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Bears of Brooks Falls: Solitude Season

6 days with Natural Habitat Adventures   Rating: Deluxe

Itinerary
Click for Dates and Prices Day 1: Anchorage, Alaska
Our brown bear photography adventure begins in Anchorage. Located at the head of Cook Inlet, Alaska's largest city is home to nearly half the state’s residents plus some 1,500 moose, while the ocean at its doorstep is the domain of all five species of Pacific salmon and an endangered population of endemic beluga whales. Wedged between wilderness areas and within sight of the Chugach, Kenai and Talkeetna mountain ranges, Anchorage enjoys both urban culture and access to outdoor adventure. You're met on arrival at the airport and transferred to our hotel, with time to relax before meeting your Expedition Leader and fellow travelers at a welcome dinner this evening. 

Day 2: Anchorage / King Salmon / Brooks Falls Bear Viewing
Fly southwest from Anchorage to King Salmon, an isolated hamlet at the head of the Alaska Peninsula that is the gateway to Katmai National Park. We make the short transfer to Alaska's Gold Creek Lodge to get fitted with our waders before returning to the airport for the 20-minute flight by private floatplane to Brooks Falls. Once we touch down, we stop for a safety talk with local rangers who share the proper protocol for behavior in close proximity to brown bears. They are usually abundant in the area this time of year, spending the fall fattening up on salmon that remain along the Brooks and Naknek rivers. While they won't be fishing in the famous falls this time of year, they linger for the end-of-the-season feast where the rivers meet Naknek Lake. 

Alaska's autumn light is dramatic with the sun hanging low in the southern sky. A golden glow may linger on the landscape as cottonwood and birch leaves turn yellow before succumbing to icy frost.  It’s an irresistible setting for photographing these enormous grizzlies. By late September, bears have consumed so much salmon that their weight is up as much as 40 percent since August, and they sport thick, lustrous coats in preparation for winter. 

Watching bears in the field is a rustic backcountry experience during a season of changing weather, with spare accommodations that include only off-season outhouses at Brooks Camp—but the rewards outweigh any discomfort! After an afternoon of tracking bears in the elements, retreat to our exclusive fly-in wilderness lodge on the Naknek, a tidal river with legendary salmon runs and trophy rainbow trout. A small family-run outpost in the bush, Gold Creek Lodge is our luxury base camp for daily bear-viewing expeditions. We settle in to deluxe yurts and log cabins with private bath, fireplace, sitting area and spacious decks for observing nature, then enjoy a gourmet meal featuring local Alaskan specialties. Once darkness descends, keep an eye out for a possible sighting of the aurora borealis and the chance for some stunning northern lights photography.

Days 3 & 4: Bear Photography in Katmai National Park 
Prepared for unpredictable fall weather that can often be chilly and wet, we follow the bears during full days around Brooks Falls and the surrounding area. Their food supply is prolific, with fish still plentiful following summer's salmon runs that moved from Bristol Bay, the world’s largest fishery, into the Naknek River, Naknek Lake and beyond. Chance encounters with snow or one last silver salmon run are possible at this time of year—both of which optimize opportunities for exceptional photographs. 

Since we taxi in and out of the area in our chartered floatplane, we have the flexibility to follow the bears and land where they’re lingering. We might walk on the wide, level trails around the falls near Brooks Lodge (which is closed for the season, so crowds are nonexistent), or touch down at the river inlet to bushwhack along Naknek Lake to gain the best proximity. With the opportunity for aerial flightseeing, our paths will survey different natural areas each day, offering a rare overhead vista of the Katmai wilderness. Depending on weather and timing, we might have a fly-by of the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes—the site of the 20th century’s largest volcanic explosion that created the Katmai Caldera. Each evening we return to our well-appointed wilderness haven at Gold Creek Lodge, with views over river and forest that are home to bald eagles, moose, bears and other wildlife. Relax in front of the stone fireplace to ward off fall’s chill, and enjoy time after dinner for photo editing and photography lessons, bear lectures, geology talks and more.

