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Bear Viewing Alaska – The best Alaska bear tours

Bear watching in Alaska is your dream? Where are the best bear-viewing spots in Alaska? How common is it to see a bear in Alaska? How much does bear watching in Alaska cost? What are the best bear-viewing tours in Alaska? How do I plan a bear-watching tour? Is it better to book a guided bear-watching tour or organize it yourself? After four visits to Alaska, we experienced a bears-watching trip each time. So, it’s time to share our tips, reviews, and photos of the best places for bear viewing in Alaska and the best Alaska bear tours we experienced so far.

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Bear Viewing Alaska
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Bear Viewing in Alaska – Introduction

Alaska Bear Viewing is a dream for nature lovers and wildlife photographers. Alaska is huge, so it’s worth getting well-prepared for your lifetime adventure. We experienced bear viewing a few times during our Alaska road trips. We experienced Alaska bear viewing during professionally organized tours, which was terrific, so we share reviews and tips below. But we also spotted bears during our hikes or just on the road. We booked an organized bear-viewing trip. But we also organized a bear-viewing trip on our own. In this article, we recommend you some organized bear-viewing tours. And we share our experiences on how to plan a trip on your own.

One of the best and most unforgettable adventures was watching bears catching salmon in the famous Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park. And we will tell you this story and share tips and photos in the second part of this article.

Be warned, Alaska Bear Viewing is not a cheap attraction. But it is definitely worth the money. Every fan of wildlife and bears will be delighted.

Katmai bear viewing alaska

Bear Viewing in Alaska – Some Exciting Facts

How common is it to see a bear in Alaska?

Alaska is a bear country. Alaska is home to about 98% of the U.S. brown bear (grizzly bear) population and 70% of the entire North American population.

  • An estimated 30,000 brown bears live in Alaska. By comparison, about 2,000 grizzly bears live in Montana and 600 in Wyoming.
  • What’s more, an estimated 100,000 black bears inhabit Alaska.
  • Also, polar bears live in Alaska. The Alaska polar bear population is estimated to be between 4,000 and 7,000.
  • They are also some unique sub-species in Alaska, like the Kodiak brown bear. There are an estimated 3,500 Kodiak brown bears in the Kodiak Archipelago. Their diet and habits are similar to those of other North American brown bears known as grizzly bears.

So, as you can see, the chances of seeing brown bears/grizzly bears, or black bears during your trip to Alaska are pretty high. There are many bear-viewing opportunities in Alaska for visitors. So far, we have been to Alaska 4 times, and during each visit, we had the opportunity to admire and photograph bears. The possibility of encountering bears picking berries just next to the road is high.

But what if you want to observe the bears for longer because the quickly shot photo through the car window is not enough? If you wish to encounter bears from a closer but safe distance. Are you heading to Alaska to fulfill your dream of viewing and photographing bears in their natural environment? Below you will find information about the best places for bear viewing in Alaska and some of the best tours for bear viewing in Alaska.

wildlife photography at Brooks Falls Alaska

Which National Park in Alaska has the most bears?

The winner is Katmai National Park and Preserve, which is home to about 2,200 brown bears. For us, it’s also one of the best places in Alaska for bear viewing, which we have experienced so far. Below you can see many pictures taken in Brooks Falls, where brown bears catch salmon. If you dream of seeing bears in Katmai National Park and Preserve, please also read our Complete Guide for Visiting Katmai National Park.

Also, Lake Clark National Park offers amazing bear-watching opportunities. It’s even more remote and wilder than Katmai, so it’s a perfect choice for a bear-watching adventure.

What are the best Alaska National Parks for bear viewing?

  • Katmai National Park and Preserve because an estimated 2,200 brown bears live in the park. We were in this park for three days watching bears and were delighted with this place.
  • Denali National Park and Preserve, as researchers estimate about 300-350 grizzlies live on the north side of the Alaska Range. We have already visited this park three times, and each time we had the opportunity to encounter a bear at a considerable distance.
  • Kenai Fjords National Park and Preserve, as the population on the Kenai Peninsula, is estimated at 250-300 bears. We spotted the most bears here, just next to the road. But the place offers excellent guided bear-watching tours as well.
  • Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, as biologists have counted up to 219 brown bears in a 54-square-mile area on the coast in recent years. We took a guided bear-viewing trip to this park, which was a fantastic experience! Highly recommend Lake Clark for bear watching.
  • Glacier Bay National Park is also home to brown and black bears. This park is still on our Alaska bucket list.
  • Also, in the most remote Alaska National Parks: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Gates of the Arctic National Park, and Kobuk Valley National Park is possible to encounter a bear. We visited Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Gates of the Arctic National Park, but we had no luck spotting bears.

