Backpacking, Camping, Family Camping, Fishing, Hiking, National Parks, Outdoor Education

Katmai National Park and Preserve Quick Guide

Katmai National Park and Preserve

Ever considered being in a setting where you can enjoy salmon fishing while also getting a thrilling view of bears? Then you should visit Katmai National Park and Preserve. The park is home to over 2,200 brown bears. Many of them concentrate on the Brooks River to gorge on the summer salmon runs, making it one of the greatest places in Alaska to see bears. A real wilderness location, Katmai National Park and Preserve are located about 260 miles southwest of Anchorage. So while it is not close to a “major” city it is not as remote as some other Alaskan National Park sites. As of 2019, the park had an estimated 84,000 visitors, and the numbers appear to be growing. 

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Fun Activities at Katmai National Park and Preserve

Walking the Brooks Falls

The Brooks Falls Viewing Platform and Brooks Camp connect via the Brooks Falls Trail. It is a 1.2-mile roundtrip route that is plainly level and quite simple to stroll. This is a great hike for families. It is a quick hike that has some pretty impressive views.


Katmai National Park and Preserve

A premier venue for sport fishing is Katmai National Park. In reality, a lot of the amenities here, including Brooks Camp, were first constructed for fishermen. Within the lakes and rivers of Katmai National Park, anglers can catch several species of Pacific salmon. In addition rainbow trout, arctic char, lake trout, dolly varden, and arctic grayling are present. So get a license and give your fishing skills a go.

Per the National Park Service the following six companies are exclusively authorized by concessions contract to provide jet-boat accessed fishing on American Creek:

Bear Watching

Katmai National Park and Preserve

You must take advantage of your time here to watch the bears frolic around. Brown bears mostly congregate near rivers in July when the salmon make their yearly run to feed on the fish. Just remember to keep your distance. This is a great time to invest in a telephoto lens for your camera!

Go on a Flight Sightseeing Tour.

Observing Katmai National Park from the air is one of the finest ways to fully comprehend its scope and majesty. You will witness the Aleutian Range, a chain of mountain peaks and volcanoes, including the enormous Mount Katmai, as you fly above the shoreline and river basins. The National Park calls this Flightseeing and it is an amazing way to see big stretches of the park all at once.

Be prepared to eat anything while you are at Katmai while staying safe. Learn these backcountry food storage tips now.

Participate in the Fat Bear Awards.

Between July and September, the Katmai bears put on substantial weight in preparation for the oncoming colder months. The National Park Service organizes a contest called “Fat Bear” towards the end of September. Then tourists can vote on which of the chosen twelve fattest bears put on the most weight. The bears are arranged in a bracket, much like March Madness in college basketball, and the voters decide which one advances to the next round. You could do this for fun with friends and family.

The Best Trails at Katmai National Park and Preserve

There will be bears! Make sure to bring bear spray along with you. Trust me, you will be glad you did. An ounce of preparation and all of that! Otherwise, these trails are all excellent ways to explore the backcountry. Talk to a ranger before heading out to make sure that there are not any trail closures or required permits.

Cultural Site Trail

Katmai National Park not only has a remarkable natural legacy, it also has a history dating back over 9,000 years. Some of it may be seen on this route, which leads hikers and tourists past a number of ancient settlements before arriving at a replica of an authentic semi-subterranean native home. Each of the paths is a mile long.

Brooks Falls Trail

This route leads hikers through some kinds of forested areas to two high bear observation platforms at Brooks Falls, and is undoubtedly the most well-traveled trail in the entire park. Since bear encounters are frequent, hikers must be ready to leave the trail so that they can pass safely. Each trail, this route is about 1.2 kilometers long. There are portions along the river that you will need permits for.

Katmai National Park and Preserve
Brooks River is one of Katmai’s most popular fishing destinations. Credit: NPS

Lake Brooks Road

This road departs from Brooks Camp and offers a chance to get some exercise while also viewing a sizable, glacially sculpted lake and the head of the Brooks River. It is a 3.1-km out-and-back path close to King Salmon. In August and September, bears can occasionally be seen fishing at the head of Lake Brooks, which is also a great place to observe salmon spawning.

