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Public Safety Bulletins and Reports

Travelling Safely in the Columbia Mountains

Mount Revelstoke and Glacier national parks are wilderness environments, in one of the most rugged landscapes in the country: the Columbia Mountains. Many natural hazards exist, but the risk of personal injury can be minimized by taking reasonable precautions. Your safety is your personal responsibility. Caution and self-reliance are essential, along with a knowledge of natural hazards, experience in avoiding them and successfully dealing with them when they happen. Pick trips that reflect your level of ability. Ask park staff about trips if you are unsure.

If you are planning an activity that may be hazardous (eg. mountain climbing, rock climbing, or hiking alone), we recommend that you leave a detailed trip plan with a reliable contact person.


Columbian Ground Squirrel Columbian ground squirrels can be seen in the meadows at the summit of the mountain.
© Parks Canada / J. Woods

Any wild animal can be dangerous. Even ground squirrels deserve distance and respect! They can bite and have been known to transmit disease. Humans are also dangerous to wildlife. Animals that are fed lose their fear of people and may end up being destroyed to protect human safety. Often we cannot even see the results of our presence on wildlife. Some animals may change their wild behaviour patterns to maintain access to human foods, disrupting their relationships with each other and with their natural foods and environment. Other animals may change their habits to avoid humans, even though by doing so they may forgo the use of important natural feeding areas.

Please do your part to limit the impact that so many people have on park wildlife. Give all the animals you see the respect they deserve and the space they need. Enjoy a safe visit and ensure that future generations have the chance to see wildlife that is truly wild.

Read more here about safety in bear country. Check with park staff when you arrive in the park about bear sightings and trail alerts. Ask park staff to learn more about reducing your risk of encountering bears when camping in the backcountry or what to do if you encounter a bear.

Drinking Water

Though park waters are generally clean, there is always a chance that harmful bacteria or parasites may exist in untreated surface water. Pathogens of concern in BC include giardia and cryptosporidium. Boil or disinfect and filter untreated water before using, or carry water from a treated water source. Potable water is available at both campgrounds in Glacier National Park and at the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre. For more information on drinking water safety, consult our article Water, Birds and Bugs.


Porcupine Porcupines are just one among many dangers to your pet. Dogs must be leashed under the National Parks Act.
© Parks Canada / Les Gyug

Pets are permitted on hiking trails but must be on a leash at all times by law. Dogs and other pets may jeopardize your safety and theirs by provoking and attracting wildlife. Bears, cougars, porcupines, coyotes, wolverines and small predators such as marten and fisher are all capable of injuring or even killing your pet.


Hikers in the rain Hikers should be prepared for rain in any season
© Parks Canada / Mas Matsushita

Snow and cold temperatures can occur any month of the year. Sunburn can be a major problem at higher elevations. Because mountain weather can change very rapidly and unpredictably, you should carry sun screen, appropriate clothing and proper equipment at all times. Use sunglasses and sunscreen even when it is cold or cloudy. Ultraviolet radiation increases in intensity with altitude. The sun's reflection from snow or ice can damage your eyes.

The Columbia Mountains climate is relatively mild, but it is often wet, even in winter. The most functional clothing for summer hiking or for winter activities is made from waterproof-breathable fabrics. Clothing that is windproof alone will not serve you if you are planning outdoor activities in the Columbia Mountains, and coated waterproof fabrics will usually be too warm. Dress in layers and keep in mind that, on average, it rains three days in five! Check our weather page to learn more about seasonal averages.


Avalanche icon

Almost any slope, under the right circumstances, may release its snowy mantle in an avalanche. Even small avalanches can be deadly. Backcountry skiers, boarders and snowshoers must know how to recognize and travel in avalanche terrain. Each member of your party should carry a shovel, transceiver and probe, and know how to use them. A daily avalanche bulletin is available during the winter months at avalanche.pc.gc.ca or by telephone at: (250) 837-MTNS (837-6867).

More information on avalanches... 

New Standard of Care for Youth Groups in the Backcountry

New policies have been introduced for custodial groups planning backcountry travel in the mountain National Parks (Banff, Yoho, Kootenay, Jasper, Mt. Revelstoke, Glacier, and Waterton Lakes). These policies are in effect from Nov 15 - Apr 30 each year, and have evolved significantly since they were first introduced in April 2004. Parks Canada has established a new standard of care, and custodial group leaders have new obligations and pre-trip planning considerations they must understand.

Parks Canada's goal is to encourage our youth to travel in their mountain parks, while at the same time receiving appropriate leadership in suitable locations. The information contained within these pages attempts to offer a strong resource for custodial groups who plan to undertake backcountry travel.

Learn more... 

Things to Think About

For other general Parks Canada visitor safety information, visit the following:

Remember: You are responsible for your own SAFETY!