Before going we had read several reviews on here talking about the supposed poor quality of the rooms, expensiveness and lousiness of the food, lack of helpfulness from the staff, and various other supposed issues, but decided to go as it looked like all in all it was worthwhile for the great bear viewing opportunities.
After being there, we have to say those reviews were totally misleading, so we would really like to take this opportunity to do Brooks Lodge some justice.
Rooms. As we booked quite late, all the standalone cabins were gone so we had to stay in one of the rooms in the large multicabin building. Ok, you can hear the neighbours coming in with their boots or flushing the toilet if you're awake, but nothing loud enough to wake you up if you are sleeping. Ok, there are basic bunk beds as opposed to a king size 4 star bed, but they were clean and reasonably comfortable, with plenty of blankets in case you needed them, which was not the case as there was a huge electric heater with a very accurate temperature controller. Shower, toilet and sink were basic but clean and perfectly working, with hot water always available. If you consider this lodge is in the middle of absolute nowhere, that's far more that we were reasonably expecting.
Food. Lousy? That was the best food we had at almost any hotel or restaurant in Alaska: healthy, simple and therefore likely to suit almost anyone (we are Italian, and so we always struggle to find decent food while travelling anywhere outside of Italy). Not too many choices? Yes. Not so cheap? Yes. But again, you are in the middle of absolute nowhere, no one with a common sense would expect anything more.
Service. Like almost everywhere else in Alaska, service is provided by very young guys and girls from all over the US and beyond, but they were all very kind, always smiling and willing to help. The room was serviced every morning like if it was a hotel, including fresh towels, which was an unnecessary luxury given the context. The place is packed with rangers, more and less experienced but all extremely helpful and committed to keep humans safe from bears and viceversa.
Activities. Everyone has mentioned how many bears you can see and how close, though in full safety, at Brooks Lodge, so we won't spend much time on that, except for saying that yes, the falls upper platform can get a bit crowded at times, but it is regulated by the rangers during peak times so that it doesn't get overcrowded: this is done by allowing people in only when some people get out and allowing people to stay for no longer than one hour, which anyway is long enough to take plenty of pictures and videos of the bears - and you can always queue in straight away to get on the platform again. If you have the opportunity to spend one extra day at the lodge, the Valley of 10,000 smokes tour is totally worthwhile, and the 3 hour walk down to the falls not that strenuous: lunar landscapes, canyons, muddy rivers, all crowned by a ring of mountains and volcanoes which on a sunny day is simply stunning.
Mosquitoes. Yes, this is mosquito country even more than bear country. That's what the gloves are for that they suggest to bring, not against the cold! Make sure you have headnet, gloves and whatever needed to not leave an inch of your skin free for mosquitoes to attack whenever you are outside, including the very second you land on the beach, and you'll be fine. Insect repellents were not so useful instead.
One final piece of advice. Transportation from Anchorage (or any other place in the civilised world) is tricky and time-consuming (and expensive): if you undertake the trouble and the cost to do it, it's then worth spending a little more money and staying at the lodge for one or (better) two nights. This also helps if the weather is not good enough for the Katmai Air floatplane to land on Brooks Lake: in this case you might get stuck at the floatplane base until the weather opens up, and still be forced to land on the Naknek Lake and be transported to the Lodge via a shuttle bus, which is even trickier and more time consuming. You don't want this to eat out your bear viewing time, that's why we were glad to have two nights booked at the Lodge and we were able to take thousands of bear pictures plus taking the Valley of 10,000 smokes tour even if the weather on the first day was rainy and windy.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- In the Heart of the Magnificent Katmai Wilderness Brooks Lodge overlooks the world famous Brooks River in the heart of Katmai National Park. The lodge, originally conceived as a fishing camp, has been in operation since 1950. The facilities have seen continuous upgrading and have gained a world-wide reputation, attracting visitors from all continents. Bear viewing at Brooks Falls is only a short walk away. Guest accommodations consist of sixteen modern rooms all with modern private facilities. Rooms accommodate two to four persons. The beautiful main lodge building boasts a spectacular view of aquamarine Naknek Lake. Its large circular fireplace is popular for evening relaxing and reminiscing about the day's adventures. Hearty Alaska fare is served three times a day buffet style in the dining area of the lodge. Cocktails are available for purchase at the lodge bar each afternoon and evening. The world famous bear viewing at Brooks Falls is only a short walk from Katmailand's Brooks Lodge. As many as fifty bears live along the mile and a half long Brooks River during the salmon season. Many visitors see bears within minutes of arrival. All visitors are instructed by the National Park Service on how to conduct themselves in "Bear Country". Superb sportfishing is available adjacent to the lodge on the Brooks River and on the Brooks and Naknek Lakes. The Brooks River is fly fishing only. The Brooks Lodge fishing packages are for independent minded fly fishermen who want to experience the great sportfishing of the Katmai area without the expense of a fully guided sportfishing lodge. Including fly outs in your stay will provide the means to fish other hot spots and allow you to take advantage of the variety of species of fish available in southwest Alaska. At Brooks Lodge you are just 22 miles from the volcanic "Valley of 10,000 Smokes". The Valley is the sight of one of the most violent eruptions in modern history. Novarupta Volcano exploded in 1912 with blasts of hot winds and gas which spewed hot glowing pumice and ash, destroying all living things and burying more than 40 square miles of lush green valley under ash deposits to depths of 700 feet. Daily tours of "Valley of 10,000 Smokes" depart from Brooks Lodge daily. Comfortable accommodations in the heart of the magnificent Katmai wilderness make this a truly perfect vacation spot. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Brooks Hotel Katmai National Park And Preserve
- Brooks Lodge Alaska/Katmai National Park And Preserve