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Plan A June Trip To See Alaska's Bears
The month of June marks the beginning of the many salmon runs in Alaska throughout the summer months, meaning grizzly bears begin to congregate along rivers and streams to feast on this protein-rich treat. Many visitors want to know where to see grizzly bears in Alaska in June before they plan a trip, and the answer is simple – follow the salmon runs and you will find the bears!
Alaska’s Coastal Brown Bears
Alaska’s brown bears, or ursus arctos, are found along coastal areas such as Redoubt Bay, which is located in Lake Clark National Park. These brown bears differ from black bears in several ways. Brown bears have a more prominent should hump, less prominent ears, and longer, straighter claws. These bears are also larger than black bears. Brown bears have been known to live to be 20 or 30 years old. They have an especially good sense of smell and may be able to detect odors more than a mile away. Contrary to popular belief, a brown bear’s hearing is excellent and its vision is comparable to a human’s vision!
Coastal brown bears become most active in June, as they seek out food in preparation for their long winter hibernation. Starting in the early summer, bears feast on coastal grasses, dig for clams, and hunt salmon in the state’s many rivers. Because resources are so plentiful in June, bears do not compete for food and visitors can witness a wide range of bear behaviors on their trip.
One of the best ways to see bears is to book an Alaska brown bear tour with a reputable tour operator. These operators will know where to see bears in Alaska in June and can make sure you have a memorable trip. Some of the best places to see brown bears in June include:
- Katmai National Park and Preserve – bears begin to gather at the park’s famous Brooks Falls for the annual salmon run toward the end of June. Visitors can watch the bears as they fish from easily accessible (and safe) viewing platforms.
- Lake Clark National Park – Redoubt Bay is one of the most popular places to see brown bears in June. The bears come to this area to feed on salmon at Big River Lake throughout the summer months. Black bears can be seen in the area, too, but they tend to leave in the early summer months once the brown bears move in!
Let’s Take An Alaska Brown Bear Tour!
Now that you know where to see bears in Alaska in June, you will need to know how to see the bears. One of the easiest ways to see bears is to take an Alaska brown bear tour. These tours will feature expert guides to keep you safe and guarantee the best chance of seeing these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
There are a few options for your Alaska brown bear tour. One is a day trip, where you fly into a location by floatplane for a day, and return to the comfort of your lodgings that evening. Two popular day trips to consider are:
- Chintina Bay – located in the Lake Clark National Park, this remote location is perfect for viewing brown bears. Visitors often watch the bears on shore from the comfort of a tour boat. Many operators, however, supply guests with hip waders and hiking poles, allowing them to get out on the tidal flats and closer to bears digging for clams.
- Admiralty Island – known as the “Fortress of the Bears,” Admiralty Island boasts one of the largest populations of brown bears in Alaska. Day trips to the island’s Pack Creek are popular, where visitors can watch bears catch salmon in streams from a kayak!
The other option for an Alaska brown bear tour is to book a week-long stay at a bear camp. Many locations offer comfortable lodging with guided tours. Two popular camp destinations include:
- Lake Clark National Park – nestled in the food of the Aleutian Mountains, this remote camp is known to be a rich bear habitat. Fly in for a week-long stay in a cabin and take advantage of the encounters with brown bears. The bear population is so plentiful in this location that bears can often be seen directly from camp as well as on the shoreline and in the surrounding meadows!
- Katmai National Park and Preserve – in the midst of the Katmai Wilderness, Brooks Lodge overlooks the world-famous Brooks River. The lodge was originally a fishing camp, but now welcomes visitors who want to see the bears. The Brooks Falls viewing platforms are only a mile walk from the lodge, and as many as 50 bears live in the vicinity during the height of the salmon season.
Where To See Grizzly Bears In Alaska
Many people think that brown bears and grizzly bears are the same animals. But they are not! Grizzly bears are in fact a subspecies of the brown bear and live on mountain slopes, tundra plains, and inland forests. They are typically smaller than coastal bears, mostly because their food source is less plentiful than their coastal cousins. Because of their habitat, it is harder to see grizzly bears on a tour. But with that in mind, it becomes easier to answer the question “Where to see grizzly bears in Alaska?”
The two best places to see grizzly bears in Alaska are listed below:
- Denali National Park – Denali National Park and Preserve is located in the Alaska Interior and centered on Denali, the highest mountain in North America. The park and preserve encompass more than 6 million acres! Both black bears and brown grizzly bears inhabit that park, and researchers estimate that approximately 300-350 grizzlies roam the north side of the Alaska Range. The bears generally hibernate between October and April and emerge in May. Bear watching in Denali is best from May through September, and a bus tour along Denali Park Road offers the best chance of spotting a grizzly!
- Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve – this park lies north of the Arctic Circle, and includes the scenic headland of the Brooks Range as well as the northernmost extension of the Rocky Mountains. The bears here are uniquely adapted to life in the arctic, where winters can sometimes last eight months. There are no established services within park boundaries, so only the hardiest of souls will be able to spot grizzly bears on a hiking or mountain climbing adventure in this remote location.
Although it may be challenging to figure out where to see bears in Alaska in June or where to see grizzly bears in Alaska, many resources exist for you to plan a once-in-a-lifetime trip that may guarantee that you’ll see both! Follow the fish to see coastal brown bears in June, and keep in mind that the more remote locations are home to the interior grizzly bear. No matter what type of trip you plan to see Alaska’s bears, it’s sure to be full of adventure!