I recently visited Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park and Preserve and it easily became my favorite place for bear viewing in Alaska.
Traveling around Alaska has always been expensive, especially if you want to visit any of the remote national parks that aren’t accessible from Alaska’s main road system.
I was supposed to visit Katmai National Park six years ago when I booked a bear viewing trip with my mom. We drove to Homer and hopped on a floatplane, but on the way over, our guide informed us that the weather was too bad so we would fly to Lake Clark National Park instead. The trip was still amazing but it was also expensive. It cost $650 for a day trip.
After a lot of research and my recent experience, I’ve found the best way to visit Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park, especially for Alaskans.
In this post, I’m going to share how to visit Brooks Falls and how to save money while doing it.
Katmai National Park Facts & FAQ
Size: 4,725,188 acres
Annual Visitors: 84,167 in 2019
Visitor Centers: Brooks Camp Visitor Center, Robert F. Griggs Visitor Center, King Salmon Visitor Center
Entrance Fee: None
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Brooks Camp Area Map
3 Ways to Get to Brooks Falls From Anchorage
Brooks Falls is located in Katmai National Park, which is about 290 air miles southwest of Anchorage, Alaska. The only way to access this national park is by plane or boat. The nearest community is King Salmon, which is about 5 miles from the park entrance.
Once you reach Brooks Camp, you will have to walk 1.2 miles to get to Brooks Falls from the Visitor Center.
Here are three popular ways to visit Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park:
1) Fly from Anchorage to Brooks Camp
If you are short on time then you can book a Katmai day trip from Anchorage. There are a few air transportation providers that will fly you directly into Brooks Camp. These roundtrip flights cost about $950 per person. You can also fly out of Homer, but the price is similar.
2) Fly to King Salmon + Fly to Brooks Camp
Another option is to fly from Anchorage to King Salmon with Ravn Alaska ($319 USD one-way) or Alaska Airlines ($323 USD one-way). After arriving in King Salmon, you can take a chartered flight from King Salmon to Brooks Camp.
3) Fly to King Salmon + Water Taxi to Brooks Camp
This option also gets you to King Salmon on a commercial flight with Ravn Alaska or Alaska Airlines. Once you arrive in King Salmon, you can take a 45-minute water taxi to Brooks Camp. In my opinion, this is the best way to visit Brooks Falls, and I’m going to tell you why.
Best Way to Visit Brooks Falls
If you want to visit Brooks Falls, I recommend flying with Alaska Airlines from Anchorage to King Salmon and then taking a water taxi to Brooks Camp.
The most expensive part of a trip to Brooks Falls is the cost of the flight. Even if you paid $650 USD for a round trip flight from Anchorage to King Salmon and add the cost of the roundtrip water taxi service, you would still pay less than the cost of a day trip.
Use Alaska Airlines Miles
If you want to save a lot of money on your trip, the most affordable option is to use Alaska Airlines miles. This won’t be an option for everybody but a lot of Alaskans tend to have some miles saved up and this is a great way to use them.
When looking at flight options, you’ll be able to find flights for as little as 5,000 miles one-way. This means you can book roundtrip tickets for as little as 10,000 miles + $12 USD!
Another great reason to fly with Alaska Airlines is that you get two free checked bags if you’re a Club 49 member, which makes it so much easier and affordable to bring any camping gear or camera equipment you may need.
Book a Water Taxi
After you arrive in King Salmon, you can take a water taxi to Katmai National Park. The water taxi will shuttle you from the airport and take you across Naknek Lake to reach Brooks Camp. The water taxi takes about 45 minutes and costs $275 per person for roundtrip service.
Katmai Water Taxi operates from June 1 to September 25 and departs multiple times a day.
The benefit of taking the water taxi is that your chances of cancellations are low. It’s common to see cancellations in and out of Brooks Camp due to bad weather, but the weather doesn’t affect the water taxi nearly as much as the floatplanes.
Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park: Where to Stay
The most common places to stay near Brooks Falls are at the Brooks Camp Campground, Brooks Lodge, or in the backcountry.
Brooks Camp Campground
Brooks Camp Campground is located near the beach on the north side of Brooks Camp. It’s about a 5-minute walk from the Visitors Center.
The campground is surrounded by a bear-resistant electric fence to deter bears from entering. You’ll often see many bears along the beach or sleeping along the trails that access the campground.
It’s also equipped with toilets, potable water, a food and gear storage cache, cooking shelters, and fire rings.
