Visitors can spot bears in the wild at Anan Creek Bear Observatory. // © 2014 Christopher Batin
Feel like a cold brew after bear watching? Alaska is home to numerous brewpubs
, serving local beers and snacks.
From early July through August, Anan Creek Bear Observatory helps brave visitors get up-close and personal with Alaska’s wild bears — only a fence and elevation separates guests from the black and brown bears gathering to dine on the 300,000 salmon that swim the creek. Reaching Anan requires a jetboat ride and a half-mile hike, during which forest rangers provide safety tips. Bear sightings along the way are common. Visitors can take photos from a blind overlooking the creek or from a platform with a wooden railing. Stay alert: bears can appear anywhere at any time. Once, a woman was trapped in an outhouse for 15 minutes until a foraging bear finally wandered away. On my visit, I was close enough to the animals to smell their fish breath. Excursions begin at $270 per person.
Viewing black bears, brown bears and grizzlies from a boardwalk that overlooks an enclosed habitat is as close as many visitors want to get to Alaskan bears. Within the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC), bears doze in trees and wrestle one another. The height of the boardwalk eliminates the need for a fence and offers great photo opportunities. Daily bear feedings are accompanied by a lecture on the animals’ eating habits. The center is also home to moose, wood bison and muskox, as well as naturalist programs. Located 50 miles south of Anchorage, AWCC costs $12.50 per person.