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Spotlight: Katmai National Park and Preserve

Spotlight: Katmai National Park and Preserve

An amazing experience awaits in Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve

Katmain Mama Bear & Cubs A mother brown bear and her cubs in Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska.

What You’ll Find

Most people visit Katmai National Park and Preserve in southwest Alaska to see the bears. "There’s no better place for the average person to see a lot of bears in one place," says Roy Wood, Chief of Interpretation and Education at Katmai. He assesses that the area probably holds the densest population of bears anywhere—especially during peak salmon season.

The park was first established in 1918 as a means to protect the Valley of 10,000 Smokes, which is filled with ash flow from a cataclysmic 1912 eruption. This valley is now quiet, yet evidence of the molten rock beneath is still present. Steam plumes occasionally rise from Mounts Mageik, Martin and Trident, and demonstrate the real potential for eruptions to occur. In fact, Mt. Trident has erupted four times in recent decades, with the last eruptive episode taking place in 1968.

Getting There

Katmai National Park and Preserve is located on the Alaska Peninsula, across the Shelikof Strait from Kodiak Island. Park Headquarters is in King Salmon, about 290 air miles southwest of Anchorage. Brooks Camp, approximately 30 air miles from King Salmon, is a common destination for visitors to the park and can only be reached via small float plane or boat.

Stay Here

Brooks Camp Campground is the only developed camping area in the park. It is open from June 1 through September 17. You may book reservations beginning January 5. Don't delay because the campground fills fast.

"It’s not your typical campground," says Wood. "And you’re right on the shore of Naknek Lake in a balsam poplar forest. It's a really beautiful setting."

Fure’s Cabin is a refuge for kayakers, canoers and hikers and is located on the north side of the Bay of Islands in Naknek Lake. Book Fure's Cabin beginning January 5.

Make Sure You

Hop in a motor boat, canoe or kayak and explore the 100 miles of shoreline of Naknek Lake, the fourth largest lake in the U.S. or paddle along the Savonoski Loop. Hike Dumpling Mountain, which overlooks the entire area or take a ranger guided tour of the Valley of 10,000 Smokes. Fishing enthusiasts come to Katmai from around the world for trophy-size rainbow trout and for salmon. Visit Katmai’s fishing page for more information.

Don’t Forget

More than four million acres of Katmai are open to backcountry/wilderness camping without a permit. The Valley of 10,000 Smokes is an alternative dispersed camping area if the Brooks Camp Campground is full. This area does not feature campsite amenities and also does not require a permit.