Points of Interest at Katmai National Park

Situated in southern Alaska, Katmai National Park comprises a vast, rugged wilderness. This remote location is full of lakes, forests, and mountains. If it’s your first time visiting the park, you’ll want to make sure to hit the main points of interest. 

Brooks Falls

These gorgeous waterfalls are the main point of interest in Katmai National Park. The falls are the primary destination for hundreds of the park’s brown bears to go fishing when they come out of hibernation and the salmon begin to swim upstream to Brooks Lake. 

Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes 

When the Novarupta volcano erupted in 1912, the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes was left in its wake. Characterized by deep gorges, lava flows, and volcanic ash, this valley can’t be missed on any visit to Katmai National Park. Natural steam and gas vents provide the “smoke” that can be seen rising up from this valley.

Places to Visit After Katmai National Park

A vast and remote national park situated in southwestern Alaska, Katmai National Park is defined by a beautiful and unforgiving terrain. Visitors to the park will enjoy hiking and exploring the rugged Alaskan wilderness. Once you’ve had your fill of Katmai National Park, continue on to the following destinations. 

Kodiak Island – Located just across the way from Katmai National Park, Kodiak Island is the second largest island in America. The island is a wonderful place to immerse yourself in nature and explore the wildlife that exists there. 

Anchorage, Alaska – The largest city in Alaska, Anchorage is renowned for its fascinating cultural sites which delve into the history and culture of the state’s indigenous groups. Take in the spectacular scenery as you explore this charming city. 

Denali National Park and Preserve – Covering a whopping 6 million acres on Alaska’s mainland, Denali National Park and Preserve is home to Denali, the tallest peak on the continent. Rife with forests, glaciers, and wildlife, Denali makes for an excellent stop before or after your visit to Katmai. 

King Salmon, Alaska – The closest developed town to Katmai National Park, King Salmon is considered to be the gateway to the park, though it can only be accessed by boat or plane. A former WWII military base, King Salmon has a fascinating history worth exploring before your visit to Katmai National Park.

Staying Safe at Katmai National Park

Situated in southwestern Alaska at the base of the Alaskan Peninsula, Katmai National Park encompases a vast, rugged landscape. Defined by wild forests, lakes, mountains, and wildlife, guests to the park must be cautious during their visit. It’s imperative to take the necessary safety precautions when visiting Katmai National Park. 

Weather 

Serious storms are common throughout the year in Katmai National Park, so it’s important to be prepared at a moment’s notice. Bring plenty of rain gear, sturdy hiking shoes, and extra food and water, and make sure to dress in sufficient layers. Temperatures can get very cold in the park so be prepared with the proper clothing.

Wildlife 

Katmai National Park is situated in the heart of bear country, so it’s essential to be prepared with bear safety knowledge. Make sure to store your food, garbage, and scented items in a proper bear-proof container to avoid unwanted visitors. Make plenty of noise while you hike and at your campsite to avoid surprising bears and other wildlife. Never approach wild animals and always maintain a safe distance.

Other Concerns 

Due to the remoteness of this national park, it’s incredibly important to be prepared. Bring all food, water, and emergency supplies with you and be prepared to self-rescue in case of emergency. Consider bringing a satellite phone with you as regular cell coverage is largely unavailable in the park. Make sure someone outside of your group knows your itinerary and where to find you.

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How to Spend a Weekend in Katmai National Park

Located in Southwestern Alaska, Katmai National Park is so remote that it can’t be accessed by car – your only options for visiting are by commercial flight or boat. The nearest town is King Salmon, though it is rather remote. Katmai National Park was established in 1918 and encompasses a large number of prehistoric human artifacts as well as the iconic Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, created by the 1912 eruption of the Novarupta Volcano. Spend a weekend in Katmai viewing wildlife, hiking, fishing and camping.

Photos from Roy Wood

What to Do

Bear Viewing

Join the park’s annual Fat Bear Week competition to watch Katmai’s bears bulk up before their winter hibernation! Catch them feeding on salmon in the Brooks River and at the Brooks Falls. The park has one of the highest concentrations of brown bears in the world, so there’ll be lots of opportunities to view these massive creatures.

Fishing

Katmai National Park is renowned throughout the world for sport fishing. Many visitors to the park partake in the excellent fishing opportunities here. Fishermen can expect to catch salmon, rainbow trout, grayling, and dolly varden.

Hiking

Primarily a wilderness park, there are less than five miles of maintained hiking trails. That said, visitors to the park can still check out the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, one of the original reasons for the park’s preservation.

Where to Stay 

You have a few options for where to stay in Katmai National Park. If you plan to go camping, the Brooks Camp Campground will be your best bet. Be sure to make reservations in advance for the campground! Additionally, there are several lodges within the park that offer overnight accommodation, including Brooks Lodge, Grosvenor Lodge, and Kulik Lodge. Be sure to call ahead to make your booking.

How to Get There

290 miles south of Anchorage, Alaska, you’ll need to either take a small commercial flight from Anchorage to King Salmon, or arrive in the park by floatplane or air taxi.

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Katmai National Park Hosts Annual Fat Bear Week 2020

We hope you’re ready, because Alaska’s Katmai National Park is hosting its annual Fat Bear Week competition yet again! Enter this quirky contest to see which of the park’s bears can get the fattest before their winter hibernation. Bears will lose one third of their body fat during the slumber, so it’s important that they bulk up in order to survive. You’d be surprised how large these bears get in preparation, it’s truly something to see!

These massive beasts feed on sockeye salmon in Katmai National Park and Preserve’s Brooks River to gain the majority of their weight. Avid fans can watch the bears’ progression on remote bear cams set up in the forest. The bears have a hierarchy when it comes to hunting and bulking up for winter, so you’ll want to look out as some of the older bears, who have been tough competitors in the past, have their dominance challenged by the younger, fresher bears.

There are some “favorites” who have really packed on the pounds and are expected to win this year’s competition. Last year’s Fat Bear Week winner was veteran “Holly”, bear number 435, but for your bracket’s sake, you’ll want to keep an eye out for this year’s favorites who could take it all! 

This year’s competition promises to be unique in the wake of the novel Coronavirus pandemic. Typically, visitors flock to this remote region each year to keep eyes on the bears, arriving in loud floatplanes near the bears’ hunting grounds. However, due to the pandemic there are sure to be vastly fewer visitors this year. It’s still unclear how this reduced human interaction will affect the bears, but park rangers will definitely be keeping their eyes peeled for more bears flocking to the river and any unusual behavior in the park around this time.

More than just a wacky and fun way to track the park’s fattest bears, this contest strives to get the community involved in park conservation efforts and help park visitors and supporters connect with what’s going on inside Katmai National Park and Preserve. This competition garners more than 60,000 voters which just goes to show, people really love chubby bears!

If anything, this year’s Fat Bear Week competition will provide a much-needed break from the often bleak reality of 2020 and will allow viewers to lose themselves in the affairs of the bears of the wild Alaskan woods. So fill out your bracket and prepare for some fierce competition! The winner will be crowned this year in October, and we’re wishing all of our bear contestants a fat and successful hibernation!

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