Around the first week of July, depending on the timing of the red salmon run coming up from Bristol Bay, we go to Brooks River Falls in the middle of Katmai. The flight takes about an hour and a half to get across Cook Inlet and past McNeil River (another famous place to watch bears).
We then fly through the mountains, past all the huge interior lakes where we often see moose and caribou along the way. It gives you the feeling of how big the country really is. Sometimes we have to wait in the floatplane for a few minutes to let bears clear the beach. Then, it’s off to the visitors center for a 15 minute briefing from the National Park Service.
We suggest you eat lunch here before going to the river. Next to the visitor center are picnic tables and a cache to store your food and belongings. National Park Rangers are positioned at various points on the trail allowing visitors to hike independently without a guide.
Brooks is the most famous place in Katmai to see bears. It is the place you have probably seen on the Discovery Channel with bears lined up to catch fish as they are jumping up the falls. From where we land, the walk to the falls is about a mile and a half. The trail is easy walking and you won’t need to rush . Most of the time, there are bears on trails and this can cause a delay. Bears have the right-of-way and our trip may be a little longer if one of them decides to nap on the beach next to our plane!
To read about a typical brown bear viewing day in June, August, September at Katmai National Park.