The Best Wildlife Viewing Spots in Anchorage

The City of Anchorage may be largest urban area within a thousand miles, but it still supports a full menagerie of its original Alaska wildlife. You might call it a wild city.

Unlike many other populated zones of similar size, the city contains an intact ecosystem with hundreds of wild species thriving in its greenbelts and parks. Biologists say it’s the largest metro area in the world with resident brown bears. Along with this iconic “wilderness” animal, the city is home to hundreds of moose and black bears, not to mention Dall sheep, mountain goats, wolves, wolverines, coyotes, lynx and beavers.

The city hosts one of the largest and most savvy populations of ravens in North America. It’s home to bald eagles and other raptors, nesting loons and swans, epic migratory travelers like Arctic terns and resident songbirds like black-capped chickadees. An endangered population of beluga whales and harbor seals can sometimes be seen just offshore. And wild pacific salmon spawn in most of its creeks.

Try Kincaid Park at the west end of Raspberry Road for your best chance to spy moose, black bears and resident birds. While brown bears are definitely out there, especially along the creek bottoms in Far North Bicentennial Park, you’re probably better off viewing them under safe conditions at the Alaska Zoo and the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.

Waterfowl and raptors frequent Potter Marsh in South Anchorage inside the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, and is one of the best places in the world to see those stunning black-billed, snow-white trumpeter swans up close. For a glimpse of Cook Inlet’s isolated beluga whales, swing by Beluga Point and Bird Point along the Seward Highway south of town along Turnagain Arm. Along the way, pull safely off the highway at Windy Corner at Mile 106. Then look up. Dall sheep often perch on the cliffs just above the highway.

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Best Wildlife Viewing Spots in Anchorage

Moosing Viewing Spots

Moose thrive in the open birch-spruce for­est and wil­low thick­ets of Kin­caid Park in the south­west­ern cor­ner of the Anchor­age penin­su­la. With more than 70 miles of trails criss­cross­ing its rugged 1,500 acres, Kin­caid makes it easy for peo­ple to get deep into the woods where moose hang out.

In one of the most extra­or­di­nary wildlife spec­ta­cles in Alas­ka, dozens of moose con­verge on the brushy upper val­ley of the South Fork of Camp­bell Creek every fall dur­ing moose-mat­ing sea­son. This annu­al rut in Chugach State Park draws an amaz­ing num­ber of these large ani­mals into the open.

Moose can be spot­ted fre­quent­ly in and around Pot­ter Marsh, a 564-acre fresh pond and wet­land com­plex on the out­skirts of Anchor­age. This rich habi­tat may be more well-known for migra­to­ry and nest­ing birds, but moose are reg­u­lar vis­i­tors in all seasons.

The Twen­tymile and Plac­er riv­er val­leys reach for miles into open coun­try vis­i­ble from the Seward High­way at the head of Tur­na­gain Arm. The five-mile-long val­ley along Portage Glac­i­er Road — with its many trails, ponds and pull­outs — also coax­es moose into the open for reli­able viewing.

A great win­ter view­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty! Moose reg­u­lar­ly con­gre­gate in this immense, brushy wet­land that sprawls at the head of Knik Arm, 30 to 35 miles north of Anchor­age. The 28,000-acre refuge has excel­lent habi­tat for moose.

This 134-acre park is set in the woods where, in 1964, an entire neigh­bor­hood slid into the ocean dur­ing last cen­tu­ry’s most pow­er­ful earth­quake. The earth­quake was mea­sured at a 9.2 on the Richter scale and last­ed 4 min­utes. Today, this trag­ic event is com­mem­o­rat­ed in Anchorage’s Earth­quake Park, where you’ll find signs explain­ing the cir­cum­stances of the quake and its effect on the area.

Salmon Viewing Spots

For glimpses of the big Chi­nook salmon right inside the city’s indus­tri­al heart, check out the hatch­ery-seed­ed run at Ship Creek between late May into June. Hatch­ery-seed­ed coho salmon begin run­ning through the same waters in late July through August.

If you want to mar­vel at the sight of thou­sands of fish school­ing in gigan­tic tanks, take the self-guid­ed tour inside the state fish hatch­ery on the banks of Ship Creek east of down­town. The muse­um-qual­i­ty obser­va­tion deck offers inti­mate views of a com­plex oper­a­tion that pro­duces up to six mil­lion sport fish each year.

