What Is The Best Time To See Whales And Bears In Alaska?

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Many visitors who are planning their first trip to Alaska are curious to know if you can see bears in Alaska in May. The short answer is yes - yes, you can see bears in Alaska in May! However, it is not the best time to see bears in Alaska.

Bears are not yet active during the early spring months and may be harder to spot in Alaska. Bears emerge from their winter hibernation in late March or early April, but during those months they remain closer to their dens, foraging on whatever foliage they can find before the salmon runs begin. But once the salmon runs begin in late June, bears migrate to rivers and waterfalls, where they can easily be spotted by tourists. Salmon runs typically take place in Alaska from late June to early September, at the height of the summer tourist season.

However, Alaska offers tourists plenty of opportunities to spot other wildlife species every month of the year. If you're interested in other wildlife viewing opportunities in Alaska, like whales, read on for more information!

bear and her cubs in Alaska

When Is The Best Time To See Whales And Bears In Alaska?

From April to September, wildlife viewing opportunities are plentiful throughout the state of Alaska. Whales, bears, otters, sea lions, eagles, and other marine and land animals can be spotted either during an Alaskan cruise or during a planned excursion with one of the state's many tour operators.

The best time and place to view each animal depends on many factors, including migration patterns, hibernation, and food sources. If viewing wildlife is important to you during your trip., it's a good idea to know when and where you can view the different kinds of Alaskan wildlife.

Type of Wildlife:

Best Time to Spot:


Best seen in Alaska during the summer months from May to September in Denali National Park.


The best time to see bears in Alaska is during the summer months when they come out of hibernation, typically from June to August in Katmai National Park and Preserve.


To see whales in Alaska, visit during the summer months of June to August, with peak season for humpback whales in July. Kenai Fjords National Park is a popular whale-watching destination.

Bald Eagles

The best time to see bald eagles in Alaska is during the summer months, particularly in July and August along the Chilkat River.


The best time to see caribou in Alaska is during their migration seasons in late spring (May) and late fall (September-October) in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Whale watching is a very popular tourist attraction in Alaska. Humpback whales are one of the easiest whales to spot because they can be found in great numbers from April to November, in the waters of the northern Inside Passage. Approximately 600 humpback whales appear in this area annually! Humpback whale watching tours are offered in Juneau and near Glacier Bay for visitors, and daily boat tours to Tracy Arm rarely return without whale sightings. Other prime whale-watching locations are listed below:

Whale Watching Trip #1: Juneau, Inside Passage

During the peak summer months of June and July, visitors will easily spot humpback whales in the waters of Alaska's Inside Passage.

Whale Watching Trip #2: Ketchikan, Juneau, and Seward

If you take a whale-watching trip from any of these cities, you will be able to spot a killer whale! The best time to see killer whales in Alaska is in May and June.

Whale Watching Trip #3: Southeast and Southern Alaska

The early spring months of April and May bring out the grey whales in the waters near Southeast and Southern Alaska. These whales begin migrating to colder northern Alaska waters in early summer.

Whale Watching Trip #4: Kenai Peninsula

Orca whales can be found in the waters off the Kenai Peninsula. These whales, though much smaller than humpbacks, have been known to pursue seals, moose, and even other whales.

Whale Watching Trip #5: Eastern Gulf of Alaska

Blue Whales inhabit Alaska's open waters and are most easily spotted by passengers during a cruise. Those lucky enough to see one of these magnificent creatures will most likely do so during the late summer months of July and August.

Humpback whale in water Alaska

Best Time To Watch Bears In Alaska

But when is the best time to see bears in Alaska? Although you can see bears in Alaska in May, it is more difficult to spot them and will most likely require a trip into the backcountry with an experienced guide. Alaska's brown and black bears emerge from hibernation in March, hungry and in search of food. During the early spring, however, they tend to stay close to their winter dens and forage for food.

As spring turns into summer, bears begin moving from the forests to their summer feeding grounds. These locations include streams, rivers, estuaries, and waterfalls where salmon migrate. Some visitors think that June is the best time to see bears in Alaska. It's the cusp of peak bear season, just before the height of the state's many salmon runs. Grizzly bears can be seen around Lake Clark and Kodiak Island in significant numbers once the salmon-spawning season gets underway. With the return of the salmon, bears are in their element!

However, despite what many visitors say, Alaska's expert bear guides will likely tell you that July is the best time to see bears in Alaska. During July, bears are often seen along the Katmai coast, fishing for razor clams and mating. July is also the peak month to watch grizzly bears fish for salmon at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park. Believe it or not, July is also the height of Alaska's whale-watching season, which means that July is truly the best time to see whales and bears in Alaska!

Alaska's Wildlife Viewing Tours

By September, Alaska's short tourist season is already drawing to a close. Still, the later you can go, the better the bear watching will be - especially if you want to photograph them against the state's gorgeous autumnal foliage. You can still see these magnificent creatures in Alaska during September, although it may not be the best time to see bears in Alaska!
However, September is not a good month to book a whale-watching trip in Alaska. During the fall months, whale-watching tours are winding down. Yes, expert tour operators have been known to find whales, however - you'd want to wrap up well against the elements during a boat tour to see whales in September! The chilly winds and occasional rain showers can make the experience quite challenging, but for those willing to brave the weather, witnessing these majestic creatures in their natural habitat is truly unforgettable.

Planning An Unforgettable Alaskan Wildlife Tour

You can see bears in Alaska in May - but it is not the best time to see them at their most active or most interesting. But if it's whales and bears you're after, the best time to see whales and bears in Alaska is from May through September. During this period, both the majestic whales and the awe-inspiring bears grace Alaska's landscapes, offering a unique opportunity to witness these incredible creatures in their natural habitat. Planning your trip during that window of time will guarantee you access to both animals and ensure a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

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