Updated July 23, 2023. Best Way to Visit Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park was originally written in August 2021.
I’ve visited Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park and Preserve twice now 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 in 2015 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, how to get here, where to stay and how to save money while doing it.
- Katmai National Park Facts & FAQ
- Brooks Camp Area Map
- Where is Brooks Falls?
- 3 Ways to Get to Brooks Falls From Anchorage
- Best Way to Visit Brooks Falls
- Brooks Falls Trail to Viewing Platforms
- Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park: Where to Stay
- How to Save Money Visiting Brooks Falls
- Answering Your Questions
AndreaKuuipoAbroad.com contains affiliate links to various products, which means I may earn a small commission for qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my website. Read more about my Affiliate Disclosure.
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
Planning a trip to Alaska? Start with my Alaska Travel Guide
Brooks Camp Area Map
Where is Brooks Falls?
Brooks Falls is located in Katmai National Park, which is about 290 air miles southwest of Anchorage, Alaska.
3 Ways to Get to Brooks Falls From Anchorage
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 Trail to Viewing Platforms
After arriving at Brooks Camp and checking in with the Visitor Center, you will have to attend Bear Safety School with a park ranger. Once you completed your quick class, you are free to walk around Brooks Camp on your own.
The trail to Brooks Falls starts from behind Brooks Lodge. You will go through a metal gate and proceed to follow an elevated boardwalk on what’s called the Boardwalk Trail. There are two platforms on either side of the Brooks River, the North Platform and the South Platform.
After reaching the South Platform (the meeting spot for the Valley of 10,000 Smokes bus tour), you will exit another gate to begin your walk along the Lake Brooks Road. Follow the road through the woods for about 0.5 miles until you see the sign on your left for the Brooks Falls Trail.
Brooks Falls Trail
If you need to use the toilet, this is the last place to do so. Brooks Falls Trail is 0.6 miles and follows a gravel path through the woods. It’s very common to see bears along the trail. When I was out here with my mother, we had to get off the trail and walk into the woods to let a sow and her three cubs pass us on the trail!
The last section of the trail takes you through another gate and onto an elevated platform. You’ll most likely see bears underneath the boardwalk as you’re walking across it. At the end of the boardwalk, you’ll find entrances to two viewing platforms: Brooks Falls Viewing Platform and Riffles Platform.
The Riffles Platform is located down river from Brooks Falls, which makes it a great place to get a straight on shot of the bears fishing on Brooks Falls.
There are still a lot of bears in this area, especially sub adults or even sows with cubs because it’s less competitive.
Most people like to visit Riffles Platform while waiting to get onto Brooks Falls Platform as it’s less busy.
Brooks Falls Viewing Platform
The Brooks Falls Viewing Platform is the main viewing platform to watch the brown bears fishing at Brooks Falls because it’s right next to it. During peak season, the bears are surrounding you and the platform.
But the busy season also means that the platforms are full! Unfortunately, there is a 40 person max capacity for the Brooks Falls Viewing Platform, and it is enforced during peak times.
During this time, you will have 30 minutes on the platform and will get kicked off if there is a waitlist of people trying to get on. In July, the wait time can be up to 2 hours long!
This is why I recommend camping overnight at Brooks Camp.
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 the pandemic. The campground is operating at full capacity again. 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.
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?
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
Pin For Later
Do you have any questions on how to see Brooks Falls or Katmai National Park? Ask them in the comments.