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  • Writer's pictureEmerald Air Service

Can Anyone Go Bear Viewing?

Updated: Jan 14, 2022

That’s the question—can anyone go on a bear viewing trip? Or do you need prior experience, knowledge, and training in order to trek out into Katmai National Park and Preserve? In brief, yes—basically anyone can go bear viewing. We’ll unpack this answer more by first looking at the general requirements for bear viewing, then the more specific demands of the two trips that Emerald Air Service provides, and lastly we’ll take a brief look at what you’ll want to bring with you for your adventure in Katmai National Park and Preserve.

NOTE: If you would like more information on our particular bear viewing trips, see our article here or our trips page here, and if you have questions on when you should go bear viewing, see here.

Two brown bear cubs wrestling in Katmai National State Park and Preserve
Photo Credit: Lance Bassett

Who Can Go Bear Viewing?

Virtually anyone can go bear viewing nowadays. Since our trips are led by trained experts, it affords everyone the opportunity to enjoy the wonders of seeing the Alaskan coastal brown bear in the wild. Emerald Air Service provides bear viewing excursions that require no previous training or experience. Outside of what we recommend bringing with you in your day pack, we will also provide some additional gear for your adventure in Alaska’s finest wilderness.

Bear viewing requires no prior experience or training.

Our bear viewing trips are led by trained, experienced naturalist guides. This allows us to provide all of the training necessary the morning of our trips. From bear behavior to what you should do when a bear approaches, our guides are quickly able to bring everyone up to speed on the best practices in bear safety. This enables visitors in Alaska to go bear viewing without having prior experience or training.

Bear viewing requires some physical ability.

There is no age limit for bear viewing—we’ve had children as young as three years old accompany their parents on a bear viewing trip, and we’ve had some guests in their eighties enjoy our trips. If the thought of bear viewing through the Alaskan bush makes you nervous, we can break down the physical requirements into two basic components: (1) boarding our float from the dock and and then deplaning in the field, and (2) being able to hike roughly 3–5 miles during the day. If you can manage these two, then you’re ready to join us on an adventure in Katmai National Park.

Emerald Air Service's turbine De Havilland Otter on Beluga Lake.
On the left, one of our two turbine De Havilland Otter float planes.

Who can go on a guided expedition into Katmai National Park and Preserve?

Our guided expedition into Katmai is the more demanding of the two trips that we offer. As we just said above, the maximum requirements are boarding our float plane and trekking through a few miles of Katmai. Depending on when you go during the summer, we fly to different areas of Katmai Preserve. Earlier in the summer, we’ll be around the coast in areas like Hallo Bay, which features sandy beaches, swampy marshes, and lush fields. Later in the summer, we’ll be around Moraine Creek, which features creeks and the dry subarctic tundra covered in moss.

Who can go to on the self-guided trip to Brooks Falls?

Brooks Falls requires the least physical ability of the trips we offer. Since the Brooks Falls trip is self-guided, you’re able to move at your own pace, and, therefore, walk as many or as few miles as you would like. Much of the bear viewing at Brooks Falls is concentrated around two platform areas, where you can safely enjoy an excellent view of bears fishing at Brooks’ world-famous falls or many of the other gorgeous panoramas Brooks Falls has to offer.

An Alaskan Coastal Brown Bear and her four cubs in Katmai National Park and Preserve
Photo Credit: Ken Day

Do I need to bring anything on a bear viewing trip?

While we do provide some of the equipment that you’ll need during your trip (e.g., hip waders for crossing through creeks), you will still need to bring a daypack with you (you can find a complete packing list for the guided expedition here). For the guided expedition, you’ll need to bring a packed lunch for the field (one that doesn’t have fish or crumbles easily), water, rain gear, layered clothing for cold and wind, extra socks to provide a snug fit for your hip waders, and a belt or pants with a belt loop. Additionally, don’t forget any camera equipment you might want to bring (though, remember you’ll have to carry it all yourself), binoculars, and perhaps some additional memory cards. Insect repellant and sunscreen can be helpful to have on hand as well. And, lastly, we recommend any medications you may need for up to two days. It has never happened in the history of Emerald Air Service, but weather could cause an overnight delay.

For the Brooks Falls trip, some of the packing is the same, but not everything (you can find a complete packing list for Brooks Falls here). You’ll want to pack and lunch and snacks for the day (excluding fish products), rain gear, layered clothing for the cold and wind, and comfortable walking shoes (depending on how wet it is, you may find some of the trails to be muddy). You’ll also want to bring any binoculars for viewing and camera equipment you may want to capture your memories on this bear viewing excursion. Insect repellant and sunscreen can be helpful to have on hand as well. Brooks Falls also has facilities on site to get you out of the weather, or if you’d like, you can also purchase a hot meal on site as well.

As far as backpacks go, you don’t need anything excessive or elaborate. Lighter is better, and you only need enough space for your food, some water, and a few additional items you end up bringing with you. A backpack like any of the ones below are perfectly fine.

Bear Viewing in Katmai National Park and Preserve

Bear viewing has not always been this widely accessible. With our expert guides and some additional provided equipment, Emerald Air Service enables visitors to Alaska the opportunity to see world-class brown bear viewing in Katmai National Park and Preserve.

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