Partner logos: Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, National Park Service, University of Montana Wilderness.net Logo
Connecting federal employees, scientists, educators, and the public with their wilderness heritage

Katmai Wilderness

General Location Maps Contacts Area Management Wilderness Laws Trip Planning Images

General Trip Planning Information

Trip planning to Katmai is part of the challenge of the wilderness of Katmai. Katmai National Park and Preserve is off the Alaska road system and accessible only by air or water. The Trails Illustrated Map of Katmai NP&P is a good start, but it is recommended that you carry topo maps,a map & compass, and GPS unit.

Check our website www.nps.gov/katm for a list of approved flying and guiding services.

Recreational Opportunities

Bear Viewing:

Katmai is one of the premier brown bear viewing areas in the world. There are many opportunities within and outside of the wilderness to view Alaska Brown Bears. Katmai’s coastal bays provide exceptional areas to view brown bears. Due to food availability, brown bears frequent specific areas at different times.

Sport-fishing:

Before Katmai was known for bear viewing activities, most visitors came to the park for its world-renown sport-fishing opportunities. Sockeye (red) and coho (silver) salmon, rainbow trout, grayling, and Dolly Varden are found in many wilderness lakes and streams. The more popular wilderness areas to sport-fish include the Big, Kamishak, Kaflia, and Swikshak Rivers, which are located along the Katmai coast

Hiking:

The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, a 40 square mile ash-filled valley formed by the June 1912 eruption of Novarupta Volcano, is a popular area to hike within the Katmai Wilderness.

For those seeking solitude, hikes beyond the Valley of 10000 Smokes include hiking to Katmai pass, Katmai Crater and limited hiking opportunities on the Katmai coast. Canoeing/Kayaking:

On the park's interior waters, the 40-mile Savonoski Loop provides visitors with spectacular views of Naknek Lake, the Bay of Islands, Lake Grosvenor, and the Savonoski River. The canoe/kayak trail starts and ends at Brooks Camp.

For the more advanced and adventurous kayakers, the Katmai coast offers some of the most isolated and challenging waters in Alaska. These areas are usully accessible by float plane.

Visit Katmai's website at www.nps.gov/katm to get a list of guiding and flying services.

Climate and Special Equipment Needs

Climate:

Precipitation and air temperature vary in Katmai depending on location. The mean air temperature ranges from -15º F in January to 55º F in July within the interior areas of Katmai west of the Aleutian Mountains. For the coastal areas of Katmai, mean air temperature ranges from 30º F in January to 55º F in July. The park’s higher elevations (Aleutian Mountains) experience much lower temperatures, depending on altitude. Most precipitation falls as rain from May through September. Visitors should be prepared for extreme temperature changes, heavy precipitation, and high winds along the interior portions and coastal areas of Katmai.

Special Equipment Needs:

In addition to the general equipment recommended for Wilderness travel and camping, the following special equipment is required when camping within the backcountry of Katmai National Park and Preserve:

Bear Resistant Containers (BRC) are required to store food, food containers, garbage, and fish. BRCs are available first come/first served basis at the King Salmon or Brooks Camp Visitor Centers. A list of approved BRCs are available at www.lwwf.org. Large groups should plan on bringing their own LWWF-approved containers.

In addition, it is recommended that Wilderness campers utilize tents designed to withstand high winds (50 mph+), synthetic clothing and sleeping bags, and an electric perimeter fence when establishing camp to minimize encounters with brown bears.

Safety and Current Conditions

Wilderness trips should be based on skill level and the ability to traverse a rugged environment.

The vast majority of the Katmai Wilderness is without trails and traversing these areas may take longer than hiking trailed areas.

Leave detailed trip plans and emergency contact information with a responsible person. The National Park Service will not initiate a search unless someone reports a person(s) as overdue. A note about SPOT and other personal locator beacon devices -- these devices are an adjunct to your safety in the wilderness, not an excuse for poor planning. Even after activating an emergency button, it may be hours before help arrives.

Weather at Katmai can change rapidly and be very wet and cold during any time of the year. Be prepared for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies and know the warning signs of hypothermia and how to treat them.

Visitors should be able to travel safely in brown bear country and know how to prevent and react to encounters with bears.

Many river crossings can be dangerous. Follow these tips for a safe crossing: • Watch the water’s surface and cross where you see small ripples (not waves), indicating shallow water. • Cross early in the morning. • Release your belt and straps so you can drop your pack. • Wear shoes—don’t cross in socks or barefoot. • Allow yourself a retreat; don’t commit to one route.

Giardia is found within the waters of Katmai. Treat or filter all drinking water.

Visitors traversing the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes should wear eye protection during high winds.

To receive current park conditions, please contact the Katmai National Park and Preserve headquarters office at (907) 246-3305 or email KATM_Visitor_Information@nps.gov.