Originally preserved in 1918 to protect the volcanically devastated region surrounding Novarupta and the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, Katmai National Park and Preserve has grown in popularity due to the thousands of years of history it contains, as well as its one-of-a-kind bear-watching opportunities.
If you’re eager for a rustic camping adventure offering unforgettable sights and wonders, you’ve picked the perfect place with Katmai National Park and Preserve—and our Katmai National Park Camping Guide is here to help you make the most of your trip!
What to Expect While Camping At Katmai National Park
Nestled amidst the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes—an active volcanic region—with gorgeous coasts and thrilling habitats allowing up-close encounters with some of the most beautiful and abundant wildlife in North America, Katmai National Park and Preserve is a gem of the Alaskan wilderness. Here you’ll have plenty of opportunities to witness the breathtaking might of the rugged landscape and its mixture of dormant and active volcanoes; encounter some of the most amazing wildlife in its natural habitat; and experience for yourself the majesty of the Alaskan backcountry!
Katmai National Park Camping
Katmai National Park and Preserve offers several different camping styles to choose from, including campground, backcountry, and glamping. There is one designated campground within the park, plenty of backcountry camping opportunities, and a host of glamping options that are either offered by the park or available on privately owned land within its borders. Read on to decide which camping option is best for your visit to Katmai!
Best Katmai National Park Camping Spots
Katmai National Park has one designated campground available—the Brooks Camp Campground, wildly popular for its location, available facilities, and most especially its wildlife viewing opportunities! Situated in a stunning forest of mature balsam poplar and birch trees on the shore of Nanek Lake, this campground provides a one of a kind opportunity for bear watching and scenic lakeside camping, while remaining secure and protected behind an electric rope fence that deters bears from entering (but does not hinder the wonderful views!).
The Brooks Camp Campground does not provide any designated sites, but does have a capacity limit of 60 people and must be reserved to accommodate that limit. It’s encouraged to make your reservations early in the booking season, as the campground is in high demand, especially during peak bear viewing times (which are from late June through July, and in September). July in particular can book within hours of the open reservation period, so be sure to make your reservation as early as possible to secure the dates of your visit!
Camping at Katmai National Park is limited to 7 nights in July and 14 nights per calendar year. In addition, group size is constrained to 6 people maximum per reservation. Amenities at the Brooks Camp Campground include cooking shelters and picnic tables, fire rings, a cache in which to store food and other odorous items or gear that might attract bears, a fuel storage locker, vault toilets, and potable water from June 1 through September 18.
If you are unable to secure a reservation at the Brooks Camp Campground, you do have the option of backcountry camping, which requires no permit or fee. If preparing for backcountry camping, please plan on leaving as little trace of your stay as possible, and if you can, camp where others have before in order to minimize additional impact to the terrain.
For those more interested in a glamping experience, there is also the option of booking a room at The Lodge, a well-accommodated getaway spot in the heart of the park, as well as a few other lodges with differing packages, prices, and availability. To learn more about the various lodges scattered throughout the park, visit Katmai’s Lodging page.
Reservations for the Brooks Camp Campground can be made online here, or by calling 1-877-444-6777. Booking season begins on January 5th annually and continues until all spots are full for the available camping season.
Things To Do While Camping at Katmai National Park
There are endless opportunities to truly experience the best of North American nature while camping at Katmai National Park and Preserve! Hiking and backpacking are among the most popular recreations, with many, many miles of stunning terrain to cross. There are also abundant fishing and boating opportunities for lovers of the water, with kayaks, canoes, and rafts all welcomed in the park’s waters.
Flightseeing is also a popular pastime, where a small craft will take you high above the park to experience its beauty from a bird’s eye view. For those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground, ranger-led programs offer an in depth exploration of the park’s history and purpose.
There is also availability for licenses for sport hunting and trapping in the preserve (but not in the national park), with the top game selections being moose and brown bear. For campers staying at The Lodge, there are additional opportunities for fly fishing, tours, and more!
No matter what outdoor activities you love most, there’s plenty to do and see in Katmai National Park and Preserve that will make your camping adventure here truly fun and memorable!
