Viewing Bears In Alaska: A Once-In-A-Lifetime Wildlife Adventure

Bears In Alaska

Alaska is known as the final frontier because of the massive acreage of landscape that remains wild and uncharted by human presence. The thriving wilderness of Alaska creates the perfect habitat for bears to lead a happy and healthy life. Because the state has the highest population of bears in the world, you’re almost guaranteed the best bear viewing in Alaska.

Bear Viewing At Lake Clark National Park And Preserve - Black And Brown Bears

The best way to see bears in Alaska is to embark on a guided tour with a wildlife professional who can lead you to places like Crescent Lake in the Lake Clark National Park or Brooks Falls on the Brooks Range. Locations like these have viewing platforms so that visitors can enjoy bear viewing without disturbing the creatures as they hunt for salmon and other fish.

Some of the most popular tours for bear viewing in Alaska depart from areas like Anchorage, Kodiak, Homer, and Juneau, where you’ll trek or ride through various national parks and forests like:

  • Katmai National Park

  • Denali National Park

  • Pack Creek Bear Viewing Area

Grizzly Bears At Denali National Park


Experience The Best Bear Viewing In Alaska

Here at Icy Strait Point Excursions, we offer wilderness tours so visitors can have a positive experience searching for bears in Alaska. All of our bear-viewing adventures take place on Chichagof Island, where you’ll discover the densest population of bears per square mile of any other location on Earth.

Your bear-viewing experience also depends on which season you decide to visit. In the early Spring, you can observe grizzlies, brown bears, and other hungry bear species as they make their way out of hibernation. You might see male brown or black bears chasing females during mating season or watch the marvelous sight of bears scooping salmon from the rivers with their massive paws.

No matter what season you decide to visit, make sure to visit our website to lock down your tour of the wild here in Alaska for the best bear-viewing experience.

Bear-Viewing Experience In Alaska


What To Know About The Bear Species In Alaska

Three bear species call the wild landscapes of Alaska home, and each one has unique features that help identify them while you’re on a bear-viewing excursion in the region. The three different species you may encounter here in Alaska are:

  • Black Bears (Ursus americanus)

  • Brown Bears (Ursus arctos)

  • Grizzly Bears (Ursus arctos horribilis)

  • Polar Bears (Ursus maritimus)

You might be wondering why you see four different bear species on our list. Well, brown bears and grizzly bears are the same species, but the term brown bear refers to coastal bears. Grizzly bears tend to stay inland to do their foraging and hunting. Coastal brown bears are bigger than grizzly bears because they have a higher protein diet of salmon and other fish.

You can find brown bears and black bears in any national park in the state, but there are a few differences you should be aware of before heading out on a hike or bear-viewing tour. Both black bears and brown bears come in a variety of colors that make them easily mistaken for one another.

A grizzly bear, or brown bear, has a scooped profile, a hump on their back, straight toes, and long, somewhat curved claws. Brown bears frequently visit Crescent Lake at Lake Clark National Park in Anchorage and Katmai National Park at Brooks Falls to feast on salmon.

Grizzly Bears In Alaska In Summer Months

Black bears are the smallest North American bear and have a straight profile; unlike their grizzly bear cousin, there is no hump on their back, and their toes are spread apart and arced in shape with short curved claws. Black bears also have a variety of fur colors, including cinnamon, brown, and even bluish tones, so even a black bear can have brown fur!

Black Bears In The Wilderness Of Alaska

Polar bears are one of the more elusive bears in the wild of Alaska because they are considered marine mammals due to the amount of time spent on or near sea ice. Polar Bears are incredible swimmers and spend much of their time out in the water, but you can sometimes find polar bears at Bering Land Bridge Natural Reserve or at the Cape Krusenstern National Monument’s Arctic parks.

Elusive Polar Bears In The Wild Of Alaska


The Best Time To See Bear In Alaska

Bears emerge from their cozy hibernation spots around late March into early April, and they stay in the forests to forage for foliage and other food until the salmon run starts in the Spring. The salmon start their runs from the ocean up the rivers into Alaska in July and August, bringing the bears to the mouth of the river and the streams so they can devour their protein-rich salmon meal.

