Sensational Ketchikan Bear Viewing Tours

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Grizzlies & Glaciers Tour

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See The Northern Lights

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What Kind Of Bears Can You See In Ketchikan, Alaska?

Alaska has many incredible locations for bear viewing scattered across its vast wilderness. While places like Katmai National Park and Preserve or Admiralty Island attract thousands of tourists each year, Ketchikan is also an incredible place to see these spectacular creatures in their native habitat. Black bears are the most commonly seen species of bear in Ketchikan. Keep reading to learn more about Ketchikan and Ketchikan bear excursions.

Ketchikan – The Southernmost City In Alaska

The Alaskan town of Ketchikan is named after the creek that runs through the town. The name “Ketchikan” comes from the Tlingit name for the creek, Kitschk-hin. The town is Alaska’s sixth most populated town, with a population of 8,192 people. However, those numbers swell during tourist season as more than 1 million visitors pass through Ketchikan each year for Ketchikan bear viewing tours. Ketchikan sits at the southernmost entrance to Alaska’s Inside Passage, the famous network of waterways that wind through Alaska’s vast frontier.

The Black Bears Of Ketchikan

When people think of Alaska and its bears, they likely imagine the famous brown bears of Brooks Falls, who hunt salmon in the Brooks River during the annual salmon runs. However, Ketchikan is home to black bears and a variety of Ketchikan bear-watching tours that allow visitors to see the splendid creatures in their native habitat.

Five Fun Facts About Black Bears

Ketchikan’s black bears are as interesting as their coastal counterparts, the Alaskan Peninsula Brown Bear. Here are five fun facts about Ketchikan’s black bears that you may not have known:

  • Black bears are the smallest of the three bear species found in North America. Typically, a male black bear weighs between 125 and 550 pounds. Female black bears are about a third of the size of male black bears. Weight and size vary by range and time of year, and on availability of food sources.
  • Black bears are true omnivores. They eat shoots and sprouts, grubs, insects, berries, and salmon. However, they are also opportunistic and will scavenge things like beached whales, moose, and deer carcasses.
  • Black bears are strong climbers. One of their typical defensive behaviors is to climb trees to avoid predators. Short, curved claws help them excel at this endeavor.
  • Black bears are strong swimmers. Ketchikan sits on an island, but researchers have noted that the bears near Ketchikan are not isolated from the bear population on the mainland. Some people on Ketchikan bear viewing tours have reported seeing black bears swim across the Behm Canal to gain access to the mainland!
  • Black bears are solitary animals – for the most part. Sometimes, they can be found in groups if food is particularly abundant in one area. When food is less abundant, black bears may defend their food source, but they are not territorial. They don’t defend specific areas and are known to share their home range with other bears.

The Best Places To See Bears In Ketchikan

The sleepy little fishing port of Ketchikan is set amid a heavily forested area. In addition to the area’s stunning landscape, the town is famous for a variety of locations that are popular with Ketchikan bear excursions. Our three favorite places for Ketchikan bear excursions are listed below.

  • Anan Wildlife Observatory - Anan Wildlife Observatory is the perfect place for bear viewing in Alaska. It is also one of the few places in the world where brown and black bears can be found together, feeding on the thousands of spawning salmon during the summer’s annual salmon run. The observatory is located approximately a half-mile from the drop-off spot, at the end of a partially surfaced trail that winds through the rainforest. The trail ends at an observation platform, where adventurous souls on Ketchikan bear viewing tours can watch the bears and other wildlife below. There is also a photo blind on the observation deck, which is positioned near a waterfall and ensures that you will have stunning photographs to take home as a souvenir!
  • Traitor's Cove and Margaret Creek - Another incredible bear viewing area is at the Margaret Creek Wildlife Observation area, better known as Traitor's Cove. Bear viewing in Alaska at Traitor's Cove is available late July until early September, but is best in August. Traitor's Cove is accessible by a 20-minute flight) or a 45-minute boat ride. Once you arrive, a guide walks you to the observation platform, which is situated above a waterfall on Margaret Creek. From there, you can watch the bears catching salmon as they dodge the rushing water of the falls! You can also see eagles in the trees surrounding the cove, as well as sea lions and minx at the cove’s drop-off location.
  • Neets Bay – Neets Bay gives Ketchikan bear watching tours two options for bear viewing, by floatplane or by boat. Neets Bay is located 40 miles North of downtown Ketchikan, only 25 minutes by air and 35 minutes by boat. The best time to go on Ketchikan bear excursions to Neets Bay is late July through early September. Black bears are attracted to Neets Bay because of the Neets Bay fish hatchery where thousands of returning Coho, Chinook, & Chum salmon begin arriving in early June. Bear viewing at Neets Bay can include a tour of the hatchery as well as up-close views of the bears from a viewing platform in the rainforest. Make sure you keep your eyes open to search the streams and shorelines for bears and other Alaskan wildlife along the way!

Bear Viewing Adventures in Ketchikan

While there are a variety of places to go bear viewing in Alaska, Ketchikan offers visitors some of the best places to see black and sometimes brown bears. Ketchikan bear viewing tours are famous for showing off the bears in their natural habitat, feeding on salmon in streams. But no matter which bear-viewing location you visit, one thing is certain – you’re bound to have a bear-y good time!

Download all three Alaska tour brochures for tour dates and pricing.