Katmai National Park

Katmai National Park is one of the best National Parks in the whole US system. What a gorgeous place with varied scenery and activities like fishing, hiking, bear watching, etc. Katmai National Park is a great place to come with friends or family. It's an easy place to spend a few days although it's a bit complicated to get to. As I mentioned, getting to Katmai National Park is a bit of a hassle although that's part of what makes it cool. We took a small jet from Anchorage to a remote little town called King Salmon. Terminal is on the bay. The seaplane takes about 20 minutes to get to Brooks Camp; which is the main visitor center and lodge in Katmai National Park. It's actually a really cool place to spend a few days and very crowded in summer with loads of interesting people. We even met a couple that was celebrating visiting every US National Park. Of course, once you arrive, you forget about the world but it would have been nice to know for planning purposes. Also, food is pretty good but expensive at Brooks Camp and in Alaska in general. The main reason that Brooks Camp is where it is in Katmai National Park is because it is right next Brooks Falls. This is the epicenter for the famous salmon run. We've all seen it, the one where the bear sits in the water waiting for the salmon to jump into their mouths. This is where that takes place. 90% of photos you've ever seen of that event happen here in Katmai National Park! The best time to go to see this is in July and August. I was there in late June for the beginning of the season but it was still very cool! I literally sat there for hours watching the brown bears at the falls. It was fascinating and adorable and even scary at times. Aside from the novelty of jumping salmon and massive bears in a great setting, it was fun watching the power struggle between the bears. Brown bears are not social animals and feel constantly threatened by other bears. At times, we saw as many as 4 bears in or around the falls at a given time but if the dominant male was in the water, a look would chase off the others. We saw a younger bear get a salmon on one side of the falls while the dominant male was on the other side. The smaller bear took the salmon and ran as fast as possible out of the river and up a hill with his salmon to eat! Whereas the old dog would just eat his right there and wait for more! It was really funny. There are 3 different viewing platforms to watch the bears. There are 2 at Brooks Falls themselves and one other closer to camp by the bridge. These are the only safe places to view bears. The rest of the time you are out in the wilderness and can run into a bear at any time. The park rangers advise talking to alert the bears that you’re there so they don’t get spooked and attack. If you’re walking alone I advise playing your iPod music out loud so they hear you. Each night in the lodge, someone had a story about being confronted by a bear and it was always funny to hear how they reacted. As you probably know, you’re not supposed to scream or make sudden movements. However, everyone runs by instinct, as I am sure I would! Luckily, I was never face to face with one! The other thing that Katmai National Park is famous for and the reason it became a National Park in the first place is the Valley of 10,000 Smokes. Who knew that the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th Century took place in 1912 in Alaska?