Located on Alaska’s southern peninsula, just north of Kodiak Island, Katmai National Park and Preserve is one of the premier wildlife viewing destinations in the world. Bristol Bay is home to the largest run of Sockeye salmon which attracts a large number of brown bears every July. The majority of Katmai’s visitors come to Brooks Camp just to see and photograph the bears fishing for salmon at Brooks Falls.
Originally the park was formed to protect the region devastated by the 1912 eruption of Novarupta Volcano. The park is named after Mount Katmai, its centerpiece stratovolcano, where a beautiful summit crater lake is located – see picture above. The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, formed by the 1912 eruption, is another highlight of the park. The smokes no longer curl up from its floor but can be explored by ambitious backpackers. There are not many hikes in Katmai considering its immense size but the 2 below are worth checking out! Official Website.
This is the most popular trail in Katmai as you are almost certain to come face to face with brown bears. At the end of the trail, 2 raised platforms offer a great vantage point to watch bears fishing in the Brooks River. This is best in July during the salmon run. Exercise extreme caution! The trailhead begins across the vault toilets .3 miles from the Lower River Platform.
- 1.2 miles – Out and back
- No elevation gain
To reach the summit, hikers have to climb an arduous 2400′. From the top, however, there are spectacular views of the surrounding park and preserve. Or you have the option of hiking only the first 1.5 miles to an overlook with equally stunning views of Naknek Lake, Brooks River, and Lake Brooks. The trailhead can be found next to the Brooks Camp Campground.
- 8.2 miles – Out and back
- 2400′ gain