Bear Viewing in Alaska
There are several places where you can see bears in Alaska, but you usually need quite a bit of luck. There are, however, some places where the chances to see bears are particularly high, if you come in the right season. Here are some recommendations:
Katmai is the place for bear watching in Alaska, and probably the world. The park is located in Southwest Alaska and requires a long and expensive flight (or two), but the amount of bears here makes the effort worth while. The most famous attraction is Brooks Falls. Most TV films you’ve ever seen about bears waiting for salmon to make their way up the falls, were shot here. In the right season you can see 10-15 brown bears engaged in intensive fishing.
The viewing is done from fenced viewpoints, but to get to them you have to share the trails with the bears. But don’t worry, park rangers monitor the park quite closely. In other parts of the Park you can sometimes see larger concentrations of bears, but the logistics is more complicated and the prices are higher.
Another attraction in Katmai is the awesomely-named Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, the site of the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. The Valley (which no longer smokes, thank you very much) used to be a normal, green, water-filled Alaskan valley, until the eruption covered it with a layer of volcanic ash hundreds of meters deep. Today – almost a hundred years after the eruption – the vegetation is starting to recover, but the area still seems arid and strange. Highly recommended, especially for those looking for a hiking destination.
Brooks camp – from the official park management site
Katmai Air – an airline offering packages to Katmai Park
Hallo Bay Camp – For the adventurous type – a lodge offering accommodations in a cabin camp, at the heart of one of Alaska’s most bear-crowded areas
A park on the opposite end of Cook Inlet, more or less across from Anchorage. Some Anchorage-based airlines operate day trips to the park to see bears hunting salmon, starting at the beginning of August. The park itself is mountainous and extremely wild, and highly recommended if you’re interested in long treks and have the time.
Lake Clark Air – an Anchorage-based airline specializing in trips into Lake Clark. The airline shares the website with an excellent lodge called The Farm, which is located inside the park.
Silver Salmon Creek Lodge – a lodge in the eastern part of the park, also offering day trips from Anchorage or longer stays.
For those of you intending to visit Southeast Alaska: Not far from Juneau is Admiralty Island, also home to one of Alaska’s largest concentrations of bears. You can see the bears on the beach looking for mussels or other treats, or watch them from an organized viewpoint in Pack Creek.
These are mostly brown bears. Day trips usually depart from Juneau in the morning and return in the afternoon. Other bear concentrations in Southeast Alaska can be found near the towns of Wrangell (not to be confused with Wrangell–St. Elias Park, which is a long way from here) and Heider.
Pack Creek Viewing Area – a viewpoint in Admiralty Island, maintained by Alaska Department of Fish & Game
Admiralty Island Bear Viewing – day trips from Juneau to Admiralty Island