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Why Katmai National Park Should Be on Your Alaska Bucket List

Why Katmai National Park Should Be on Your Alaska Bucket List

Alaska has many amazing adventures. Katmai National Park makes it on many people’s Alaska bucket lists. This remote national park features an abundance of wildlife, including bears, moose, and caribou. Visitors will also encounter raw, beautiful scenery rarely found in other places. Today we will look at Katmai National Park so you can decide if it should make your future travel plan. 

Up Close with Katmai National Park Bears - Adventures in Homer & Seward, Alaska | Go North Ep 15

Where Is Katmai National Park? 

If you try searching for directions to Katmai National Park, you may have trouble. Why? You can only access the park by seaplane or boat. The park’s headquarters are located in King Salmon, about 290 miles from Anchorage. 

Katmai National Park sits on a peninsula in southern Alaska, northwest of Kodiak Island. While you may have a challenge getting there, guests are handsomely rewarded with views of tundra, forests, lakes, and mountains. 

Why Was Katmai Made a National Park? 

Many people wonder why each national park earned the prestigious title. In the case of Katmai National Park, it became a national monument in 1918. It received this designation to preserve the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. 

The Novarupta Volcano created a 100 to 700-ft deep ash flow, and the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes encompasses an impressive 40 square mile area. The park preserves this spectacular landscape and the abundant wildlife within its boundaries.  

Brown bear walking in Katmai National Park.
Go bear sighting while in Katmai National Park.

How to Get to Katmai National Park

Getting to Katmai National Park is half the adventure. You will need to access it via boat or plane. 

For many of the most popular destinations within the national park, you can arrive via air taxi from Anchorage, Dillingham, Homer, King Salmon, or Kodiak. Or you can travel by boat. You can find many charters, tour trips, and air taxi companies to help you out.

view of katmai national park from float plane
Katmai is known for having many bears, but also boasts breathtaking scenery.

What Katmai National Park Is Known For

Many people that visit Katmai National Park go to see the bears. The Peninsula brown bears take a lot of the spotlight, but grizzlies and black bears also call the park home. 

Katmai National Park is also known for its ash-filled valley known as the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. This area is a result of the 1912 eruption of the Novarupta Volcano. This unique feature brings in many who come to explore this massive ash-filled site. 

What to Do and See in Katmai National Park

Once you’ve decided to make the trek to Katmai National Park, you need a plan. Because of the park’s size, you will want to know what you want to see and how to get there before you go. Here are some things to do and see while visiting Katmai.

Hikers on path in Katmai National Park.
Enjoy stunning terrain and unique wildlife in Katmai National Park.

If you want to see bears, head out to Brooks Camp. You can spend days marveling at the beastly bears as they wade in the river. 

Brooks Camp has the most amenities of any area of the park. If you want to have a few conveniences nearby, you will find those comforts here. It has restaurants and lodging for your stay. 

Brooks Camp, Katmai National Park - June 2021

Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes

Exploring the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes in Katmai National Park is a unique experience. You’ll transverse through a landscape formed from a violent volcano. You can explore the still ash-filled valley or hike the lava flows near the Katmai Pass, near a trail once used by Alaskan Natives as a trade route. 

Valley of 10,000 Smokes Tour | Crystal Creek Lodge

Head Out on a Boat

Prefer to see the area from the water? This park has hundreds of miles of rivers and streams. You can take the same waterways that were used by Native Alaskans long ago. Try fishing for salmon while exploring the area by boat. 

If you prefer a still body of water, give Naknek Lake a try. The lake is over 150,000 acres and is the largest lake entirely contained within any American national park. Due to its sheer size, you must file a float plan. If you fail to arrive as scheduled, they will form a search according to where you said you would be.

Know Before You Go: For fishing lovers, Alaska is the perfect place to hit the water. However, before you go make sure to read up on How to Go Salmon Fishing in Alaska.

King Salmon Fishing Naknek River, Bristol Bay Alaska.

Take a Hike

You won’t find many accessible hikes in Katmai National Park, but it certainly has a few worth doing. Those looking for an easy trail will enjoy Lake Brooks Road, while the most advanced hikers will find an adventure in hiking the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes Road. 

Bear rolling on ground in Katmai National Park.
Make sure to “Bear Aware” while in Katmai National Park.

Pro Tip: While exploring Alaska you must visit these 10 Best Small Towns in Alaska.

Bear Safety in Katmai National Park

If you’ve visited other bear populated areas, you will be familiar with the concept of being “Bear Aware.” It is essential to have bear-safe practices for the sake of both yourself and the animals. 

Never leave out food or other items that might attract unwanted visitors. Doing so can lead bears to camp and other human-populated areas, which poses a risk to humans and becomes detrimental to the bear. 

bears in river in Katmai National Park
Four Katmai brown bears in one section of river fishing for salmon

Should you stumble upon a bear unexpectedly, know how to respond. Consider having bear spray on hand. If you are only aware of black bear safety, you will want to learn a bit about grizzly and brown bears too. Black bears can often be timid and scared away, whereas grizzlies and brown bears are less likely to back down from a fight. 

Before heading out, talk with a ranger about any recent bear sightings. They typically can give you a heads up or recommend places you should avoid.

Katmai National Park is an Alaska and Bear Lover’s Ultimate Bucket List Destination

Add this breathtaking park to your bucket list if mountain peaks, bear viewing, and rugged adventure is your idea of the perfect getaway. This destination can provide an authentic Alaskan experience. 

Have you considered visiting Katmai National Park? Do you think it would be worth the effort of getting there? Drop a comment below!

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Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
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