alaska bear watching lake clark

A Guide for Bear Viewing in Lake Clark National Park

At the top of the bucket list was bear viewing in Alaska and seeing cuddly ferocious grizzly bears. I’ve seen grizzlies in Banff National Park before, but I wasn’t doing photography then. So this time around, heading into coastal brown bear country, I wanted to make sure I was guaranteed to see some bears with my camera.

We did a lot of research, and with our early June time frame, Lake Clark bear viewing was our best bet.

Lake Clark bear viewing

What it’s like to do a Lake Clark Bear Viewing

How to choose your bear-watching trip?

You have a few options for how to do your bear viewing in Alaska. First, you can fly from Anchorage, Soldotna, or Homer into Lake Clark National Park or Katmai National Park.

Secondly, hop on a boat from Homer or Soldotna, but you need to be banking on nice weather and calm seas, or else the experience could be less than ideal. This option is much slower – though cheaper – and your time on the ground will be cut short.

We chose to go from Homer as it’s closer to Lake Clark National Park than Anchorage. Plus, we also wanted to see a new city. Lastly, we heard the options for Homer Alaska bear viewing scene are phenomenal.

They were.

Bear Watching in Lake Clark National Park

Homer to Lake Clark Bear Viewing

As you can imagine, plenty of companies will fly you out. We went with Northwind Aviation, which we learned on the flight, which has a somewhat new plane that can land anywhere on the beach. This allowed them to fly out earlier before the tide had dropped.

By landing early, we had the entire place to ourselves before all the other bear-watching tourists arrived.

Lake Clark bear viewing

The flight into Lake Clark

The day started bright and early as we weighed everything we had brought. (These planes are a bit stringent with weight.) Then, after getting our waders on and piling into a seven-passenger plane, we were off to Chitina Bay in Lake Clark National Park.

The flight, about an hour in length, landed on the bay’s shores.

Chinitna Bay Bear Viewing

After deboarding, the gang debriefed about what we would do and the day’s structure. We learned that Lake Clark National Park had designated areas where people could do their Lake Clark bear viewing. This helps keep people safe. Basically, you’re not supposed to leave your box.

As a team, we walked half a mile from the plane to the first viewing platform to see our first Lake Clark National Park bears. I don’t think a single person made a sound as we walked.

Once we broke free from the forested area, we were in a gorgeous meadow area with nearly a dozen bears spread out. It was incredible!

At the back of the meadow, a momma bear and cubs were slightly startled at our arrival and left shortly after we arrived. (That was a bummer.) Another group joined us after what seemed like a while, but they were pretty loud. Any of the bears which had gotten closer were startled and moved back.

After our first Lake Clark bear viewing experience, we meandered through the different viewing areas inside the valley and enjoyed around a dozen bears throughout the day.

Only one bear, seen below, got remotely close to us. Even still, there was a river in between, and this was shot on a long zoom lens, so it makes them look closer.

Lake Clark bear viewing
Lake Clark bear viewing
Lake Clark bear viewing
Lake Clark bear viewing

Bonus Flightseeing on the way home from Lake Clark bear viewing

After three-plus hours of bear watching in Alaska, we headed back to the plane, hoping to spot more bears and land near them. Sadly, we could never find a spot to land – though we did see five bears flying out.

Nevertheless, we were given stunning views of Lake Clark National Park, which made us want to return even more.

Lake Clark National Park flightseeing
Lake Clark National Park flightseeing

FAQ: Lake Clark National Park Bear Viewing

How long are you on the ground doing Lake Clark bear viewing?

You’re limited by time more than anything. If the bears don’t cooperate, you will leave regardless of how close they are or if they decide now is the time to get close. We got 3-4 hours on the ground, but I would have loved to stay longer.

Lake Clark bear viewing

Respect the area

Please be quiet when you are walking in the area. A group came barging in, making just as some bears were creeping toward us. This noise scared them away because these coastal brown bears don’t get a ton of human interaction.

How much does it cost to go bear viewing in Lake Clark?

Lake Clark bear viewing is not cheap. Our trip cost about $1,500 for a couple.

What sort of clothes should I wear for Lake Clark Bear Viewing?

Wear comfortable clothes, but also plan for the weather. Additionally, our company provided us with waiters and gear for the trip. It was goofy to start, but we figured out how to walk in them!

Gear to bring on your Lake Clark bear viewing expedition

  • Binoculars
  • Hat
  • Camera with a long lens (ideally up to 600)
  • Sunglasses
  • Lunch, Snack, and Water

Where should we fly out of for a bear-watching trip?

The Homer Alaska bear viewing scene is my recommendation, as there are more tour companies, and it’s nice to get down to the end of the Kenai Peninsula. Yeah, you can take it from other spots, but exploring Homer was fun!

Photos from an incredible trip to Lake Clark National Park

Lake Clark National Park flightseeing
Lake Clark National Park flightseeing
Lake Clark National Park flightseeing
Lake Clark National Park flightseeing

Wrapping up – Lake Clark Bear Viewing

For centuries, the indigenous people of Lake Clark National Park have revered the majestic brown bears that roam its wilderness. In recent decades, bear watching has become popular for tourists eager to glimpse these powerful creatures in their natural habitat.

Today, guided tours and designated viewing areas allow visitors to safely observe and photograph the bears while supporting conservation efforts to protect the park’s fragile ecosystem. The history of Lake Clark bear viewing is one of both wonder and responsibility as we continue to learn from and coexist with these incredible animals.

Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.

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