Katmai National Park, Alaska
World-famous Brooks Lodge is one of the best places on the planet to view giant Alaskan brown bears—the world's largest coastal grizzlies—at close range. The lodge, in operation since 1950 and originally conceived as a fishing camp, overlooks the Brooks River in the heart of Katmai National Park. Featuring 16 rustic cabins, the lodge is an easy 1-mile walk to the viewing platforms overlooking Brooks Falls, where bears famously fish for salmon as they fatten up for winter hibernation. In September, bears are seen everywhere in the area, not just at the falls.
While the accommodations are rustic, the location more than makes up for the simple amenities. It is a rare privilege indeed to awaken in proximity to the bears when no daytrippers have yet arrived, and to wander the trails in silence later on, after day visitors have flown away, leaving lodge guests alone in their own wilderness haven. And in the high summer months, long hours of daylight extend our bear-viewing opportunities well into the evening, maximizing your encounters.
Cabins at Brooks Lodge accommodate three to four travelers in one large room with four single bunk beds. We match travelers by gender (or by couples, depending on the group). Cabins have private bathroom facilities. Any inconvenience caused by having to share a cabin is more than outweighed by the fact that a stay at Brooks offers many more hours among the bears than other locations, which require visitors to fly in. The main lodge enjoys a view of Naknek Lake and the surrounding forest. Its large circular fireplace is a popular spot for relaxing in the evenings and sharing tales of the day's adventures. Hearty homemade Alaskan fare is served buffet-style three times a day in the lodge dining room. Cocktails are available for purchase at the bar each afternoon and evening.