Amidst the Alaskan Brown Bear
Enter the world of the coastal 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 habitat as they eat sedges and clams, play with their siblings, sleep, and fish for salmon.
Admiralty Island is at the center of Southeast Alaska's Tongass National Forest. The native Tlingit people call this place "Kootznoowoo" (from Xutsnoowú) meaning “fortress of the bears”. Containing over a million acres, its gentle mountain slopes and steady precipitation create a lush temperate rainforest and rich salmon spawning habitat making it an ideal home for the Alaskan brown bear. The island boasts one of the healthiest brown bear populations in the world -- around 1500 of them roam the island anywhere from its rugged alpine ridgelines to expansive marine estuaries. These coastal brown bears are akin to the "grizzlies" of the interior and are 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 throughout the summer.
Bears gather here when the pink and chum salmon return to spawn in their natal stream. Like all things wild, it is not possible to know exactly when the salmon runs begin in Pack Creek as it is part of an intricate and dynamic system. In the last several years bears begin catching fish between the second and last week of July.
The Pack Creek ecosystem is home to more than just brown bears. The wilderness world of Pack Creek provides endless opportunities for inspiration and discovery. 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 rainforest 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. Pack Creek has no facilities. There are two primary areas to view bears at Pack Creek. You can choose to walk along the beach to the viewing spit or hike one mile to an observation tower where you can view bears from above.
No humans or bears have ever been harmed at Pack Creek. 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 create a unique opportunity for visitors to witness bears in their natural environment, unbothered by human presence.
This permit allows the permit holder to visit Pack Creek Bear Viewing Area 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. April 1 to September 30. All public permits go on sale February 1. Permits need to be purchased online prior to arrival at Pack Creek.
Permits are limited: only 24 visitors are allowed per day between April 1 and September 30. Half of the 24 permits available are for public purchase, and the other half are reserved for commercial companies to provide guided tours to Pack Creek. These numbers are averaged weekly.
Permits are not required between October 1 - March 30.
Permits are required for all visitors to Pack Creek Bear Viewing Area between April 1st and Sept 30th.
What to expect
When you arrive at Pack Creek you will disembark the plane or boat into 8-16 inches of water on the beach. Access to the bear viewing area requires stepping in water. Rubber boots are necessary for keeping feet dry when exiting planes and boats. There are outhaul lines to moor kayaks and tenders from June 1 - September 30. A Forest Service or Alaska Department of Fish and Game ranger will be on site to greet you in the arrival area from June 1th - September 10th. It is anticipated that rangers will be in the area but have a reduced presence in May, and it is unlikely that rangers will be onshore in April or late September due to the low bear activity and weather conditions. Please be aware that while bears may be encountered any time in the Pack Creek area, the numbers of bears you may see is less predictable outside of June 1 -September 10. Please contact Admiralty National Monument at 1-907-586-8800 if you considering a visit to Pack Creek outside of June 1 - September 10th for expected conditions.
You can choose to walk the beach to the viewing spit 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 restricted to the entrance site and it is important to store all food in the bear-proof lockers provided upon leaving this area.
Always 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 16.5 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.
Camping 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. There are kayaks on Windfall Island that can be rented from Alaska Boat & Kayak before your trip. Remember that you are camping in bear country and you must hang your food high and/or use a bear-resistant container. We ask that you utilize Leave No Trace practices during your stay to minimize the impact of your trip.
Pack Creek Fees:
April 1st through July 4th, August 26th through September 30th
Adult (16 to 61): $20
Senior (over 61): $10
Junior (under 16): $10
July 5th through August 25th
Adult (16 to 61): $50
Senior (over 61): $25
Junior (under 16): $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.
April 1 - September 30
Cancellations: If permits are cancelled through 8 days prior to the entry date, cancellations are eligible to receive a refund.
No refunds will be issued less than 8 days before entry date.
Change Policy: Changes are allowed if they are made greater than 7 days before the date of entry.
8510 Mendenhall Loop Road Juneau AK 99801