Keeping the salmon runs in mind, July through September is an optimal time for some of the best bear sightings in Alaska. In the Spring and Summer, bears are most active at dawn and dusk, but you can still search for them nearly any time of day.

Bear Try To Catch Salmon


All About Chichagof Island

Chichagof Island is a small island in the ABC islands of Alaska and is found in the state’s panhandle. As the fifth largest island in the United States, Chichagof Island has a landmass of over 75 miles long and 50 miles wide. The island is home to 800 residents in the tiny coastal town of Hoonah, which leaves plenty of space for the highest population of bears anywhere in the world.

If you want to see a brown bear or black bear, your best bet is to visit Chichagof Island in the Spring or Summer for an almost guaranteed bear sighting.

Bears In Chichagof Island


Tips For Successful Bear Viewing

Whether you’re headed to one of the Arctic national parks to try your luck at finding polar bears or trekking into the wild with a professional guide, choosing the right season is always the first consideration to make for a successful trip.

Visitors should consider bringing a scope or binoculars to see wildlife more clearly. Whether in a national park or in the wild, keeping your distance from animals is not only respectful, but it creates a much safer experience. Be patient as you wait to capture a bear sighting with your camera, and listen to the other animals in the area to help you discern if a brown bear or other large creature is ambling nearby.

While you wait to see a bear, make sure to remain quiet and patient. Look for movement in the landscape rather than looking for a brown bear walking through the trees, as their fur is excellent at concealing them among foliage.

Brown Bear In Alaska (Bear Country)


Safety Considerations For Bear Viewing

Though they are sometimes comfortable with the presence of humans, you should never approach or crowd a bear! It’s almost always on the human to foster positive interaction with wildlife, so keeping your distance and following these tips will help you have a beautiful encounter with the wildlife in Alaska.

Visitors should make plenty of noise when traveling through a national park or forest, and if you have your dog with you, they should always be on a lead or left at home. Dogs have a knack for sparking curiosity in bears and have lured them back to their owners accidentally before. Keep you and Fido safe by keeping them close or safely at home.

If you’re camping in the wilderness or at a national park, be sure to bear proof your food and garbage and never leave a trace of your presence behind in the wild. If you see a distant bear who does not see you, turn around and go back the way you came, or give them plenty of room as you move around them.

Make lots of noise and make yourself look big if the bear does see you. Most of the time, bears are curious about people, but they are not aggressive, so they typically will not attack. If one does attack you, curl up in the fetal position and lock your hands behind your head to protect vital organs. If that doesn’t work, fight back! In most cases, a bear who attacks is young, afraid, and easily scared away by prey who fights back.

Bears In Alaska - Bear Viewing


Understanding Bear Behaviors

Bears are very curious creatures who tend to live their lives solo in the forest or along the coastline. They are social, however, which means they tolerate the presence of other bears and even humans as they hunt for food and move about the wilderness.

New objects and situations scare them, but after a brief startled response, they sometimes investigate the item or location non-aggressively. Black bears are excellent at climbing trees, and although grizzlies can climb trees, they prefer to stick to the ground.

Don’t be afraid if you see a bear standing on their hind legs while looking at you! Bears will stand on their haunches to get a better vantage point at something that piqued their curiosity, smell something better, or watch something more clearly. If they start to approach, just put your hands up, wave your arms slowly back and forth, and speak in a deep, loud voice to deter them.

Black Bear Climbing A Tree


An Unbelievable Bucket-List Worthy Experience

Bears are one of the most beautiful creatures in the United States, and it’s an incredible experience to see them thriving in their natural habitat. If you’ve never traveled to Alaska or you have never seen one of these furry friends in the wilderness before, you don’t want to miss out on an unbelievable experience to see these animals in nature.

Here at Icy Strait Point Excursions, we’re excited to help you have a memory-making bear-viewing experience in Alaska. Our expert guides will take you to multiple locations to search for these stunning creatures in the preserved landscape of America’s final frontier!

Visit our website to book your bear viewing trip with one of our local guides!

