One of the main reasons to visit Alaska is to see the incredible wildlife, and at the top of everyone’s list are…bears! If you’d like to see bears from a distance, you may see them during a drive through Denali National Park or sometimes along the side of the road in certain areas.
But often, these experiences are just fleeting. If your lifelong dream is to see bears feeding during the salmon rush, and you want to see the famous bears standing in the waterfalls fishing for food… well then, I need to make sure you know about the incredible bear-sighting opportunities available by taking a floatplane from Anchorage or other areas into the national parks nearby, such as Katmai or Lake Clark.
These stunning remote areas are home to hundreds of bears who all congregate during salmon season and are practically posing for pictures. You can do this as a day trip and fly roundtrip back to Anchorage the same day, or for a fantastic experience, you can stay the night in nearby wilderness lodges to get extra bear-viewing time.
What type of bears are in Alaska?
Grizzly bears live in the Interior and Arctic regions of Alaska, such as Denali National Park and Gates of the Arctic National Park. They tend to eat roots, grubs, and small rodents, and because of the difficulty in finding an abundance of food, grizzly bears tend to be smaller and more aggressive than brown bears.
The best viewing option for grizzly bears is in Denali National Park. Still, because of this vast wilderness landscape, sightings are not always guaranteed, and you might only be able to view them through binoculars from the park tour bus.
Brown bears are found in Alaska’s coastal regions, such as Katmai National Park, Lake Clark National Park, and Kodiak Island. Imagine watching bears stroll along the coastline, catch salmon at Brooke Falls, dig for clams, or minding their cubs.
If you’re wondering what the real differences between grizzly bears and brown bears are, here’s a great article from the rangers at Katmai National Park.
Where to see bears in Alaska?
For a popular “bears fishing” option, visit Katmai National Park’s Brooks Camp. This is where you can take the iconic photos of bears in the waterfall catching the salmon. This may be the highlight of your trip to Alaska! Dozens of bears congregate here at peak salmon season along the Brooks River.
Suppose you don’t have a lot of time or aren’t comfortable with close bear encounters. In that case, you can also observe all breeds of Alaska bears at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center south of Anchorage – it’s an easy stop on your way down to Seward or just as a day trip.
Other unique bear watching opportunities include:
- From Anchorage: Spend two days, one night on Kodiak Island:
Kodiak is the second-largest island in the U.S., behind Hawaii! Your pilot/guide will lead you to a safe viewing distance where you have ample time to watch and photograph bears. Choose between a rental car for independent exploration, or take a guided sightseeing tour to learn about native Alutiiq culture, Russian American history and get a taste of modern-day Kodiak.
- From Anchorage: half-day experience at Redoubt Bay
Redoubt Bay is one of the easiest and most accessible locations for bear viewing from Anchorage. This half-day bear viewing trip to Redoubt Bay Lodge provides an excellent opportunity for bear viewing! It’s easy to depart from Anchorage, and it’s a one-hour scenic flight by seaplane across Cook Inlet to the foothills of the Aleutian Range and the Lake Clark Wilderness Preserve.Upon arrival at Redoubt Bay Lodge, you’ll embark on a half-day guided bear viewing tour by pontoon boat to Wolverine Creek Cove. From the water, you can safely watch and photograph Alaska’s magnificent bears in their natural habitat. You will spend around 3 hours on the water while at Redoubt Bay.
- From Homer:
Enjoy a day trip out of Homer, Alaska, on a scenic flight by small plane, to either Lake Clark National Park or the east coast of Katmai National Park (this tour does NOT go to Brooks Falls). You’ll be able to see glaciers and volcanic landscapes during your flight.You’ll land on the beach and have around 3 hours with a guide to view brown bears in their natural habitat. Always from a safe distance, you’ll be able to see the bears fishing, digging for clams, grubbing for roots and grasses, socializing, and raising their young.
- From Wrangell: Anan Creek Bear Observatory Tour
Located in Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska, 35 miles south of Wrangell, Anan Creek is a good option for travelers who don’t want to backtrack to Anchorage for their tour. A 45 to 60-minute jet boat ride will bring you from Wrangell through the Eastern Passage to Anan Creek. Since you’re on a boat, you’ll also have the opportunity to see seals, sea lions, dolphins, and the occasional Orca whale along the route.After disembarking your jetboat, you can walk the rainforest trail (1/2-mile) to the observatory platform. You’ll be accompanied by a guide at all times and given a bear safety briefing. You can view both black and brown fears fishing thirty feet below you at the river.
So, are you excited to go bear watching in Alaska? Would you take a day trip or want to spend the night in a bear-watching lodge??
Is bear watching in Alaska on your bucket list?
I hope you enjoyed these tips on where to see bears in Alaska. If you’d like more Alaska trip planning advice, enter your email below to receive a free PDF download. Or if you’re ready to get starting on planning an Alaska vacation, visit my Alaska trip planning services page!