Skip to main Content

Want a close-up view of Alaska’s famous McNeil River bears? Applications are due soon.

  • Author: Morgan Krakow
  • Updated: February 21
  • Published February 20

A female brown bear feeds on grass and sedge near the mouth of Mikfik Creek at the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary on the Alaska Peninsula. (Bob Hallinen /ADN)

People who want see brown bears dine on salmon at the remote McNeil River State Game Sanctuary have less than two weeks to apply for guided bear viewing.

For $30, applicants toss their hats in the ring for a chance to get a close-up view of bears at the sanctuary, where visitors have observed as many as 74 bears at once. Online applications must be submitted by midnight March 1, and mailed applications must be received by Alaska Department of Fish and Game by the close of business March 1.

Guided bear viewing in the sanctuary, about 250 air miles southwest of Anchorage on the Alaska Peninsula, is managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Most visitors access the sanctuary via air taxi.

Fish and Game will give out just 185 individual permits for guided viewing access. They are valid for four days.

Around 10 people a day from June to August will be part of the guided excursions, said Ed Weiss, lands and refuge manager at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

There are other opportunities to view the bears in Alaska, including nearby Katmai National Park, Weiss said, but not with the same lottery and guided viewing system as the McNeil sanctuary.

Alaska residents who win the lottery will need to pay a $225 permit fee to take part in the program. Nonresidents will need to pay a $525 permit fee. The state will notify successful applicants by mid-March.

Applicants can also sign up to be selected as standby viewers who fill in if viewing spots become available. They would pay a reduced rate of $112 for residents and $262 for nonresidents, Weiss said.