A black bear with her cubs, fresh from hibernation and tumbling around in the long grass. A group of adult grizzlies pawing at the salmon-filled stream before swiping out their silvery-pink prey. And in the moss-draped forest, the ghostly appearance of a cream-furred spirit bear foraging among the trees…
The wilds of British Columbia’s coastal rainforests are unparalleled when it comes to encountering bears in their natural habitat. Remote lodges dedicated to helping visitors see bears dot the region, but which do you choose? We compare four of them to help you decide.
Tweedsmuir Park Lodge
Visit for… a wide mix of outdoor and cultural activities alongside bear viewing.
Getting there: Tweedsmuir Park Lodge is situated on the edge of Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, east of Bella Coola town and close to the Atnarko River. Getting there is part of the experience — take a 70-minute scenic flight from Vancouver over lake-scattered mountains, or reach the lodge by car as part of a wider road trip.
Where do I stay? The lodge has ten timber-framed chalets, set around a tree-fringed lawn where you might see black or grizzly bears grazing from your window. Each has a private bathroom and air conditioning. Communal areas include a bar, games area, spa, and an outdoor hot tub with views of the Coast Mountains.
What does the bear watching here involve? You’ll head out for most of the day in a small, guided group, taking a packed lunch with you. Depending on the time of year, you might travel by boat, looking out for black and grizzly bears grazing on sedge grass along the river. Or, your guide might lead you on foot through temperate rainforest as you look for tell-tale signs of the bears’ presence — pawprints, trees used as scratching posts, their bark worn away, and, of course, bear scat.
You’ll usually arrive at a bear-viewing platform set along a river. In September and October, the salmon run draws bears to the banks en masse and you can watch as they hastily scoop their prey from the water.
What else can I do from this lodge? Heli-hiking in the Coast Mountains, guided e-biking along local trails, gentle rafting and fishing along the river, interpretive nature walks, or summiting a mountain by via ferrata. You could also spend time with the lodge’s Nuxalk First Nation guides, who’ll show you some of the area’s millennia-old petroglyphs and tell you more about their culture and traditions.
Great Bear Lodge
Visit for… its passionate biologists, who’ll share their in-depth knowledge of bears and their habitat.
Getting there: Great Bear Lodge is set within the Great Bear Rainforest, a half-hour seaplane flight from Port Hardy, in the north of Vancouver Island. You’ll land right outside the lodge, which floats on the surface of the Queen Charlotte Strait.
Where do I stay? The two-floor wooden house has eight simple but comfortable rooms, some looking out across the water. Each has an en suite bathroom and limited electricity that’s powered by solar and wind energy. You’ll enjoy locally sourced meals and complimentary drinks and cookies throughout your stay, and there’s a well-stocked natural history library.
What does the bear watching here involve? The lodge is owned and run by a biologist and a team of other experienced naturalists eager to share their deep knowledge of bears and the local ecosystem. Cameras are set up around the forest to keep track of the bears’ location, so your guides will know where to take you for the best chance of seeing them.
You’ll head out twice a day, exploring by boat, on foot, or from a hide or viewing platform where you can set up your camera. Your guides will explain what you’re seeing, whether you’re watching a mother bear and her cubs or a salmon feeding frenzy.
What else can I do from this lodge? Join an interpretive forest walk, learning bear-tracking techniques as you go. Or, board a boat to explore glacier-carved inlets, looking out for bald eagles and otters. In the evening, the lodge’s guides often present slides and videos that help you learn more about bears and the region’s ecology.
Knight Inlet Lodge
Visit for… the option to enjoy whale watching in addition to bear viewing.
Getting there: Knight Inlet Lodge floats on the waters of Knight Inlet, in the midst of the Great Bear Rainforest. It’s another splash-down arrival as you reach the lodge via a short but scenic floatplane flight from Campbell River, on Vancouver Island’s north coast.
Where do I stay? While slightly larger than the other lodges, Knight Inlet Lodge has a home-away-from-home feel and is owned by five First Nations indigenous to the area. Each room has an en suite bathroom and views over the water or the shoreline, where you might see bears foraging en route to the estuary. Fresh seafood and other locally sourced dishes are served in the dining room, and there’s an open-air lounge overlooking the water.
What does the bear watching here involve? In spring and summer, you’ll observe bears by boat, often encountering mother bears and cubs feeding up on sedge grass and berries. From late August to October, your experienced and enthusiastic guides lead you to the lodge’s viewing stands strategically set up along the inlet. Here, you can watch the drama unfold as salmon attempt to avoid the teeth and claws of hungry grizzlies.
What else can I do from this lodge? Guided rainforest walks to learn about the bears’ habitat, as well as tracking tours to look for evidence of bear activity. You can also paddle a kayak along the shoreline near the lodge, or extend your stay to include whale watching in the Johnstone Strait, which is around an hour away and often frequented by orcas.
Spirit Bear Lodge
Visit for… the opportunity to see rare spirit bears and experience First Nations culture.
Getting there: In the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest, Spirit Bear Lodge is set in an area where rare Kermode, or spirit bears, roam — black bears with a recessive gene that gives them cream fur. You’ll access the lodge via a scenic flight from Vancouver or Port Hardy, followed by an atmospheric water taxi journey among the fjords and mountains of BC’s coast.
Where do I stay? Owned by the indigenous Kitasoo Xai’xais First Nation, the main lodge’s design is based on a traditional longhouse, blended with a modern style. There are 12 guest rooms spread across two floors, each adorned with First Nations artwork and overlooking the water, where you might spot orcas, humpbacks, otters, and sea lions. In the evening, you can join other guests to dine around the two long cedar tables and share highlights from your day.
What does the bear watching here involve? Tours vary depending on the time of year, the weather, and where bears have been recently sighted. While some see you head out on foot with your guide, most set off from the lodge’s jetty as you journey by motorboat along waterways that lace the rainforest, keeping eyes peeled for bears along the banks. Sometimes your bear viewing will focus on one river system as you wait with bated breath for a sighting; other times you could visit several locations.
Your guides might take you to Princess Royal Island, where you can explore the Kitasoo Spirit Bear Conservancy — home to the namesake species as well as black bears, grizzlies, wolves, and sitka deer.
What else can I do from this lodge? Kitasoo Xai’xais guides can lead you on walks to show you medicinal plants, petroglyphs carved by their ancestors in the forest, and other sacred sites, as well as share stories passed down through generations. You can also paddle a canoe or kayak along forest-fringed inlets, hike to waterfalls, or go whale watching.
Start planning your bear-watching trip
You can stay at any of these four lodges as part of an itinerary focused on seeing the bears of British Columbia.
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