Capacity is limited to 60 people, but it was capped at 50% during the 2021 season and again in 2022, due to COVID. As of March 2022, the campground will now be operating at full capacity. It costs $6-$12/night per person to camp in the campground, depending on the time of year.
The campground operates from May 1 to October 31 and demand is high during July and September (peak season is June 1 – September 17.) Brooks Camp reservations are made through Recreation.gov.
Campers are limited to 7 nights in July and group size is limited to 6.
If you want to stay at Brooks Lodge, there are cabins that you can reserve. Brooks Lodge rates are $850 USD/night and the cabin sleeps up to four people.
Usually, you will need to make reservations for Brooks Lodge far in advance as it tends to get booked out.
Brooks Lodge has a bar and serves buffet-style meals. There’s also a cozy fire that you can sit around to dry off or warm up on cold and rainy days.
If you are unable to make reservations for the lodge or campground, you can camp in a backcountry area.
Backcountry camping is not permitted within the Brooks Camp Developed Area (the area within 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of Brooks Falls) year-round so a lot of people will stay near Dumpling Mountain or in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.
Having an electric fence around your campsite is recommended in the backcountry, but it isn’t required. Backcountry areas do not have fees and backcountry permits are not required.
How to Save Money Visiting Brooks Falls
Below, you’ll find a list of my costs to visit Brooks Falls in July 2021. This is the cheapest way to visit Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park. By using Alaska Airlines miles and camping in the campground, I saved so much money!
$311 USD + 10K Miles
Answering Your Questions
What is Brooks Falls known for?
Brooks Falls is known for the brown bears that come every year to feed on the salmon in the river. You can watch bears fish on live webcams at Brooks Falls.
How many days do you need at Brooks Falls?
It’s possible to visit Brooks Falls in one day but I recommend staying the night to have at least two days at Brooks Falls. Some people visit in a day and some people stay for a whole week. If you visit during the busiest time, you can expect to be on a waitlist to get onto the Brooks Falls Platform.
What is the best time to visit Brooks Falls?
The best time to visit Brooks Falls if you want to see brown bears fishing from the falls platform is in July. If you want to see the chonkyy bears then visit Brooks Falls in September after the bears have fattened up for the winter.
How do I get to Brooks Lodge?
Brooks Lodge is located near Naknek Lake in Brooks Camp. You can reach the lodge by taking a plane or boat to Brooks Camp.
Where are the salmon at Brooks Falls?
You can find salmon swimming up from the Brooks River and jumping up the falls.
How much does it cost to go to Katmai National Park?
A day trip to Katmai National Park will cost you around $950 USD. But, there are ways to visit for much cheaper.
YouTube Video: Visit Brooks Falls Katmai National Park
Everything You Need to Know to Visit Katmai National Park in 2023
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Do you have any questions on how to see Brooks Falls or Katmai National Park? Ask them in the comments.
I would love to visit Brook Falls, it does sound rather expensive. Next September would be good. I was wondering if it’s also possible to fly fish around this area?
Hi Jill, You can fish down river from the Riffles platform and near the north and south platforms. You will definitely need a spotter. There are some guided fishing trips in the park as well.
how to you get on the waitlist for the viewing platform?
How long can you stay on the platform?
Is it possible to walk from the visitor center to the camping and also to the viewing platform?
If so, how far is the walk to each?
Hi Diane, To get on the waiting list it is first-come, first-served and a ranger will be at the entrance to the platform taking names. They will give you about 20 minutes I think, but you can keep putting your name back on the waitlist as many times as you want. You can walk to the visitor center to the viewing platform it’s 1.2 miles. Then it takes less than 10 minutes to get from the visitor center to the campsite.
Thanks for sharing your experience and tips! I’m wondering how long it will take to go from king salmon airport to the dock where we can take the water taxi.
For example, if we return from brooks falls to king salmon on a water taxi leaving at 10 am. And it will take 45 min to get back to king salmon. Will that be ok to catch a 11:30 flight? Thanks!
It was about a 15 minute drive. But the water taxi will adjust your pick-up and drop-off times to your flights. It’s better to have the extra time because occasionally there are delayed pickups.
Hi! We live in Anchorage. How close can we get by driving before having to take a boat to Katmai/Brooks Lodge? We want to use our RV to camp in en route to make it cheaper. Any recommendations on full hookup camp grounds on this side of the water to stay for a few days and take the boat over to Brooks Lodge for a day or two?
The closest you could get driving would be Homer. Then you could fly to Katmai.
