Amidst the Alaskan brown bear.
Enter the world of the great brown bear at the Pack Creek Bear Viewing Area on Admiralty Island, just a short 30 minute float plane ride from Juneau, Alaska. View these magnificent creatures in their natural setting eating sedge and clams, playing with siblings, sleeping and fishing for salmon in mid- to late summer.
Admiralty Island is at the center of southeast Alaska's Tongass National Forest. The native Tlingit people called this place "Kootznoowoo" meaning "fortress of the bears." Containing over a million acres, its gentle mountain slopes and steady precipitation create a lush temperate rain forest and ubiquitous salmon spawning habitat which makes it an ideal home for the Alaskan brown bear. The island boasts one of the healthiest bear populations in the world with approximately one bear per square mile and is home to around 1,500 bears. These coastal brown bears are akin to "grizzlies" of the interior and easily distinguished by a large hump of muscle over their shoulders, as well as a dish-shaped face.
The Nature of Pack Creek
From its headwaters 4000 feet above sea level, Pack Creek descends rapidly to the ocean salt water in upper Seymour Canal. Sediments are deposited at its mouth, creating a 400-acre estuary. These mudflats are an important source of food for many animals, including bears, which feed on clams, shellfish and other creatures.
Of course, the main reason bears gather here are the pink and chum salmon returning to spawn in their natal stream. Peak bear viewing usually follows the return of salmon to Pack Creek, usually the first week on July.
The Pack Creek ecosystem is home to more than just brown bears; Admiralty Island contains the highest concentration of bald eagle nests in the world. Other birds, mammals and marine life thrive in this rich ecosystem of old growth rain forest and coastal marine environments.
The Pack Creek Bear Viewing Area is within a federally designated Wilderness Area. This means there is limited development on site. Upon arrival, a Forest Service or Alaska Department of Fish Game ranger will greet you as you disembark the plane or boat into 8-16 inches of water on the beach. There are outhaul lines to moor kayaks and tenders. Once you have been oriented by a ranger you can choose to walk the beach to the viewing spit where a ranger is stationed or hike about one mile to an observation tower and spend time enjoying the wilderness.
No humans or bears have ever been harmed at Pack Creek. In order to maintain this record and perpetuate quality bear viewing opportunities, all visitors must strictly follow Pack Creek protocols. These behavior protocols perpetuate patterns that maintain a safe and stress free environment for the bears who make Pack Creek their home, and creates the unique opportunity for visitors to witness bears in their natural environment, unbothered by human presence.
A permit is required to visit Pack Creek between June 1 and September 10 and allows you to visit from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. Between July 5 and August 25, only 24 visitors are allowed per day. Half of the season permits are available for public purchase and the other half are reserved for commercial companies to provide guided tours to Pack Creek.
This permit allows the permit holder to visit Pack Creek Bear Viewing Area 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. June 1 to September 10. All public permits go on sale February 1. Permits need to be purchased online prior to arrival at Pack Creek.
Between July 5 and August 25, permits are limited: only 24 visitors are allowed per day. Half of the 24 permits available are for public purchase, the other half are reserved for commercial companies to provide guided tours to Pack Creek.
Permits are not required between September 11 – May 31.
Permits are required for all visitors to Pack Creek Bear Viewing Area between June 1 and Sept 11.
What to expect
Upon arrival, a Forest Service or Alaska Department of Fish and Game ranger will greet you as you disembark the plane or boat into 8-16 inches of water on the beach. Access to and traveling within the bear viewing area requires stepping in water. There is no dock and rubber boots are necessary for keeping feet dry when exiting planes and boats. There are outhaul lines to moor kayaks and tenders.
You can choose to walk the beach to the viewing spit overlooking Pack Creek where a ranger is stationed or hike one mile to the observation tower and spend time enjoying the wilderness. The viewing spit not only overlooks the salmon rich stream but also gives unobstructed views of tidal flats and sedges meadows. The observation tower, nestled in an old growth forest, overlooks Pack Creek providing an aerial view of the activities in the stream.
The Pack Creek Bear Viewing Area is within a Wilderness Area. This means there are no facilities on site: no restroom, no shelter from the elements and no cell phone service. Food is allowed at Pack Creek so it is recommended to bring a lunch if you plan to stay all day. However, food is restricted to the entrance site and it is important to store all food in the bear-proof lockers provided upon leaving this area.
Bring rain gear and extra layers, even if the weather seems to be nice. The weather can turn cold and rainy at any time of the year in southeast Alaska. Average maximum temperature in July in Juneau is 64° F.
Much of the viewing area of Pack Creek is within a tidal estuary. For a couple of hours on a few days each summer, high tides above 17 feet can negatively impact bear viewing and the ability of visitors to travel within the area. Be sure and check the tide book to ensure your trip will not be affected by high tides.
For generations the bears of Pack Creek have witnessed many visitors come and go. Most visitors behave in a consistent and predictable manner causing the bears to become accustomed to human presence. Unlike most bears that do not have regular exposure to humans, Pack Creek bears frequently see predictable behavior from humans each summer, allowing them to continue their normal behaviors without being disturbed by our presence. This behavior is delicate as bears are extremely sensitive to people in unfamiliar areas, human movement and noise. Following the rules will provide a more enjoyable and safer experience for your group as well as all those after you.
The bears of Pack Creek are wild animals and do not follow a predictable schedule. It is recommended that visitors allow themselves as much time as possible. The longer your stay, the more likely you are to see bears, the better photos you'll get and the more rewarding your experience will be.
Children are welcome and encouraged to participate in the Pack Creek experience, but please keep in mind that bears are very sensitive to movement and noise. Visitation to the viewing area requires groups to sit quietly. Please consider the appropriateness of this activity for young children. Quiet activities like coloring books are recommended. Children old enough to walk will need a permit; babies not yet walking do not.
Camping is one of best ways to enjoy the area and is permitted on nearby Windfall Island as well as on Swan Island and in Windfall Harbor. Camping is not permitted in the Pack Creek bear Viewing Area to give the bears time when people are not present. No permit is required for overnight camping outside the Pack Creek Bear Viewing Area, but watercraft transportation is required to leave Pack Creek at the end of the day and travel to your camp. Kayaks are available on Windfall Island from Alaska Boat and Kayak but must be rented prior to your trip. Remember: hang your food high and/or use a bear-resistant container.
|Shoulder Season||Peak Season|
June 1 through July 4 and
August 26 through September 10
|July 5 through Aug 25|
|Shoulder Season Fees||Peak Season Fees|
|Adult (16 to 61): $20||Adult (16 to 61): $50|
|Junior (under 16): $10||Junior (under 16): $25|
|Senior (over 61): $10||Senior (over 61): $25|
*Refunds for permit cancellations/modifications do not include the non-refundable $6 reservation fee.
Once the permit is printed no changes or cancellations are allowed.
July 5 - Aug 25
Cancellations: If permits are cancelled through 15 days prior to the entry date, cancellations are eligible to receive a refund.
No refunds will be issued less than 16 days before entry date.
Change Policy: Changes are allowed if they are made greater than 14 days before the date of entry. Permits are not transferable to another date.
June 1 - July 4 and August 26 - September 10
Cancellations: Refunds will be made up to the day of your reservation.
Change Policy: Changes are allowed at any time for shoulder season dates.
8510 Mendenhall Loop Road Juneau AK 99801