Katmai National Park

Page Type Page Type: Area/Range
Location Lat/Lon: 58.55536°N / 155.78751°W
Activities Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Ice Climbing, Scrambling, Canyoneering
Seasons Season: Summer
Additional Information Elevation: 39 ft / 12 m
Sign the Climber's Log


This page was created only minutes after I joined SP. It will be a work in progress for quite some time. IF you've got knowledge of the area, pitch in and give me and hand getting everything set up.

Initially established as a National Monument in 1918, Katmai was originally intended to protect the smoking aftermath of the 20th centuries largest volcanic eruption. The park contains 14 active volcanoes.

Mostly designated as wilderness, Katmai National Park is today best known for it's unparalleled opportunities to view wildlife at close range. Katmai has largest protect brown bear population in the world. In mid-summer, dozens of bears converge on Brooks Falls, where they take advantage of one of the worlds largest salmon runs.

Mt Katmai Crater LakeMt. Katmai's crater lake
The Eruption
The biggest eruption of the 20th century began in the early afternoon of June 6th, 1912. The
eruption continued for the next three days, pumping debris over 20 miles into the atmosphere, blacking out the sky on nearby Kodiak Island, and depositing soot as far away as Seattle. Overall, the eruption expelled 9 square miles of debris, and was ten times as powerful as the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. The Ukak Valley, directly below the eruption site, was covered in hundreds of feet of volcanic ash, and is now known as the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.

During the eruption the top of Mt. Katmai caved in and is today contains a a crater lake. Though much of the material for the explosion came from Mt. Katmai, the actual site of the eruption was several miles away. The Novarupta volcano is today marked by a lava plug several hundred feet high.

The Griggs Expedition

Getting There

Katimai is in the Alaskan bush. From Anchorage, fly Penair to King Salmon. The Park Headquarters is located in King Salmon. Katmai Air can take you to Brooks Camp, or any of the other lodges in the area.

If water levels are high enough, you can take a boat from King Salmon to Brooks Camp.

Red Tape

Bear Policy

Katmai has some of the strictest bear-safety policies of any National Park. All food, gear, and fuel must be stored in bear-proof caches at either the campground or in the lodge area. Rangers patrol popular walking paths for bears, controlling the flow of human traffic. If a bear wants to sit in your path, you're liable to get stuck in a bear-jam, which can last anywhere from minutes to hours.

The bears at Katmai are all used to seeing people, but none of them associate humans with food. Because of this, you're allowed to be closer to bears than at any other park. The perimeter is 50 yards.

All anglers must immediately cut their lines and cease fishing when bears are close by.

External Links

Campground Reservations:



Brooks Camp Campground
There is one official campground in Katmai, a short five minute walk from Brooks Camp. The campground has caches for food, gear, and fuel, potable water, cooking shelters, an outhouse, and the electric fence to ward off curious bears.

The campground costs $8.00 a night as of 2011 and holds a maximium of 60 people per night. There is no assigning of sites. In mid-summer, prime bear-viewing season, the campground is frequently at capacity. Reservations may be made at reservations.gov. See above.

The campground is open from June 1st through September 17th. Camping is not prohibited during the rest of the year, but campers must bring their own bear-resistant food containers (required) and water processing system.

Backcountry Camping
Backcountry camping in Katmai is subject to two restrictions: Camp must be made outside of the Brooks Camp Developed Area, defined as at least 1.5 miles away from Brooks Falls. Campers must also have bear-resistant containers for all odorous items.

Lodges and Retreats

For a park that's mostly wilderness, Katmai has a number of concessionaires. The biggest, Katmailand Inc. runs lodges at Brooks Camp, on Grovesnor Lake, and on the Kulik River. Two camps are on located on the coast, Hallow Bay Wilderness Camps, and the Katmai Wilderness Lodge. Inland there is also the Enchanted Lake Lodge on Nonvianuk Lake and the Battle River Wilderness Retreat on Battle Lake.

The Valley of the Ten Thousand Smokes

Filled with hundreds of feet of volcanic ash, the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes is a unique area, and provides some very unique challenges to climbers and backpackers.

Overlooking the Lethe River from the Buttress Range

Getting There
Accessing the valley requires a two-hour bus ride from Brooks Camp. This service is not provided by the Park Service, but by Katmailand Inc. Lunch is usually included in the price of the ride. Rangers depart with each bus ride to educate park visitors. The bus departs daily starting in early June and ending in mid-September.

Intrepid backpackers can also visit the Valley from Shelikof Strait via Katmai Pass.

Camping and Shelter
There is are two shelters in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.

Three Forks Overlook
The Three Forks Overlook serves primarily as a day center with educational displays about the 1912 Novarupta eruption. There is also a gear shack and shelter nearby.
View from the Three Forks Overlook

Baked Mountain Huts
The Baked Mountain Huts are located approximately 12 miles SE of the Three Forks Overlook. Built in 1965 by the University of Alaska, they are two plywood bunkhouses, a small shed and an outhouse - from which all toilet paper must be packed out. Permits are not required.

These huts are very remote, and are not maintained by the Park Service.

Travelling in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes

Due to unmaintained trails, glacial rivers and unstable volcanic ash, visitors to the Valley should take special precautions.

Just past the Windy River crossing



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