“Strong, unbridled, and nomadic. Alaska’s bears are perhaps the ultimate symbol of the wild. Seeing one, if even for a fleeting moment, is a rare and magical experience. These creatures stir our primal fear while commanding our admiration. Unlike moose, you probably won’t casually encounter bears on the road. One option is to visit Denali National Park, where your chances of seeing them, at least for a distance, improve. To see throngs of bears up close—belly-flopping into rivers, jaw-sparring for the best fishing grounds, or just napping in the sun—you’ll need to fly to places with excellent viewing odd.”
Lake Clark National Park: This scenic mountain lake system attracts bears in droves; you can expect idyllic scenes of bears fishing for salmon and cavorting along the sandy beaches. Females and cubs flock to Wolverine Creek (June 10 to late August); Redoubt Mountain Lodge (866-733-3034) is less crowded with people and one can often see bears of all sizes fishing (late July to late September).
Brooks Falls: Many of the most famous photographs of bears pouncing for salmon swimming up waterfalls were shot here. The world’s largest salmon run floods this rivers and draws up to 15 bears at a time in early July. At the peak of the run (late June to August 1; and the last three weeks of September) you’ll see many large males jaw-spar and compete for the best fishing spots.
Katmai Coast: Precipitous mountains and glaciers serve as a backdrop to wide-open tidal flats with tall grass meadows. This prime foraging and hunting location often attracts two to three times the number of bears found at other hot spots: it is not uncommon to see 25 to 40 bears at a time clamming, eating and fishing for salmon during the peak season of May 25 to July 1.
Logistics: Plan for a full day charter air tour to any of these three bear viewing areas, which depart from either Anchorage or Homer. Lake Clark and Brooks Falls are served by private, gravel airstrips; while Katami Coast has a floatplane facility. Contact Bald Mountain Air Service or Era Flightseeing for details.