Bear Watching Holidays
Think bears, think Canada
British Columbia is home to more than half the world's bear population! You'd be hard pushed to find a better place to see them. Nothing beats spotting a bear along the Icefields Parkway in Jasper or joining a tour from Vancouver Island to see the coastal black bears forage on the shoreline.
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Have you decided you'd like to see bears in the wild? Good choice - nothing beats the thrill of watching a black bear's breath mist the morning air or seeing a grizzly catching a salmon. Just call our friendly team of experts to discuss your holiday ideas and we'll help you plan the perfect trip. We can advise on the right wildlife lodge for you or the perfect wilderness hotel. We'll help you with flights, transfers and excursions to get the most out of you time in Canada.
Best for bears
The Great Bear Rainforest
This huge temperate rainforest stretches along British Columbia's coast from the top of Vancouver Island up to Alaska. This pristine environment is home to towering cedars, salmon-filled rivers and plenty of bears. Grizzlies and black bears live here, as well as the elusive white Spirit Bear or Kermode bear. You'll also find some bear-watching hotspots like Bella Bella, Bella Coola, Sonora and Knight Inlet. British Columbia is one of the best places to spot grizzlies fishing for salmon.
Don't let the name "island" fool you - this place is as big as Scotland. Its lush forests are a hotspot for black bears and it has its own subspecies - the Vancouver Island black bear. Bear watching tours from Tofino, Port Hardy and Campbell River can take you to see these larger, blacker cousins of the mainland bears. They are easily spotted along the coast as they forage along the rocky shoreline looking for crabs and molluscs.
The Rocky Mountains
No trip to Banff or Jasper National Parks would be complete without spotting a bear by the roadside! You can frequently see black bears as you drive the Icefields Parkway from Lake Louise to Jasper. The Lake Louise Gondola is a fantastic high vantage point to spot bears foraging in the vegetation below. Revelstoke is another hotspot for bears and you could see them as you mountain bike through the forests.
In Northern Manitoba, just outside the town of Churchill on the shores of Hudson Bay, an incredible wildlife spectacle occurs. Polar bears congregate here en masse waiting for the sea ice to freeze so they can resume hunting. Hudson Bay is one of the best places in the world to see the largest land predator. Specially adapted tundra buses transport you across the frozen landscape for a close-up glimpse of these majestic animals.
Kluane National Park
Kluane National Park sits in the southwestern corner of Yukon and borders Alaska. It acts as a gateway to incredible bear watching in both countries. The Alsek River is home to grizzlies and you could be lucky enough to spot one while rafting, horse-riding or on a flightseeing trip. A driving holiday through untouched and less crowded wilds of Alaska and Yukon is another great way to spot this region's incredible wildlife.
Things to know
The best time to see bears in Canada
Bears - with the exception of polar bears - hibernate over the winter months, so the best time for a bear watching holiday in Canada is from around May to September. During the summer period, the bears should be active as they look for food to gain fat that helps them survive the winter. Polar bears are most active in October and November as they wait for the sea ice to return.
Bear species in Canada
Canada is home to three species of bear and several exciting bear subspecies. The three main species are black bears, grizzlies (North American brown bears) and polar bears. The white Kermode bear is a rare subspecies of the black bear, endemic to coastal BC. The bear's rare colouring caused by a recessive gene. The Vancouver Island black bear is a bigger and blacker subspecies, and Alaska's Kodiak bear is the largest subspecies of brown bear.
Bears are usually most active at dawn and dusk, and both are good times to spot them on bear-watching tours. Bears have quite a varied diet; eating shoots, nuts, berries, ants and other insects. Both black bears and brown bears will eat fish, although it is usually grizzlies who are the best at fishing salmon! Although often curious, bears are mostly non-aggressive and human-bear encounters are very rare, particularly if you follow the safety advice of park rangers.
Tips & info
Find information from Parks Canada
In every national park you visit, the rangers will be able to provide information about the animals that live there. In Banff and Jasper National Parks, its common for rangers to hand out leaflets on bear safety and they will be on hand to answer any questions. You should also report sightings of bears to rangers. When you're hiking and walking, pay close attention to information at trailheads which will tell you about wildlife sightings and any closures or restrictions.
Respect a bear's space
To have positive animal encounters on a wildlife holiday in Canada, respect the animals' space. Bears can often be spotted by the side of the road, so if you wish to watch them, give them plenty of space and park your car a good distance away. When hiking, make noise by singing, clapping and shouting so you don't surprise any bears. If you are lucky enough to see one from a couple of hundred metres away, don't get any closer.
Keep your campsite BARE
Parks Canada will provide plenty of information about their BARE campsite policy if you are camping in the national parks. Make sure that food is stored in the bear-proof lockers provided or in a hard-sided vehicle. Don't leave any food lying around or anything that may smell like food, such as cooking equipment and clothes you wore while cooking. Make sure all food waste is disposed of correctly in the bins provided.
Trips & Tours
Grizzly bear tours
Discover Grizzly Bears in Banff - Enjoy a guided sightseeing tour of the top attractions a short drive from Banff. Visit a grizzly bear refuge and meet ‘Boo’ the bear. Ride a gondola to the top of the Purcell Mountains for a delicious lunch at Canada’s highest restaurant.
Grizzly Bear Tour of Telegraph Cove - Enjoy the majesty of the coastal mountains as you explore spectacular Knight Inlet to find grizzly bears in the spring, two hours drive from Campbell River.
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Black bear tours in the West
Bear watching in Tofino or Ucluelet - Board a covered vessel or zodiac boat from one of Vancouver Island's most popular towns to view black bears in their natural habitat along the shore.
