Katmai National Park - Alaska Bear
Travel Update Summer 2020: Most destinations, sites and parks reopened with limitations. Check the official websites and read our crucial ‘BEST TIME TO GO' and ‘AVOIDING THE CROWDS’ tips:
There are 6 great months in which to view bears in Hallo Bay. So let the activity you want to see determine your trip dates. Hallo Bay does not just depend on an intensive two week period of a salmon run like other areas. This fertile region provides abundant food for the bears.
Mid-May - Mid-July: Mother bears with their cubs – Great time to visit.
The breeding season is drawing to a close and the males having some respite from their aggressive and competitive battles for dominance. The salmon runs will happen next month. But time spent studying the bears this month will be rewarded. The spring meadows of Hallo Bay are now lush with sedge grass and the tidal flats full of clams. The omnivorous nature of the bears is well suited to the changing seasons. You will see bears munching blades of grass, grubbing for roots and vigorously extracting clams from the mud at low tide. This is the season to see mother bears with their new cubs, and the first signs of bears rubbing, so their fur is still in good condition.
Mid-July - Mid-August: Salmon runs - Excellent time to visit.
The beautiful coastal blooms and the fireweed flowers are at their most prolific now. The bears are starting to move inland to the rivers. The nutrients from vegetation and clams are no longer sufficient now that the plump chum and pink salmon are starting their runs. The most dominant bears command the best fishing sites with their subordinates having to make do with the less productive spots up or downstream from them. The bears exhibit their strength and agility in catching the salmon as they cross the shallow gravel beds. There are no natural traps in the Hallo Bay rivers like the local Brooks and McNeil Falls to help the bears. This display of raw power represents bear viewing at its most spectacular. The bears are now losing their old fur by rubbing more energetically in preparation for their new winter coats. You may also be fortunate enough to see wolves!
Mid-August - Mid-September: Salmon runs continue - Excellent time to visit.
In late August, as the days are drawing in and the bears are displaying the start of their new winter fur. The Coho salmon are just starting their spawning runs. The chum and pink are completing theirs. The bears seem to prefer the Coho because they are heavier and fatter. The Coho run is also the largest on this coast and may continue until October. The bears are now back to their mixed diet of fish, mushrooms and mixed berries, preparing for the cold winter ahead.
Mid-September - Mid-October: Bears easily to view along rivers and beaches - Good time to visit.
As the Fall colors provide a beautiful backdrop and the days draw in, the bears spend much of their time resting along the rivers and beaches. The pleasant weather is now interrupted by sudden bursts of rapid storms. You may see the bears, resplendent in their winter fur, feeding on the old salmon that have finished their life cycle after spawning, but new Coho may still be making their way upstream. Berries are also an important part of the bear's’ diet at this time
November - December: Bears preparing to hibernate – Not a good time.
A more unhurried pace in Hallo Bay as the large winter storms (often lasting for days) now become common. This determines the time for the bears to prepare for the winter months.
January - February: Bears hibernate - Not a good time.
Mother bears give birth at this time
April- Early May: Males exhibiting acts of dominance – Visiting possible but not recommended.
This is a post-denning time, and bear movement may be seen close to their dens on the snow-covered upper slopes. On the coastline, it is too early for sedge grass and goose tongue, so the bear movement is less predictable at this time as they grub for roots. The large males are starting a new breeding season by displaying acts of dominance. April to early May is not a good time to view bears in easy to access areas.
Seasonal Bear Activity Overview
Mother and Cubs and mating season – Mid-May to mid-July
Salmon Runs – July to mid-September
Bears Resting – Mid-September to mid-October
Bears Hibernation – November until March
Bear fighting – April to Early May (higher slopes)
Where to Stay
In the past, it was possible to stay in the Katmai National Park. Since the owner of the lodge died, you can stay in Homer only. Day tours by plane to watch the bears feeding are offered from the airport. The Homer Inn and Spa offers spectacular views. It's ideally located close to the airport and the town center. Explore more hotels nearby in Homer.
The Katmai National Park was established in 1918 formerly as a National Monument to protect the volcanic activity especially the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. In 1980 it became a national park, and the boundaries got enlarged for thousands of brown bears and salmon. If you plan to travel to Katmai, you will enter pure wilderness and experience a once in a lifetime adventure.
Best time for bears catching Salmon is around August until Mid September. In June and July, you will see bears eating grass or clams. If you are lucky, you have the chance to see wolves and foxes as well.
Bugs are always a problem in Alaska, but luckily it's often windy at the beach, which helps a lot with the bugs.
The Disney film "Bears" (2014) was shot too at that place (around 50%). There was a tented lodge but closed now.
Pictures provided by Chris
Video by Hasse Andersson