Bear Viewing in Alaska

Staying in a remote Alaska lodge for multiple days for bear viewing would be ideal but may not be affordable for many visitors to Alaska this summer.  If you are looking for a great value, and an affordable day trip to see Alaska bears the Redoubt Bay Lodge Bear Viewing trip offered by Rust’s Flying Service while staying in Anchorage is a great alternative to an overnight at a remote lodge. Your adventure begins in Anchorage at Lake Hood with Rust’s Flying Service.  I have taken other trips with Rusts and I am always impressed with their quick check in process and friendly staff.  They also offer pick up services for anyone staying in an Anchorage hotel.

For many visitors, a flightseeing trip to see bears is their first trip in a “bush” plane.  A “bush” plane is what Alaskans refer to as a small plane carrying 2-9 passengers that are able to access Alaskan’s many small communities by landing on remote airstrips or lakes. When I went bear-viewing with Rust’s we flew on a Dehavilland Beaver on floats.

Rust’s pilots always assist passengers in getting aboard and provide headphones for the flight. Regardless of where you are seated you have a good view through a window.  After a safety-briefing given by the pilot, the plane is pushed off the docks by the deck hands at Rusts.  Then its time to “taxi” across the lake and wait for approval for take off.  The ride over to Redoubt Bay Lodge is about 70 miles and less than an hour flight.  Along the way the Alaska bush pilot points out interesting sites and any wildlife that may be seen below.

The float plane lands on Big River Lakes which is a chain of lakes whose waters lead to the Big River and on to Cook Inlet. The plane docks near Redoubt Bay Lodge which is the base for the bear-viewing adventure.  Redoubt Bay lodge staff always greets each planes arrival.  Redoubt Bay lodge is the only lodge located on the lake so that in itself makes this an adventure like no other.  Redoubt Bay Lodge is beautifully set on a small knoll over looking Big River Lake and below the mountain pass which is the entrance to Lake Clark National Park.  Included in the trip is a nice hearty meal in the lodge, either prior to bear-viewing or afterwards depending on your arrival time.

On the most recent trip I took to Redoubt Bay, we arrived in the afternoon so we enjoyed lunch at the lodge prior to heading down to the dock where you will board a pontoon with your guide.   Even though this is a bear viewing trip the guides also explain quite extensively about the flora and fauna of the area.  On the trip I took, I couldn’t help notice all of the salmon just fighting their way to the stream ahead as we were making our way to the prime bear viewing area.  There were hundreds of salmon and everywhere you looked you could see them jumping in the water.  Once we got to the mouth of the stream we anchored the pontoon boat.  There were a few fishermen as well who had flown in for the day among the boats.  It was the best of both worlds with the anglers getting their salmon but also staying clear enough to get good views of the bears feeding on the salmon.  On our trip, we saw two to three black bears that were feeding on the salmon at the mouth of the stream but also could see some black bears along the outer edges of the cove where we were anchored.

We had plenty of opportunity to take close up photos from a safe distance.  We saw about 5-6 black bears but didn’t see any grizzly bears.  According to our guide they did see a grizzly bear earlier that day.  He also mentioned that bear viewing is unpredictable so either morning or afternoon trips can be good bear viewing times.  After spending quite some time viewing the bears we all decided to stroll along the lake and view some of the waterfalls and other outlying areas around the lodge.  We ended up back at the lodge and waited for our plane back to Anchorage.  My relatives were overwhelmed with the encounter and said this was the best experience they will remember from their Alaska vacation.  I would recommend this trip for families with only older children since it requires lengthy periods of being silent while on the water without a restroom for a few hours.  If you are looking for an experience to see bears close up and in their natural habitat this is one you may want to consider.  Be sure to bring your camera as you’ll want to take lots of photos to bring back home!


  1. Bill and Onagh Ash
    March 18th, 2009 | 6:33 am

    This was one of the most memorable adventures of our trip to Alaska this summer. The staff were great, the bears very visable and amazing. I could of stayed in the boat for hours taking pictures. You get to really see the bears in their natural habitat. What an adventure. These comments are right on. Thanks for recommending this as part of our trip. By the way lunch was not only delicious but beautifully presented.

  2. Kristine Anderson
    June 23rd, 2009 | 5:43 pm

    Hello – I am beginning to search for some relatives I have in Alaska. Originally from Fairbanks, they have a lodge somewhere. The last name is Polick or something like that. Do you know anyone with a similar name?

  3. burnett
    July 17th, 2009 | 5:44 am

    Before our trip, I called to confirm our reservation….they had booked us down on the wrong day. After arrival at the airport, I called for the shuttle…after waiting at the airport for 45, I was called and informed that they had a mix up and to please catch a taxi and they would pay for it. As far as the trip itself, the only problem I have is that Alaska was having warm weather when we were there and I feel it would have been nice to have been informed that bear viewing might be slim. The viewing area is on one lake….the guide took us to two spots to sit and wait for a view. We saw an eagle and a sea otter in our over 2 hrs of sitting. For a price of 600 a person it also would be nice to not have to pay 6.00 for a beer or wine with lunch also. The pilot that brought us home did a great job of flying over glaciers and beautiful lakes and talked with us about the area. The first pilot, not so much. I was very disappointed in this “adventure”. I am not unreasonable to think you can make nature do what we want it too, however the guide informed us that there were about 15-20 bears in this area… have to be lucky to catch one in my opinion.

Leave a reply