Question about Katmai vs. Lake Clark. We will be in Alaska Aug 19-24. One of our bucket list items is to see these bears. Katmai said the typical time to see them are July and Sept. You had said you’ve been to both places. What place do you recommend to see these bears?
Hi Natalie, August is still a great time to visit Katmai. If anything the bears just start to move down the river but they are getting chunky at this time! You can look up last year’s Katmai webcam videos on YouTube for reference. Katmai is a really cool experience being able to walk with the bears on your own. Lake Clark will be less people and feel more peaceful because of it. Both are amazing! (I’m actually going back to Katmai this year).
Just a note about the campground – it is actually open from May 1 – October 31 each year (except for 2020 when it did not open at all). Yes, peak times are July and Sep, but as it is becoming more popular, it is getting booked for earlier and later in the season than in the past.
I’ve been camping there for the last 8 years, and it is getting so competitive to get a campsite, especially when they are limiting the capacity ( I did manage to get my 7 nights in late July this year!)
Thanks Kathy! I made the edits. I will also be there again in July, maybe we’ll bump into each other!
Yeah, that would be cool! I’m there the last week of July, usually try to get the week before that, but couldn’t get it this time. Just happy to be going back!
Do you have to win the lottery to gain access into the area?
Nope! There’s usually a lottery to stay at the lodge but you can access the national park at any time and no fees required.
Hi Andrea- this is super helpful! So it sounds like you can do all of this without having to book through a tour company and just sign up for the viewing platform waitlist (first come first serve) when you get there. Did you check out any other areas besides the viewing platform, and are allowed to wander around by yourself, or do you have to go with a guide/ranger? If you went on your own, did you feel safe, as I understand there are bears wandering around everywhere! Although I’m sure that’s part of the fun. Also- you mentioned that… Read more »
Hi Brette, We stayed overnight in the campground so we walked all over. You’ll have to do a bear safety brief with a park ranger so you don’t need a guide after that. This was the best part of being in Katmai.. you’ll literally be walking alongside them. It’s pretty wild! The bears are everywhere, walking, sleeping.. just be aware of your surroundings and you’ll be fine. They know what people are and aren’t interested. If you book the water taxi, the shuttle is included and they’ll pick you up from the airport.
Hi there- a few other questions if you don’t mind! I looked at Alaska flights, and it looks like for July, the outbound from Anchorage to King Salmon doesn’t land until 11:20 am (that’s the earliest flight), and the latest return flight (which is only on certain days- some days there are no AA flights at all) is a 3:30 pm return flight. So that doesn’t give you much time, if any! What times were your AA flights? Also- the NPS website says that wait times for the viewing platform can exceed 1.5 hours in July- how long did you… Read more »
We actually stayed in Katmai overnight. I think that route is best if you have the time to stay at least overnight in King Salmon and take the earliest water taxi the next day. This way you can have a decent day at the falls. But at that point if you only had one day, I would just recommend the day tours from Anchorage. The longest we waited for the platform was about 30 minutes, which was around 2 p.m. If you go during peak hours (10-4) you may have to wait up to 1.5 hours to get onto Brooks… Read more »
Can you recommend some water taxi services to use from King Salmon to Brooks Falls? We will be visiting in July and would be flying Ravn Alaska from Anchorage to King Salmon. Thank you for all the great information!
Hi Lori, We used Katmai Water Taxi. – Andrea
Hi Andrea, greetings from Argentina and thanks for the tips!! I have some questions: you said that “The benefit of taking the water taxi is that your chances of cancellations are low”… but, what are the chances that the Alaska Airlines will cancel a flight? 10%, 30%, 0%? With Ravn Alaska, the chances are more or less the same?
Alaska Airlines flies much larger planes and cancellations are rare. However, if you take a smaller plane with Ravn or get on a bush plane for a day trip, you can expect cancellations when the weather is bad.
Thanks so much for the information. What are the mosquitos like when camping?
Thankfully didn’t really have any issues when I was there end of July!
We will fly end of June from Germany to Anchorage. And we will leave Seward 10 days later for a cruise to Vancouver. Is that really such an easy easy way to see bears at Brooks Falls? Flying to King Salmon and use a water taxi? That is all? In this case
we would stay over night in King Salmon and would go early in the morning. The advantage is, that we would be nearly independent from the Weather.
We have some more days. Any idea fo a wildeness lodge for 3 or 4 days?
We will fly end of June from Germany to Anchorage. Is that really such an easy way to go to Brooks falls? Flying to King Salmon, use a water taxi? That is all you we need to do??
