Where To Go Birdwatching in Alaska – Free & Paid Places For Birders 2022

October 8, 2021 // 21 minute read

Birding Locations » US » Birding in Alaska

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Alaska birding enthusiasts are in for a real treat. You’ve just discovered valuable information that will tell you about the best bird-watching destinations, hiking locations, and birding clubs in this wonderful state.

Also, I’d like to share information about the top social media pages, websites, hours of operation, and other exciting tips and birding resources.

Continue reading to find out more about everything birding-related in the last frontier!

Did you know that the Willow Ptarmigan is Alaska’s state bird?

Willow Ptarmigan
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photo credit: Jessica Rockeman from pixabay

Also, check out additional birding resources for the other West Pacific States: HawaiiOregonCalifornia, and Washington.

Bird Watching Destinations In Alaska: Free Destinations

Do you plan to visit Alaska in the future? You’re about to embark on a great journey and discover the top free and paid bird-watching hotspots in this splendid state.

Mendenhall Wetlands – Free Admittance

In the state capital of Juneau, birdwatching lovers are in for a tremendous treat. This Arctic breeding ground consists of 4000 acres of beautiful wildlife refuge land that stretches over 9 miles.

This diverse habitat is teeming with animal and plant life. It’s also a vital resting area and feeding ground for migratory and residential birds.

Residents and visitors enjoy birdwatching and other activities at Mendenhall Wetlands all year round.

Location:

Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge
Juneau, AK 99801
Phone: 360-220-9512

State Game Refuge Management
Stephanie Sell, Wildlife Biologist
Division of Wildlife Conservation
802 3rd St.
Douglas, AK 99824
Phone: 907-465-4266

GPS: 58.3476° N, 134.5775° W

Hours Of Operation:

Mendenhall Wetlands are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year, even on holidays. You can visit this destination at any time as long as you restrict your movements to the public access areas available at mile 3.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Aleutian Cackling Goose
  • Western Sandpiper
  • Surf Scoter
  • Northwestern Crow
  • Greater Scaup
  • Common Redpoll
  • Short-Billed Dowitcher
  • White-Winged Scoter
  • Ruddy Turnstone
  • Mallard
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Short-Eared Owl

Hiking Trails:

After spending a decent amount of time researching the area, it’s my pleasure to tell you that I learned about 3 different hiking trails for you to check out while visiting Juneau, Alaska, and in particular the Mendenhall Wetlands.

You’ll appreciate these trails because they are perfect for beginners, intermediates, and expert hikers as well, so there is something for everyone.

The names of the Mendenhall Wetlands hiking trails include:

  • Mount Roberts Trail – this easy trail is 7.6 miles long, so it’s definitely going to take you the better part of a day to complete if you decide to walk from start to finish. Another thing to consider is that a lot of people tend to use this trail, so you’ll notice heavy foot traffic along the way. Who knows? You may even meet a few interesting hikers and bird watchers during your travels.
  • East Glacier Loop Trail – it’s my pleasure to tell you that this trail is easy to walk along and navigate, and it’s much shorter than the previous trail at 3.1 miles. You’ll discover moderate foot traffic along this trail, and you are welcome to bring your dog along with you because canines are permitted.
  • Mendenhall Wetlands Airport Dike Trail – last but not least, this wetlands trail is also easy to traverse and navigate. It’s 3.4 miles in total distance, and like the previous trail, you’ll run into moderate foot traffic along the path. This is a great hiking trail for bird watchers of all skill levels and dogs are allowed as long as you keep them on a leash.

Glacier Bay National Park – Free Entrance For Bird Watching

This gorgeous national park receives many visitors throughout the year. It’s a fantastic place for Alaskan birders and visitors to explore in an intimate and up-close manner.

Besides the wonderful opportunity to hike and walk through the national park on your own, they also offer a ranger-guided boat tour that takes you directly through Glacier Bay.

This is truly an amazing experience for new or experienced bird-watching enthusiasts of all backgrounds.

Location:

1 Park Rd.
Gustavus, AK 99826
Phone: 907-697-2230

Mailing Address:
Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve
PO Box 140
Gustavus, AK 99826

GPS: 58.6658° N, 136.9002° W

Hours Of Operation: 

Technically speaking, since there aren’t any gates at Glacier Bay National Park, the park is officially open 24 hours a day, even on holidays.

