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The Best Bear Viewing In Alaska
Alaska is one of the last places where visitors can find thriving groups of North American wildlife. Many rare and endangered species live within the vast, pristine wilderness of the Last Frontier, including bears.
Alaska is home to three species of bear: the black bear, the grizzly bear, and the polar bear. Bears are so common that it isn't unusual to spot one crossing the street even in a large city! And in far north communities, such as Prudhoe Bay, patrols are often formed to deter roaming polar bears.
From the smallest cubs to 1,500-pound adult males, these creatures never fail to impress and enchant Alaska visitors. But where can you see bears in Alaska? What is the best place (or places) in the state to view these magnificent animals?
Best Places To See Bears In Alaska
One of the best ways to ensure that you see a bear during your trip to Alaska is to follow the fish! If you want to see large groups of bears, time your visit to a salmon run at a particular location. During this annual event, you will witness the incredible sight of bears catching fish in the river with impressive agility and precision. Bears are creatures of habit and will follow reliable food sources to prepare for their winter hibernation. With that in mind, you'll be sure to see bears during your trip!
Bear Trip #1 Lake Clark National Park and Preserve
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve bear viewing offers visitors the chance to see Coastal Brown Bears. Bears gather in the estuaries of the park’s Cook Inlet coast to eat and mate, and park biologists have counted as many as 219 brown bears within a 54-square-mile area. Within this concentration of bears, researchers have observed various social behaviors and hierarchies among the brown bear population, providing valuable insight into their complex dynamics and delighting visitors. Not many places have as many bears living together in such a small area, which means Lake Clark National Park boasts some of the best bear viewing in Alaska!
Bear Trip #2 Katmai National Park and Nature Preserve
Katmai National Park and Nature Preserve encompasses 4 million acres, three-quarters of which is a wildlife preserve. Katmai is home to the Brooks Falls River, where the annual salmon run draws visitors and bears alike each summer. Because of the salmon run, the Brooks Camp Bear Viewing is some of the best bear viewing in Alaska! Visitors can witness dozens of bears feasting on the abundant salmon, creating an unforgettable wildlife spectacle against the stunning backdrop of Brooks Falls. The best time of year to experience the famous Brooks Falls salmon run is during June and July when the salmon are migrating along the river.
Bear Trip #3 The Anan Wildlife Observatory
The Anan Wildlife Observatory is located along a stretch of the uninhabited Alaskan wilderness and offers views of both black and brown bears during the run of pink salmon in the nearby rivers. During the peak of the salmon run, visitors to the observatory can watch these majestic predators as they catch fish to prepare for the upcoming winter hibernation. A viewing deck overlooks the creek, or you can catch a commercial tour via plane or boat to access the area.
Bear Trip #4 Admiralty Island
Admiralty Island is located in Southern Alaska, just outside Juneau. The island has an estimated 1,600 brown bears but is also home to black bears - a smaller bear that generally weighs about 400 pounds. One of the best places to observe bears on Admiralty Island is at the Pack Creek Bear Viewing Area, where dozens of coastal-dwelling bears come to feed on salmon during the warmer months. During the peak season, visitors are often mesmerized by the sight of these majestic creatures as they fish and play in the pristine waters of Pack Creek.
Bear Trip #5 Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site
The Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site is a prime spot for viewing both brown and black bears. Both species of bears come to the river to fish during peak salmon run season, which runs mid-July through early September. The bears rely on the abundant salmon population in the river to fatten up before their winter hibernation.
Bear Trip #6 Steep Creek
Steep Creek is a popular visitor destination because of the spawning sockeye and coho salmon, but that also means it's home to bears! In this case, black bears feed on the salmon in the river. The bears' appearance depends entirely on the salmon run, which generally takes place from mid-July to September in this particular location.
Bear Trip #7 The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
If you are wondering where to see bears in Alaska, especially the three distinct species that inhabit the state, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of only two locations where you can do that! The ANWR is home to all three North American bear species. More than 900 polar bears live on the shores of the Beaufort Sea, appearing between August and October after their winter denning.
Bear Trip #8 Kaktovik
Kaktovik, a small Inupiat village, is home to polar bears. Although they spend the majority of their time on sea ice, many of the bears gather along the coast and on the barrier islands near Barter Island from August to October. Guides from Kaktovik take visitors through the protected waters that surround the town, offering visitors a glimpse of these amazing creatures. The sight of a polar bear emerging from the icy terrain leaves most visitors in awe of the Arctic's natural beauty!
Planning Your Alaska Bear Viewing Adventure
Alaska is home not only to a huge population of bears but to a variety of travel groups that offer guided excursions that showcase where to see bears in Alaska. There are several ways to view bears while on a visit to Alaska, but one of the most popular ways is to fly in by floatplane to an area like Lake Clark for Lake Clark National Park bear viewing. Most fly-in excursions are day-long adventures and feature experience travel guides. Other options, like Brooks Camp Bear Viewing in Katmai National Park and Preserve, allow you to book your stay at a luxurious lodge and view the park's bears from the observation platforms along Brooks Falls as often as you wish!
Just remember, bear viewing in Alaska is seasonal and depends on when salmon and other food sources are abundant at that location. Make sure to consider where to see bears in Alaska when you plan your trip, but also what time of year the salmon are running at the location (or locations) you plan to visit. If you keep these two simple things in mind, you will be able to plan a memorable Alaskan bear-viewing adventure to witness these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat and create unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime.