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For wildlife enthusiasts, discovering the best place to see bears in Alaska is a thrilling part of an itinerary. From the majesty of coastal brown bears to the elusive black bears and inland grizzlies, this region’s megafauna awaits you.

The prime bear-watching season is from June to September, coinciding with salmon migrations that draw these apex predators to rivers, streams, and shorelines to feed.

Whether you are observing brown bears adeptly fishing by a waterfall or watching playful cubs learning essential survival skills, Alaska’s spectacular scenery will provide you with plenty of opportunities for thrilling encounters with these magnificent creatures.

Do remember, though, that bears are wild animals. While you may see evidence of their presence, there’s no guarantee you will spot one.

Chinitna Bay, Lake Clark National Park, Near Anchorage

Bears in Chinitna Bay, Lake Clark National Park

Chinitna Bay in Lake Clark National Park, near Anchorage

Spotting bears is one of the best things to do in Alaska, and Chinitna Bay, inside Lake Clark National Park, will offer you an immersive bear-watching experience thanks to its substantial brown bear population.

As a note, the names “Alaska brown bears” and “grizzlies” are often interchanged, with some regional distinctions. Coastal brown bears, linked to salmon-rich areas, are typically larger, while inland grizzlies, though formidable, may be somewhat smaller due to diet variations.

Aerial view of Chinitna Bay in Lake Clark National Park, near Anchorage

Chinitna Bay in Lake Clark National Park, near Anchorage

Chinitna Bay’s salmon runs draw bears to its rivers, providing ample opportunities for spotting these omnivorous creatures in the wild.

Accessible only by small aircraft or boats, this remote destination is most rewarding during the summer salmon spawning season, especially in July and August, when the bears come to feast.

The rugged coastline here, along with the glaciers and mountains of Chinitna Bay, amplify its scenic charm, making your bear-watching visit here a rewarding one.

Denali National Park

Denali National Park, best place to see bears in Alaska

Denali National Park

Denali National Park is a clear answer to the question of where to see bears in Alaska. If you journey to this unspoiled wonderland of mountains and tundra, you will be able to dive into an extraordinary bear-themed Alaskan adventure.

Within the expansive six-million-acre Denali National Park, you can glimpse grizzlies (Ursus arctos horribilis) and black bears (Ursus americanus) wandering the rugged landscape, which also includes Denali, North America’s tallest peak, at 20,310 feet (6,194 meters) in elevation.

Bear spotted in Denali National Park

Grizzly in Denali National Park

This Alaskan national park is nestled in the state’s interior and highlights both bear species, notably in the Savage River area at Mile 15. Whether by bus or private vehicle, permitted travel to Savage River will ensure safe bear-watching opportunities along the park’s 92-mile main road.

The optimal bear-watching season is from mid-May to mid-September. Ranger-led initiatives can further enhance your understanding of these Alaskan animals—and other fauna, such as caribou, moose, and wolves—that inhabit Denali’s diverse ecosystem.

Tongass National Forest

Black bear in Tongass National Forest, best place to see bears in Alaska

Black bear

Explore the vast Tongass National Forest, the largest protected woodland in North America. It’s one of the best places to visit in Alaska for a mesmerizing encounter with the unique wildlife thriving in this area.

This expansive forest in Southeast Alaska, abundant with black and brown bears, extends across diverse habitats, encompassing rainforests and glaciers. Remarkably, the forest also boasts the highest concentration of bears on Earth, although there are still no guarantees.

Misty Fjords National Monument, inside Tongass, features spectacular fjords, which are great spots for potential bear sightings, especially when these animals come to feed near salmon-filled streams.

Aerial view of Tongass National Forest

Tongass National Forest

Safety protocols, like proper food storage and noise awareness, are essential when looking for bears on the ground.

You’ll also be able to discover a wealth of black and brown bears at the renowned Anan Wildlife Observatory, specifically at Anan Creek.

Immerse yourself in an impactful bear-viewing experience on the observatory’s secure wooden platforms, behind protective fences, designed to safeguard the bears’ natural habitat—along with the humans watching them.