But if you plan to stop by the park headquarters or visitor center, they are only open on Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 4:30 PM.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Tufted Puffin
  • Harlequin Duck
  • Pelagic Cormorant
  • Bald Eagle
  • Barrow’s Goldeneye
  • Arctic Tern
  • Black-Legged Kittiwake
  • Black Oystercatcher
  • Pigeon Guillemot
  • Horned Puffin
  • Chestnut-Backed Chickadee
  • Orange-Crowned Warbler

Hiking Trails:

There are five hiking trails that I’d like to tell you about at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. These trails range from easy to moderate in difficulty, and they certainly vary in distance from about 1 mile to 12 ½ miles with a few other trail lengths in between for good measure.

The top five hiking trails at Glacier Bay National Park include:

  • Bartlett Lake Trail – this is an easy trail because it’s well-maintained and very easy to navigate and it’s relatively flat to walk upon as well. The total length of this trail is 5.9 miles, which should take the average hiker about two hours and 40 minutes to complete from beginning to end.
  • Point Gustavus – this is the most difficult hiking trail to travel in Glacier Bay National Park because it’s moderately difficult and it has its ups and downs and twists and turns. It’s also very long because it’s 12.5 miles in total from one end of the trail to the other. The average hiker can complete this trail in five hours and 15 minutes.
  • Bartlett Cove Forest Loop Trail – this trail is relatively easy to walk along because it’s well-maintained, very flat, and it doesn’t have too many twists and turns. The total length of the trail is 1.1 mile, which should take the average person roughly 30 minutes to complete from start to finish.
  • Tlingit Trail – this trail is very similar to the previous one mentioned. It’s 1.1 miles in complete distance from end to end and it takes about a half an hour to finish. The other thing that I wanted to mention is that it’s also easy to walk along. It’s flat, it’s clearly defined, and even people who do not typically walk on hiking trails will have no problem completing this simple hiking experience.
  • Bartlett River Trail – although the trail itself is well-maintained and easy to navigate and walk along, it’s a relatively long trail because the total distance is 6.9 miles from start to finish. Try not to be too intimidated by the length because there are many beautiful birds to view while hiking along this trail. To finish the trail completely, it will take the average hiker about three hours and 20 minutes in all.

Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve – Free Entrance & Bird Watching

This incredible bald eagle preserve has existed for nearly 40 years, because it was first designated in June 1982. They established this wonderful place in order to protect bald eagles and keep them concentrated in one area by establishing the perfect habitat to meet their needs.

If you love bald eagles, then you’ll definitely appreciate the splendor and beauty of these majestic creatures as you walk through Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve and take in the sights and sounds of this amazing place.

In total, it is made up of 48,000 acres of land that encompasses the Tsirku, Chilkat, and Kleheni Rivers. Please visit the next time you intend to spend time in the area.

Location:

Haines Highway
Haines, AK 99827
Phone: 907-766-2292

GPS: 59.3774° N, 135.8376° W

Hours Of Operation:

Because it’s considered a state park in Alaska, it is technically open 24 hours a day. But if you’re coming here to look at bald eagles and other amazing forms of wildlife, you’re much better off sticking to daylight hours.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Common Merganser
  • Trumpeter Swan
  • American Bald Eagle
  • Orange-Crowned Warbler
  • Lincoln’s Sparrow
  • Wilson’s Warbler
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • American Robin
  • Yellow-Rumped Warbler
  • Fox Sparrow
  • Rock Pigeon
  • California Gull

Hiking Trails:

There are a number of exciting trails to traverse in Haines, AK. They are all easy or moderate in difficulty, which means even inexperienced hikers can enjoy these trails.

The names of these trails and other pertinent information including:

  • Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve Trail – this hiking trail is 1.6 miles long in a loop, so you’ll start and end in the same place. This trail is primarily made for walking and hiking, but it’s also great for birdwatching and other nature trips. You are allowed to bring dogs on this trail and it is very easy to traverse and navigate.
  • Seduction Point Trail – this trail is also easy to navigate and very easy to walk along, but it’s going to take time because it’s 5.8 miles in total distance. On average, it should take someone walking at an average pace around two hours to complete the trail from one end to the other.
  • Mount Riley Trail – this is also a great trail but it’s moderately difficult to navigate because it has twists and turns and uneven terrain. Yet it’s a little shorter than the previous trail mentioned at 4.7 miles. Even so, it will take you about three hours to complete this trail because of the more difficult terrain.
  • Battery Point Trail – a very clean and easy to navigate trail, Battery Point Trail is only 3.7 miles long from start to finish. This is a nice hiking trail to travel upon because you can walk the entire path in about an hour and a half, yet you’ll have a wonderful opportunity to see lots of beautiful Alaskan wildlife and many wild birds including gorgeous bald eagles.

