Katmai National Park, Alaska, is a nature lover's paradise—4.2 million acres/1.7 million hectares of fishing, camping, hiking, boating and sightseeing. It includes volcanoes, waterfalls and diverse wildlife. It's an especially good place to see magnificent brown bears—but follow park rangers' instructions to the letter if you encounter one of these powerful and dangerous animals.
The world-famous Brooks River is known for views of bears catching salmon in midair as the fish attempt to clear the falls. Most viewing is done from elevated platforms, although it's possible to see bears on the trail or from the main lodge. The best time to see bears is during the sockeye run in July and August; there's also a run in June.
Also visit the Valley of the 10,000 Smokes—you can walk along the pumice-and-ash floor of what was once the Novarupta Volcano.
Be aware that Katmai is for the hardy and adventurous—only the scenery is deluxe there. Brooks Camp lies at the center of the park (space must be booked months in advance). Other facilities and activities include interpretive programs, lodging, food service, rental canoes and tours. Katmai can be reached by flying to the town of King Salmon 287 mi/462 km southwest of Anchorage, then continuing by smaller aircraft.
Also accessible from King Salmon is Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve, a volcanic caldera (it last erupted in 1911) from which the white-water Aniakchak River cascades. This is one of Alaska's most formidable natural wonders—starkly beautiful but also difficult to reach and, because of high winds in the caldera, a difficult place to camp. It's best reserved for the true adventurer.
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