Fortress of the Bear, Sitka

Bears in Fortress of the Bear, Sitka

Fortress of the Bear, Sitka

In Sitka, the Fortress of the Bear stands out as one of the best places to see bears in Alaska. This refuge and rehabilitation facility cares for injured bears and orphaned cubs. Presently, the State of Alaska prohibits the center from releasing these animals back into the wild.

Luckily for you, this “fortress” welcomes visitors. Unlike typical bear-watching spots, the managed setting here, with viewing platforms mimicking natural habitats, will provide you with an exclusive, close-up experience with the bears.

Additionally, Fortress of the Bear, located on Baranof Island in Southeast Alaska, offers educational programs to provide you with more knowledge about bears’ roles in Alaska’s ecosystem and the many challenges they face in the wild.

Read: Best Things to Do in Sitka

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Anchorage

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, best place to see bears in Alaska

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Anchorage

Centered around the Portage Valley, near Anchorage, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC) is a sanctuary focused on rehabilitating and conserving Alaska’s diverse wildlife, including native fauna and bears.

Diverging from conventional bear-watching locales, AWCC prioritizes education over mere observation.

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Anchorage, best place to see bears in Alaska

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Anchorage

Committed to fostering a secure haven for injured or orphaned bears, the center provides educational programs that will provide you with many insights into bear biology and the natural history of these remarkable creatures.

AWCC will still offer you the chance for some wildlife photography from a designated elevated viewing platform (the bears are down below, out of reach) ensuring both animal well-being, and of course, the safety of visitors.

Katmai National Park & Preserve

Bear in Katmai National Park & Preserve

Katmai National Park & Preserve

Head off for a delightful bear search at Katmai National Park and Preserve’s Brooks Falls, accessible from Kodiak, Homer, and Anchorage.

The optimal season for bear-watching here is from June to September, which, as elsewhere in the state, coincides with the salmon migration, which in turn influences bear activity.

Katmai features a substantial brown bear population, attracted to the abundant summer salmon runs at Brooks Falls.

Katmai National Park, best place to see bears in Alaska

Katmai National Park & Preserve

The falls, which consist of a sequence of cascades or steps where water descends in stages, have become a favored destination for bear-watching enthusiasts due to the iconic photos of bears standing on the falls, skillfully snatching up fish, taken here.

The implementation of a permit system at Brooks Falls helps manage visitor flow, fostering eco-friendly, monitored bear-viewing experiences inside Katmai’s wonderful wilderness.

This bear-watching hotspot offers a secure observation area along a well-constructed platform, minimizing disturbances as you wait quietly for bears to gather at the falls to gorge themselves on fish.

Haines & the Chilkoot River

Bears in Chilkoot River

Chilkoot River

If you’re seeking out the best place to see bears in Alaska without taking a boat or float plane excursion, Haines and the Chilkoot River are your go-to destinations.

Explore the area just outside of Haines to witness Chilkoot River bears. In July, brown bears grace the mile-long Chilkoot River, attracting wildlife enthusiasts.

The accessible road brings in tour buses, camper vans, and fishermen, the latter engaging in a “friendly” competition with bears for all that tasty fish.

Chilkoot River, one of the best place to see bears in Alaska

Chilkoot River

Young bears, as well as mothers and their cubs, search for food along the river, with intensified feeding activity typically taking place in the evenings, especially amid the plentiful presence of pink and sockeye salmon from June or July to September.

Chilkoot Valley, near Haines, is home to black and brown bears. Tour operators in Skagway provide wildlife excursions in the region, and the historic Chilkoot Trail invites hikers into Klondike Gold Rush terrain, where bear encounters are also possible.

Kenai River, Near Seward

Bears in Kenai River, near Seward

Kenai River, near Seward

The Kenai River stands among Alaska’s top bear-watching spots. Situated on the Kenai Peninsula, this river is a hub for black and brown bears during the salmon spawning season. The bears dine on sockeye, king, and coho salmon, or engage in berry foraging.

Furthermore, the area will present you with numerous opportunities for wildlife encounters as you engage in activities like river rafting, fishing, or simply hiking along the riverbank.

