With more than 30,000 bald eagles in the state, Alaska is one of the best places to spot these majestic creatures.
The American bald eagle is the national bird of the United States and is one of the most popular wildlife species to see when visiting The Last Frontier. Watch them perch atop their tree canopy home, soar in the sky, and swoop down as they attempt to catch fish.
These are the best places to see bald eagles in Alaska.
Denali National Park
Six million acres of unspoiled backcountry wilderness exists in Denali National Park, making it a fantastic destination for wildlife viewing, including the bald eagle. With 39 species of mammals and 169 species of birds, there’s abundant opportunity to see the animals that live here.
Look for eagles as you venture into the national park; some mature birds have wing spans of up to six or even seven feet wide, with the females bigger than the males.
The bald eagle is not actually bald, like a vulture; it’s a beautiful bird with a white head, white tail feathers, and dark brown plumage. The word “bald” is believed to come from an ancient word for “white”. The beak is a distinctive yellow, and the yellow feet are equipped with razor-sharp claws for seizing prey.
Get up close and you’ll see that the birds have piercing yellow eyes, too; their vision is excellent and an eagle can spot prey no bigger than a rabbit from an impressive three miles away.
One of the best ways to see eagles and other Alaskan wildlife in Denali National Park is by driving along the Park Road on a tour bus or car, if you prefer self-driving. You’ll have the chance to cover more ground and stop at various lookouts to see if you can spot a bald eagle.
Additionally, embark on some of the hiking trails like the two-mile Savage River Loop Trail or the two-mile Horseshoe Lake Trail. Photographers will want a zoom lens to capture the eagles in trees or soaring through the air.
Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, near Skagway
The Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve is one of the top places to see bald eagles in Alaska.
Dating back to 1982, the Preserve is located a little under two hours from the southeastern Alaska town of Skagway, within the Inside Passage.
The preserve is host to a large population of bald eagles in 48,000 acres of their natural habitat. Its mission is to protect the environment, educate visitors, and sustain the area’s natural salmon runs.
The land includes areas of the Chilkat, Tsirku, and Kleheni Rivers which are all frequented by eagles. With between 200 and 400 resident bald eagles and over 80 nests in the preserve, it’s a great opportunity to see them first-hand in a place that’s been deemed to have the largest gathering of the species in the world.
Numbers rise into the thousands during the annual salmon feast in November, when eagles flock to the area to feast on the carcasses of spawned-out salmon, all part of Alaska’s circle of life.
Viewing the eagles here is a real treat; spot them from designated pullouts and parking areas between Haines Highway and the river. The most popular place is the river flats of the Chilkat River, located between miles 18 and 24 of Haines Highway.
Alternatively, you can venture out on the two-mile riverside trail for wildlife viewing and a hike. See the eagles roost, feed, and soar above you. Other wildlife you might encounter includes bears, swans, moose, hawks, owls, and mountain goats.
During summer in Alaska, it’s also possible to view the birds from a different perspective, with a boat trip on the river, an even better chance to spot them in the trees.
Look out for a nest; they’re the biggest nest of any bird in North America, up to six feet wide, with the same pair of birds returning to each nest every year.
Homer Spit, Homer
The southwestern tip of the Kenai Peninsula is another fantastic destination to spot eagles in Alaska. The oceanside town of Homer juts out as a strip of land, surrounded by water and frequented by eagles, as well as marine life such as whales, otters, and seals.
The four-and-a-half-mile Homer Spit stretches out into scenic Kachemak Bay, lined with Alaskan beaches, boardwalk-style restaurants, shops, and bars, and is also a jumping-off point for many boat tours for fishing and wildlife viewing.
Here, you might have the chance to spot bald eagles on the beach, soaring above, or hunting for food, as it’s one of the best eagle viewing places in the state of Alaska.
Wander the beach at low tide and discover all of the marine life in the tide pools while also keeping an eye out for eagles. Venture to the campground beach and the Seafarer’s Memorial, another popular spot where they can be seen.
Listen to their calls (a surprisingly thin, high-pitched cry for a bird that looks so imposing), look for the unmistakable white-feathered head, and remember to bring some binoculars to aid in your search.
Alaska Raptor Center, Sitka
Head to Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka for a fascinating viewing and educational experience involving bald eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls. Get up close to these amazing birds in a facility that works to rehabilitate some 200 injured birds annually and carries out vital research at the same time.
