Just 20 miles west of Juneau  lies the northern end of Admiralty Island National Monument (907/586-8800, www.fs.fed.us/r10/tongass ) and the massive Kootznahoo Wilderness. At nearly 1 million acres, the wilderness covers 90 percent of Admiralty, making it the only large island in Southeast Alaska  that has not been extensively logged or developed.
The Tlingit name for Admiralty is Kootznahoo (“bear fortress”). The island is aptly named: It has perhaps 1,500 brown bears, giving it one of the highest bear densities anywhere on earth. Eagles are extraordinarily abundant along the shoreline, and the cries of loons haunt Admiralty’s lakes. This is truly one of the gemstones of Southeast Alaska.
Several guide companies offer trips to Pack Creek , and they are likely to have space available at the last minute. They’re a good option if you can’t get a permit—and if you have the cash. Alaska Discovery (510/594-6000 or 800/586-1911, www.akdiscovery.com ) offers all-inclusive three-day kayak and camping trips to Pack Creek for $1,300 (including air fare).
Alaska Fly ’n’ Fish Charters (907/790-2120, www.alaskabyair.com ) offers guided day trips to Pack Creek; $600 for a 5.5-hour tour includes air transport from Juneau . Two companies have excellent multiday boat trips that include a day at Pack Creek: All Aboard Yacht Charters (360/898-7300 or 800/767-1024, www.alaskacharters.com ) and Dolphin Charters (510/527-9622 or 800/472-9942, www.dolphincharters.com ).
The bear-viewing area along Pack Creek is only a tiny portion of Seymour Canal. This is a wonderful place to explore by sea kayak, with lush country, relatively protected waters, and the chance to see eagles, brown bears, and other wildlife. Alaska Boat & Kayak Rental (907/789-6886, www.juneaukayak.com ) has kayak rentals and can set up a water taxi to Oliver Inlet, where an ingenious mile-long boat tramway makes it easy to bring kayaks across to upper Seymour Canal. Alaska State Parks maintains the Oliver Inlet Cabin (www.alaskastateparks.org , $25) at the northern tip of Seymour Canal.
In Seymour you’ll find many coves and islands to explore, and have a chance to observe bears that are protected from hunting. If you’re adventurous, climb up the nearby peaks for fantastic views of the entire area. A three-sided shelter (free) is available in Windfall Harbor. Bears can be a real problem in Seymour Canal, so be sure to select your camping spots very carefully, preferably on a small island, and hang all food.
Admiralty Island is ideally suited for people who enjoy canoeing or sea kayaking. Kootznahoo Inlet reaches back behind Angoon  through a labyrinth of islands and narrow passages before opening into expansive Mitchell Bay. From there you can continue to Salt Lake or Kanalku Bay, or begin the Cross-Admiralty Canoe Route—a chain of scenic lakes connected by portages, one of which is over three miles long. Using this 42-mile route you should reach Seymour Canal in 4–6 days (the record is 12 hours). Along the way are six Forest Service cabins ($35) and six Adirondack shelters (free), so you won’t have to sleep out in the rain all the time. For more specific canoe-route information, contact the office of Admiralty Island National Monument (907/586-8790, www.fs.fed.us/r10/tongass ) in Juneau .
Camping is not allowed on Admiralty Island near the mouth of Pack Creek , but it is permitted on Windfall Island, where you’re far less likely to have encounters with the bears. The island is 0.25 miles from Pack Creek. Independent travelers may be able to rent a sea kayak on Windfall from Alaska Discovery (advance reservation required) to reach Pack Creek or to explore the area.