What are the other best places for bear-watching in Alaska?

It’s not just in Alaska’s national parks that you can spot bears. You can encounter them in the center of Anchorage or on the Dalton Highway and in Prudhoe Bay. In this vast state, there are many other unusual and wild places where you have a chance to admire the bears. Great Alaska bears viewing tours are organized in Pack Creek Brown Bear Viewing Area, Prince of Wales Island, or Wolverine Creek.

  • Without a doubt, one of the best bear-watching sites in Alaska is Kodiak Island. 3,500 bears inhabit it. This place is still on our list of dreams, and we are working hard to make a dream come true soon.
  • Also, Pack Creek, which is about 40 miles south of Juneau, Alaska, is inhabited by more than 1,500 brown bears. It’s more than is found in all the Lower 48 states combined.

Bear Viewing Alaska – Why Organized Tours?

The biggest chances for encountering bears

If you dream of observing bears and their behavior in their natural habitat and taking impressive photos, the chances are best with organized tours. Especially if you are planning your first trip to Alaska, it is worth using the knowledge and experience of other people by booking a bear-watching trip because Alaska can surprise you a lot.

The regulations for bear protection

Some of Alaska’s bear areas are only open to visitors and photographers as organized bear viewing tours with a local guide. It is connected with the need to protect wildlife and the safety of tourists. Moreover, these are hard-to-reach wilderness areas you cannot reach alone. Most of these destinations can only be reached by plane, float plane, or boat. There are no roads at all. You can’t get there by car. Some Alaska bears viewing areas issue a limited number of visitor permits exclusively to tour operators. You can’t get there on your own, only with a guide. It pays to avoid disappointment by booking tours well in advance.

Bear Viewing Alaska at Brooks Falls

The guide’s experience in tracking and spotting bears

An organized bear viewing tour with a local guide allows you to admire these amazing animals in their natural habitat. You have a chance to see and photograph bears from a closer distance while staying safe and without interfering with the life of wildlife and not disturbing it. The local guides know the habits of wild animals, paths, and places where you can often spot them. Most of them are great enthusiasts of wild nature. They have a lot of knowledge about it and are willing to share it. With such a guide, you have a much better chance of observing bears or other wild animals and photographing them.

Sometimes you can spend a week or two alone in a national park hoping for a good wildlife photo and fail to get it. With a guide, your odds are much more significant. During these trips, you often have the chance to spot and photograph other wildlife. We spotted caribou, moose, eagles, and whales.

Small groups of bear-viewing tours

In addition, the bear-watching tours take place in small groups of wildlife and/or photography enthusiasts. So you have a chance to meet people from different parts of the world and share experiences from unique trips and the most interesting bear-watching places. You can also book a dedicated photo tour.

PRO TIP: plan your Alaska bear viewing trip several months in advance because the number of visitation permits is limited in some national parks and other wild areas of Alaska. Notably, most of these tours have a friendly cancellation policy if you have to change your plans. Book your trip ahead.

brown bear Alaska
wildlife Alaska

What is the best month to see bears in Alaska?

The optimum activity of bears is in July through September, so try to be there in those months. Late June is also good. So the best idea is to plan an Alaska summer trip. If you want ideas and inspiration on organizing an Alaska trip, check out our ready-to-go 10 Days Alaska Itinerary!

Bear Viewing Alaska – Which Trip to Choose?

Which Alaska bear viewing trip you choose depends on your needs, your budget, the region in Alaska you plan to visit, the time, and the season of the year. So these are a few factors you must consider when making your decisions. You have fascinating bear-viewing trips from Anchorage, Juneau, Soldotna, Ketchikan, Lake Clark National Park, and more.

Below are some suggestions for the best trips from these locations, and we will give you some tips from Katmai National Park, which is our #1 among bear viewing destinations in Alaska so far.

