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Concierge.com's insider take:
Alaska has plenty of places to see bears, but the state's best-kept secret is Anan Wildlife Observatory, near Wrangell. Anan is a tiny creek that sees up to 250,000 salmon migrate through it each August. In other words, it's a bear smorgasbord. From the beach at the creek's mouth, a half-mile trail leads to a viewing platform over a small waterfall. The fish bunch up trying to leap the falls, which means all a bear needs to do is stick a paw in the water, and dinner is served. The bears regularly come up to the platform, close enough for you to realize that wet bears smell a lot like wet dogs. Up to 100 bears use Anan each year—the name comes from a Tlingit term for "place of meeting"—and it's one of the only spots in the world where you can see black and brown (grizzly) bears fishing from the same stream (although the smaller black bears tend to hide when the grizzlies show up). Permits are required in high season (check with your outfitter or the Forest Service), but unlike at Alaska's more famous bear-viewing spots—such as Pack Creek (grizzlies, on Admiralty Island) and Katmai (enormous grizzlies, on the Alaska Penninsula)—there's never a shortage of permits at Anan. You can see bears—huge bears—around the edges of Katmai without a permit, but access to the waterfall made famous in a million Alaska documentaries is highly restricted. If you have access to a boat, you can visit Anan Wildlife Observatory on your own; if not, you can organize a tour through Breakaway Adventures or Alaska Vistas.—Edward Readicker-Henderson
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