Located on 17 acres along the Indian River, visiting this bird sanctuary is one of the best things to do in Sitka. It has about 24 raptors in residence (birds that can’t be released back into the wild) and grew from a small, backyard operation to a larger non-profit organization.
View the birds at close range in the rehabilitation center and visit the flight training center where you can observe eagles learning to fly again after their rehabilitation before being released back into the wild.
This is a great choice for families and photographers looking to snap tight shots of a bald eagle and other Alaskan birds, with guaranteed sightings in safe conditions—and it’s for a good cause, too.
Tongass National Forest
Southeastern Alaska has one of the most concentrated populations of the bald eagle, making it a solid choice for spotting the national symbol in the wild.
The Alaskan town of Ketchikan is located within the lush Tongass National Forest, the world’s largest temperate rainforest and one of the best spots to see bald eagles in this area.
With approximately 30 nesting sites in the Ketchikan area alone, you’ll have a good chance of spotting eagles while visiting.
They’re particularly attracted to the Ketchikan area because of the abundance of food here, especially in summer when the salmon run begins.
The best time to visit Alaska for bird watching is during the summer months, where you may have the opportunity to see the eagles in their nests with their young, even watching as the juveniles learn how to fly and hunt on their own.
You can spot a juvenile by its all-brown or mottled brown-and-white plumage; eagles don’t get the distinctive white head and tail until they are four or five years old.
Look for the eagles at the mouth of the area streams such as Ketchikan Creek, Ward Cove, and Herring Cove, where they hunt for salmon. They’re often around the canneries as well, watching from their treetop perches.
Head out with a guide to Totem Bight State Park or to the Guard Island Lighthouse by boat to see higher numbers of eagles in specific nesting sites known by locals.
Turnagain Arm, near Anchorage
Just south of Anchorage, the almost 50-mile-long Turnagain Arm is a great spot for wildlife watching and hiking along the Seward Highway.
In addition to being a scenic byway, there’s a plethora of overlooks and stopping points, as well as hiking trails that can be enjoyed around the Turnagain Arm where eagles, Dall sheep, and in the water, beluga whales can be spotted against a backdrop of the Kenai and Chugach Mountains.
Stopping at almost any turnout in this area will reward you with some sort of eagle sighting. Low tide and the hour before low tide is your best bet, when eagles hunt for fish in the mud flats and tidal channels.
To see the largest concentration of birds, try the head of the Turnagain Arm, where the Placer, Twentymile, and Portage rivers all empty around the same place, just south of Girdwood.
Take a short hike from one of the pullouts in this location, down to the exposed flats, where you may see anything up to 40 birds looking for their lunch.
The rocky outcropping of Beluga Point that stretches into the Turnagain Arm is another great spot for not just spotting the white whales from mid-July to the end of August, but also bald eagles, as the salmon are at the height of their run.
For the best results, check the fishing report surrounding Anchorage, and bring binoculars to spot these majestic birds.
If you have time and are looking to stretch your legs, the McHugh Creek and Rainbow Mountain trails are a fantastic choice for more potential eagle sightings and the amazing scenery that Alaska is known for.
Kenai River, near Seward
The Kenai Peninsula’s Kenai River is known for being one of the best fishing destinations in Alaska. This naturally means that bald eagles frequent the area to take advantage of the salmon runs during the summer months as well.
Running a span of 82 miles and known for its turquoise color, the Kenai River is a scenic spot with plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, fishing, rafting, and kayaking in Seward.
When the river is rich with salmon in the summer season, there are many spots along the water to look out for eagles (and at the same time, bears, which also feast on salmon).
Sportsman’s Landing and the river viewing platform in Kenai, overlooking the flats, offer bird watchers excellent opportunities to see bald eagles and other wildlife, like owls, sea birds, and sea lions. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a beluga whale.
Anchor River State Recreation Area, near Homer
Located approximately 25 minutes’ drive north of Homer, the 213-acre Anchor River State Recreation Area is another excellent bald eagle viewing destination on the Kenai Peninsula.
The beach here is known for its beautiful coastal and mountain scenery as well as for drawing a large amount of eagles, particularly during the tide changes. Watch fishing boats go in and out, keeping an eye out for when fishermen dump the fish waste on the beach.
This is when the eagles and gulls take advantage for feeding, making it a popular spot for photographers looking to photograph eagles in action.
A luxury cruise is a fantastic way to see bald eagles in Alaska, whether you choose to spot them in the wild or visit one of the educational and rehabilitation centers. Browse our Alaskan cruises and book your next adventure today.