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Alaska bears in river
Photo Credit: ATIA, Chris McLennan
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Discover Alaska's Bear Country

Discover Alaska's Bear Country

This itinerary showcases two popular Alaska cities, Anchorage and Homer. But the wildest attraction are visits to Katmai National Park and Preserve and Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, where thousands of brown bears are intent on catching enough salmon and other food to fatten themselves up for the cold winter ahead.

Day 1: Anchorage

Start your Alaska-sized adventure in Anchorage with a flightseeing tour out of Lake Hood, the busiest seaplane base in the world. Possible destinations include a nearby glacier, a private fly-in fishing spot, or even close-up views of 20,310-foot Denali, North America’s highest peak. Finish your day with a trip to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, located 50 miles south of Anchorage along the scenic Seward Highway, to view Alaska wildlife including black and brown bears. If you time it right, you can watch staff feeding the bears or even feed them for yourself on a Bear Encounter tour before you head back to Anchorage for your own dinner and a good night’s sleep in your hotel or B&B.

Day 2: Homer

Fly via regional air carrier to Homer, which boasts a stunning location on Kachemak Bay and offers recreation opportunities in the nearby state park of the same name. Homer is also famous for the Homer Spit, a 4.5-mile strip of land extending into the water that is lined with restaurants, gift shops, outfitters, and fishing-charter operators. Visitors can camp right on the spit or reserve at room at one of Homer’s many hotels, lodges or B&Bs. Spend your first day in Homer by checking out the Spit's many sights or exploring the bay by day cruise, fishing charter, or kayak tour.

Day 3: Homer

On your second day in Homer, embark on a full-day bear viewing trip to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. This off-the-beaten-track national park is accessed from Homer by a short but scenic plane ride across Cook Inlet. Your experienced pilot will land the small bush plane on a remote beach where you will spend several hours watching brown bears feed along the tidal flats and rivers. After a full day of bear viewing, head back to Homer to enjoy dinner at one of the amazing restaurants along the Spit or grab a drink at the local breweries or winery.

Day 4: Anchorage

Hop the morning flight from Homer to Anchorage and spend the day in the “big city” before embarking on your next bear adventure. Rent a bike downtown to cruise along the beautiful Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, an 11-mile paved trail that hugs the coastline and connects downtown to Kincaid Park, a sprawling wooded park popular for mountain biking and hiking. Keep an eye out for wildlife including moose, eagles, and sometimes black bears. If you’d like to get up into the mountains, take the shuttle that runs from downtown to the Flattop Mountain trail in Chugach State Park for panoramic views of Anchorage, the Turnagain Arm, and surrounding Chugach Mountains. Once you’ve stretched your legs for the day, visit the Anchorage Museum and the Alaska Native Heritage Center to learn about Alaska’s history and Alaska Native culture. Overnight in Anchorage.

Day 5: Katmai National Park

Today you will journey to Katmai National Park & Preserve, inhabited by an estimated 2,200 brown bears. The world-renowned Brooks Camp offers some of the best views of the world’s largest land predator. Access is strictly regulated, so make reservations early for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch giant brown bears scooping salmon out of crashing streams and rivers while newborn cubs frolic nearby. You have two options here: either take a day trip from Anchorage, traveling on a small plane to the park for several hours of bear viewing; or maximize your time with the bears by flying on regional air carrier from Anchorage to King Salmon and then a short floatplane ride to Brooks Camp, and then spending a couple of days bear viewing while camping or staying at the lodge at Brooks Camp.

Optional Add-On: Kodiak

If you haven’t had your fill of bear viewing, consider a trip to see some of the biggest of them all: Kodiak brown bears. Book a flight from Anchorage to Kodiak and join a bear viewing trip in Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, home to some of the largest bears in the world. Kodiak brown bears are genetically unique to other brown bears in Alaska, weighing up to 1,500 pounds and standing 10 feet tall. Book a trip with the Kodiak Brown Bear Center, an Alaska Native-owned lodge and tour operator that focuses on small-group bear viewing trips and other activities, or join one of the many other remote lodges and tour guides that offer bear viewing in the area.

Wildlife Note: You’ll see the most bears when the salmon are running. Usually that’s July to September, although the timing can vary a bit each year. Give bears a healthy amount of respect and distance — remember, they are wild, unpredictable animals — and make sure you’re familiar with bear-safety precautions before traveling in Alaska’s bear country.

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