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Dumpling Mountain Trail

The 800-foot ascent on the Dumpling Mountain Trail, which is a more difficult trek, leads to an overlook with breathtaking views of the Brooks River, Lake Brooks, and Naknek Lake. It travels through a variety of ecosystems, such as alpine tundra and boreal woodland, and there is an option to go on for an additional 2.5 kilometers to the peak of Dumpling Mountain. The 1.5-mile route leads to the lookout. Luckily the National Park has a live feed right from the mountain!

Windy Creek Overlook and Ukak Falls

This walk is a well-liked path that may be reached from Brooks Camp via bus. This is a fantastic option to see Ten Thousand Smokes Valley without committing to a lengthy backcountry expedition. The adjacent Novarupta eruption in 1912 inspired the naming of this valley. The eruption was undoubtedly the biggest in the 20th century.

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The Most Important Places to Visit in Katmai National Park and Preserve

Naknek Lake

Naknek Lake Credit: NPS

Southwest of Anchorage on the Alaskan Peninsula is where you’ll find Naknek Lake. Naknek Lake is a popular place for fishing. By the end of July, around a million sockeye salmon had traveled to the lake and its nearby streams to spawn. The lake is particularly well known for its sockeye fish. The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, a distinctive geological formation, may be seen on the shores of Naknek Lake. For those who are fortunate enough to travel there, Naknek Lake offers the trip of a lifetime.

Trident Volcano

Trident Volcano is located along the volcanic front of the Alaska Peninsula portion of the Aleutian Arc, between Katmai Pass and Mount Katmai. This volcano is actually made up of four connected stratovolcanoes with an andesitic-dacitic composition. As well as a few auxiliary lava domes, so a trip to this place ensures a broadening of your knowledge base. While avian viewing may not be top of your list this is as good a place as you will find to see wildlife.

Mount Katmai

On the Alaska Peninsula in southern Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve, Mount Katmai is a sizable stratovolcano. It was created by the 1912 Novarupta eruption and has an approximate 6.3-mile radius with a core caldera that is two by three miles in size and filled with lakes.

The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes

Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes Credit: NPS

The valley of ten thousand smokes makes for a fantastic hiking destination. With a 1,500-foot elevation difference going both ways, up and down to valley level, the climb is somewhat challenging. It is well worth the walk to reach this confluence. You may choose between doing the Confluence and visiting the Falls. Although the rocks and geology near the confluence are more fascinating, the falls are nonetheless amazing. In this valley, bus excursions and treks are not just fascinating but also educational.

The Site of Kukak Village

The Kukak Village Site is on the southern coast of the Alaska Peninsula in Katmai National Park and Preserve. It is a prehistoric and historic archaeological site. This area is ideal for sightseeing because of its red-brick homes and attractive surroundings.

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Campgrounds in and around Katmai National Park and Preserve

Here are campsites around Katmai along with how other guests have generally rated them. Don’t be surprised when you see an electric fence guarding the camp. It is important to follow all of the safety rules for food storage and bear protection while here. The rangers will be more than happy to help you better understand these rules. Play it safe!

  • Brooks Camp (5.0)
  • Bear Trail Cabins Alaska and Campground (5.0)
  • Naknek river camp (5.0)
  • Brooks Lodge (4.8)
  • K’esugi Ken Campground (4.8)
Large campsites are available. Credit: NPS

If you don’t acquire a spot at any of the campsites, there are other lodges within the camp to select from. Sometimes it is okay to do a little glamping. Especially if you are exploring Alaska!

  • Royal Wolf Lodge
  • Kulik Lodge
  • Katmai Wilderness Lodge
  • Enchanted Lake Lodge
  • Battle River Wilderness Retreat

Final Thoughts on the Katmai National Park and Preserve Quick Guide

Katmai National Park and Preserve is one of those out-of-the-way parks that people often miss. Especially since it is in Alaska. There are not many of us from the lower 48 who make it that far north. However, if you are willing to brave the wilds of Alaska you won’t be disappointed. The Katmai National Park and Preserve are filled with amazing wildlife. Not to mention its stunning vistas. What it does have is a wild landscape filled with amazing hiking and animal viewing. Don’t be afraid to explore remote areas safely.

So when you head to the park, remember to be respectful of nature. Take care of it so future generations can also experience the grandeur of this amazing park. Importantly though, connect with your family and be comfortable finding yourself in the outdoors. Gear up yourself and your family and await the most enjoyable experience ahead.

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