Best Way to Visit Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park: Tips From a Local

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.

128 Grazer and her yearlings at Brooks Falls

Katmai National Park Facts & FAQ

Location: Alaska
Size: 4,725,188 acres
Annual Visitors: 84,167 in 2019
Established: 1918
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

brooks camp map brooks falls alaska
National Park Service

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 katmai
brooks falls brown bears katmai national park

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.

katmai water taxi king salmon

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.

Brooks Lodge

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.

Backcountry Camping

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. 

brooks camp camping brown bears beach naknek lake

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!

Round Trip Flight

Alaska Airlines – Anchorage to King Salmon
*Club 49 members get two free checked bags
$12 USD
+ 10K Miles

Round Trip Water Taxi

King Salmon to Brooks Camp
$275 USD

Accommodations

Camping for two nights
$24 USD

TOTAL COST

$311 USD + 10K Miles

brown bear katmai riffles platform

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


Read More

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Top 15 Things To Do In Homer Alaska

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Pin For Later

Best Way to Visit Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park Alaska. During July, brown bears fish at Brooks Falls. I counted 29 bears in the area at one time. This is one of the best places for bearviewing in Alaska. #brownbears #travealaska #alaksa #bearviewing

Do you have any questions on how to see Brooks Falls or Katmai National Park? Ask them in the comments.

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Jill Wagner
8 months ago

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?

diane dammiller
8 months ago

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?

rachel w
7 months ago

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!

Marna
7 months ago

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?

Natalie
6 months ago

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?

Kathy Dreier
6 months ago

Hi Andrea,
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!)

Kathy Dreier
5 months ago

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!

Denise D'Meo
6 months ago

Do you have to win the lottery to gain access into the area?

Brette S Simon
5 months ago

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 »

Brette S Simon
5 months ago

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 »

Lori V.
5 months ago

Hi Andrea,
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!

Juan
4 months ago

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?

Thomas Jaggers
4 months ago

Thanks so much for the information. What are the mosquitos like when camping?

Horst
4 months ago

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?

Horst
4 months ago

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

Sam Magoo
1 month ago

Can you wade out into the river to photograph the bears? How far do you have to be from them.. Thanks..

Michelle Cox
1 month ago

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?

Clairie
22 days ago

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! 🙂

Manda
22 days ago

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 »

Clairie
22 days ago
Reply to  Manda

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?

Shaun
13 days ago

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!

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