Bear Viewing Alaska – Half-Day and One-Day Trips

Alaska Bear Viewing from Ketchikan

Ketchikan is a perfect base to visit Prince of Wales Island, where you can spot many brown bears. During this half-day trip, you can observe bears in their natural habitat. After the 40-minute scenic flight over the Inside Passage to Prince of Wales Island, you will land at Polk Inlet and visit the United States Forest Service bear-viewing platform. Your guide helps you look closely at wild bears as they hunt for salmon along the creek. Hundreds of black bears live in the Prince of Wales Island forest and feed near rivers. Check it out here.

Traitors Cove Bear Viewing from Ketchikan is also a great opportunity. Between July 20 and September 30, you can visit the Bear Observatory at Traitors Cove. Fly by floatplane along the beautiful waterways of the lush Tongass National Forest to the bear viewing platform. You can watch bears plunge into the rushing water to get their meal from wriggling salmon. In addition to bears feeding, you may also see bald eagles feasting on the scraps the bears leave behind. Book your trip.

Alaska Bear Viewing from Juneau

From Juneau, you can visit the Pack Creek Brown Bear Viewing Area, a protected wildlife site with one of the world’s highest concentrations of brown bears. This day trip includes a floatplane flight over Tongass National Forest and a kayaking journey through Windfall Harbor. A certified guide takes you into the Alaskan wilderness to watch brown bears frolicking in the meadows and catching salmon in rivers. This trip is on our dream list for our next visit to Alaska. We saw some photos taken during this adventure, and they are fabulous. The Pack Creek Brown Bear Viewing Area issues a limited number of visit permits exclusively to tour operators. Avoid disappointment by booking this tour well in advance. Read reviews and book this trip here.

Alaska Bear Viewing in Lake Clark National Park

We took a bear-watching trip to Lake Clarke National Park, which we highly recommend this trip. It was a great experience. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is also a remote area. Its immense rainforest, tundra, and volcanoes make it accessible only by boat or air taxi. With this Plane Adventure Tour from Kenai or Seward, you fly directly to the park’s best places to see bears. You will land near the bears and spend several hours safely observing them. It’s worth taking this trip because you can’t get to the park by car.

Highly recommend this adventure, because Lake Clark NP is one of the most beautiful in Alaska, and you will spot bears there. We watched and photographed the brown bears for several hours. We observed numerous bears. Our guide was knowledgeable and capable. The trip was perfectly organized, and the impressions will stay with us forever.

So if you have only one day to watch bears in Alaska – we can honestly recommend this option. The pictures below and above were taken in Crater Lake National Park. Check our detailed review and more tips from this trip.

Alaska Bear Viewing from Soldotna

If you plan to visit Soldotna, you can book Alaska Bear Viewing Tour to Wolverine Creek. After a 30-minute trans-glacial flight, you join a local guide on a comfortable boat rides downriver to the bears’ feeding spot. You’re then free to photograph the bears from an unobstructed viewpoint. It’s a day trip, which you can book here.

Bear Viewing at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park

For us, this is the number one place in Alaska for bear watching, as this park is the world’s largest protected brown bear population, estimated to number about 2 200. It is difficult to get to Katmai, and the number of permits is limited. You can get there for one day or several days, depending on your budget and permit.
You can get there on your own (if you are lucky and get a permit) or with a guided tour. In our separate article, you will find tips on organizing a trip to Katmai step by step on your own.

bear viewing alaska brooks falls

Bear Viewing Alaska – Multi-Day Trips

If you have more funds and more time for your visit, consider a multi-day trip. We spent three days in Katmai National Park photographing bears, and we still want to return there.

If you dream of seeing the bears and the highest peak in North America – Denali, consider an Alaska 7-Day Brown Bears and Denali Adventure from Anchorage. During this trip, you have the opportunity to see brown bears in Katmai National Park and/or Lake Clark National Park. You will experience a cruise through Kenai Fjords National Park with the possibility of observing ocean wildlife, including orcas, humpback whales, dolphins, puffins, and seals. And you’ll explore the vast and unforgettable Denali National Park. Book it here.

