Best time of year to visit Alaska and see bears

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#1
Beaumont, TX
2,062 Posts
Joined Aug 2004
Can anyone help me with this? My sister and I really want to visit Alaska in 2013, but we want to be able to see bears and other wildlife. We will not be doing a land tour - just a roundtrip cruise from Seattle. Which month is better for upping our chances of seeing bear?

Thank you!

Barbara
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#2
Redmond WA
8,054 Posts
Joined Sep 2009
And your ports are ???? Black bear or grizzly?
This link to the Alaska Fish and Game will help you. At the bottom of the page there's a link to BEAR VIEWING SITES, and when you open that link you'll find the web sites for major sites like Lake Clark, Anan, etc and the peak times to visit, permits, vendors, etc
http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm...s=bears#anchor

In June people who rent cars in Skagway for a drive to the Yukon generally see black bears grazing along the hwy.
#3
9,609 Posts
Joined Jun 2007
Originally posted by mapleleaves
In June people who rent cars in Skagway for a drive to the Yukon generally see black bears grazing along the hwy.
Generally is the key word here. We went in June, and sadly, no bear sightings along the Klondike Highway for us.

OP: With your desire to see bears, I suggest you plan a fly in tour out of Ketchikan or Juneau. These are not cheap tours, but they are your best bet if going during peak time. In Ketchikan most of the tours will be of black bears. You will need to do your homework and find the peak times for the different areas and book accordingly. If you do an advanced search on the Alaska Forum for a title search with the word "bears" in it, you should come up with many previous threads that discuss the best time to see bears.

Here is one you might helpful, esp. post #5:

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showt...99#post9716699

Out of Juneau you can fly to Pack Creek to see brown bears. You will need to obtain your own permit and then find a floatplane operater to fly you out to Pack Creek. You will be met by a ranger who will stay with you the entire time.
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#4
4,183 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
When are you going?

Originally posted by vbmom87
Out of Juneau you can fly to Pack Creek to see brown bears. You will need to obtain your own permit and then find a floatplane operater to fly you out to Pack Creek. You will be met by a ranger who will stay with you the entire time.
That is not totally true. There are "unguided" air taxi companies that will take you there but you need to obtain your own permit. When doing this, you are "on your own" at Pack Creek. From what I have read (both online and in trip reports) is that the ranger is nearby but not "with you the entire time." Was this your case?

One can also get a guided package, whereby the guide gets the permit and they do in fact guide you throughout the entire time at Pack Creek. Obviously this option costs more than the unguided.

This link:

http://www.fs.fed.us/r10/tongass/dis...arter_vs_Guide

also seems to confirm what I said above.
#5
Southern California
4,524 Posts
Joined May 2006
I have a little different perspective on this question since for us the flights are out of the question due to the high cost and a general fear of small planes.

So, in our planning we always do our best to choose a time when we might have the optimal chance of seeing bears on one of our land based excursions. While not as reliable as the flights, we have had pretty good success seeing bears on 4 of our 5 Alaska cruises. Typically for us the key to success has been booking later in the season when the salmon are running and then arranging tours that take us to a lake or river area where the bears might be feeding.

On our cruises we have successfully spotted bears at Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Herring Cove in Ketchikan, on the Klondike Highway outside of Skagway, in Icy Strait Point and in Haines at Chilkat Lake. We always set out knowing that we may or may not be lucky that day, but with at least some careful planning we try to give ourselves the best opportunity to see wildlife given that we won't fly in for viewing. We have learned that planning, patience, a keen eye and good binoculars are important to success. Good luck!
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#6
Beaumont, TX
2,062 Posts
Joined Aug 2004
Originally posted by vbmom87
Generally is the key word here. We went in June, and sadly, no bear sightings along the Klondike Highway for us.

OP: With your desire to see bears, I suggest you plan a fly in tour out of Ketchikan or Juneau. These are not cheap tours, but they are your best bet if going during peak time. In Ketchikan most of the tours will be of black bears. You will need to do your homework and find the peak times for the different areas and book accordingly. If you do an advanced search on the Alaska Forum for a title search with the word "bears" in it, you should come up with many previous threads that discuss the best time to see bears.

Here is one you might helpful, esp. post #5:

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showt...99#post9716699

Out of Juneau you can fly to Pack Creek to see brown bears. You will need to obtain your own permit and then find a floatplane operater to fly you out to Pack Creek. You will be met by a ranger who will stay with you the entire time.
Thank you for this useful information. I will be going to Juneau and Skagway. Can I talk a private excursion to one of these places?

Barbara
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#8
Southern California
4,524 Posts
Joined May 2006
Originally posted by FloGaleRNTX
what month were you lucky enough to see these bears?

Barbara
Mid-July to mid-August.
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#9
morrison, colorado
251 Posts
Joined Mar 2010
The only bears we saw during our cruise was at Mendenhall Glacier on 8/5/12. Mama bear and twin cubs. They were not far from the walking path. We were not on a tour, but hopped on the shuttle to get over there.
#10
68 Posts
Joined May 2011
Originally posted by FloGaleRNTX
Thank you for this useful information. I will be going to Juneau and Skagway. Can I talk a private excursion to one of these places?

