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Katmai National Park

A day in Katmai National Park could end up on an Alaska postcard. A brown bear snaps a jumping salmon out of the air as water rushes over the falls.

Brooks Camp is synonymous with bear viewing in Alaska. Dozens of brown bears congregate at the falls along Brooks River to snap up salmon jumping upstream on the way to spawn. It’s no surprise it’s the most popular portion of the park, drawing visitors on day excursions from May to September. Prime bear months at Brooks are July and September, but the area is amazing at other times of the year for more than its wildlife.

The largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century reformed a great portion of the Katmai landscape. A large lava dome, calderas, ash and superheated steam vents gave this swath of the park a new name: The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. More than 100 years after the eruption, the landscape displays the beautiful, otherworldly signs of this massive change. Bus trips to the valley depart regularly through park concessionaires.

Getting to Katmai from Anchorage is easy. Air charters and scheduled flightseeing tours take off from Lake Hood Seaplane Base and other strips.