You can choose a 9-Day Alaska Wildlife Tour with Bear and Whale Viewing. What’s important, during this trip you will visit two breathtaking national parks—our favorite Katmai National Park with its famous Brooks Falls, and the amazing Kenai Fjords National Park. This trip includes outdoor adventure, incredible wildlife viewing, and landscapes. The program is exciting and provides the best attractions in Alaska. Check details.

bear viewing alaska

Alaska Bear Viewing at Brooks Falls – Our Story & Review from Katmai National Park and Preserve

TRIP TIP: Below, we share our photos, opinions, and impressions from the fantastic adventure of observing and photographing brown bears in Katmai National Park and Preserve. You will also find some interesting facts about bears and their behavior, how they hunt salmon, and Katmai Park itself. But due to the great interest among our readers in this topic, we have prepared a detailed guide in which we describe step by step how to prepare a trip to Katmai. We list the current prices, rules, and lots of tips so that you have the opportunity to experience a great adventure!

Good evening, how are you? Have you just landed? Please come in for bear orientation.
Yes. We have just landed. But first, we must pick up our campsite permit and check-in.
Bear orientation comes first. Ranger said.
But we have a tent, and we need to pitch it before night.
You are in bear country, Brooks Falls Bear Camp, and I know what you need to do first. The first thing is bear orientation. This is essential for your safety. Immediately. – The Katmai National Park ranger said.

It’s true. We were in bear country. Katmai National Park and Preserve contains the world’s largest protected brown bear population, estimated at about 2 200. Why are there so many of them here? Thanks to the enormous amount of salmon that come to this area to Brooks River and Brooks Falls. So, it is, without a doubt, the best place to see bears catching salmon.

bear viewing alaska

Bear Viewing Alaska at Brooks Falls

After we had put up the tent, we went to experience the Alaska brown bear viewing in Katmai. We came to Brooks Falls. There is a 10-15 minute easy hiking trail from Brooks Lodge and Brooks Camp to the famous viewing platforms. It leads through most of the wooden sidewalk suspended above the ground so that you can observe the bears. When we got to Brooks Falls, our eyes could not believe what they had seen. Brown bears were sitting in the water and catching sockeye and silver salmons to build fat reserves for the upcoming winter.

The bear viewing platforms are wide and comfortable, so we could focus on bear photography.

Brooks Falls in Katmai National park
Brooks Falls in Katmai National park

Our cameras warmed up because of the number of photos we had taken. We were afraid that this spectacle would last only a short while. But it turned out that bears loved this place. Suddenly another bear and even one more appeared at the waterfall!!!
For three days, we have been viewing Alaska bear and their habits. It was a fantastic experience. We have taken thousands of photos.

Every bear has its own number in the park. But we just decided to call them by our names. So Brownie was the most active. And the oldest and most powerful got the name, Grandpa.

Katmai Bear Viewing Facts

All bears are working hard to catch as many salmon as possible at Brooks Falls before the salmon run ends. They packed on the pounds for hibernation. Aging isn’t easy for any species, and brown bears are no exception. Bear Grandpa is approximately 20 years old, and like other bears his age, he has lost some teeth. That may have slowed his rate of salmon consumption, but the loss of teeth hasn’t stopped him from eating enough to become a massive bear.

Bear Viewing Alaska at Brooks Falls
Bear Viewing Alaska at Brooks Falls

Bears did their work hard. It’s not an easy task to catch a fish. After the success of eating salmon, bears lazily walked along the waterfront or took a bath in waterfalls enjoying the water like people in a jacuzzi.
For three days, we could observe their habits, different ways of fishing, and even a fight for domination.

Brooks Falls at Brooks Camp in Katmai National Park & Preserve is one of the best places to experience the best bear viewing in Alaska. It is one of the first streams in the region where energetic and pre-spawned salmon are available to bears.

What is the best time for Bear Viewing at Brooks Falls, Alaska?

In July, most salmon move through large rivers and lakes where bears cannot successfully fish. Early in the salmon run, Brooks Falls creates a temporary barrier to migrating salmon. This results in a particularly successful fishing spot for bears. Once salmon stop migrating in large numbers, Brooks Falls is no longer a good place to fish, and bears quickly abandon that spot for better fishing elsewhere. So, summer is the best for bear-watching in Katmai National Park. July, August, and the beginning of September are the best for bear photography.

