Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Best trails for seeing Katmai N.P.’s wonders

Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Photo courtesy of Katmai NPS.

Iconic scene
of bears catching
salmon found
at Alaska park

Among the best ways to see Katmai National Park’s top sights is via a day hike. Just three short trails will allow you to enjoy each of the park’s highlights – bears catching salmon, a volcanic wasteland, and prehistoric sites.

Brown bears catching salmon
Every year more than 2,000 brown bears camp at Brook Falls to feed on spawning salmon, an iconic site made popular in photos and videos. The 2.4-miles round trip Brooks Falls Trail takes hikers to a safe observation platform where they can watch bears play on the beach or go fishing in the river.

Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes
A volcanic eruption in 1912 left several square miles of Alaska backcountry covered in deep ash. Though volcanic activity has subsided greatly since the 1930s, when thousands of fumaroles covered the valley floor, the region’s barren, moon-like landscape of hardened ash remains startlingly beautiful. Located 23 miles away from the park’s central area, you’ll have to ride a park bus there and then can go on a ranger-led 3-mile hike into the valley.

Prehistoric sites
The area near the Brooks River has been inhabited for thousands of years, as more than 900 depressions that once were homes and campsites attest. The Cultural Site Trail heads a short 0.1-miles past some of the sites while a ranger-led hike daily goes 0.25-miles daily on and near the trail to them.

Learn more about national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks guidebook.