Katmai National Park in Alaska was initially set aside as a national monument because of the massive 1912 volcanic eruption. Today, Katmai is more famous for its excellent bear viewing on the Brooks River. Besides camping, the Brooks Lodge rooms are the only accommodations on park lands and near the legendary Brooks Falls.
Brooks Lodge is near where the Brooks River flows into Naknek Lake. Three platforms are near the lodge for bear viewing. This location is ideal for wildlife watching.
Bristol Aventures (formerly known as Katmailand) serves as the park concessionaire and manages Brooks Lodge.
The only way to get to Brooks Lodge is by boat or float plane.
Unfortunately, Brooks Lodge rooms are extremely limited. There are only 16 available! Brooks Lodge implemented a lottery system to manage demand.
Guests wishing to stay in the coveted Brooks Lodge rooms must complete an online application. A random drawing is held for access to reservations.
If you want to enter the Brooks Lodge rooms lottery, you must enter long before the travel dates (around 18+ months). For example, the deadline for summer 2024 applications was December 2022.
Applicants are allowed to select more than one date option to increase the chances of availability. In addition, you can opt to include air transportation from Anchorage and tour add-ons like the Valley of 10,000 Smokes at the time of application.
We applied in December 2021 for the summer of 2023. (There were 1943 applications.) We received an application confirmation informing us that we would hear something between January 3 and February 4.
On January 5, Bristol Adventures emailed us. Our application was drawn 24th, so we received our first choice of dates.
A 50% deposit was due within 7 days of notification to secure the reservation. The cost is only an estimate and is based on the current pricing (2022 price for estimating 2023.) Bristol Adventures let us know they expected a price increase for 2023.
In January 2023, we received the final invoice. We experienced a price 24% increase. So be sure to carefully review the cancellation policies before paying the deposit! The final payment was due 90 days before the trip.
Brooks Lodge Rooms
Brooks Lodge has 2 types of rooms: Individual cabins and Skytel (motel-style) rooms. Cabins and the Skytel rooms are clustered around the lodge dining and gathering room. On the inside, they are essentially the same. Guests cannot choose their room type.
Accommodations are basic but clean and comfortable.
Rooms can accommodate 4 people and contain 2 sets of bunk beds. There is a small table by the door and hooks for hanging jackets.
Each of the 4 beds has a reading light.
The bathroom area is at the back of the cabin. The sink is in the center, with a shower on the right.
The toilet area is on the left and has a door for privacy.
An extra shower curtain hangs between the sink area and the bunkbeds to provide some privacy when entering and exiting the shower.
Skytel rooms include a sign about being quiet at night due to the lack of sound barriers. Fortunately, this was fine during our stay.
Be sure to note that Brooks Lodge has no wifi or cell service.
Does it Live Up to the Hype?
Yes. It makes a difference to stay in the Brooks Lodge rooms. Some of our best bear viewings occurred late in the evenings, so a day trip would have been less enjoyable. Brooks Lodge is one-of-a-kind. There is no other place to experience brown bears so closely and safely. It is a truly unforgettable place to stay.