When Is The Best Time To See Bears In Alaska?

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Bear Watching In Alaska

If you want to see bears during your trip to Alaska, the best time to see these magnificent creatures is from July through September. Bears emerge from their winter hibernation in late March through early April, but they tend to stay inland where they graze on any available foliage until the salmon runs begin. Once the salmon are running, bears flock to the river mouth and streams to gorge on the protein-rich fish. Alaska’s salmon runs take place in July and August, which makes those two months the best time to see bears in Alaska!

Bear in water carrying fish

The Best Way To See Bears in Alaska

Now that you know when is the best time to see bears in Alaska, you might be wondering what is the best way to see bears in Alaska! Many people worry that the best way to see bears in Alaska is to plan a rugged, backcountry tour. That is true for the more adventurous, but if you are looking for a more luxurious vacation it is possible to see bears during an Alaskan cruise. Alaska has a high concentration of both black and brown bears, so many cruise passengers seek out bear-viewing tours at the ship’s ports of call. For those visitors who don’t want to spend a week at bear camp, a cruise is a good way to see bears and enjoy all the amenities a ship has to offer.

If you’ve decided that a cruise is the best way to see bears in Alaska for you, you need to make sure you book a trip that takes you to the best place in Alaska to see bears! Many travel guides agree that a cruise along the Inside Passage will ensure that you spot a bear or two. The Inside Passage is the area that makes up the Southeast region of Alaska, with cruises sailing frequently from Vancouver or Seattle. Along the Inside Passage, you will be able to see whales, orcas, sea lions and seals, eagles, raptors, and of course – bears!

The Best Place In Alaska To See Bears

brown bear drinking water in AlaskaAs mentioned above, the best place in Alaska to see bears is the Inside Passage. If you book a cruise along this route, you will have the option to book a bear-viewing excursion once you reach various ports of call. Some of the most popular options for these day trips are listed below:

  • Ketchikan – known as Alaska’s “First City,” Ketchikan is the first port of call for many cruise lines. Ketchikan offers plenty for visitors to do, but if your interest is in bears, plan at least four hours in port for your bear-viewing tour. The most popular destinations for bear viewing from Ketchikan include Neets Bay and Anan Creek Wildlife Observatory, both of which are accessible by a short floatplane ride. You can also visit Traitor’s Cove and Margaret Creek from late July through early September.
  • Juneau – once your ship docks at Alaska’s capital city, consider booking a floatplane to Admiralty Island. Known as the “Fortress of the Bears,” Admiralty Island has a huge population of coastal brown bears. Guided tours include a beach walk to see bears feeding on salmon near the mouth of a creek, as well as time to watch the bears from the island’s main viewing area.
  • Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve – as you cruise through Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, keep your eyes on the coastline for a bear sighting. Glacier Bay National Park is home to both brown bears and black bears. Although it’s hard to say if you’ll see a bear from the ship, there are very few beaches on the bay’s 1,100 miles of coastline where signs of bear activity are not visible. Most of the islands in the bay are routinely visited by bears, making it a safe bet that you will spot one ambling along one of Glacier Bay’s beaches.
  • Anchorage – once you make port in Anchorage, be sure to book a fly-in trip to Katmai National Park and Preserve, where you can see the bears at Brook Falls. There are plenty of boardwalks and viewing platforms for visitors, where you can watch bears fish for salmon, play, feed their cubs, and fight for the best fishing spots in the river. Some cruises even will take you up the Alagnak River to Katmai National Park and Preserve, where you can observe the bears from the ship.

Follow the Fish – Plan Your Trip Around The Salmon Runs

You’ve already asked when is the best time to see bears in Alaska. The answer is July through September when the salmon are running in Alaska’s many rivers and waterfalls. Bear viewings tend to be more frequent during the salmon runs. So, if you follow the fish and plan your visit with the arrival of the fish, you are likely to find some bears! Salmon runs generally take place at the peak of the summer season, in July, but it’s best to check the timing of the runs at the locations you wish to visit to guarantee a bear sighting.

As you plan your trip, just remember that bears are commonly spotted along the shoreline throughout the spring and summer months, but if you want to watch them feed at salmon streams you need to time your cruise later in the season! The best place to see bears in Alaska is almost everywhere, as long as you time your trip just right.

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