Cheapest Way to Visit Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park

Updated December 31, 2023. Originally published 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.

bear viewing brooks falls katmai

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.

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.


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

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 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!

I just looked up flight options for July 2024 and found flights available for 12.5K miles one-way.

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.

Katmai Water Taxi operates from June 1 to September 25 and departs multiple times a day. The water taxi takes about 45 minutes and costs $400 per person for roundtrip service.

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 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.

Boardwalk Trail

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 trails

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.

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 and it’s the cheapest way to stay near Brooks Falls.

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, and the campground is operating at full capacity in 2024. It costs $10-$18/night per person to camp in the campground, depending on the time of year. America the Beautiful Access and Senior pass holders can enjoy 50% discounts on camping reservations.

The campground operates from May 1 to October 31 and demand is high during July and September (peak season is June 1 โ€“ September 17.) Campers are limited to 7 nights in July and group size is limited to 6.

Brooks Camp permits can be purchased on Recreation.gov. Reservations for the 2024 season open on January 5, 2024 at 8 a.m. AKST!

Brooks Lodge

If you want to stay at Brooks Lodge, there are cabins that you can reserve. Brooks Lodge rates are $955 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

When I visited Brooks Falls in July 2021, it only cost $311 and I used 10,000 airline miles to fly from Anchorage to King Salmon on Alaska Airlines.

Prices have increased since then so I’ve updated the costs below to reflect the cost to visit Brooks Falls in 2024.

Using Alaska Airlines miles and camping in the campground is still the cheapest way to visit Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park, and you will save so much money by doing this!

However, if you don’t find a good award flight it might make sense to save your miles and pay for the flights in cash.

Round Trip Flight

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

Round Trip Water Taxi

King Salmon to Brooks Camp
$400 USD

Accommodations

Camping for two nights
$36 USD

TOTAL COST

$448 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

Watch My YouTube Video: Brooks Falls Visitor’s Guide


Read More

Katmai National Park Visitor Guide

Brooks Camp Campground Review

Alaska Travel Guide


Pin For Later

Cheapest 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 bear viewing in Alaska.

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

About Andrea Kuuipo

I was born and raised in Anchorage and have been able to travel to many places around Alaska. As an Alaska Travel Blogger, I love sharing my favorite things to see and do in my home state to help others plan an incredible trip!

61 thoughts on “Cheapest Way to Visit Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park”

  1. I would love to visit Brook Falls, it does sound rather expensive. Next September would be good. I was wondering if itโ€™s also possible to fly fish around this area?

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  2. 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?

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  3. 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!

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  4. 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?

    Reply
  5. 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 youโ€™ve been to both places. What place do you recommend to see these bears?

    Reply
    • 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).

      Reply
  6. 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!)

    Reply
  7. 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 it is a 15 minute drive from King Salmon to the water taxi dock- are there buses/shuttles or how do you arrange this? And is there a fee/cost for that transportation, too?

    Thanks again!

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  8. 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 have to wait to go onto the platform?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • 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 Falls Platform.

      Reply
  9. 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!

    Reply
  10. 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?

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
      • 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?

        Reply
  11. 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

    Reply
  12. 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?

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  13. 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! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
  14. 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 and because salmon were a little more scarce there were a lot more bears on the falls (I counted 28 at one point), and in mid June there was no action whatsoever, so avoid June.

    Reply
    • 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?

      Reply
    • 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).

      Reply
  15. 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!

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  16. 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?

    Reply
  17. 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?

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  18. Hi,
    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.

    Reply
  19. 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 equipment) in King Salmon and Homer?
    Thanks in advance.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  20. I already booked the round trip flight from Anchorage to King Salmon on July 7, how can I book the flight from King Salmon to Brooks Camp?

    Reply
  21. Hi Andrea, I was wondering if there is a longish wait to get to the platform, how close do you need to stay in case they call your name? Are you able to walk around a bit? Thanks for the info!

    Reply
  22. Great information, thank you. We’re planning a trip for 2024, and I was planning on doing exactly as you suggested (flight, boat taxi, camping), so it’s good to get confirmation that I’m doing it “right”, planning such a trip can be intimidating! Also, I would add that I was told that the camping reservations for July, which open on Jan 5 on recreation.gov, fill up in about two minutes. So the backcountry option is a nice backup plan, although I must admit that that makes me a bit nervous. Do you have any more tips on how that’s done? Just show up with your gear and hike somewhere?

    Reply
    • Yes, campsites for peak times at Brooks Camp go very quickly once released. It’s definitely possible to get spots through cancellations that happen as it gets closer to summer. You would need to have some flexibility for that though.

      When it comes to backcountry camping, you do just show up with your gear and hike outside of the Brooks Camp Developed Area. When you go through Bear School on arrival, the rangers can advise you on camping locations. You can also email the rangers now to help you plan your backcountry trip.

      Reply
  23. Hi Andrea,
    thank you so much for your article, it is really helpful. As the booking day is getting closer and closer, do you think I could ask a bit about that process? I have pretty much 3 questions. Did you need to create an account (sign in) on recreation.gov prior to booking your camping spot? Did you have to get an Entrance pass for the park itself, or in other words any other requirement besides booking camping and transport? (Do you need to present something else upon your arrival to camp?) And last question, I wanna make sure we are ready for payment. Can you pay in a standard way with your card (meaning card number, validity date and CVC), or did they require other form of payment? I know places get booked fast, so I wanna make sure, we are ready ๐Ÿ™‚
    Thank you so much in forward
    Michal

    Reply
    • Hi Michal, I would recommend being signed into recreation.gov before trying to make your reservation!

      You do not need any entrance pass for Katmai NP – just your transport and/or camping permit. Upon arrival at the visitor center, you will need to share your camping permit info and they will give you tags for your tent. You can easily pay via card and can probably save this info in your recreation account!

      Good luck. I love Katmai and can’t wait to go back!

      Reply
  24. Hello from Hong Kong =].
    Glad to have reached & read your informative blog
    We’ve just been receiving the lottery to stay at Brooks Lodge for 4 nights in early Aug, 2025. But it still a way much expensive & a lot of cost to stay there.
    Since its a long way to Alaska (maybe one time in the life time) and it’s our bucket list to Katmai to see brown bears, would you think staying 4 nights is too much or it’s worth for doing so? Since we can’t camping there. We could only consider day-trip for luck as weather or staying at the lodge. Thanks for your advice!

    Reply
    • As a bucket list trip, 4 nights would be good. Some people are out there for 7 days at a time, usually photographers. The longest I’ve stayed was for 3 nights and think that is a good amount of time. There are other places to visit and walk to nearby. If you do end up on a day trip, you can also stay in King Salmon the night before or after so that you can have a really long day at Brooks Falls. Hope this helps!

      Reply

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