Bear spotted in Kenai River, near Seward

Kenai River, near Seward

Nearby creeks and tributaries, such as the Russian River or Soldotna Creek, are additional locales where eagles, moose, and other wildlife that Alaska is known for, including bears, can be observed.

If you’re interested in the region’s diverse nature, the Kenai River Viewing Platform is a must-visit, perfect for birdwatching.

Admiralty Island, Near Juneau

Bears spotted in Admiralty Island, near Juneau

Admiralty Island, near Juneau

Admiralty Island, celebrated for its high concentration of brown bears, will offer you some outstanding bear-watching opportunities. There are, in fact, more bears than people on this island.

With one of North America’s highest bear concentrations, Pack Creek, on Admiralty Island, is the place to go to witness these bears in action.

Bears in Admiralty Island, near Juneau

Admiralty Island, near Juneau

Known for its rich salmon runs, the sanctuary employs a wildlife viewing permit system to regulate access, ensuring minimal impact on the dense population of coastal brown bears living here, as well as their habitat.

Guided tours will provide you with a safe and educational experience during your time on the island, revealing insights into bear behavior and ecology.

The island’s remote yet easy-to-access location from Juneau, the state capital, is ideal for anyone looking for an immersive connection with this magnificent creature.

Spasski River Valley, Icy Strait Point

Brown bear spotted in Alaska

Brown bear

Icy Strait Point, near Hoonah, Alaska, serves as a jumping-off point into Chichagof Island’s gorgeous wilderness. Should you visit the island, you’ll have the chance to search for bears in the Spasski River Valley, renowned for its abundant population of coastal brown bears.

The valley, equipped with viewing platforms along the Spasski River, hosts substantial salmon runs, attracting bears. The region is also home to other creatures like moose, bald eagles, and black-tailed deer.

While your nature and wildlife guides will ensure your safety and provide educational insights along the way, appropriate attire is vital for a cozy encounter with the abundant wildlife here; always dress in layers and bring waterproof gear.

Mendenhall Glacier, Near Juneau

Beautiful landscape of Mendenhall Glacier, near Juneau

Mendenhall Glacier, near Juneau

One of the best places to observe bears in Alaska is the Mendenhall Glacier, located near Juneau. This beautiful Alaskan glacier and its forested surroundings serve as a habitat for black bears, particularly during the salmon spawning season, making it a superb locale for spotting wild bears.

The Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, a central hub for glacier information, also provides insights into regional bear activity and bear ecology. Bears are frequently spotted foraging in the lush forests and meadows near the glacier.

Mendenhall Glacier, best place to see bears in Alaska

Black bears

Black bears, especially mothers with cubs, roam around the region during late summer in Alaska and are the main focus at the visitor center.

The animals are attracted to spawning sockeye and coho salmon in Steep Creek and can be viewed from a raised boardwalk, which is accessible from the visitor center’s parking area.

Ketchikan & Revillagigedo Island

Waterfront of Ketchikan


Revillagigedo Island in southeastern Alaska is a haven for black bears thriving in diverse habitats, offering exceptional opportunities for observing them in their natural setting.

In and around Ketchikan, situated on this vast island, plentiful bear-watching opportunities await amid the lush landscape. With black bear populations living in forests near Ketchikan, the town becomes a focal point for bear encounters during the salmon spawning season.

You can book a float plane or boat trip to search for the island’s bears nearby—and on occasion, you might even spot bears lurking around Ketchikan’s Creek Street.

Bears spotted in Ketchikan


And as a note, while hiking around Ketchikan—or wherever else bears might be present in Alaska—be mindful of these animals’ wild nature. When encountering bears, stay calm to avoid triggering a chase response.

Also, while trekking, make noise to alert bears to your presence and promote avoidance. If you unexpectedly encounter bears, back away slowly without turning your back. Avoid direct eye contact and never approach them, especially if cubs are present.

Follow guidelines from local authorities and wildlife tour operators for a secure and positive bear-watching experience, prioritizing safety for both humans and bears alike.

Denali National Park, best place to see bears in Alaska

Denali National Park

Book an Alaskan cruise vacation with Celebrity Cruises to experience the breathtaking wonders of Alaska’s awe-inspiring landscapes and to search for bears in their natural habitats.

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