There are few services in the park and preserve. The closest grocery store is located outside of the park in King Salmon. The park does not have a post office within its boundaries, and the closest is also located in King Salmon.
At Brooks Camp, the park concessionaire runs a lodge where meals can be purchased from June 1 through September 17. A few sundry items can also be purchased from the lodge store. No other services are provided to general park visitors.
Katmai is a remote park that cannot be accessed by car.
Katmai National Monument was created in 1918 to preserve the famed Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, a spectacular 40-square-mile, 100- to 700-foot-deep ash flow deposited by Novarupta Volcano. The park includes the Brooks River National Historic Landmark, a site that contains about 900 prehistoric human dwellings, the highest known concentration in North America.
The park contains the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, a forty square mile pyroclastic ash flow left by the 1912 eruption of the Novarupta Volcano and is one of the reasons the park was established.
Flora and fauna
The park contains a huge number of Alaskan brown bears, which grow to enormous size after feeding on the summer salmon runs.
The weather across Katmai can vary considerably during the course of a single day from heavy rain, to cold winds, to warm sun, and back to heavy rain. Summer temperatures range from upper 30s (°F) to low 80s and almost constant winds. Visitors to the park should be prepared for all types of weather.
Summers in Katmai are cool with frequent high winds and rain. Please note that following heavy rainstorms, most rivers in Katmai rise quickly and become extremely hazardous to cross. Insects can be intense and headnets are recommended.
Winter in Katmai means cold, quiet, and beauty. Temperatures can range from −40 °F (−40 °C) to 40 °F (4 °C) with snow or rain possible throughout the season. Generally all bodies of water are frozen with snow covering the high elevations until spring.
Katmai is 290 miles southwest of Anchorage, Alaska. There are daily commercial flights from Anchorage to King Salmon. Commercial air taxis fly daily, weather permitting, from King Salmon, Anchorage and Homer to Brooks Camp. Many individual lodges have their own transportation.
Fees and permits
There are no fees charged for entrance to the park, but fees are charged for camping in the Brooks Camp Campground, staying in Fure's Cabin, and for commercial filming.
- 1 Brooks Camp Visitor Center (Brooks Camp is located on the northern Alaska Peninsula, about 30 miles east of King Salmon and about 290 air miles southwest of Anchorage. Unlike most national park visitor centers in the United States, Brooks Camp's visitor center is only accessible by plane or boat.), ☏ . The Brooks Camp Visitor Center, open June 1–September 17, is the point of entry for all visitors to Brooks Camp. A park ranger is on duty to provide information, campground check-in, mandatory bear etiquette and safety talks, and backcountry planning. An Alaska Geographic Association (AGA) bookstore offers books, maps, and other Katmai-related items. All visitors to Brooks Camp are required to attend the 20-minute Brooks Camp bear safety orientation provided at the Visitor Center.
- 2 King Salmon Visitor Center, 1 King Salmon Airport Rd, King Salmon (next to the passenger terminal at that King Salmon Airport.). Open daily year-round from 8AM-5PM. The King Salmon Visitor Center provides information on the many federal public lands of Southwest Alaska, particularly those in the Bristol Bay area. A large collection of films is available for viewing and an AGA bookstore sells maps, charts, videos, posters, clothing and more.
- 3 Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. The Vallye of Ten Thousand Smokes is a 40 square miles (100 km2) area that was formed after the 1912 eruption of Novarupta filled the valley with ash and formed thousands of steam-venting fumaroles. During the operating season, daily tours are offered to this volcanic valley. Each day from June 1st to September 17th, you can take the bus tour from Brooks Camp out the 23 miles (37 km) park road to explore a tiny piece of the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes with a Park Service Interpreter. The road to the valley travels through the boreal forest, crossing three streams, and into the alpine tundra before arriving at Griggs Visitor Center. After a brief break for lunch, there is time for an optional trip down to the valley floor to see the ash layer close up. The trail is three miles long and drops 800 vertical feet. However, keep in mind that once down on the valley floor to save enough energy for the arduous climb back to the top. Be sure to bring water, rain gear, warm clothing, and sturdy hiking boots for the trip. A fee is charged for the bus tour and reservations can be made from Katmailand, the park concessioner.
Bear viewing - Katmai is one of the premier brown bear viewing areas in the world. The most recent bear survey documented over 2000 brown bears in the park and preserve. Brooks Camp is the most visited area of the park where brown bear congregate to feed on sockeye salmon at the 4 Brooks Falls or the Brooks River. Viewing platforms have been set up to accommodate visitor numbers without affecting bear behavior.
Outside of Brooks Camp, other areas along the coast and in the preserve also host bear viewing activities. On the coast, Hallo Bay and Geographic Harbor are two popular areas. In the preserve, Moraine Creek and Funnel Creek also attract bear viewers. Bears frequent specific areas at different times, primarily related to food availability.
Sport-fishing - Before Katmai was known for bear viewing activities, most visitors came to the park for its world-renown sport-fishing opportunities. Trophy rainbow trout are found in many lakes and streams as well as grayling and dolly varden. Strong seasonal runs of salmon are also found in particular areas of the park, including both sockeye (red) and coho (silver) salmon.
The only lodge within walking distance of Brooks Falls is Brooks Lodge. Kulik Lodge and Grosvenor Lodge are also located in the park and operated by the park's concessionaire Katmailand. Several other private lodges offer tour packages within Katmai and throughout the Alaska Peninsula area as well.
