The Complete Travel Guide to Great Bear Rainforest

Spirit bear climbing on a tree in Great Bear Rainforest
Photo credit: Spirit Bear Lodge

The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the world’s most pristine and untouched wilderness areas. It is located on the West Coast of Canada, stretching from Vancouver Island to the Alaska Panhandle. The Great Bear Rainforest is home to a variety of wildlife, including the iconic spirit bear, grizzly bears, black bears, sea lions, sea otters, humpback whales, and more. The rainforest spans over 16 million acres, which is equivalent in size to Ireland and is a popular destination for both tourists and scientists alike.

This guide will provide you with everything you need to know about visiting the Great Bear Rainforest. It includes how to get there, the best time to visit, what to see and do, where to stay, and what to bring. So whether you’re looking for a place to get away from it all or an adventure of a lifetime, the Great Bear Rainforest is sure not to disappoint.

How To Get There

There are several ways to get to The Great Bear Rainforest. One of the main gateways is Bella Coola which can be reached by taking Highway 20 from Williams Lake. Bella Coola is also serviced by scheduled flights from Vancouver operated by Pacific Coastal Airlines. Other points of entry include Prince Rupert in the North, Bella Bella, Klemtu and Port Hardy in the South.

Another way to experience The Great Bear Rainforest is by taking a ferry ride through BC Ferries’ Inside Passage route. This service departs from Northern Vancouver Island and offers both day trips and multi-day trips.

The Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit the rainforest is during the summer months of June, July and August. This is when the weather is at its warmest and the animals are most active. However, the bear-viewing season runs from June to October, so those looking to see these majestic creatures should plan their trip accordingly. The annual salmon runs typically take place from August to September or even October, making this another great time to see bears in their natural habitat.

What To See

Grizzly Bear in Sedge Grass, Great Bear Rainforest
Photo credit: Tim Milne

There is an abundance of wildlife to see in this wilderness area. From black bears to grizzly bears and whales, there is something for everyone. For those looking to get up close and personal with some of the resident animals, there are several tour operators offering safaris into the heart of the rainforest.

What To Do

The Great Bear Rainforest offers plenty of activities to keep visitors busy. Hiking, sightseeing, camping, fishing, paddling, boating, and bird watching are just a few of the options available. For those looking for a more unique experience, there are also opportunities to go whale watching or grizzly bear viewing. Regardless of which you choose there is no shortage of things to see and do in this rainforest. 

Where To Stay

Accommodation in Great Bear Rainforest
Photo credit: Tripadvisor.ca

There is a variety of accommodation options available in Great Bear Rainforest. For those looking for a rustic experience, camping sites are scattered throughout the region. For those looking for something a little more comfortable, there are several lodges and resorts offering rooms, suites and a variety of dining options.

Bella Coola is a small town located in The Great Bear Rainforest. The town offers a variety of accommodation options, from hotels and inns to cabins and campgrounds. During your stay there, you can also take advantage of the town’s many amenities, including the public beach, the hiking trails, and the kayak and canoe rentals.

This town is also home to a number of restaurants, cafes, and bars. It’s a perfect place to stay if you’re looking to experience the small-town charm of the rainforest.

Tweedsmuir Park Lodge

The Tweedsmuir Park Lodge is a historic lodge located in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest. The lodge offers a variety of accommodations, from camping sites to suites. The lodge is also home to a restaurant, which serves up local specialties like fresh fish and venison. The lodge is the perfect basecamp for those looking to explore the Great Bear Rainforest and its many wonders.

Bella Coola Grizzly Tours Resort

Bella Coola Grizzly Tours Resort offers a variety of cabins, each with its own kitchenette, wood stove, and sundeck. The resort also has a cedar log gazebo with a fire pit and barbeque, perfect for parties or gatherings. A natural swimming hole on campground is a great place for kids to swim and paddle canoes. Guests can also spend time fishing in the creek that runs through the resort. The resort is pet-friendly and there is plenty of room for pets to run and play.

Spirit Bear Lodge

Spirit Bear Lodge is an Indigenous-owned lodge located in Kitasoo Xai’xais traditional territory. The lodge offers a variety of rooms and suites, each with its own private balconies overlooking the Great Bear Sea. The lodge also has a restaurant, which serves up a variety of local dishes.

When planning your trip, keep in mind that bear viewing opportunities in the Great Bear are a highly sought after bucket list experience. Access is limited and lodges and tour operators are almost always at capacity. With prime opportunities found from Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary to Gribell and Princess Royal Islands, there really is no place like Great Bear Rainforest. As such, these areas tend to fill up quickly during peak season. If you are hoping to see bears in these areas, especially the rare Kermode bear, it is recommended that you book your accommodation and tours well in advance.

Respectful Tourism

Please keep in mind the Great Bear Rainforest is traditional territory of Coastal First Nations and respectful and sustainable tourism are always at the forefront. Keep your footprint low, pack out what you bring in and show respect for local cultures and traditions. 

What To Bring

When packing for your trip, be sure to bring rain gear, as the area is known for its wet coastal weather. A camera is also a must, as there are plenty of opportunities to photograph the stunning scenery and wildlife. Swimwear is a good idea if you plan on taking a dip in a natural hot spring or indulge in a sauna. Comfortable shoes are important for exploring the area, and hiking boots are a necessity if you want to go for a hike in the rainforest. Finally, remember to pack layers, as the temperature can vary significantly throughout the day.

There you have it! The complete travel guide to The Great Bear Rainforest. This pristine wildness is a beautiful and unique place, and there are plenty of things to see and do in the area. Whether you’re looking to stay in a lodge and relax, go on a bear viewing tour, or just explore the rainforest, there is something for everyone. No matter what you choose to do there, The Great Bear Rainforest is an unforgettable destination that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Before planning your trip today and exploring this natural wonder, be sure to check out all the details at www.greatbeartales.com or  Province of British Columbia website to learn more about the rainforest.