Katmai Overview

Katmai National Park and Preserve, located on the northern Alaska Peninsula in the U.S. state of Alaska, is a wild and remote wilderness area known for its spectacular volcanic landscape and large populations of brown bears. Encompassing over 4 million acres (about 16,187 square kilometers), the park was established in 1918 to protect the area around the Novarupta Volcano, site of the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. Today, Katmai is a haven for scientists, adventurers, and nature enthusiasts alike, offering unparalleled opportunities to study volcanic processes, observe wildlife, and explore vast, untouched landscapes.

The heart of Katmai National Park is the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, an ash-filled valley created by the 1912 Novarupta eruption. This catastrophic event produced a pyroclastic flow that covered an area of about 40 square miles (104 square kilometers) with ash and pumice, creating a surreal, moon-like landscape that visitors can explore today. Beyond this valley, the park features a diverse range of habitats, from the rugged coastlines of the Shelikof Strait to the verdant forests and crystal-clear lakes and rivers teeming with salmon.

Katmai is perhaps best known for its brown bears. The park’s rivers and streams are some of the best places in the world to observe brown bears in their natural habitat, especially during the salmon run when bears congregate in large numbers to fish. Brooks Falls is one of the most famous spots for bear watching, where visitors can safely watch bears catching leaping salmon from platforms.

In addition to its geological and wildlife attractions, Katmai offers a range of outdoor activities, including fishing, kayaking, camping, and hiking. Despite its remote location, accessible only by boat or plane, Katmai attracts thousands of visitors each year who come to witness its natural wonders and wild beauty. Katmai National Park and Preserve stands as a powerful reminder of nature’s forces and the resilience of the wilderness.

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Park Map
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Katmai National Park Highlights


Katmai National Park, renowned for its dramatic landscapes and abundant salmon runs, serves as a prime habitat for a range of predator species that play integral roles in the park’s ecological dynamics, offering visitors unparalleled opportunities to observe these magnificent creatures in their natural setting.

Brown Bear The park’s most famous inhabitants, Brown Bears congregate at Brooks Falls to feast on salmon, providing iconic wildlife viewing experiences for visitors.

Gray Wolf Elusive and captivating, the Gray Wolf roams Katmai’s wilderness, hunting in packs for a variety of prey, from salmon to smaller mammals.

Bald Eagle Majestic Bald Eagles are frequently seen soaring above the park’s rivers, diving to snatch fish with their talons, a symbol of wilderness and freedom.

Red Fox The adaptable Red Fox, with its striking red fur, can be seen across Katmai, hunting rodents and birds in the park’s diverse habitats.

River Otter Playful River Otters glide through Katmai’s waterways, their social behavior and fishing skills a delight to witness in the park’s rivers and lakes.

Katmai National Park’s predator species, from the powerful Brown Bear to the sleek River Otter, illustrate the complexity and beauty of the park’s natural ecosystems, drawing visitors into the heart of Alaska’s wild.


Katmai National Park, a wild and pristine landscape in Alaska, is not only a haven for its famous predators but also supports a diverse array of other wildlife species, each contributing to the rich tapestry of life in this unique ecosystem, where visitors can witness the interconnectedness of nature in dramatic settings.

Sockeye Salmon Central to Katmai’s ecosystem, Sockeye Salmon undertake a massive annual migration, providing essential nutrients to the land and its inhabitants.

Moose The solitary Moose roams Katmai’s forests and wetlands, browsing on willows and aquatic plants, a majestic sight against the park’s backdrop.

Beaver As nature’s engineers, Beavers shape the park’s waterways, creating ponds and wetlands that support a wide range of species with their dams.

Harlequin Duck Colorful and distinctive, Harlequin Ducks are often spotted in the park’s fast-flowing rivers and near coastal areas, feeding on invertebrates.

Trumpeter Swan The elegant Trumpeter Swan, with its long neck and pure white feathers, graces Katmai’s lakes and rivers, the largest of North American waterfowl.

Belted Kingfisher Often heard before seen, the Belted Kingfisher dives into water to catch fish, a blue flash against the park’s rivers and streams.

Common Loon The haunting call of the Common Loon echoes across Katmai’s lakes, a quintessential sound of the north, admired for its striking black and white plumage.

Tundra Swan Migratory Tundra Swans stop in Katmai during their long journeys, their presence a sign of the changing seasons in Alaska’s vast landscapes.

Arctic Tern Notable for having the longest migration of any bird, Arctic Terns visit Katmai, showcasing incredible endurance as they travel between poles.