Kenai Fjords National Park – Free Admission

This extremely popular national park is a wonderful place to visit just 80 miles south of Anchorage Alaska. It’s one of the best birding destinations in North America.

Visiting Resurrection Bay is quite a popular activity because it’s filled with many of the most beautiful sea birds you’ll ever see. And there are lots of whale watching trips that also take place in the area, which is a fun way to see the whales, get out on the water, and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

I promise you’re going to love your next bird-watching excursion in Kenai Fjords National Park.

Location:

1212 4th Ave.
Seward, AK 99664

Mailing Address
PO Box 1727
Seward, AK 99664
Phone: 907-422-0500

GPS: 59.8487° N, 150.1879° W

Hours Of Operation:

The national park is open all year round, 24 hours a day, and it’s even open on holidays. If you’re looking to spend time at the visitor center, it is only open Monday through Sunday from 9 AM to 7 PM, so please keep that in mind.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Gray Jay
  • Hermit Thrush
  • White-Winged Crossbill
  • Plaque-Legged Kittiwake
  • Parakeet Auklet
  • Boreal Chickadee
  • Gray-Crowned Rosy-Finch
  • Black Oystercatcher
  • Pelagic Cormorant
  • Pacific Loon
  • Barrow’s Goldeneye
  • Fork-Tailed Storm-Petrel

Hiking Trails:

It’s my pleasure to let you know that there are three amazing hiking trails that you can easily access the next time you visit Kenai Fjords National Park. Two of these hiking trails are relatively easy, but the last one is pretty difficult and relatively long as well, so be prepared.

The names of these hiking trails are as follows:

  • Exit Glacier Overlook Trail – this is a really nice trail to walk along because it’s easy to travel and it isn’t too long but it isn’t too short either because the total distance is 2.2 miles. On average, this should take a person walking at a normal speed about an hour to an hour and 10 minutes to finish from beginning to end. And it’s an easy trail, so you will not have to battle rough terrain.
  • Exit Glacier View Loop – this trail is certainly easier than the previous trail because it’s much shorter since it is only 1 mile long. And it’s also very nice and smooth terrain without any hills to climb or rocky outcroppings to deal with. Overall, it should take about 25 minutes to 30 minutes to finish this trail all the way through without stopping.
  • Harding Ice Field Trail – this is where things get a lot more difficult and the name says it all. You are going to have to walk across an ice field trail in order to finish this gigantic trail from start to finish. It’s hard terrain to walk along and it’s 8.2 miles in total distance. On average, it will likely take a regular hiker around 6 ½ hours to complete this trail and go from beginning to end, which is no easy task. It may be difficult but this trail is also very safe, so please keep that in mind.

Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge – Free Admittance

At the waterfowl refuge, you’ll have the opportunity to walk through beautiful wetlands, forests, and open fields as you check out the wildlife and all of the amazing birds. In this diverse habitat, you’ll discover plenty of waterfowl and migratory birds, along with nature education, research, and wildlife viewing opportunities.

This area originally became a refuge in 1977 after it was admitted to the National Register of Historic Places. And the entire area is currently managed by the state of Alaska, which makes it the ideal place to visit the next time you plan to go bird watching while in the region.

Location:

Migratory Waterfowl Refuge Management
1300 College Rd.
Fairbanks, AK 99701
Phone: 907-459-7223

GPS: 64.8629° N, 147.7384° W

Hours Of Operation:

This location is open from 9:30 AM to 5 PM every day. You can also become a member of the Friends of Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge group at the same location.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Yellow Warbler
  • Swainson’s Thrush
  • Solitary Sandpiper
  • Canada Goose
  • American Widgeon
  • Greater White-Fronted Goose
  • Sandhill Crane
  • White-Winged Crossbill
  • Boreal Chickadee
  • Ruffed Grouse
  • Rusty Blackbird
  • Northern Waterthrush 

Hiking Trails:

There aren’t a wide range of hiking trails to choose from, but there are two very easy to navigate trails that are both about 2 miles long. So, if you’re looking for a leisurely walk through the area for birdwatching, this is going to be an excellent destination to choose.

