McNeil River State Game Sanctuary
The McNeil River State Game Sanctuary, just north of Katmai National Park and Preserve on the Alaska Peninsula and 250 miles southwest of Anchorage, was created in 1967 to protect the world's largest concentration of brown bears. This spot is renowned among wildlife photographers. It’s not uncommon for 20 or more brown bears to feed together at McNeil River Falls; up to 74 have been spotted there at one time.
A permit is required to view the bears at McNeil River and the demand for them is so high that a lottery is staged by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The state agency allows 10 visitors per day for a four-day period to watch the bears feed. From a camp, park guides lead a two-mile hike across sedge flats and through the thigh-deep Mikfik Creek to the viewing area on a bluff. There you can watch the bears feed less than 60 feet away in the pools where salmon gather. Watching and photographing giant brown bears at such close range is an once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The prime time to see the greatest number of brown bears is mid-June at Mikfik Creek or July to mid-August at McNeil River.