American Dipper Unique among songbirds for its aquatic habits, the American Dipper is seen submerged in streams, searching for insects, a small but mighty presence.

Katmai National Park’s diverse array of wildlife, from the vital Sockeye Salmon to the migratory Arctic Tern, showcases the park’s role as a critical sanctuary for species navigating the challenges and opportunities of life in Alaska’s dynamic environments.

Engaging Katmai National Park

Experience the thrill of observing coastal brown bears in their natural habitat at Katmai National Park. During the summer months, brown bears congregate along the Brooks River to feast on spawning salmon, providing incredible opportunities for wildlife viewing.

Visit the park’s bear viewing platforms to watch as these magnificent animals fish, play, and interact with one another in close proximity to visitors. With luck, you may witness bears catching salmon in mid-air or engaging in playful antics along the riverbanks, creating unforgettable memories of Alaska’s iconic wildlife.

Explore the rugged wilderness of Katmai National Park on its network of hiking trails. From short nature walks to challenging backcountry treks, the park offers opportunities for hikers of all skill levels to immerse themselves in its pristine landscapes.

Traverse volcanic terrain, hike through dense forests, and discover hidden lakes and waterfalls as you explore the park’s diverse ecosystems. Highlights include the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, where hikers can explore the aftermath of the 1912 volcanic eruption, and the Dumpling Mountain Trail, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

Take to the skies on a flightseeing tour of Katmai National Park and experience its breathtaking landscapes from a unique perspective. Fly over the park’s volcanic peaks, glaciers, and coastal habitats, enjoying bird’s-eye views of its stunning natural beauty.

Keep an eye out for wildlife such as brown bears, moose, and bald eagles as you soar above the rugged wilderness of Alaska’s Katmai National Park. Flightseeing tours offer a thrilling and unforgettable way to experience the park’s remote and inaccessible areas, providing opportunities for photography, wildlife viewing, and adventure.

Katmai National Park Trails

Brooks Falls Trail

Rating: Easy

Distance and Elevation Gain: About 1.2 miles round trip with minimal elevation gain

Description: This trail leads to the famous Brooks Falls, where visitors can watch brown bears catching salmon from platforms. The walk is easy and accessible, offering a unique opportunity to observe bears in their natural habitat, along with stunning views of the Brooks River and surrounding forest.

Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes

Rating: Moderate to Strenuous

Distance and Elevation Gain: Variable, up to 23 miles round trip for a full-day hike with significant elevation gain

Description: Visitors can explore the ash-filled valley created by the 1912 Novarupta eruption, one of the 20th century’s largest.

Guided tours offer insights into the volcanic landscape, with options for shorter walks or more extended hikes into the valley, showcasing unique geological features and vast, moon-like vistas.

Dumpling Mountain Trail

umpling Mountain Trail

Rating: Moderate to Strenuous

Distance and Elevation Gain: Up to 4 miles one way with an elevation gain of about 2,400 feet

Description: Offering panoramic views of Naknek Lake and Brooks Camp, this trail challenges hikers with its steep ascent but rewards with spectacular landscapes and potential wildlife sightings, including bears and moose. The summit provides one of the park’s best vantage points.

Three Forks Overlook

Rating: Easy to Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: Accessible by bus tour with short walks at overlooks

Description: Part of the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes tour, this overlook offers breathtaking views of the confluence of three rivers amid the volcanic landscape. Short walks from the bus stops allow visitors to experience the vastness and beauty of the valley from various perspectives.

Bear Viewing Platforms at Brooks Camp

Rating: Easy

Distance and Elevation Gain: Various short walks with minimal elevation gain

Description: While not traditional trails, the network of boardwalks and viewing platforms around Brooks Camp provides safe and accessible ways to observe bears and other wildlife. These areas offer incredible opportunities for photography and wildlife observation, making them a highlight of any visit to Katmai.


1. What is Katmai National Park known for?

Katmai National Park, located in southern Alaska, is known for its spectacular volcanic landscapes, abundant wildlife, and world-renowned brown bear viewing opportunities.

The park is home to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, a vast volcanic landscape created by the eruption of Novarupta Volcano in 1912. Visitors come to Katmai to explore this otherworldly terrain, characterized by deep gorges, steaming fumaroles, and colorful ash deposits.

Additionally, Katmai is famous for its population of coastal brown bears, which gather along the Brooks River during the summer months to feed on spawning salmon.

The park’s bear viewing platforms offer unparalleled opportunities to observe these magnificent animals in their natural habitat, making Katmai a must-visit destination for wildlife enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers.

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  • National Park Service, Katmai,, retrieved April 2024.