Talking with BearsOne of Us: A Biologist's Walk Among BearsThe Bears of Brooks FallsThe Nature of Alaska
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Katmai bear viewing

Bear Viewing – Fishing styles

Fishing styles are often learned behaviors. Many bears use the same techniques as their mother and others that they learn independently. Some bears have mastered many styles, while others stick with the one that works. Bear-watching in Alaska is highly addictive and hypnotizing. The bears are fabulous. It’s hard to believe that these huge heavy animals can be so fast and agile. At Brooks River, you can observe many different types of bear fishing styles, including:

Stand and Wait

Bears will stand on top of Brooks Falls and wait for sockeye salmon to jump close enough to catch in their mouths. This fishing technique is generally used by adult bears that can defend this fishing spot, but it is also used by some younger bears when space is available. This is an excellent technique to use when many salmon are jumping at Brooks Falls, but this spot is quickly abandoned when no salmon are jumping. Standing on top of the falls is precarious, however. Bears sometimes fall off, so they rarely shift position once they have established a place to stand.

Sit and Wait

Bears will sit just underneath Brooks Falls in several places, like the plunge pool or “jacuzzi,” and wait for salmon to swim to them. Bears in the jacuzzi sit and wait for fish to swim into them. When they feel a fish in the water, they quickly pin it to the stream bottom or against their body with their paws, bite it, and begin to eat. The plunge pools below the falls are the most coveted fishing spots and are typically occupied by the most dominant bears.

Dash and Grab

Bears often chase fish and attempt to pin them to the river bottom with their paws. This is commonly used early in the salmon run, but because this technique is energetically costly, it is quickly abandoned when the salmon run begins to thin.

Katmai bear viewing
Katmai bear viewing
Katmai bear viewing

Snorkeling

Bears that snorkel are simply looking for fish under the water. This technique is used almost universally by bears throughout the summer. Still, it is widespread and useful in the fall when many dead and dying salmon are in the Brooks River and Naknek Lake.

Pirating

Those bears steal fish from other bears. Pirating is more common early in the salmon run but is not often observed in September or October. The threat of piracy will cause certain bears (like smaller subadults) to run with their fish away from the river and into the forest, where they are less likely to have their fish stolen.

Please check our video from Brooks Falls in Katmai Bear Viewing below – it was recorded with a fantastic DJI Osmo Pocket camera. Check also our Pocket camera review here.

Diving

This is a fishing technique that most bears do not use. However, at the Brooks River’s mouth or even in the jacuzzi at Brooks Falls, you might see a bear completely submerge, seeking fish. Diving is used more frequently in the fall, with dead salmon littering the river bottom.

Begging

Bears do not share food with other bears, but some bears will still beg others. This interaction occurs between bears that are highly tolerant of each other. Begging bears approach another (usually more dominant) bear-eating fish and often position themselves inches away from the other bear. If a begging bear gets any fish, it is usually leftover scraps (gill plates, mandibles, and entrails) that the other bear doesn’t want. Begging bears often vocalize loudly, making noise reminiscent of a bawling cub. Begging is not typical behavior.

Katmai Bear Viewing at Brooks Falls – Numbers

First, Katmai National Park and Preserve contains the world’s largest protected brown bear population, estimated to number about 2 200. Brown bears of Katmai are some of the largest bears in the world. They can stand 3-5 feet (.9-1.5 m) at the shoulder and measure 7-10 (2.1-3 m) feet in length. Most adult males typically weigh 600-900 pounds (272-408 kg) in mid-summer. By October and November, large adult males can weigh well over 1000 pounds (454 kg). Adult females average about 1/3 less in weight than adult males.

On days when many salmon migrate in the river, a large and dominant male bear will sometimes catch and eat more than 30 fish per day. Smaller bears that cannot compete for the best fishing spots, or bears that are less skilled at fishing, may catch and eat considerably less fish.

Learn about Bears

You can read more about bears’ behavior in the books presented below. It is worth reaching out to them, especially if you are interested in nature photography and want to take exciting bear pictures. You will learn a lot about these animals’ behavior from the book: What Bears Teach Us. The author has been working with bears for nearly 20 years. You can learn a lot from this inspiring book. Another one we like is Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance. Very informative and useful in the wilderness.