- 1 Brooks Lodge, toll-free: . Open from June 1 until September 17. This lodge overlooks the Brooks River and has been in operation since 1950. The lodge has sixteen rooms accommodating 2-4 people in each room. Meals are served buffet style three times each day, and cocktails are available for purchase in the afternoon and evening. Reservations are required and should be made as far in advance as possible.
- 2 Grosvenor Lodge. This lodge is popular with fisherman since two rivers adjacent to the lodge host over 100,000 chinook salmon annually. There are three guest cabins with heat and electricity, and a separate bathhouse building. The main lodge building serves complimentary cocktails each evening.
- 3 Kulik Lodge. Fly fishing for rainbow trout is the highlight of this lodge. The lodge's guest cabins can accommodate two people, and the main lodge building offers dining and complimentary cocktails each evening.
- 4 Brooks Camp Campground (on the shores of Naknek Lake, about 0.3 mi (0.6 km) from the Brooks Camp Visitor Center). Brooks Camp Campground is the only developed/improved camping area in Katmai National Park and Preserve. Facilities in the campground include a food cache, gear cache, fuel storage locker, potable water, cooking shelters, fire rings, and vault toilets. The campground is also surrounded by an electric fence. Special regulations apply at Brooks Camp and in the campground. The campground fills on a per person basis to a maximum of 60 campers per night sharing 18 sites. Campsites will be shared when the campground is filled to capacity and/or flooded. Reservations must be made in advance - many days in July are booked full within a few hours of the opening of the reservation period. Reservations for the current calendar year can be made beginning January 5 at 8AM AKST (noon EST) by visiting online or calling +1-877-444-6777. Free November Apr 1 - 30, $6 May 1 - 31 and Sept 18 - Oct 31, $12 Jun 1 - Sept 17 (2020 rates).
More than 4 million acres of Katmai are open to backcountry or wilderness camping. Backcountry camping is not permitted within the Brooks Camp Developed Area (the area within 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of Brooks Falls) year-round or within the core Hallo Bay meadows from April 1 through October 31. No permits are required for backcountry camping.
The following guidelines will help you travel safely in bear country:
Food storage - All food, beverages, garbage, and any other odorous items must be attended at all times. They must be stored in a bear-resistant container (BRC, or "bear barrel"). A limited supply of BRCs are available for temporary check-out, free-of-charge at Brooks Camp and at the King Salmon Visitor Center. Do not plan on hanging as a method of storage; trees are sparse in Katmai and are generally not suitable for hanging food.
Gear storage - Keep your belongings with you: A pack or clothing left unattended invites curious bears. Not only will your belongings likely be destroyed, but the bear may also learn to associate such items with interesting smells or, even worse, food.
Be alert - Bears are active both day and night and could be anywhere.
Make noise - In dense stands of willow or alder and other conditions that hamper visibility, make lots of noise so bears can hear you approach. Bears may perceive you as a threat if you startle them. By making noise such as clapping, singing, or even talking loudly, you can alert a bear to your presence and it will likely choose to avoid you. Try to stay with a group when traveling in bear country. A group is noisier, easier for a bear to detect, and more intimidating than one person or two people.
Avoid close encounters - If you see a bear that is unaware of your presence or far away, back away slowly and quietly while keeping an eye on the bear.
Do not approach - The minimum recommended safe distance from any bear is 250 ft (76 m). Avoid actions that interfere with bear movement or foraging activities.
Remain calm - A bear may approach closely or rear-up on its hind legs to identify you. Back away slowly, moving diagonally out of its path of travel. You may need to leave a trail (if available) temporarily to allow a bear to pass. If a bear follows you, stop and hold your ground. If a bear continues to approach, make noise, wave your arms, and try to appear as large as possible.
Don't run - Running may encourage a bear to pursue you. Bears can run faster than 30 mph (50 km/h). You cannot outrun them. If a bear is charging you, try to appear non-threatening. Stand your ground and speak to the bear in a calm voice. Bears sometimes come within a few feet of people before veering off.
If a bear makes contact with you... - Play dead. Fall to the ground on your stomach with your legs apart. Lock your hands behind your neck to protect your neck and face. If you do get rolled over, keep rolling until you're face down again. Stay quietly in this position until the bear has left the area. If the attack continues long after you have assumed the protective position, fight back vigorously.
Fishing around bears - Bears come here to fish, too. When bear activity is at its peak, bears and anglers compete for the same resources. Stop fishing whenever bears are close enough to see or hear you and break your line if you encounter a bear. A bear quickly learns to associate anglers and/or the splashing of a fish in play with an easy meal and can take away your fish in seconds.
A bear that has learned that humans are a good source of food may become dangerous to people in the park and in local communities outside the park. In most cases such bears must eventually be destroyed. You can prevent this by being aware of how to behave to protect yourself and the bears.
Camping around bears - If you are camping in Brooks Camp from June 1 through September 17, an electric fence is maintained by the park around the camp perimeter.
If you are camping in the backcountry, however, you may want to consider bringing an electric fence. Electric fences have been adapted for use in bear country and have been effective at minimizing intrusions into campsites. Typically, park staff in the field choose to use electric fences. Visitors planning to use electric fences must bring their own equipment; the park does not provide electric fencing material.