Admiralty Island lives up to its original name—Kootznoowoo, or “Fortress of the Bears” in Tlingit—with the highest concentration of brown bears in the world. The island holds an estimated 1,500 brown bears at a density of one bear per square mile.
The best place to see the bears is at the Pack Creek Bear-Viewing Area, where the bears have become accustomed to humans and focus their energy on catching fish instead. They’re still wild, though, so you have to follow a strict set of rules, including storing your food and other “smellable” items in bearproof lockers near the site entrance. Access is by permit only (call 877/444-6777 or visit recreation.gov for permit information). Twenty-four permits per day are allowed during peak season in July and August ($50 adult, $25 for under 16 and over 61); half of those go to commercial operations and half are reserved for private individuals.
For most people, the smartest, safest, and easiest way of visiting Pack Creek is with a guide. Three guide services are authorized to run single-day trips to the viewing area:
- Above & Beyond Alaska (907/364-2333, also offers multiday paddle trips and outfitting)
- Bear Creek Outfitters (907/723-2663)
- Pack Creek Bear Tours (907/209-5432)
For those who have the skills and experience to negotiate the nearby land and water on their own, you can charter a floatplane from one of these authorized float taxi services. Camping is available on neighboring islands, and gear rentals are available from Above & Beyond Alaska. You can charter a flight with one of the following air services:
- Admiralty Air Service (907/796-2000)
- Alaska Seaplanes (907/789-3331)
- Ward Air (907/789-9150)
- Wings Airways (907/586-6275)