Katmai National Park is found in southern Alaska. Known for its ash-filled valley and its amazing brown bears, it is a park and preserves that covers over 4 million acres. Mount Katmai is the centerpiece of the park and for which it was named. Mount Katmai is a stratovolcano, meaning the composite buildup of material from eruptions have built up the layers of the volcano and mountain. There are another 18 volcanoes within the park boundaries, and seven of those have been active since 1900. The preserve and park protect the salmon habitats as well as the large brown bears in which the park is so famous for. Are you ready to experience the beauty of Alaska at Katmai?
Katmai National Park, Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes
The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes is a valley within the park that was filled with ash after the massive eruption in 1912. The ash produced steam and smoke rising from the filled valley, and as far as the eye could see, the valley floor had smoke curls rising from it, earning it its nickname. Katmai is known as a stratovolcano and over time rivers have cut deep canyons through the ash, allowing people to see the accumulation of ash that settled in the valley. The smoke no longer exists, as the ash has cooled, but the remnants of such a significant eruption remain in the valley.
Where Can I Stay?
If you are not comfortable camping in wild Alaska, several lodges offer overnight accommodations, hot showers, food, and beverages. The Brooks Lodge and the Grosvenor Lodge are located in the park and are comfortable and convenient. Other lodging options are the Battle River Wilderness Retreat, the Katmai Wilderness Lodge, and the Royal Wolf Lodge. Get warm and dry after your day exploring Alaska and observing some of the majestic bears.
Fly Over Katmai
Some people report that the best way to see the park is by flightseeing. Several air taxi companies offer flightseeing tours over the wild tundra. From the air, you can see salmon in the rivers, bears, lakes, the Pacific coast, volcanoes, mountains and the stunning scenery of a national park and preserve. Capture some amazing photos or videos from the air for an experience you’ll never forget.
Water Activities and Fun
Katmai is loaded with rivers, ponds, lakes, and streams to explore. Are you an avid boater? Then this is the place for you. All waterways are open to boating if you follow the United States Coast Guard and Alaska State Regulations and rules. The most popular areas to the boat are Naknek Lake which is the easiest to get to and also the largest, as well as the Savonoski Loop which is a kayakers dream and the American Creek, Moraine Creek and Funnel Creek as they are famous for rafting. While you’re out on the water, how about trying to catch some of the healthiest and biggest fish you may ever see? Alaska is famous for fishing, as the size, taste, appearance, and health of the creatures are fantastic. The catch and release method is enforced, and anglers can try their luck against the huge trout that swim the streams. If you’re trying to fish for salmon, you may be competing with the bears and might see a few!
Explore the Backcountry
Are you ready for some wild exploration? Most campers and hikers find that they need more than just the basic knowledge of camping and hiking here. This is a wilderness park, and there are less than five miles of maintained and designated trails to take. Hikers and campers are encouraged to purchase and carry bear spray and to store their food properly. Have a plan in place of where you would like to go and camp, fires, and fishing are allowed if you follow the rules. This is a mostly unpopulated and wild territory, so come prepared with the proper provisions and protections and leave no trace behind to keep Alaska wild, untouched and beautiful.
The Famous Brown Bears of Katmai
The massive brown bears and grizzly bears that call Katmai home can be readily seen in the streams and rivers during the salmon season. Visitors should be aware that bears are frequently seen and can come quite close to humans, especially if they’re fishing or if food is involved. One of the best areas is known as Brooks Falls, which has a viewing deck built up above the river, where visitors can safely watch the bears try to catch their next meal in the cold waters. Two other viewing decks were built for viewing possibilities and visitor safety to see the great bears in their natural habitat. Brooks Camp has especially known for encounters with bears and the Katmai National Park website has safety briefings and ideas to read before you go. When standing on the viewing deck, please keep your voices low and movements to a minimum. Loud noises and quick movements may prevent many bears from entering the water to catch fish and turn the flash off of cameras as it scares them away and disrupts the natural feeding and hunting of these large mammals. Katmai has delighted guests around the globe with its “bear cams,” so if you can’t ever make it to the park, you can watch the bears via live camera feeds, or re-runs during the offseason.
When Should I Go?
Katmai Park and preserve are open all year round; however, the prime bear viewing season is June 1st through September 17th. Most visitors schedule their visiting times between June and October, as there are concessionaires, transportation, and other services to use during this time, as well as more beautiful weather. The weather at Katmai can be unpredictable, wet and stormy. When visiting, bring some waterproof jacket or cover and preferably warmer clothes. The park is located between the North Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea, both known for violent weather systems. Wet and cold conditions are the norm here, so pack layers, wear layers and bring high-quality waterproof and weatherproof outerwear. The bears have beautiful thick, fluffy coats, but humans in Katmai will need some protection.
There’s No Nature Like Katmai Nature
Huge rainbow trout, wild salmon, large bears and rugged wilderness reside in this park that is mostly untouched by humans. Here nature and the wildlife reign supreme and human contact and population are virtually non-existent. The bears are the main attraction and viewing opportunities, as well as encounters, are frequent. Explore the wilderness of Katmai National Park, to discover the beauty that isn’t human-made and remains wild.