3 hours
Group Size
Up to 10

Wilderness Tour and Brown Bear Search - LEO, Military, Teacher Discount!

This Alaskan wilderness and bear search tour is offered on Chichagof Island, a one-of-a-kind location with the highest population of bears per square mile of any place on Earth. Depending on the season, catch the bears coming out of hibernation and looking for food; or later on in the season when the bears are mating and eating grasses on the tidal flats. Older males fight each other for dominance and mating rights with the females, who at times are not receptive and force the male to give chase. This is truly an experience for the books, and cameras.

3 hours
Group Size
Up to 30

Guaranteed Whale Watching Tours in Icy Straits - LEO, Military, Teacher Discount!

Join us for the best show in town, a 3-hour whale watching excursion (includes transportation time and approx 2.5 hours on the water) which begins when you board the bus that departs from the Icy Strait Point Excursion Hub, just a short 5-minute walk from your cruise ship. Travel just 1.5 miles through the picturesque landscape of Hoonah, Alaska. On arrival at the Hoonah Harbor, it's “All aboard!” and you’re off for the waters of Icy Straits and the ultimate whale watching experience. The area near Icy Strait Point, with its proximity to Point Adolphus and Glacier Bay, is home to one of the largest summer populations of humpback whales found in Alaska and the whale watching is second to none.

3 hours
Group Size
Up to 6

Saltwater Fishing Adventure

Join local maritime hero Captain Billy, a locally raised Tlingit of Hoonah, Alaska on this unforgettable fishing adventure. His knowledge of area waters is unsurpassed and his desire to share it with you is second to none! Southeast Alaska and Icy Strait in particular, is home to some of the best halibut and salmon fishing around. The biggest halibut on record was caught inside Icy Strait! Hoonah is just a stones throw from Icy Strait so no time is wasted getting to the fishing grounds and the hooks down!

3 hours
Group Size
Up to 12

Kayak Adventure

Your Kayak experience will take you into the peaceful waters of Port Frederick. Enjoy the serenity that can only be had while quietly gliding across the waters near Icy Strait Point enjoying the beautiful Alaskan scenery. Wildlife such as; eagles, seals, sea lions, Sitka black tail deer, whales, and even a bear on the beach are possible sightings. Take a journey into this serene kayak adventure on Icy Strait for an unforgettable experience!

3 hours
Group Size
Up to 14

Whales, Wildlife & Drones

This whale watching tour is personalized, as it takes out a maximum of 14 guests at a time. This allows for a great crew to guest ratio, ensuring your experience is personal. The areas we search near in Hoonah near Icy Strait Point and Point Adolphus are known Humpback whale feeding grounds. Josh has captained in this area for many years and knows the area well! He know how to find the whales! Add in the communication he has with other captains on the other boats, and it's a perfect whale finding system!

What really makes this tour unique is the Drone imagery. Drones are able to see below the water surface and broadcast live video back to the boat.
View pods of orcas effortlessly gliding under the waves, on rare occasions, see humpback calfs playing with their mothers, on rare occasions, the amazing phenomenon of "bubble-net" feeding by groups of humpbacks is seen. Your personal view of the whales is not repaced with drones; just supplemented! You will experience seeing and hearing these amazing animals with your own eyes and ears, and then we take you to the next level with our displays onboard.

4 to 5 hours
Group Size
1 to 6

Freshwater Stream Fishing

Professionally guided stream fishing excursions on the hidden edge waters of Chichagof, Island.

3 hours 30 minutes
Group Size
2 to 10

Icy Strait Birding & Nature Experience

Come experience the birds and nature of Chichagof Island, near Icy Strait Point! Every trip is an adventure in this lush rainforest where Brown Bears outnumber humans. While we love delivering stunning target birds like Varied Thrushes, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Red-breasted Sapsuckers, Bald Eagles, and Steller’s Jays, we aren’t just about birds on this tour. You will be led by an expert birder and naturalist who will set the stage by sharing the human and geological history of the area. You will then get to see how the birds, fish, mammals, plants, forests, rivers, and climate all weave together to create this lush, vibrant ecosystem!