see this was a black bear, maybe 2-3 yrs old pushing 200 pounds and they are more scared of us then we need to be of them. With my arms up I looked big and with the noise I was making he thought I was dangerous, and it worked, he ran off in the other direction. I turned around victorious and no one was around me, most people where already at their vehicles, or had gotten in them. Most of my passengers and several other random people had seen me run the bear off and started to clap, holler in excitement, and Thank Me.. It was very hilarious, as I walked back to the van to have random people outside their cars clapping for me. Many of my passengers were scared; some of them were confused as to why I ran at the bear. I told everyone to get in the van and buckle up. I got ready to drive off, but first, I turned around and said, “I told you, I would protect you from any bears.”

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