The name of the hiking trails and other pertinent information include:

  • Farm Road Trail and Chickadee Loop – this trail is very easy to navigate because it’s relatively flat, they keep the grass trimmed so it’s easy to navigate, and there are very few obstacles along the way. This trail is only 2 miles long, so you should have no trouble finishing it from start to finish in about an hour.
  • Boreal Forest and Seasonal Wetland Trail – this is also a very easy hiking trail to walk along with beautiful scenic views of the river. It’s simple to navigate, relatively flat, and there are very few obstacles to get in your way. The total trail is 2.1 miles long, which should also take about an hour to finish from start to finish. There’s even a boardwalk path, which makes it easy to travel through a dense section of the forest.

Bird Watching Destinations In Alaska: Paid Destinations

Denali National Park & Preserve – Paid Admittance

This national park is made up of 6 million acres of wild land, which means there are plenty of birds and other wildlife in this natural habitat. The Denali Mountain is also the tallest mountain peak in North America, so there are plenty of tranquil wilderness trails to walk upon as you visit with gorgeous wildlife in the wonderful outdoor setting.

Besides all the wonderful bird species, you’ll see wolverines, lynx, gray wolves, moose, black bears, and grizzlies roaming around. It’s truly an exquisite place to visit and one of the best bird watching locations in the state of Alaska.

Location:

Mile 237 Highway 3
Denali Park, AK 99755
Phone: 907-683-9532

GPS: 63.1148° N, 151.1926° W

Hours Of Operation:

By Phone – a ranger is always available seven days a week between 9 AM to 4 PM every day. So, if you need to call the office for any reason, please call during their normal business hours.

Since this is a national park, Denali is technically open 24 hours a day, but they are only capable of providing limited services after hours from 4 PM until early the next morning.

The Denali Visitor Center is open seven days a week from 9 AM to 5 PM, but it remains closed on many major holidays. They include:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • Washington’s Birthday
  • Columbus Day
  • Veterans Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas Day

During the summer, the park remains open from 9 AM to 5 PM on Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day.

Entrance Fees:

  • 7- Day Denali Entrance Permit – $15 per person for individuals 16 years of age or older. Anyone 15 years of age or younger can enter the park for free.
  • Denali Annual Pass – $45

Hiking Trails:

This truly is an amazing place to visit if you love seeing wildlife while walking along stunning hiking trails. In fact, there are actually 22 hiking trails that I’d like to tell you more about today.

The names and other pertinent information about these trails include:

  • Horseshoe Lake Trail – easy difficulty, 2.1 miles, one hour and 10 minutes to complete
  • Bison Gulch – hard difficulty, 7 miles, five hours and 25 minutes to complete
  • Taiga Loop and Horseshoe Lake Trail to Beaver Dam – moderate difficulty, 3 miles, one hour and 35 minutes to complete
  • Taiga Trail – moderate difficulty, 1.6 miles, 45 minutes to complete
  • McKinley Bar Trail – easy difficulty, 4.6 miles, two hours and 30 minutes to complete
  • Stampede Trail to Sushana River – hard difficulty, 38.2 miles, multi-day hiking journey
  • Bison Gulch to Denali Visitor’s Center – hard difficulty, 9.8 miles, seven hours to complete
  • Jonesville Trail – easy difficulty, 0.9 miles, 30 minutes to complete
  • McKinley Station and Morino Loop Trail – moderate difficulty, 0.9 miles, 35 minutes to complete
  • Spruce Tree Trail – easy difficulty, 0.4 miles, 15 minutes to complete
  • Alaska Veterans Memorial – easy difficulty, 0.1 miles, five minutes to complete
  • El Dorado Creek Trail – moderate difficulty, 8.5 miles, four hours and 20 minutes to complete
  • Sheep Mountain – moderate difficulty, 5.9 miles, four hours to complete
  • Quigley Ridge Trail – moderate difficulty, 6 miles, three hours and 25 minutes to complete
  • Blueberry Hill Trail – moderate difficulty, 0.9 miles, 30 minutes to complete
  • Camp Ridge Trail – hard difficulty, 4.2 miles, two hours and 55 minutes to complete
  • Roadside Trail – easy difficulty, 3.4 miles, one hour and 50 minutes to complete
  • McKinley Station Trail – easy difficulty, 2.9 miles, one hour and 25 minutes to complete
  • Mount Thorofare Ridge Loop – hard difficulty, 4.1 miles, two hours and 50 minutes to complete
  • Rock Creek Trail – moderate difficulty, 4.4 miles, two hours and 25 minutes to complete
  • Triple Lakes Trail – hard difficulty, 18.5 miles, nine hours and 55 minutes to complete
  • Mount Healy Overlook Trail – hard difficulty, 6.1 miles, three hours and 25 minutes to complete

Alaska Birdwatching Clubs

The state of Alaska is one the most amazing places in the world for birdwatching. So, if you live in the beautiful frozen tundra, you’re in for an absolutely incredible treat because the birdwatching opportunities are vast and exciting. 