Whistler bear viewing - Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains support up to 50 black bears that have adapted to the ski area habitat. Ride in a comfortable 4x4 to bear feeding sites, daybeds, rub trees, and old growth trees where bears have hibernated during the winter.
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Black bear tours in East Canada
Black bear observation in Tadoussac - This guided tour in Quebec offers a 90% chance of seeing wildlife like bears and maybe beavers.
Little Big Bear safari in Acadieville - This unique Bear Safari lets you watch and photograph black bears from the safety of an 8m observation tower while they feed and interact in their natural environment.
Bear watching and canoeing in Saguenay - Paddle Lake Como, learn about moose and beavers and observe black bears in Quebec.
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Knight Inlet Lodge
Knight Inlet Lodge is set in a wonderfully peaceful and remote location. Tucked into Glendale Cove in the longest fjord on the BC coast, the area surrounding the floating lodge has one of the highest concentration of bears in the province. Your days here are filled with excursions led by experienced local guides to see the bears both on foot or by kayak.
Great Bear Lodge
Located in the remote coastal Nekite Valley, Great Bear Lodge is one of the best places in the world to see grizzly bears. The Lodge is committed to low-impact ecotourism and is powered by wind and solar energy. Delicious organic local fare makes up your dinner and evenings are spent relaxing on the wooden decks. The number of guests at the eco-friendly lodge is limited to 16 so you are always guaranteed a truly personalised and memorable experience.
Tweedsmuir Park Lodge
The private log cabins here are one of the most relaxed places for bear watching in Canada, so keep your eyes peeled for bears simply wandering by. Tweedsmuir Park is a fantastic place to stop at as part of a Canada self-drive holiday along Highway 20 in central BC. It nestles alongside a tributary of the Bella Coola River in the Tweedsmuir Provincial Park. Take some time out and truly appreciate the surroundings of the Great Bear Rainforest.
Sonora Resort offers unmatched splendour, comfort and natural thrills in the famed beauty and tranquillity of the Great Bear Rainforest. This Relais & Chateaux property offers BC's magical coastal setting along with five-star accommodation, extraordinary service, gourmet dining and a spectacular spa - complete with mineral pools and a water journey. It nestles in the pristine environment of BC's Discovery Islands, with sumptuous rooms, suites and private villas.
Spirit Bear Lodge
Nestled in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest, the Spirit Bear Lodge is unsurprisingly one of the best places in the world to see the beautiful Spirit Bear – a white bear that is part of the black bear family. The Lodge is a community-based ecotourism venture owned and operated by the Kitasoo/ Xai’xais First Nations people. All bear watching excursions are led by a certified biologist and an aboriginal skipper.
Arriving at Pyna-tee-ah Lodge at the base of the Cariboo Mountains is like being welcomed into the home of close friends. The lodge only ever has a maximum of 12 guests so the atmosphere is always relaxed and homely. The large surrounding area around Quesnel Lake offers a lot of great viewing opportunities both on foot or by boat. Every tour is accompanied by the resident ‘bear whisperer’ with his 30 years of experience.
See Canada's bears for yourself
Watch these inspiring videos to see how close you could come to Canada's iconic wildlife
Bear watching holidays in Canada
Bear watching is one of Canada's most popular activities, and with good reason. The country's bear watching is second to none. British Columbia is king when it comes to grizzlies with salmon-filled rivers and the temperate depths of the Great Bear Rainforest. You can find half of all Canada's grizzly bears in this province alone. Resorts like Knight Inlet Lodge and Nimmo enjoy enviable locations and experienced guides to help your chances. Bear watching on Vancouver Island is one of the most rewarding activities as you can reliably see black bears foraging along the coastline. British Columbia is also home to the elusive and ethereal Kermode bear or spirit bear. This startling cream-coated sub species of the black bear is found nowhere else in the world.
Canada has one of the longest bear-watching seasons in the world, so you'll have endless opportunities to view them. The bear season in Canada lasts from April or May to October when black and brown bears are out of hibernation. Churchill in Manitoba is the best location to search for polar bears during October and November. You can get right up to these beautiful giants on a Tundra buggy tour. Whether you’ve dreamed of grizzlies feasting on sockeye salmon or the world's largest land mammal roaming the wild Arctic, you’ve got a good chance of your dreams coming true in Canada: there are over 63 million acres of park and wildlife areas to explore.
Learn more about bear watching in Canada
Discover Canada’s bear species and the best places to spot them
Coastal black bears
The Vancouver Island black bear is its own subspecies thanks to the unique way it lives on the island. These bears have an unusual diet as they forage for food along the coastline, eating crabs and molluscs. They are smaller than their mainland cousins but are easy to spot on a zodiac tour from hotspots like Tofino.
Mountain black bears
In the rest of Canada, you’ll find black bears in mountainous regions like Whistler and Jasper. They are often seen by roadsides.
The Kermode – or spirit – bear is only found on the central coast of BC. Spirit Bear Lodge near Bella Bella is the place to go.
The best place to see polar bears is the shores of Hudson Bay in Churchill, Manitoba. A tundra buggy from Lazy Bear Lodge gets you up close. Learn more >
Alaska is home to the largest grizzlies, like the massive Kodiak subspecies. Head over to Alaska’s wilds on a cruise and land tour.
Your best chance of seeing grizzlies in Canada is in the Great Bear Rainforest, on British Columbia’s central coast. There are plenty of incredible resorts here which offer guided tours and accommodation in rustic lodges and safari tents. Look out for Knight Inlet Lodge, Great Bear Lodge and Nimmo Bay Wilderness Lodge.