You can get pretty close to a grizzly catching its dinner. 🐻
A tiny town in B.C. offers you a once-in-a-lifetime experience to watch grizzly bears in their natural habitat and survive to tell the tale.
The bear's home is in what's (unsurprisingly) called the Great Bear Rainforest, located near the isolated town of Bella Coola.
The town is the entrance to the forest and is like a natural oasis, not only because of the many bears but also the lush nature, natural hot springs, stunning glaciers and other wildlife that you can watch.
Grizzlies are known to roam throughout the area all year long, but the prime time to watch them is during the salmon run season. Depending on the year and type of salmon, this is usually from May until mid-October.
Rest assured though, despite the bears being easier to spot during the peak season, there is no short supply of them outside of those times.
How To Get There
Depending on where you're travelling from, the cheapest way to get to Bella Coola is driving.
The town is about a 12-hour drive north of downtown Vancouver but stunning the entire time. It's definitely a long trip, but the mountain views make the time go by just a bit faster.
If you're in a hurry, you can also fly into Bella Coola Airport. It's about an hour-long flight from Vancouver but will cost you more than driving.
BC Ferries also go from Port Hardy to Bella Coola if you want to make the (long) trip by sea.
Where To Watch
According to the Bella Coola website, "in the fall the river banks and coastal areas that contain salmon are frequented by bears," and "during spring and early summer, drive high in the alpine regions on forest service roads to spot black and grizzly bears before they migrate to the valley floor for salmon season."
To start, try going to the Bear Viewing Station at Belarko, in Tweedsmuir Park, where you can safely watch bears at a distance.
Narcity recommends booking a guided tour. That way you don't have to waste your time searching for bears and you can rest assured that the guides will know how to keep you safe.
What Else Is There To Do In Bella Coola?
The remote area surprisingly has a ton of activities that you can do during your stay.
You can visit the two hot springs near the town, Eucott Bay Hot Springs and Tallheo Hot Springs, to have a relaxing dip even in the winter.
Take an adventure by renting sea kayaks to explore the coastline.
Enjoy the other wildlife by taking a stroll through the forest or along the coastline, spotting birds and whales along the way. Or do the 30-minute drive to Firvale to see mountain goats on the cliffs.
There are also stunning hikes throughout the area. You're sure to see lots of wildlife along the way and end your trip with incredible views of mountains and endless ocean.
Whatever your adventure of choice is, make sure to follow all the recommended safety guidelines and wildlife viewing tips.
Before you get going, check our Responsible Travel Guide so you can be informed, be safe, be smart, and most of all, be respectful on your adventure.