The Alaska Peninsula is incomparably rich and rugged. In this week of adventure, we will show you two wildlife icons of Alaska’s southwest coast: walrus and brown bear. We will spend four days with enormous brown bears and salmon on the Pacific Coast of Katmai National Park and will end our trip with a trip to Alaska’s most reliable walrus colony. This unique trip offers volcanoes, beach combing, hiking, wilderness solitude and world-class wildlife viewing.
The volcanic Alaska Peninsula reaches into the North Pacific and divides the Bering Sea from the Gulf of Alaska. The Bering Sea side hosts a landscape and wildlife representing the Arctic. On the Pacific side, flora and fauna from more temperate latitudes thrive. Join us for an adventure in this rich and wild part of Alaska.
Katmai National Park boasts some of the highest densities of brown bears and the largest brown bears in the world. We plan to camp near these impressive animals so that we can watch them feed and interact in their wilderness home. From our camp in the flower-filled dunes, we can watch sea birds fish, observe bears cruising the beach, and watch the dramatic weather move over this wild landscape.
Our days will be filled with exploration. Tundra hiking is good, beach combing and tide pooling offer twice daily forays among the clams, chitons, anemones, and glass fishing floats. And of course there are the stunningly powerful and majestic bears which can almost always be found either on the beach or in the lush meadows near camp.
Camping on the Pacific Coast among numerous bears and formidable weather may seem a little intimidating to some. Our sturdy and comfortable base camp including a big “cook-tent” near the beach provides adequate shelter no matter what the weather throws at us. By surrounding our camp with a portable electric fence, we take some of the worry out of having an inquisitive bear investigating our gear. With our qualified guides to teach you bear etiquette and our quality equipment you will be able to relax and enjoy the weather and wildlife in one of the most remote and wild places on earth.
500 miles west of Anchorage on the Bering Sea Coast, where black sand beaches stretch beyond the horizon, is one of the most reliable places in Alaska to observe and photograph walrus. Cape Seniavin hosts hundreds, and often thousands, of walrus every summer. Large groups of bull walrus haul-out on the beach to rest between feeding trips in the rich waters of the Bering Sea. The sandy bluffs of the cape provide an ideal vantage for watching and photographing these exceptional animals as they come and go through the surf. Unlike other haul-outs such as Round Island, here the walrus can be photographed and observed from the beach.
Just getting to the walrus colony is an adventure, we fly along the Bering Sea, scanning the beaches for wildlife and other treasures of the sea finally landing at low tide right on the beach. Once we arrive we have much of the day to hike and observe wildlife. We should have the place almost all to ourselves and walrus are sure to outnumber people. It should also be noted that we will take extreme care not to disturb the walrus.
Like all our base camp trips, there is as much or as little exertion and adventure as you choose. Your guide will be happy to lead hikes beyond the horizon, accompany you to watch and interpret animal behavior, or just provide nourishment and insight while you find your own enjoyment in the wilderness. We will take great care not to bother walrus or bears and will always prioritize your safety and the safety of wildlife over good photos.
This is an exceptional wildlife trip, but it is not for everyone. The Alaska Peninsula is infamous for harsh weather, high winds, and fog. Air travel is more likely than not to be delayed. Flexibility and a relaxed attitude are as important as good rain gear.
Last updated: November 25, 2020
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Arrival in King Salmon where we rendezvous at a local lodge. You can spend the afternoon fishing on the Naknek River for salmon of just relax and enjoy being in Alaska.
Weather permitting our flight across the Alaska Peninsula departs in the morning. We fly over the great volcanic spine of the Peninsula and then into the steep fjords of the Pacific Coast. After a bit of reconnoitering, we land on the beach near to where we plan on camping. The mountains are close, vegetation lush, and (with luck) there are bears everywhere.
We have 2 full days to explore and enjoy the Pacific Coast and the bears who live here. We may see bears fishing the creeks, grazing the sedge meadows, or scouring the tide flats. When not entranced by the bears, we can hike up the valley, explore down the beach, or pick a nearby promontory for views of the rocky coast and storm lashed Pacific.
Wake to the sound of breakers and Kittiwakes. After breakfast we pack camp and await the return of our pilot. Weather permitting, we fly back over the peninsula, through the crater of a volcano (still smoking) and back to the comforts of King Salmon. A hot shower and a meal at a table are welcome, but you may miss the solitude and the bears we’ve left behind.
The day will start with breakfast at the lodge before we board the now familiar bush plane. We will make our way down the Bering Sea coast and land in the sand 3/4 of a mile from the walrus haul-out. Walrus can be observed from the beach or we can climb to the top of the bluffs for sweeping views up and down the Alaska Peninsula. Below, the walrus should be resting and bellowing. After a nice afternoon in the company of these one ton beasts we will wing back to King Salmon for one more night.
After a week in the wilds and a great many wildlife sightings there is still time for one more experience, this one not so far off the beaten path, but just as compelling as the rest. We will spend the final morning of the trip at the famous Brooks Falls watching bears snatch salmon from the river and negotiate with each other for the best fishing spots. We won’t have the place to ourselves but it makes a great way to end the trip and the photos will be unbelievable! We arrive back in King Salmon in the afternoon in time to catch a flight back to Anchorage.
Our guide was an encyclopedia on legs. His knowledge for the flora, fauna, and natural history of the tundra is astonishing. He was always willing and ready to teach, to talk, to listen, to do another hike, or to lie low in camp if we were beat. He truly gave us the trip we wanted!
Scheduled and charter flights beyond King Salmon, Alaska
Professional guide service
Wholesome, delicious, and mostly-organic food while in the wilderness
Weather worthy camp, including stoves, cooking & eating utensils, water filters, electric fencing, expedition cook tent, etc.
Repair and safety equipment including satellite phone, first aid kit etc.
Select Rental Gear is available from Arctic Wild
3 nights camping on the Katmai Coast
3 nights lodging in King Salmon
Day trip to Walrus Colony
Day trip to Brooks Falls
Lodging beyond the 3 nights specified (think weather delays)
Guided Fishing Excursions
Transportation to and from King Salmon from Anchorage
Personal clothing and footwear
Gratuity for guide(s)
Though the temperatures should not be extreme, we can expect wind and storms and sun and rain and fog, possibly all in the same day. The area is known as the “birthplace of the winds”. Travel delays due to weather are likely. Rain is assured.