Wild Weekend: Bear Watching in Canada's Great Bear Rainforest

Get up close and personal with the Canadian wilderness by land, sky or sea.
| Updated: November 27, 2018
The majestic Kermode (Spirit) Bear.


Listen up, adventurers: it’s time to walk on the wild side. Seeing majestic black bears and grizzlies in their natural habitat is on many people’s bucket lists, so we recommend crossing it off yours this year with a trip into the wilderness of Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest.

Unleash your inner adventurer as you spot animals in the old-growth rainforest, fish for salmon or halibut along the scenic coast and heli-hike and sightsee through postcard-worthy scenery. You may even catch a glimpse of the rare white Kermode bear—also known as a “Spirit Bear”—found only in this remote corner of the world.

Get There

Accessing the Great Bear Rainforest means breaking free of the beaten path. Hop on a short flight to Vancouver, British Columbia, then fly, ferry or road trip onwards to the community of Bella Coola, known as the gateway to the rainforest, in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast region. Visitors can connect directly from Vancouver to Bella Bella or Bella Coola on a flight that takes just over an hour. If you want to take the scenic route, drive Highway 97 to Highway 20, where traffic is basically non-existent and nature surrounds you. If you’d prefer to get out on the water, sail along BC’s central coast, surrounded by dense evergreen forest and granite cliffs, on the new Northern Sea Wolf Ferry with routes running all summer from Port Hardy to Bella Coola.

Rest Your Head

Drop your bags at the majestic Tweedsmuir Park Lodge, located within the Great Bear Rainforest—a protected forest area that’s equivalent in size to Ireland. Set on 60 acres of private land within the park, the historic property, originally built as a fishing-hunting lodge in 1929, offers peaceful timber-frame chalets, a large outdoor hot-tub, helicopter tours for skiers, snowboarders, hikers and sightseers, a teepee sweat lodge and sauna and gourmet West Coast dining with first-class service. The lodge is one of the best places to spot grizzly bears as well. Guests can take in the sights from their glass viewing platform, and in late summer and autumn, it’s even possible to see grizzlies wandering past the lodge or napping on the lawn.

The Great Bear Rainforest is filled with an abundance of wildlife, such as the Sitka black-tailed deer. Image Credit: Destination BC/Michael Bednar

Observe Bears and Other Wildlife

Watch the bears as they fish, feed and explore with Bella Coola Grizzly Tours. With over 30 years of experience leading expeditions in the area, the owners offer guided marine tours and grizzly bear and wildlife viewing experiences. Their eight-hour Glacial Fjord and Hot Springs Tour is one of their most popular, conducted from a 42-foot twin diesel jet boat. Enjoy a full-day experience learning about the history of the area and searching for grizzlies, black bears and wolves on land, as well as dolphins, humpback and killer whales in the ocean. Keep an eye on the sky of course for the eagles soaring high above. Dip into an all-natural mineral hot spring, enjoy a barbeque lunch, observe some pictographs and learn more about the indigenous culture of the area.

Drop a Line

The Cariboo Chilcotin Coast region, home to more than 8,000 lakes and 10,000 miles of rivers and streams, is truly a fisherman’s paradise. The Shearwater Resort and Marina offers all-inclusive fishing packages for anglers of all skill levels, from fully guided trips to more hands-on solo expeditions, complete with top-of-the-line boats and gear. And if the fish aren’t biting, you can take your hands off the reel and keep your eyes peeled for the area’s spectacular aquatic wildlife, including orcas, humpback whales and sea otters.

Take a Hike

Hunlen Falls is the third tallest waterfall in Canada. Image Credit: Destination BC/Grant Harder

Ride a helicopter deep into the coastal range and experience wild and beautiful areas that would otherwise be inaccessible. Customize your heli-hike tour and embark on a refreshing walk or a long, strenuous hike. Guides will lead you among the peaks overlooking the valley and town of Bella Coola, while taking in fantastic views of remote alpine lakes, meadows and old-growth forests. If you’d prefer to see the famous Hunlen Falls up close, join Tweedsmuir Air for a fixed-wing flightseeing journey, which can also swoop you past glaciers, icefields, waterfalls, rock cliffs, fjords and the Great Bear Rainforest.



Related Content

Take a flight, rent a van, learn a survival skill

Take a flight, rent a van, learn a survival skill

Sometimes the Garden Island needs watering, but that’s OK—there’s no wrong way to experience paradise

Tour some of the state’s most scenic falls on a weekend jaunt full of mist, moss and spruced-up photo ops


When is the best time to visit the vibrant, Western Idaho town? “Right now” is probably the best answer—whenever you ask it