Barbara
I went up the Klondike Highway in late May of this year and we spotted 5 black bears and one grizzly (thanks to a local that told us where to look for the grizzly). When we went back in late July there we only spotted one and we were lucky to spot that one because I was talking with one of the tour operators in Caribou Crossing and they hadn't seen anything.

We did rent a car in Juneau and spotted a black bear quite a ways out of town down a little side road.
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#11
Sechelt, BC & Fort Mohave, AZ
26,679 Posts
Joined Sep 2007
Bears like anything in nature do not offer any guarantees but they generally start fattening up for winter on salmon that start running in the rivers in the mid-August thru September time frame. So if I really wanted to see bears (and I don't as I have seen far to many up-close and personal) that is when I would go.
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#12
1,354 Posts
Joined Mar 2007
I went in mid-July this year and had booked a bear excursion a year in advance with Island Wings to go to Anan Creek. It cost $500 pp, but was so worth it. My cruise was booked around that one excursion because seeing the bears was most important to me.

Anan Creek is amazing! You walk about 1/2 mile on a trail and first thing we saw was 3 brown bears (Mom and 3 year old babies) playing in the stream.

The place is the most gorgeous place and is now my favorite place in the world!! Michelle, the pilot with Island Wings told us Anan Creek is the most natural setting and during the time we were there we must have seen 10-15 black bears catching fish and several of them, including a baby walked just feet from the platform.

Check into it! BTW, I went to Alaska last year in June and didn't seen any bears. This year I also hiked all over the Mendenhall Glacier and didn't see any bears.

I did also go on the Taku Lodge excursion out of Juneau and saw several black bears there as well and that was a wonderful excursion, but bear sightings are not guaranteed.
#13
Montgomery, AL
550 Posts
Joined Mar 2002
In August we saw bears at Icy Straits, on a whale watching excursion. We also saw them at Mendenhall Glacier, close to the shuttle parking lot. This was a first for us, didn't see any at all last cruise, also in August, but 2005.
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#14
Michigan
168 Posts
Joined Feb 2010
We just happen to have been on an alaskan cruise when you posted this question and we saw a mom and her two cub's as well as another cub. We took the bus round trip $16 pp in Juneau to the Mendenhall Glacier. It was spectacular, we also bald eagles and salmon there as well.
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#16
Arizona
2,047 Posts
Joined Nov 2010
We were in Ketchikan the last week of August and saw black bears fishing for salmon. The guide said that early August they were out in full force, as many as 8 or 10 at a time. So early August sounds like a winner but there are no guarantees!
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#17
4,183 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
Originally posted by Gig103
We were in Ketchikan the last week of August and saw black bears fishing for salmon. The guide said that early August they were out in full force, as many as 8 or 10 at a time. So early August sounds like a winner but there are no guarantees!
The "guarantees" are only a matter of where one views the bears, not when. In June (and later), Denali is a great bet, especially with multiple trips into the park. In July, Brooks Falls is a great bet. In mid July to mid August, Anan Creek and Pack Creek are great bets. Later than that, Traitors Cove or (the other place from Ketchikan that slips my mind) might be great bets.
#18
North Florida
57 Posts
Joined Feb 2012
Like Frugal said, it really depends on the location as far as timing. I can tell you our experience, as we had similar wildlife viewing goals.

We traveled in late July, and saw bears on two occasions. Once was in Denali, and were all browns, some with cubs.

The second was out of Ketchikan on our cruise. We took a bear viewing fly-in through Family Air Tours into Anan Creek. It was an amazing experience as gdpups said. Definitely one of the highlights of our 17 day trip. We saw about 10-11 separate adult blacks feeding on the salmon, with at least 2 of the sows having cubs. We also got to see several browns there too. One of the sows decided to get a closer look at the observatory and put her paws up on the railing at one point. It was a very active day that day, and we were thrilled to be a part of it. Bear fly-ins are not cheap (we paid $475pp), but if bear viewing is a priority for you (as it was for us), it's worth it. Peak for Anan Creek is mid July to mid August from what I heard. We went to Anan on July 30th, and I'd definitely say it was "peak"! We had some great bald eagle sightings too in that area. I never felt threatened, even though there was a 1/2 mile stretch of trail from the floatplane drop off to the observatory that we traveled unguided. We had bears cross the trail in front/behind us on three separate occasions, and they just didn't seem bothered at all. Very humbling.

Best of luck in your planning!

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#20
Arizona
2,047 Posts
Joined Nov 2010
Originally posted by frugaltravel
The "guarantees" are only a matter of where one views the bears, not when. In June (and later), Denali is a great bet, especially with multiple trips into the park. In July, Brooks Falls is a great bet. In mid July to mid August, Anan Creek and Pack Creek are great bets. Later than that, Traitors Cove or (the other place from Ketchikan that slips my mind) might be great bets.
Good point - my comment above is in reference to Traitor's Cove near the Margaret Creek salmon ladder
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Cruise Bucket List
✓ Alaska
✓ Panama Canal
✓ Egypt / Suez Canal
✓ Middle East
Baltic Sea
Trans-Pacific
Trans-Atlantic
Australia via a repositioning cruise