Thou­sands of pink salmon con­verge on Indi­an Creek each July and August, just about fill­ing this shal­low, easy-flow­ing stream south of Anchor­age along Tur­na­gain Arm from bank-to-bank. This amaz­ing nat­ur­al spec­ta­cle occurs in one of the eas­i­est places to view spawn­ing salmon in the region: No steep banks, crys­tal clear water and fish so close they could almost be touched.

Crys­tal-clear Willi­waw Creek and its bank-side trail sys­tem in Portage Val­ley at the head of Tur­na­gain Arm offers excep­tion­al­ly good con­di­tions for watch­ing spawn­ing in action. Coho, sock­eye and chum salmon con­verge on the creek as it winds through the brushy flats begin­ning in mid-August, with some late-arriv­ing fish still present after first frost in the fall.

Salmon work hard to make their annu­al appear­ance at the Eagle Riv­er Nature Cen­ter’s salmon view­ing deck, leap­ing the aban­doned beaver dam, among oth­er obsta­cles. Over the years, this view­ing deck has sup­port­ed hun­dreds of pho­tog­ra­phers cap­tur­ing moose, bears, eagles, and unpar­al­leled views.

Migratory Birds & Eagles Viewing Spots

Here you’ll find one of the most acces­si­ble wildlife view­ing areas in Alas­ka. The marsh is a rest area for migra­to­ry birds includ­ing trum­peter swans, red­necked grebes, gold­en eyes, and pin­tails. Also watch for beavers, moose and bald eagles. You may even spot salmon spawn­ing in the deep­er water.

Difficulty: Easy

If you’re look­ing for a wild oasis that’s just a 15-minute walk from down­town Anchor­age, look no fur­ther than Westch­ester Lagoon (also known as Mar­garet Eagan Sul­li­van Park). One of the city’s most pop­u­lar places, this is where locals come to play, as it has some­thing for every­one. You’ll find access to great trails and wildlife, as well as year-round activ­i­ties and events for the entire family. 

Bald eagles can be seen from just about any high­way pull­out and trail­head along Tur­na­gain Arm, a stun­ning world-class fiord that stretch­es south­east from Anchor­age for almost 50 miles along the Seward Highway.

Sheep Viewing Spots

The pre­mier spot to view wild Dall sheep in Alas­ka (and maybe the whole con­ti­nent) looms over one of the state’s busiest high­ways only 20 miles south of Anchorage.

The 3,000-foot slopes of Pen­guin Ridge pro­vide habi­tat for both Dall sheep and moun­tain goats — one of the few places where the two species overlap.

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 2 miles

This trail quick­ly gains ele­va­tion on its way to an alpine mead­ow framed by the dra­mat­ic Twin Peaks and Goat Rock, but climbs to mag­nif­i­cent views over­look­ing the entire val­ley. Dall Sheep are often spot­ted above the tim­ber­line. From here there is a spec­tac­u­lar view of the lake below. This is also a good place for berry pick­ing in the fall. Because of the crushed rocks, the trail is hard­ly ever muddy.

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 11 miles

Steep moun­tain walls, moun­tain peaks, beau­ti­ful val­leys and streams, mature Sit­ka spruce for­est, and areas rich in wildlife pro­vide plen­ty of enjoy­ment. Dall sheep can some­times be seen graz­ing. Use binoc­u­lars to scan grassy fin­gers below ridges across the val­ley, espe­cial­ly dur­ing spring and sum­mer mornings.

Beluga Whale Watching Spots

This is a pop­u­lar stop as you trav­el the Seward High­way. Here you’ll find 180 degree views of Tur­na­gain Arm with spot­ting scopes and inter­pre­tive signs. Look for bel­u­ga whales rolling in the surf, often seen from mid-July to August fol­low­ing the salmon run. And, try and catch the bore tide, and incom­ing tide that stretch­es the entire width of Tur­na­gain Arm and can be up to six feet high.