In this case, we would stay 2 nights in King Salmon and would go 2 times early in the morning
In your case, you may just want to do a day tour from Anchorage. But if you can find accommodations in King Salmon then it’s easy enough to book a water taxi and do day trips.
Can you wade out into the river to photograph the bears? How far do you have to be from them.. Thanks..
You must keep a 50 yard distance from the bears. You cannot enter the water near the falls but you can fish downstream (again keeping your distance).
Hi. How populated is area during late August. I’m considering going alone but wondering about my safety of hiking the 1.2 miles alone. What’s your opinion on going alone and any advice?
The area is still busy in August. You can definitely travel alone. There are many park rangers along the way and as long as you follow the bear safety advice, you shouldn’t have any problems.
Hi Andrea! Congrats on the great site, this is super interesting and helpful! Do you know if the Brooks Camp reservation is the same as the permit? I searched recreation.gov for Brooks Camp and it doesn’t come up under campgrounds, I only see an option to reserve a permit. Many thanks in advance for any help! 🙂
Hi Clairie, Yes, it is the same! Once you check-in to Brooks Camp they will give you a “permit.”
As someone who has now been to Brooks Camp 3x (I worked in the Bristol Bay Borough) I can second your opinion of the water taxi being the best option. I took it the last time I went to Katmai and it was just as fast as a flight but less painless. Also some additional observations, if you ever decide to add to your story. I’ve been in June, July, and August. July was by far the best to see salmon jumping at the falls, but it was also the most crowded. The first week of August was less crowded… Read more »
Hi Manda! So, you do recommend the first week of August, instead of the whole month of July, or do you think that the first week of July is good too?
Hi Manda, thanks for sharing your experience! I just got back from my second trip to Katmai and it’s always so amazing. Both times have been in July. Last year we counted about 30 bears at the falls (third week of July) and this time we counted 24 (last week of July).
Hi Andrea, I just want to be sure I understand. Can I visit Brooks Falls on a day visit without a permit and simply be a part of the waitlist at the viewing stations? I was under the impression a permit is required regardless of where one might go to see the bears in Katmai? Thanks in advance!
You can visit without a permit. “Permits” are only required for those camping or fishing. Once you arrive to Brooks Camp, you will go through Bear School and then you can wander around afterwards.
i may have missed this in the discussion… i know you receive a permit once you arrive and go to bear safety school… do you need a reservation at all ahead of time? or just put name on waitlist in july ? just reseravation for taxi and flight?
The permit is for camping (if you reserved Brooks Camp). No reservation is needed. You just show up, go to bear school, and walk on!
Hi great post for information thanks. I am looking at visiting Brooks Falls around June 28th and staying overnight in King Salmon. Coming all the way from New Zealand, whilst there is no guarantee of salmon running and therefore bears feeding I’d just like to ask given the expense involved the likelihood of seeing bears feeding at that time – have you heard please?
You can still see bears at that time but usually it’s not as many as you’d see later in the season. I would go on YouTube and check some of last year’s bear cam footage!
Hi, is water taxi docking close to the Visitor Center?
Yes, the Visitor Center at Brooks is close to where the water taxi docks. It’ll be further up the beach depending on where the float planes are parked. Never more than about a 5 minute walk.
my dream is to visit Brook Falls.
I would book a flight from Anchorage to King Salmon. Can I book a water taxi online in advance? (which website)
When I arrive in Brook Falls/Lodge is there a limited number of people allowed per day?
Do I have to register my visit in advance at the nationalpark?
Any fees to pay?
I would be very glad if you will answer my questions.
Book via the Katmai Water Taxi website. You do not need to worry about visitor limits. You don’t need to register in advance. There are no park fees for Katmai NP.
Thanks for the info. Im planning July 2024 to fly AA fron Anchorage to King Salmon, stay the night then ferry to Brooks falls for the day. Its after that I was hoping to catch a ferry to Homer. My questions are: Is there somewhere I can keep my large backpack at the visitors information whilst I spend the day at the falls? Also do you know a company or website I can book Brooks falls to Homer by ferry? I saw it once but can’t find it now. Also do you know of budget accommodation (i don’t have camping… Read more »
Hi Karan, You can keep your gear in the storage near the Brooks Camp Visitors Center. There is no ferry that goes from Brooks Camp all the way to Homer. I haven’t found budget accommodations in King Salmon, but maybe look at Blue Fly B&B or King Salmon Suites.