8 Secret Spots for Witnessing the Salmon Run in Alaska

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Ever thought about catching the salmon run in Alaska? It's one of those must-see natural events where thousands of salmon hustle upstream to spawn.

We've got the scoop on 8 spots that aren't swamped with tourists, where you can really get up close to the action.

So, if you're into experiencing Alaska's wild side without the crowds, keep reading. We promise it's as cool as it sounds, minus the hassle.

1. Bear Creek, Seward

A serene spot away from crowded tourist destinations, Bear Creek in Seward offers a unique view of the salmon migration.

Between June and September, sockeye salmon navigate the creek, with their numbers peaking in June and July. Just note that peak times for viewing sockeye salmon in Bear Creek can vary.

This location provides an intimate experience with nature, allowing visitors to see salmon leap over natural barriers on their journey upstream.

For a closer look, take Seward Highway about 6 miles outside of Seward and turn right on Bear Lake Road. A short walk from the parking area reveals the creek bustling with salmon, especially around late June.

While you're in Seward, you should make the most of your stay. Start with our list of recommended things to do in this scenic community: 11 Awesome Things to Do in Seward, Alaska

2. Russian River Falls, Cooper Landing

Salmons jumping upstream for spawning, Russian River Falls, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska

Russian River Falls offers an accessible yet enriching experience for viewing salmon leaps. The falls themselves are a hotspot for sockeye salmon, especially during mid-June and late July, when the salmon runs peak.

Though an excellent location for salmon viewing, Russian River Falls can become crowded during peak seasons. Plan accordingly and consider visiting during weekdays or early mornings for a less crowded experience.

The trail to the falls, starting at the Russian River Campground, spans a modest two miles of even, wide, and gently elevating gravel path, making it an excellent choice for families and individuals of all hiking abilities.

Two viewing decks provide a vantage point for spectators to observe the strenuous journey of salmon upstream and the occasional bear hunting for its meal.

With the area being the state’s most popular sockeye salmon sports fishery, visitors can immerse themselves in a vibrant ecosystem where green-headed, red-bodied sockeye swarm in thousands​

3. Gold Creek, Juneau

Gold Creek in Juneau Alaska, hiking trail

Gold Creek, tucked away in the heart of Juneau, provides a secluded spot to observe a small salmon run each August.

While not a major salmon destination, Gold Creek offers a peaceful setting where you can watch the fish in their natural habitat without large crowds.

Year-round, birdwatchers can also spot great blue herons fishing at the mouth of Gold Creek, along with harlequin ducks and mallards in the waters.

Bald eagles frequently fly overhead in Juneau, sometimes drawing harassment from loud crows.

4. Tonsina Creek, near Valdez

A time lapse photo of Tonsina Creek and Resurrection Bay in Seward, Alaska

Tonsina Creek, appreciated for its clear waters and tranquil surroundings, is another gem for visitors wishing to experience the salmon run without the crowds. Its peaceful setting is ideal for reflection and nature observation.

The quiet creek boasts excellent fishing for a variety of salmon species. King and coho salmon are the stars of the show, with king salmon available in July and early August and coho arriving in September and October.

Sockeye salmon are also present in smaller numbers. Beyond salmon, anglers can target abundant Dolly Varden and Arctic grayling, with the possibility of reeling in burbot and lake trout as well.

Besides salmon runs, Valdez has so much more to offer. Check out our guide on the best things to do in this charming town: 6 Awesome Things to Do in Valdez, Alaska (Including Photos).

5. Peterson Creek, Ernest Gruening State Park

If you're looking to witness the incredible annual salmon run in Alaska, one of the best spots is at the mouth of Peterson Creek in Ernest Gruening State Park.

To get there, drive along Glacier Highway until you reach around milepost 24, then take a left onto Almaga Harbor Road. This road will lead you into the state park, named after Ernest Gruening, a former territorial governor.

Once inside the park, head to the boat ramp parking lot and follow the driveway path that takes you to Senator Gruening's former residence. Continue along this path until you reach the point where Peterson Creek cascades down into Lynn Canal.

This is the prime viewing location, especially from mid-July through August when the salmon are running. During this period, you'll witness large numbers of salmon, primarily chum, congregating at the creek's mouth as they can only enter the creek during high tide.

The salmon attract an array of wildlife, including sea lions and the occasional orca, making for an incredible scene.

As you make your way back to the parking lot after your wildlife viewing adventure, keep an eye out for blueberry bushes lining the path if you're visiting during peak season — a perfect way to cap off your Alaska salmon run experience.

6. Willow Creek, Willow

Looking south on the Susitna River from Willow Creek, Alaska, USA

Willow Creek offers prime roadside viewing of the awe-inspiring salmon run. Walk to the creek mouth from the Willow Creek Campground for easy access, or hike upstream for more solitude along the banks.

Adventurous anglers can raft the creek, put in at the Parks Highway bridge, and float to the mouth to see congregating salmon.

The creek's confluence with the Parks Highway provides an excellent vantage point to witness this natural spectacle as king, silver, chum, and pink salmon migrate upstream alongside big rainbow trout and other species.

Though crowds gather during peak season, Willow Creek's easy accessibility makes it an ideal spot to experience Alaska's iconic salmon run.

7. Chilkoot River, Haines

Canoes on the Chilkoot lake near Haines Alaska

Chilkoot River, a slightly more known location, offers a rich tapestry of cultural history alongside its popular salmon sport fishing and bear viewing opportunities.

While Chilkoot River attracts brown bears for salmon viewing from mid-June to October, the peak salmon run, ideal for spotting both bears and fish, happens in July and August.

Managed by the Department of Natural Resources Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation, improvements have been made to enhance visitor safety and protect the area's natural resources.

This includes better access points, designated parking, and viewing areas to minimize human-wildlife conflicts and preserve the river's ecological integrity.

The area's management is a testament to Alaska's commitment to conserving its wildlife populations and ensuring that both residents and visitors can continue to enjoy the incredible sights of salmon runs and the bears that feed on them​​.

8. Kenai River Mouth Dipnetting Harvest, Kenai

Three hours south of Anchorage, in Kenai, this event is unlike any other on the list. While you won't see the salmon spawning, the spectacle of thousands of sockeyes being harvested is unforgettable.

This annual event, reserved for Alaska residents, turns the beach into a bustling scene, complete with a carnival atmosphere from July 10 to July 31, peaking in the last ten days. Non-residents can observe the festivities and learn about the local tradition and its regulations.

For a unique cultural experience, head to Kenai, follow Spruce Street to North Beach, park near the Kenai Visitor Center, and walk to the beach via Meeks Trail from Alaska Way.

Seize Your Alaskan Salmon Run Adventure

As you plan your Alaskan salmon run adventure, remember that the timing and size of the runs can vary each year due to ecological factors like water temperature, snowmelt timing, and food availability.

It's advisable to check local resources for the most up-to-date information before finalizing your travel plans.

While witnessing this natural spectacle, keep in mind that you're a guest in the salmon's home. Maintain a safe distance, avoid loud noises, and never attempt to touch or feed the bears or other wildlife you might encounter.

Respecting the local ecosystem is crucial for the well-being of the animals and your own safety.

When you leave, ensure that you've left no trace behind. Pack out all your trash and leave the viewing areas as pristine as you found them. By being a responsible visitor, you'll help preserve these secret spots for future adventurers.

After embarking on your Alaskan salmon run journey, we'd love to hear about your experiences and any insider tips you might have for fellow nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers.

Share your stories and insights in the comments below to build a vibrant community of like-minded explorers!

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