Day 5: Bear Viewing / King Salmon / Anchorage 
After a last round of watching and photographing bears in Katmai and some elevated exploration via our private "air taxi" this morning, we fly back to King Salmon, then on to Anchorage. Tonight, our Expedition Leader hosts a farewell dinner to celebrate our adventure among the bears.

Day 6: Anchorage / Depart
Our Alaskan bear expedition comes to a close today as we transfer to the airport for onward flights.
Map
All This Included
Follow the whims of the world’s largest coastal grizzlies in Alaska’s Katmai National Park during a scenic and uncrowded time of year—after the lodge at Brooks Falls closes for the season and most visitors disappear. But numerous bears still congregate here in the fall, indulging in a final round of gluttony before settling in for a long winter’s sleep, and we come to watch them feast. Each day, fly by private floatplane from our luxury fly-in wilderness lodge to the Brooks Falls area, touching down in the bears’ domain. Along the Naknek and Brooks rivers, capture exhilarating images as they devour the remaining bounty from summer’s salmon runs. Autumn’s earthy tones and a low-slung sun cast a golden light upon the scene, a late-season mingling of cubs, healthy females, giant males and subadults. The bears are sated and relaxed, creating thrilling photography subjects for a rare fall wildlife expedition you won’t find anywhere else.
  • Accommodations
  • All meals from dinner on Day 1 to breakfast on final day
  • Drinking water throughout the trip
  • Services of NHA Expedition Leader
  • Local guides and lodge staff
  • Most gratuities
  • Airport transfer on Day 1
  • Chest waders
  • Permits and entrance fees
  • All taxes
Highlights
  • Spend four days photographing Alaskan brown bears at their fattest and furriest, while they gorge on plentiful salmon during the changing seasons
  • Enjoy intimate bear encounters when tourists are scarce, gaining unprecedented access via our private chartered floatplane, with wilderness flightseeing en route
  • Immerse in bush luxury at Alaska's Gold Creek Lodge, a fly-in wilderness retreat that ensures a warm and inviting staging ground for chilly late-season bear viewing 
Accommodations
Anchorage: Anchorage Marriott Downtown
King Salmon: Alaska's Gold Creek Lodge
Notes
  • Group Size Limit: 12 Travelers.
  • Not Included: Travel to and from start and end point of trip, interior airfare from Anchorage to King Salmon and King Salmon to Brooks (to be added to your invoice and subject to price change through the day of departure), alcoholic beverages, some gratuities, passport and visa fees, optional activities, airport transfer on final day, items of a personal nature (phone calls, souvenirs, etc.), airline baggage fees, airport and departure taxes, optional travel insurance.
  • Physical Requirements: Difficult. This exploratory expedition to see fall bears in the Brooks Falls region requires a high degree of agility and physical fitness in terrain that can be difficult to navigate. At times, travelers may need to walk up to two miles to reach the daily bear-viewing location, in varied conditions that may include rough, uneven terrain, bushwhacking through heavy brush, walking in shallow water, and walking through mud while wearing chest waders (which can feel a bit awkward and uncomfortable)—while carrying all of your own gear including camera equipment. Weather is highly changeable at this time of year and may be inclement, with rain or even snow possible. In order to maximize bear-viewing opportunities, we will spend long days in the field. Once at the bear-viewing site, physical activity is quite limited. We may spend several hours sitting on the ground in essentially one spot with little movement. For safety reasons, it is not possible to split the group: individuals may not opt to return to the lodge early or to stay in one place while the rest of the group moves on. Travelers must be of sound health and able to maintain a positive attitude in a wild, remote and unpredictable setting.
  • This trip begins and ends in Anchorage. Arrive in Anchorage, Alaska by 4 pm on Day 1 in order to attend a 6 pm orientation with our Expedition Leader followed by a 7 pm welcome dinner. You are free to depart Anchorage anytime on the final day.
  • Please ask your Vacations To Go travel counselor for more information.
Terms and Conditions
For Natural Habitat Adventures terms and conditions, please click here.

* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.