Where Is The Best Bear Viewing In Alaska?

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Where Can You See Bears In Alaska?

Katmai National Park and Preserve is located in the northern Alaska Peninsula, northwest of Kodiak Island and Southwest of Homer. The park’s annual salmon run draws thousands of grizzly bears to the Brooks River, which has some of the best bear viewing in Alaska! Keep reading to learn more about Brooks Falls, Alaska, and the bears that call this park their home.

Brown bear laying on log in Alaska

How To Get To Brooks Falls For Bear Viewing

Getting to Brooks Falls is an adventure! There are no roads into the park, so if you want to visit Brooks Falls, Alaska, you have to fly from Anchorage to King Salmon on a commercial airline. Then, you will need to charter a float plane or boat from King Salmon to Brooks Camp. Once at Brooks Camp, you can check into Brooks Lodge and prepare for the best bear viewing Alaska has to offer.

The busiest months at Brooks Falls are July and September. That’s because the salmon run has begun, and the bears are drawn from other areas nearby to gorge themselves on the salmon swimming upstream to their mating grounds. During the day, bears can be found walking nearby trails, fishing in the Brooks River, and even napping on the beach! Brooks Falls is just 1.2 miles from the Brooks Camp Visitor Center.

The park has three viewing platforms near the camp, on the south side of the Brooks River. The Falls Platform is immediately adjacent to Brooks Falls, the Riffles Platform is located about 100 yards (91 m) downstream of Brooks Falls, and the Lower River Platform is at the mouth of the Brooks River near Brooks Lodge. From here, visitors can watch the bears as they fish for salmon to eat in preparation for a long winter’s hibernation.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Brooks Falls?

brown bear relaxing in falls in AlaskaAlthough the salmon runs are an annual event, the actual run varies from year to year and cannot be predicted with absolute accuracy. But if you are interested in bear viewing in Alaska, it’s safe to say that most years, a large run of sockeye salmon will begin to enter the Brooks River by the middle of June. The run then continues through July, when the salmon reach the Brooks River and begin to spawn in August.

As many as 50 bears live along the mile-and-a-half-long Brooks River during the salmon season in Brooks Falls, Alaska. During the peak of the season, it is not uncommon for visitors to see bears just minutes after they arrive at Brooks Camp! That is why a mandatory session on how to behave in Bear Country is given for each group of tourists arriving at the camp. During the session, park rangers teach visitors important safety measures, such as storing food properly and making noise while hiking the trails around Brooks Camp to avoid surprising any bears.

Katmai’s Legacy – The Alaskan Peninsula Brown Bear

When people think of Katmai National Park, they immediately think of bears. That’s because the park is one of the premier brown bear viewing areas in Alaska. More than 2,200 brown bears are estimated to live in the park and more bears than people are estimated to live on the Alaska Peninsula.

The park is also special because as many bear populations around the world decline, Katmai is providing one of the only remaining unaltered habitats for these magnificent creatures. This allows scientists to study bears in their natural habitat and visitors to enjoy viewing opportunities unlike any other in the world. And the bears can continue their life cycle without being disturbed!

You can visit Katmai in a day from Anchorage or Homer. Many tour operators offer day trips to Brooks Falls, Alaska, or can drop you off at Brooks Lodge for a multi-day bear viewing experience. Day tours include an expert guide, who can land you in an area of the park where bear-viewing opportunities are amazing! Watch bears dig for clams, wander the sedge grass, or nurse their young once they’ve finished hunting for the day. Alternatively, you can book a helicopter tour to fly over Katmai and other bear-viewing areas to enjoy the magnificent scenery and the bears from up high.

Other Bear-Watching Destinations in Katmai

While Brooks Falls, Alaska is the most popular bear-viewing location in Katmai National Park, there are many other bear-viewing locations within the park. The park's Pacific Coast harbors some of the highest densities of bears anywhere on the planet. However, thick vegetation and rugged terrain can make seeing those bears difficult.

If you want to see bears in the backcountry, make sure you schedule a trip with an experienced guide! Having a knowledgeable guide can improve your chances of spotting bears, but also guarantees your safety in the wilderness. Even if a trip into the backcountry means a little more hiking, seeing the bears feed on sedges and clams in more concealed mudflats is worth a pair of muddy boots.

Here are some alternative locations for bear viewing at Katmai National Park:

  • Brooks Camp – July and September. Watch bears feed on salmon during the annual salmon run.
  • Hallo Bay – June. Watch bears feed on vegetation and clams before the salmon runs begin.
  • Geographic Harbor – August. Watch the bears feed on salmon.
  • Swikshak Lagoon – June. Watch the bears feed on new vegetation as they emerge from their winter hibernation.
  • Moraine and Funnel Creeks – August. A popular site to watch the bears during a local salmon run at the end of the summer season.

Visit The Valley Of Ten Thousand Smokes

Most people who come to Katmai National Park and Preserve come for the bears! But a trip to Katmai should also include a trip to The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, which is only 23 miles from Brooks Camp. Visitors can take a tour bus to the Valley, where you can hike down into the valley and explore the ash and pumice that coats its floor from an explosion that took place in 1912! The impressive “moonscape” looking landscape attracts thousands of visitors each year, and the barren terrain - scattered with rocks and craters - creates a surreal and otherworldly experience.

Bear Viewing In The Off Season

For those individuals who cannot get enough of Brooks Falls, Alaska, the Brooks Falls Bear Cam is available year-round! There are several live bear cams installed at Katmai National Park, all of which offer visitors a view of the bears in action.

The Brooks Falls Bear Cam shows bears fishing at Brooks Falls, while the lower cam features bears fishing at the mouth of the Brooks River. The Riffles cam shows bears chasing schools of salmon at the Riffles in the hope of a meal, while the River Watch cam shows underwater views of salmon, trout, and snorkeling bears! These live camera feeds are a perfect alternative for those who want to see bears, but cannot schedule a bear viewing trip in Alaska.

No matter how you get there or how long you stay, bear viewing in Brooks Falls, Alaska is an experience of a lifetime. Get ready to be amazed by these incredible creatures and their fishing prowess as they skillfully hunt in the Brooks River, using their lightning-fast reflexes and specialized hunting techniques. The bears of Brooks Falls may even inspire you to see if you can catch a fish in a local river!

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