Katmai is famous and well-loved not only for the incomparable landscape it protects, but also for the wildlife that calls that landscape home!
One of the greatest attractions to Katmai National Park camping is the incredible bear watching opportunities it provides, attributable both to the habitat and to the large salmon population that beckons these beautiful giants. You’re more likely than not to see brown bears throughout the park and preserve, often fishing in its many rivers; in addition, you may spot gray wolves hunting in the dusk hours, as well as red foxes, caribou, lynxes, wolverines, porcupines, and other mammals scattered throughout the park. Along the coast are sea lions, sea otters, harbor seals, various whales, and porpoises all in their natural habitat and frequently visible in the Shelikof Strait along Katmai’s coast.
There are also a great variety of birds to spot in the park, from puffins and oystercatchers along the coast to tundra swans, loons, and eagles in the park’s interior. In the waters, you’ll also encounter a robust number of sockeye salmon and various trout for which the park is well known!
Vegetation / Geography
From lowlands to rugged seacoast, from active and dormant volcanoes to tranquil fjords and coastal flats, there is so much beautiful variation to the landscape within Katmai—which was a large part of why the preserve was first established.
Within these distinct ecosystems are a broad variety of vegetations—hardy spruces and cranberry, fiddle ferns and fireweed, as well as some invasive plant species and, of course, an eye-catching array of wildflowers! Dotted in among the banquet of floral beauty that makes up the terrain, you’re likely to spot fossils and other rocks formed and touched by time, erosion, volcanic activity, and the ebbs and flows of nature within the park.
From land formations to the vegetation that blankets them, you’ll never grow bored of the beauty contained within this park!
Make Sure To Bring
As you prepare for your Katmai National Park camping adventure, the biggest thing you want to be is bear safe! Be sure that all camping equipment is secure, without rips or tears, and if possible, consider gear that is innocuous enough not to catch a bear’s curiosity. You will want to pack odor-proof storage containers, particularly if you’re preparing for the possibility or guarantee of backcountry camping. Make sure everything is sealable and able to be placed some distance from your camping spot.
In addition, you’ll want to make sure you have a well-stocked first-aid kit and plenty of weather-appropriate wear, particularly good rain gear and long sleeves to protect against biting insects, as well as sleeping bags that are fit for the cold and often rugged terrain.
It is recommended you bring a camp stove, a GPS device and map, a whistle and signaling device, extra food and water, and a means of filtering water, especially in the backcountry.
If you’re planning to hike, be sure to bring sturdy footwear and durable hiking gear. For bear-watching and other wildlife viewing, a solid pair of binoculars is recommended. Fishers should ensure their tackle and gear is in good repair, and boaters planning to canoe, kayak, raft, etc. are advised to double-check the integrity of their vessels before striking off on the park’s many waterways.
Two things to bring to Katmai that may be unique to this park are breathing aids (such as a dust mask or bandana and glasses or goggles) to protect against windborne ash from the volcanic peaks, and wildlife repellant such as flares, bear spray, etc. in case an encounter with a bear or other animal should go awry.
Katmai National Park Camping Fees
When planning your Katmai National Park camping trip, there are some camping fees at The Brooks Camp Campground to be aware of:
- $12 per person per night from June 1 through September 17
- $6 per person per night in May and from September 18 through October 31.
There is a 50% discount on camping reservations for America the Beautiful Access and Senior pass holders.
The Brooks Camp Campground holds a 4.5 out of 5 star rating and is robustly praised for its cleanliness, organization, and sense of safety despite being a no-frills camping experience. Many have ranked it among their top places to camp and have called it a bucket list item that met all their expectations.
Backcountry campers and those lodging within the park have also expressed a generally positive experience!
Wrapping Up Katmai National Park Camping
We hope our Katmai National Park Camping Guide has you feeling prepared and excited for this wilderness adventure amidst some of the most beautiful backcountry wilderness in the world! What are you most excited to experience during your visit to Katmai? Let us know in the comments below!
Looking for more Alaska adventures? Check out our recommendations for Alaska camping!