PRIVATE & SMALL GROUP TOURS TO THE WORLD'S BEST DESTINATIONS
Three Amazing Alaskan Vacations To Choose From!
Summer Trips To Alaska
Grizzlies & Glaciers Tour
Winter Trips To Alaska
See The Northern Lights
Summer Trips To Alaska
Denali Discovery Adventure
What Type of Bears Are In Alaska?
Bears are to Alaska like peanut butter is to jelly – the two are just better together. Bears are so common in Alaska, in fact, that these magnificent creatures are considered the ultimate symbol of the Alaskan wilderness. Bear viewing is one of the top activities you will find on tourist bucket lists. But what kind of bears are in Alaska? And where is the best place to look for them?
There are three main types of bears in Alaska. Keep reading if you want to learn more about them (and a fourth subspecies that is very rare!):
- Brown bears – brown bears are the most common bear found in Alaska. They are located throughout the state, both on the coast (where they are referred to as Grizzly Bears) and throughout the Interior region. Biologists have estimated that approximately 40,000 brown bears call Alaska home, 40 times the number of bears found in the rest of the United States! Although these animals are wild, seasonal feeding patterns make it possible to predict their location during certain times of the year and increase viewing opportunities for tourists. Coastal brown bears, for example, will congregate along rivers and streams during seasonal salmon runs every year, making these locations popular with tourists during the summer months.
- Black bears – Alaska’s elusive black bears can be found in the state’s forested areas. They are solitary creatures, paring up briefly during the mating season but remaining on their own for the rest of the year. Although they can be seen any time of the day, they are most active at night so are much more difficult to spot during a bear-watching excursion. They are omnivorous and have few enemies, but the one animal they fear the most is the grizzly bear!
- Polar bears – the most obvious answer to the question “What type of bears are in Alaska?” is … polar bears! Polar bears live along the shore and on sea ice in the Arctic region of Alaska. These iconic animals use the sea ice that covers the ocean to hunt their prey and have been found hundreds of miles from shore! Polar bears primarily hunt seals and will rest silently at a seal’s breathing hole, where they wait for them to surface. Some polar bears have been observed hunting their prey by swimming beneath the ice.
- Bonus bear: the Glacier bear – the Glacier bear is a sub-species of the Alaskan black bear. These bears have been spotted all over Alaska, but are found most frequently in the Southeast region of the state near Tongass National Forest and the capital city of Juneau. Their fur color ranges from silvery blue to grey, and they are considered one of the rarest bears in the world. Little is known about them, so if you see one – you know you’ve experienced something extraordinary!
The Best Place To See Bears In Alaska
One of the most popular destinations in Alaska is Fairbanks. Fairbanks is a small Alaskan city of roughly 30,000 people and makes a great base camp for a variety of outdoor adventures. Located in Alaska’s Interior Region right below the Arctic Circle, Fairbanks is one of the premier spots for Aurora watchers and Northern Lights chasers. But it’s also a great jumping-off point for bear-watching expeditions. If you want to know where to see bears in Fairbanks, keep reading! We have three incredible trip options that are perfect for bear-watching.
Bear Watching 101 – Denali National Park
Denali National Park and Preserve can be reached via Fairbanks by bus, plane, train, or car. This iconic park is a nature lover’s dream! One of the easiest ways to see wildlife in Denali – including bears – is to take a bus ride along the 92-mile Park Road. Only the first 15 miles of this road is accessible to car; after that, only buses are allowed. Fortunately, you can take an inexpensive bus tour along the road and enjoy the wildlife along the way. While a bus tour on Denali Park Road is not a dedicated bear-viewing tour, you will most likely see bears. The only downside is that the bears may not be close, so bring binoculars for an excellent view. Of course, guided tours can take you into Denali’s backcountry, where there is even more opportunity to see bears and the other amazing wildlife that live in the park.
Bear Watching 101 – Chena Hot Springs Road
What kind of bears are in Fairbanks, Alaska? Black and grizzly are prevalent – but polar bears are not. One of the most popular places to see bears in Fairbanks is along the Chena Hot Springs Road. This road leads to the Chena Hot Springs Resort, approximately an hour outside of Fairbanks. The resort, and adjacent recreation area, is accessible via car or shuttle. Wildlife spottings are common along the entire route, and include moose, beavers, muskrats, foxes, lynx, coyotes, and bears! Nature lovers can enjoy kayaking and canoe day trips on the Chena River, where they can keep an eye out for bears and other wildlife as you paddle through the picture-perfect Alaskan landscape.
Bear Watching 101 – The Far North
If you want to see polar bears, your best bet is to book a guided tour with a tour operator who can take you to the Far North for an incredible bear-viewing adventure. Tour operators like Gondwana Ecotours specialize in unique trips to locations like Kaktovik and Utquiagvik near the Arctic Circle, where tourists can see polar bears in their natural environment.
- Kaktovik – fly into the small Arctic Settlement of Kaktovik, where 400 people live with 50 resident polar bears. The native Inupiat have lived side-by-side with these bears for centuries, leaving the bones of whales they hunt outside of the town limits for them to scavenge. This means that it’s all but guaranteed that you will see a polar bear on your trip! Gondwana’s guides will take you on a boat trip through Alaska’s barrier islands, where you can see polar bears at eye level as they hunt and play together along the shore.
- Utquigvik – formerly known as Barrow, Utquigvik is the northernmost town in North America. It is remote and isolated, and only accessible by plane! Gondwana’s guides will set up a meet and greet with local elders to learn about the traditions and lifestyle of the native people. After, the guides will take you on a wildlife tour to look for polar bears, along with arctic foxes and snowy owls.
An Alaskan Bear Viewing Adventure For All!
When you ask what type of bears are in Alaska, it may be tempting for a local to answer “all of them!” Alaska is home to a large percentage of the North American bear population, making this state one of the most popular places for bear-viewing expeditions for tourists and other adventure seekers. If seeing a bear is on your bucket list, start planning your Alaskan bear-viewing adventure today!