Katmai National Park and Preserve Alaska
Katmai National Park and Preserve

We could also see how Katmai brown bears fight. Bears are generally solitary creatures, but they predictably congregate around high-quality food sources. Bears use vocalizations and body posturing to avoid physical conflicts to express temperament and dominance. Less dominant bears (typically smaller subadult bears and females) yield space, like fishing spots, and resources, like a dead salmon, to more dominant bears (more giant bears and adult males). Through establishing a fluid hierarchy, bears have evolved a social adaptation that allows them to avoid fighting in most instances.

So, bear viewing in Alaska’s natural habitat was a fantastic experience and the best Alaska bear adventure.
Our adventure lasted three full days, but it was so impressive that we would like to return to Katmai National Park.

Katmai National Park and Preserve Alaska

Tips for Bear Viewing in Alaska at Brooks Falls

How to Get to Katmai National Park – Practical Information

Before you go – please read our previous post about King Salmon, a gateway to the Katmai National Park. You can try to get to Katmai on your own, and below are some tips on how to do it. But, the limited number of places isn’t easy, so it is worth considering one of the previously suggested Alaska bears viewing trips.

TRIP TIP: Please check our detailed guide on planning a perfect trip to Katmai National Park!

Transportation to Katmai National Park

There are no roads to Katmai National Park. And it’s not easy to get there. And it’s not cheap to get there. So, how to get to Katmai National Park?

Two options are available:

  • buy a trip, which seems to be expensive. But the best price you will get is from Homer and Anchorage. From Homer, this tour is worth considering. This tour sells out quickly due to the limited number of permits and the short season. It seems that a day trip costs a lot. But when you compare Anchorage’s prices to King Salmon and King Salmon to Katmai flights and add the cost of accommodation and meals, this trip from Homer is not expensive. We paid more. Consider it, mainly if you have limited time for your visit. Furthermore, our regular plane was canceled twice, and we lost two days of waiting. We had time. We were on the 8 monthly long journey. But if we were limited time, we would have to cancel our Katmai adventure. So, in our opinion, the tour from Homer is the perfect solution. However, if it is no longer available, consider another of the available bear viewing tours.If you plan your trip from Anchorage, we highly recommend Katmai Air Tours!
  • organize the trip by yourself as we did. Step-by-step instructions with prices you will find in this article.

If you do it yourself, you can take a plane to King Salmon in two ways:

  • regular flight served with Alaska Airlines or Ravn/PenAir from Anchorage to King Salmon (we took this option) and then floatplane or water taxi to Katmai
  • a charter flight with Katmai Air from Anchorage or King Salmon to Katmai

Float Plane or Water Taxi

From King Salmon to Katmai National Park and Preserve, you can take a water taxi or floatplane with Katmai Air.
We took a float plane, and it was a fantastic experience. And if you have limited time for your bear-viewing Alaska, it’s the best option to get to Brooks Camp.

bear viewing alaska brooks falls

Brooks Camp Lodging

When you get there, you have two lodging options:

Brooks Lodge in Katmai

The only lodge in Katmai is the Brooks Lodge, which is fabulous, but the number of places is very limited, and you have to take a chance in a lottery to encounter Katmai’s brown bears. It is difficult to win the lottery. Details you will find in our article.

Brooks Camp Campground

Or you can stay at the campground in your own tent. Permit and more information you can find.

We really enjoyed staying at this campground. We can recommend it. If you decide to camp in a tent in Katmai, check what we packed for Alaska camping in this post.

Food at Brooks Camp

In Brooks Lodge, there is a bar and great food. Breakfast was 17 USD, lunch was 24 USD, and dinner was 40 USD per person. It’s a buffet. The wine bottle (Meiomi) was 35 USD. It’s the only place where you can buy something to eat or drink. 

Katmai National Park and Preserve – Facts

Katmai National Park and Preserve is an American national park and preserve in southern Alaska, notable for the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes and its brown bears (2 200 brown bears). The park and preserve encompass 4,093,077 acres (6,395.43 sq mi; 16,564.09 km2). Most national parks are designated wilderness areas where all hunting is banned. The park is named after Mount Katmai, its centerpiece stratovolcano. The park is located on the Alaska Peninsula, across from Kodiak Island, with headquarters in nearby King Salmon, about 290 miles (470 km) southwest of Anchorage.

