PRIVATE & SMALL GROUP TOURS TO THE WORLD'S BEST DESTINATIONS
Three Amazing Alaskan Vacations To Choose From!
Where Is The Best Bear Watching In Alaska?
If bear watching is on your Alaska bucket list, it pays to know the best places to see bears in Alaska! One of the best stops on a bear trip is Anchorage, where iconic spots like Katmai National Park, Lake Clark National Park, Redoubt Bay, and McNeil River are all short float plane flights from the city. The Alaska Zoo and Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center also provide the perfect Alaska bear adventure for those who don’t want to head into the backcountry and want a guaranteed bear-viewing opportunity.
Why Is Anchorage The Best Place To See Bears?
Some of the best bear watching in Alaska is near Anchorage. Alaska is the only U.S. state with three species of bear: black, brown, and polar. Anchorage is one of the few places to easily see all three. Anchorage’s Chugach Mountains are part of the natural range for black and brown bears, while the Alaska Zoo is home to several polar bears. Guaranteed viewing for black and brown bears can also be found at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in nearby Portage. If you are planning a bear trip to the backcountry, just remember that the key to seeing bears in their native habitat is the timing of your trip.
The Best Places To See Alaska’s Bears By Season
Why is timing so important to seeing bears in Alaska? There are two reasons – first, bears hibernate during the winter months. So, planning your trip during the spring or summer months is critical for a successful bear-watching adventure! And second, the annual salmon runs influence where the bears gather. Salmon runs are a key reason bears congregate in such high concentrations at specific locations each year. If you want to see bears in Alaska, pick a spot where the fish are running during your visit.
Seasonal Bear-Watching Adventures Near Anchorage
There are many places to see bears near Anchorage, but spotting a bear in the wild depends on the time of year. Below, we’ll list our favorite locations near Anchorage that are perfect for an Alaska bear adventure.
- Anchorage’s Chugach State Park is home to many bears. Located just 20 minutes from downtown Anchorage, this park has several access points and trailheads that act as gateways to adventure! The Chugach Mountains tower over the city and are a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Biking, hiking, skiing, fishing, rafting, and ATV riding are all popular activities for park visitors, along with wildlife viewing. If you want to see bears, though, hiring a guide may be your best bet! Guides will know how to find the spots where bears like to fish for salmon, snack on sedges, or dig for shellfish. Bears can be spotted in the Chugach Mountains from late spring through late summer.
- Katmai National Park and Preserve is just a short floatplane ride from Anchorage, making it perfect for day trips. Katmai National Park is home to Brooks Falls, where the Alaska Peninsula Brown bear emerges from hibernation to catch fish in the Brooks River. Each year, thousands of visitors flock to Brooks Falls, where four viewing platforms have been built for guests to watch the bears catch fish during the annual salmon run without disturbing the magnificent creatures. Guests can spend the day watching the bears, or book a multi-day stay at Brooks Camp and Brooks Lodge for an extended bear trip. Bear viewing at Brooks Falls is best during July.
- Lake Clark National Park is located on Cook Inlet and, like Katmai, is just a short plane ride from Anchorage. If you have planned your Alaska vacation for the end of the summer, make sure to include a stop at Lake Clark for some of the best bear-watching in Alaska. From the end of July through September, Crescent Lake and Redoubt Bay are two of the best spots to see bears in this huge park. If you book a guided tour of either location, you’ll most likely be looking for bears from an open boat. You can also see bears at Chinitna Bay, which is located at the southern end of the park. The brown bears in this location feed on protein-rich sedge grasses and clams early in the season, and salmon during the late-summer salmon runs. Bear viewing at Chinitna Bay can be done by boat or on ATVs.
- Far North Bicentennial Park is located on the northwest side of Anchorage. It’s nestled in the lower Chugach mountains and is the site of the most bear activity in the entire city. The park is packed with great hiking and biking trails, for outdoor enthusiasts. But if you are simply interested in an Alaska bear adventure, drive up and down the park’s hilly, winding main road. Chances are, you will eventually spot a bear up in the trees or catch a glimpse of one walking along the side of the road.
Guaranteed Bear Viewing Within Anchorage’s City Limits
Suppose a jaunt through the backcountry is not your idea of a vacation. In that case, there’s plenty of opportunity to see bears within Anchorage’s city limits at the Alaska Zoo and the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. Both offer a family-friendly, Alaska bear adventure for children and adults alike.
- The Alaska Zoo – located on the south side of Anchorage, the Alaska Zoo provides a safe home for orphaned, injured, and abandoned wild animals. In addition to black, brown, and polar bears, the zoo is home to bears, moose, mountain goats, Dall sheep, and even wolves.
- The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center – the AWCC is a unique refuge for orphaned animals, but it also is a rehabilitation facility and tries to place animals back into the wild if possible. Visitors can see black and brown bears, wood bison, caribou, moose, lynx, and bald eagles at the AWCC. The facility features outdoor habitats for the animals, and visitors can either walk or drive from pen to pen during their visit.
If you’re planning your first trip to Alaska, Anchorage is a good place to start. The city is home to many museums and cultural centers and sits just a stone’s throw from a mountain range where outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy sports and wildlife viewing. Anchorage is also one of the best places to see bears in Alaska, with dozens of guided tours leaving for Katmai National Park and Preserve or Lake Clark National Park daily. What are you waiting for? Adventure awaits in Anchorage!