Even better, there are other like minded people enjoying the stunning sights and sounds of these gorgeous creatures as a group by participating in local Alaska birding clubs, and you should feel free to join them!

Kachemak Bay Birders

This active birding community based out of Homer, AK regularly goes on a wide array of birding trips all year long. They have a number of summer trips planned already this year, and they’ve successfully completed some fun-filled trips already this year with more to follow. Join other local birders on their mission to keep Kachemak Bay and the lovely native birds safe and protected through stewardship, science, education, and field trips.

Contact Info:

Past and Future Events:

  • Anchor River – this event is taking place on July 17 at 10 AM and you’ll have to pay five dollars for parking if you attend this trip. Carpooling is welcome. You’ll meet in the Habitat Cove campground, where you will meet up with event leaders Jim Herbert and Michelle Michaud. On this adventure, you’re expected to see many different types of birds including the Tufted Puffin, Aleutian Tern, Short-Tailed Shearwater, Parasitic Jaeger, Solitary Sandpiper, and other fantastic birds.
  • Mud Bay – this is another event that previously took place this year. Members of the birdwatching club got together and visited Mud Bay. While here, they were able to see many different types of birds including the Semipalmated Plover, Short-Billed Dowitcher, Ruddy Turnstone, Marbled Godwit, Bonaparte’s Gull, Savannah Sparrow, Violet-Green Swallow, Merlin, and more.
  • Bishop’s Beach – this event also previously took place earlier in the year. The Kachemak Bay Birders got together and visited this exciting location. While here, they saw many amazing birds in their natural habitat including the Snow Goose, Greater White-Fronted Goose, Pacific Wren, Song Sparrow, American Pipit, Hermit Thrush, Sandhill Crane, and other beautiful avian species.

Membership Fees:

I’m happy to announce that it will not cost a penny to join the Kachemak Bay Birders. Becoming a member of the club is free to any and all who want to join this prestigious organization. Please be aware that they take many birdwatching trips throughout the year and these events occasionally require some form of payment.

Anchorage Audubon Society

This prestigious organization is a great place to join if you’re interested in all things birding related. They host bird watching field trips on a regular basis, hold monthly meetings, have a newsletter, have special events, discuss conservation issues, and even have educational events that talk about natural history programs and other bird related topics.

Their mission is to focus on conservation of the ecosystem of south-central Alaska. Their main focus is on birds, but they also attempt to preserve the natural habitats for other wildlife as well. This is a mission that all environmentally conscious people should feel good supporting.

Contact Info:

Anchorage Audubon Society
PO Box 101161
Anchorage, AK 99510

Past and Future Events:

  • Fall Freeze Up Bird Walk – this event originally took place on October 20 in 2018, where the Audubon Society members met at 8:30 AM. The event was led by Andrew Fisher, and the group walked around town and visited Lake Hood and Westchester Lagoon. On the trip, they viewed many waterbirds and waterfowl in these pristine locations.
  • Seward Birding Trip – this trip originally took place on February 20, 2016 and the event was led by Aaron Bowman. On this birding trip, the group visited many locations throughout Seward and stopped by regular feeder spots and other beautiful hiking trails to see many amazing birds.
  • Ferry Trip to Dutch Harbor – this trip took place during the month of June in 2016 and it was also led by bird watching enthusiast Aaron Bowman. Birders needed to take a flight from Dutch Harbor to Anchorage that cost roughly $500. And you also had to spend two nights in a hotel, which cost roughly $100 per night. On this guided birding trip, birdwatching enthusiasts and Audubon Society members had the opportunity to explore Alaska while looking at amazing birds and other natural wildlife.

Membership Fees:

To become a member of the Anchorage Audubon Society, please visit the following webpage and following the on-screen instructions: 

https://act.audubon.org/onlineactions/DH8fxTkoC0qHjXF9fZCtRw2?chapter=A50

At a minimum, you must spend $20 to become a member of the National Audubon Society. You also need to designate your chapter from the drop-down box below the suggested donations. The Anchorage Audubon Society Chapter designation is A50.

Besides paying $20 to become a member, they also provide other suggested donation amounts including $50, $75, $100, $250, and $500. But you only have to pay the higher amount if you intend to donate more money, although paying $20 is sufficient to become a member.

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