Katmai is open year-round. But at Brooks Camp, services are offered only from June 1 through September 17. The Brooks Lodge and campground are also open only this time. So, it is the best time for your visit.

Bear Viewing Alaska at Brooks Falls- Photography Hints

Below you will find some photo tips we have checked that will be useful during your Bear Viewing Alaska.

What season is best for Katmai Bear Viewing?

The season lasts 4 months – from June to September. The optimum activity is July through September, so try to be there in those months.

What time of day is best?

All day is good, but it depends on the weather. In Brooks Falls, bears are active the whole day. On the beach, it is more probable to encounter them in the morning and evening. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., one-day trip visitors are also at Brooks Falls, so if you stayed for a night, go earlier to bear viewing platforms.

What photographic opportunities are here?

There are some excellent spots. One is on the beach, one is on the first bridge just after brooks lodge heading to Brooks Falls, and brooks Falls itself – from the platform.
Beyond bears, you can make a trip to the Valley of 10000 Smokes and photograph magnificent landscapes there.

What gear should I take with me?

Any gear will do, but if you can afford it’s good to have a camera with fast AF and lens range 200-600. Tripod is recommended because sometimes you wait 10-20 minutes for action having the frame ready and waiting to press the shutter. In such a case, a tripod saves your muscles. It’s good to take a lot of charged spare batteries and memory cards. The only place to charge is Brooks Lodge, but the number of sockets is limited, so be prepared. You can also check our Alaska Photography Gear Packing List to see what we use.

What kind of clothes do you need for Bear Viewing Alaska?

Above all, be prepared for rain during your bear viewing Alaska – you can take great pictures in the shower, and there are fewer people on the platform in such weather, but you must protect yourself and your gear against water. Otherwise, it’s slightly warm in the summer, and maybe in September, you should have layers. You can also check our Alaska Packing List.

How long do I need to get great pictures here?

Suppose you are interested in bear photography; the longer, the better. Our stay lasted three days, and we would love to go back. But if we had only one day, we would make this trip anyway. We would definitely use this option with a flight tour from Homer or Katmai Air from Anchorage because we met some satisfied photographers who chose these tours. If you have more time, consider one of those Alaska bear-viewing trips.

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23 Comments

  1. I would love to see some bears when I travel to Alaska. And Brooke Falls seems to be just the perfect place to do it. Can’t believe you saw so many bears there. I love your guide and all the helpful and interesting facts you put in there. I had no clue that bears have different fishing styles. That sounds so interesting.

  2. The first time I saw a bear catching a fish was on a TV documentary in Canada. The bear was so lovely just like the one in your pictures. I have learned many facts from your post and hope one day I would have a chance to be close to a bear in the nature.

  3. Now
    this is a post you don’t read about every day! I’ve only ever seen brown bears in
    wildlife documentaries, so this would be an amazing, and slightly anxious, experience! Brooks Falls sounds like a top place for some bear watching, plus I love that all the bears have their own numbers! Great photos of the bears with their catch, I’d like to try my skills out too.

  4. Oh. My. God. And all of a sudden I want to become a camper! This is incredible! I’m not sure I’m brave enough to stay in a tent with bears wandering at night and the lottery for the lodge sounds risky but the risk would be worth it! 

  5. Aww how sad for grandpa bear to have lost some teeth! Funny how that is pretty similar to human grandpas LOL! This is for sure an incredible experience, and you’ve captured it perfectly. It seems that getting to this experience is no easy task – but all of your diligence and hard work certainly paid off!

  6. I have always seen bear in national parks or zoos but not in their natural habitat. The first photo of bear trying to catch his prey is really an awesome and natural capture. Good to know that Brooks Falls is one of the best places in the world to experience bear viewing in Alaska as they get their prey in abundant here. Knowing about pirating between the bears sound funny. Finding bears everywhere or encountering them at any moment sounds very adventurous. 

  7. Just awesome. What an experience you gave me. Your pictures are wonderful and gives a real feel. Loved how the bears wait and grab. Alaska! Desperately want to visit.

