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Bear Viewing In Anchorage
If you ask seasoned travelers where to see brown bears in Alaska, chances are they will tell you that Anchorage is one of the best places to visit. Anchorage is located in the heart of bear country and offers a variety of bear-viewing opportunities for adventurous (as well as not-so-adventurous) visitors. From national parks to wildlife conservation centers, Anchorage guarantees a jumping-off point for zoo visits, day trips, and everything in between!
Alaska's Bear Viewing Options
Alaska is the only state in the U.S. that is home to three species of bears: black, brown, and polar. And, believe it or not, Anchorage is one of the few places in this vast state where travelers can easily see all three types of bears!
Anchorage is part of the natural range for black and brown bears, which visitors can see during a day trip to nearby Chugach State Park, Lake Clark National Park, or Katmai National Park and Preserve. If you're not up to a rugged excursion, however, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in nearby Portage offers guaranteed viewing of black and brown bears. The Alaska Zoo, which is located in Anchorage, is home to several polar bears, offering guests a chance to see these rare creatures and biologists a chance to study their life and habitat in the changing Arctic.
If your main interest is in seeing brown bears, Anchorage offers plenty of opportunities! Read on for more information on where to see brown bears in Alaska and what time of year is best to plan your trip.
Seasonal Bear Viewing Trips
Where you go bear viewing in Anchorage depends on the time of summer that you plan your trip to Alaska. Most of the locations mentioned below are a short floatplane trip from Anchorage, so using the city as your base provides many opportunities to see brown bears in their natural habitat. Air taxi operators know where bears will appear and how to get you to the local hot spots, so make sure you connect with a reputable service when organizing your Alaskan adventure.
Here are a few of the most common spots to see brown bears near Anchorage, Alaska:
- Big Rivers Lakes in Lake Clark National Park - from June 10 through mid-August, this scenic mountain lake system offers brown bears a veritable buffet of salmon. Lake Clark's Wolverine Creek empties into Big River Lakes, and bears take full advantage of the seasonal salmon run. This spot is a newer gathering spot and hasn't yet attracted the big male bears who compete with other males for food. Instead, visitors can enjoy the interactions between female bears and their cubs. For those who want to visit for more than a day, a lodge is located nearby and salmon fishing is available to sportsmen (and women).
- Brooks River Falls - the best time to visit this iconic spot is during the first three weeks of July and the last three weeks of September. Brooks River Falls, in Katmai National Park and Preserve, boasts the world's largest salmon run. It's not uncommon for visitors to spot up to 15 bears at the falls during the peak of the salmon run! Male bears often spar and compete with each other for the best fishing spot, offering visitors a rare opportunity to observe the dynamics between these creatures.
- Katmai National Park and Preserve - on the opposite side of Lake Clark's Cook Inlet and just a short flight away from Anchorage lies the Katmai Coast. Bear-viewing hot spots like Redoubt Bay and Chinitna Bay are just a short flight away from Anchorage and are perfect for day trips. The best time to visit these spots for bear viewing is from May 25 through July 1, and September 1 through October 15. The Katmai Coastline is a prime foraging and hunting location that often attracts two to three times the number of bears found in other locations and has earned it the reputation as one of the world's best bear-watching locations. It's not uncommon to see 25 to 40 bears at a time clamming, eating sedge, and fishing for salmon in these areas.
- Chugach State Park - This park is often referred to as "Anchorage's Playground," and is one of the first places locals mention when asked where to see brown bears in Alaska. Chugach State Park offers many outdoor activities for visitors, as well as excellent bear-viewing opportunities just minutes from downtown Anchorage. The part sits on a half-million acres of wilderness, making it the third-largest state park in the country. Brown bears can often be spotted in the park's more alpine areas, where they can be seen eating new growth on south-facing slopes in May and June and berries on alpine tundra in late summer or fall.
It's worth mentioning that all of these locations, except for Chugach State Park, are only accessible by floatplane. Alaska has a long history with the floatplane, mainly because the state is so large and many areas are not accessible by road. Alaska's inhabitants have used the floatplane as the main mode of transportation since the beginning of aviation, and it has been instrumental in the exploration of hard-to-reach places throughout the state. A floatplane is still a great option for transportation, and each year visitors take advantage of the state's many air services to see Alaska from a unique perspective.
Bear Viewing In The Heart Of Anchorage
If a trip to one of these more remote locations isn't something that interests you, you still have two good options for bear viewing in anchorage. Check them out!
- The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center - this nonprofit organization is dedicated to preserving Alaska's wildlife through conservation, education, research, and quality animal care. The AWCC takes in injured and orphaned animals, providing them with permanent homes. Guests can take part in educational programs or up-close animal encounters during the summer months that feature the resident brown bears!
- The Alaska Zoo - Since 1969, visitors have been able to visit this facility in the heart of Anchorage. This facility is the only zoo in Alaska and provides homes for orphaned and injured Arctic and sub-artic species, as well as cold-climate animals. If you visit the zoo, you are guaranteed to see brown bears - but you can also see eagles, Amur tigers, polar bears, wolves, moose, harbor seals, and more! During the summer months, visitors can enjoy a behind-the-scenes VIP experience with a catered box lunch, too.
No matter which option you prefer - an adventurous day trip into the heart of bear country or a more sedate visit to the Alaska Zoo - your brown bear excursion should start in Anchorage! The city, with its central location and easy access to many of Alaska's state parks, is the best answer to the question where to see brown bears in Alaska. Start your adventure - book your trip to Anchorage today.