Bear Viewing Tours from AnchorageView All

An easy day trip; pick up and drop-off at your hotel in Anchorage. Lake Clark or Katmai National Park
Season: May 22 to Sep 01 $930 per person 6-7 hrs

With Alas­ka Air Ser­vice you’ll fly from Anchor­age to Lake Clark Nation­al Park, where they’re a licensed park con­ces­sion­aire. On the 6- to 7‑hour expe­di­tion with an inti­mate group (there’s a 4‑to‑1 guest-to-guide ratio), you’ll start with a land­ing inside the park on a beach or in the grass­lands to watch bears. Then you’ll trav­el, unrushed, to oth­er spots in the park. Few oper­a­tors include mul­ti­ple loca­tions, but show­ing you as much of the park’s  ...more

Season: July 1 - Sept 30 $1250+ per person 6 - 12 hrs

View­ing brown bears in their nat­ur­al habi­tat is one of the most amaz­ing things you can do in Alas­ka. If it’s high on your list, book a flight-see­ing/ bear view­ing trip with Trail Ridge Air, know­ing that per­son­able pilots will take you to where bears splash and fish, and where vis­i­tors run out of words to describe their amazement.

Season: Jun 01 to Sep 04 $6595 to $6795 (+ internal air) 6 Days / 5 Nights

In the best way pos­si­ble. you’re out­num­bered by bears dur­ing your stay at this pri­vate fly-in wilder­ness camp. Fly by char­tered plane from Homer to Alas­ka Bear Camp on a 5‑night, 6‑day all-inclu­sive pack­age. This deluxe back­coun­try camp accom­mo­dates just 14 guests in some of the best bear habi­tat in the world. In con­trast to day trips cater­ing to dozens of vis­i­tors at a time, Bear Camp offers a rare and exclu­sive wilder­ness immersion.

Season: June 1 - Sept 18 $1350 Day Trips from Anchorage Day trip & multi-day excursions

Brooks Lodge offers their own bear view­ing tours which are less expen­sive than most, and give you more time at Kat­mai Nation­al Park to watch bears feast­ing on sock­eye salmon from sev­er­al view­ing plat­forms. A com­mer­cial flight from Anchor­age takes you to King Salmon where you’ll switch to a small float plane for a quick 20-minute flight to Brooks Camp. After a brief safe­ty ori­en­ta­tion, you can watch bears from sev­er­al view­ing plat­forms, join the  ...more

Season: May to Mid September $995+ 6 - 10 hrs

Take off by sea­plane for an all-day bear-view­ing expe­di­tion. Fly past glac­i­ers and vol­ca­noes to the brown-bear coun­try of south­west Alas­ka. Your Sea­plane Bear Safari will take you to Brooks Riv­er Falls in Kat­mai Nation­al Park, home of the world ’ s largest salmon run. You can also fly 70 miles south­west of Anchor­age to Lake Clark Wilder­ness Pre­serve for amaz­ing bear view­ing and lux­u­ri­ous accom­mo­da­tions at the Redoubt Bay Lodge. Rust’s, which has  ...more

Season: May 10th – Mid September $1075+ 6.5 to 10 hrs

Hop aboard one of Regal Air’s planes depart­ing from Anchor­age and after a short, scenic flight you can be watch­ing enor­mous brown bears swat salmon from Alaska’s rush­ing waters. Tours vis­it one of two des­ti­na­tions: Lake Clark Nation­al Park or Brooks Falls in Kat­mai Nation­al Park.

Zoos & Conservation Centers

Season: Year Round $25

At the 200-acre Alas­ka Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Cen­ter, see Alaskan wildlife up close. The center’s mis­sion is to pro­vide refuge for orphaned, injured, and ill ani­mals — those that can’t sur­vive in the wild. The cen­ter, which opened to the pub­lic in 1993, edu­cates vis­i­tors about Alaska’s wildlife. Coy­otes peer out from behind the brush while a bald eagle swoops in on the salmon remains left by a griz­zly bear. Wood Bison plod through 65 acres of tidal  ...more

Season: Year Round $20 1.5 - 2 hrs

The Alas­ka Zoo start­ed in 1966 with one baby ele­phant named Annabelle that was won in a con­test. Since then, it has expand­ed to include over 77 ani­mals across 25 acres of the Anchor­age hillside.