  8. I am blown away by these photos of Brown Bears in Alaska. Visiting Katmai looks like a truly heart-pounding adventure. Love how the park ranger recommends paying the bear a compliment if you meet one on the path! Not sure I could as I would be trying to pick up my jaw from the trail. Thank you for this inspiring post!

  9. This sounds like an absolutely amazing experience! I am a huge animal lover, so this would be #1 on my list. I can see by your first statements in the post regarding the bears and safety how important it is for them at Katmai National Park to maintain the safety of the bears and their guests. Your photos are stunning! I loved reading about the different hunting styles that bears have, so interesting. I think watching a bear pirating would be very interesting, I love watching animals in their natural habitat. 

  10. This would be the most amazing experience!  I have only seen a bear in the wild once and I sure would love to see more!  I visited Alaska in May, which is a bit early for the salmon run, but I plan on going back. I loved it!

  11. I have to admit, every time I camp I am most fearful of bears so I admire your courage to tent camp in this area! However, after reading this through and seeing your photos I would love to go here if given the opportunity. Seeing bears always seems like such a rare but sought-after occasion when I have traveled elsewhere, so it is so cool you got to experience this! Thanks for sharing!

  12. Bear watching is a great way to explore a wild country like Alaska. next time you want to see bears, I recommend you to come to my country – Romania. Our forests are still packed with bear and you can see them in their natural habitat. I used to hike the mountains every weekend and I remember how we were always forced to yell in the wood the keep bears away. 

  13. When we did our Alaska cruise, one day trip we saw bears along the shore.  But I would love to spend more time watching them – at a safe distance of course!  You got some amazing action shots.  I am not sure how I would feel about bears walking around the campground!  Would love to visit in July when the salmon are running.

  14. I am surely visiting Katmai now. I would love to watch bears catching fish with various techniques that you have mentioned. I have also noted that summer is the best month because of the temporary barrier for the migratory fish. What a treat it will be to watch them getting caught by the bears, sorry for the salmon, though.

  15. OMG! This. Is. So. Cool! I’ve never seen a bear up close before. I had a close encounter with a black bear once, but I was hiding in a tent with a few other people, so I didn’t actually get to see it. This looks like an unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime experience. You took amazing pictures of the bears. I think a good camera is a must for this experience. Putting this on my bucket list right now.

  16. That conversation is really something! When bear orientation is the first & foremost priority, that really gives an insight to the region! 2200 bears that congregate here to catch salmons? Wow! Reminds me of the Asian Elephants that congregate at a point for fresh grass in summer, in India. 
    I love how nature-friendly and nature-prioritized it is. Its a bear beach, it is! Humans have many other beaches, let this be for the bears! That said, I’d be absolutely freaked out to come face to face with a bear. As much as I want to visit this place, I also don’t want to! ‘Schrodinger’s place’, haha…. Its amazing how you caught some awesome photos. 

  17. Wow this sounds like a fantastic experience, definitely something I’d love to do. It’s great to have all the information in one post, saving this for when we can travel again. I didn’t know bears beg for food, that’s such an interesting fact. 

  18. OMG!!! Those pictures are absolutely stunning! I always imagined one would definitely see a bear or two in Katmai National Park just because of the bear population in the reserve but so many! and so many near one falls, this must have been some experience.To be frank, it felt like I was reading some Nat geo blog and I absolutely loved it!! I didn’t even know there were so many fishing styles bears used, very interesting. 😀

  19. You are so lucky to be able to do this. It’s been in my dreams since the first time I saw bears catching on sockeye salmon in tv’s documentary. Your pictures are stunning as always. So I guess even bears like to lazing after their stomach full. hehe…

    1. One of the very best bear guides to katmai is National Geographic outdoor photographer Mark Emery Mark Emery can be reached at markemeryfilms.com he’s a full-time summer resident of king salmon and will take the float plane trip with you from King Salmon to Brooks Falls. Accommodations for people traveling for one day or multiple days in King Salmon would be at King Salmon Lodge.

  20. This would be such an incredible experience! We went on an Alaskan cruise and saw a black bear on a distant shore, but nothing like this. I can’t imagine it! Thanks for sharing your beautiful pictures too.

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