Things to do in King Salmon, Alaska

Last Updated on January 31, 2024

If you’re heading to King Salmon as a visitor, you’re probably planning to visit Katmai National Park or go on a fishing trip and have discovered that a visit to King Salmon is in your future!

If you’re wondering how much time to spend in King Salmon, what to do while you’re there and how to navigate your options, I’ve got you. Most people who are spending time in King Salmon are waiting for flights for fishing or bear viewing in Katmai National Park so that’s what this article focuses on.

A blue and white float plane at a dock on the edge of the Naknek River in King Salmon, Alaska. The river is wide and there are trees and bushes along the sides. It's an overcast day.
A float plane docked along the Naknek River in King Salmon

Is King Salmon worth visiting?

King Salmon is a Yup’ik community of approximately 300 people that sees plenty of commercial fishing and tourism. This is a place not many visitors get to, and it does not have a lot of visitor services.

This makes it a place worth experiencing to get a feel for what life is like in rural Alaska. If you are on your way to a remote lodge or to see the Brown Bears in Katmai I recommend exploring King Salmon, which is tiny and won’t take very much time.

You may find yourself spending time in King Salmon that you didn’t plan on, due to weather delaying or cancelling a flight or tour. If this happens, embrace it as part of your experience and head to one of the restaurants or book a cabin to make the most of it.

How to get to King Salmon

A small airport terminal building with a few cars parked in front.
Alaska Airlines terminal at the King Salmon airport

You cannot drive to King Salmon. The only way to get here is by airplane. You can fly commercially from Anchorage on Alaska Airlines, or you can take a small plane from Anchorage or other communities in Alaska.

Getting from King Salmon to Brooks Falls

A waterfall with two brown bears, one at the top and one at the bottom and several salmon jumping up the waterfall.
Brooks Falls

You have two options for getting from King Salmon to Brooks Falls, Katmai Air and the Katmai Water Taxi. I highly recommend going with Katmai Air because they are affiliated with the lodge and this is a huge benefit in this remote location. They take you straight to Brooks Camp and it’s really easy to navigate everything in this remote location with no cell service, wifi or any way to communicate except for walking into the office! The water taxi is an alternative if you are concerned about the small plane, but the water taxi is also prone to weather cancellations.

Why Travel Insurance is important if you’re heading to King Salmon

If you’re going to be in King Salmon, make sure you have travel insurance in case trips are cancelled and you have to spend unplanned time in King Salmon or have other interruptions to your trip. This can become extremely expensive and I always recommend getting trip insurance whenever going into remote parts of Alaska where lots of things usually go differently than you planned.

Weather delays are very common and can result in you spending more nights than you expected, or being somewhere overnight when you didn’t plan on it. A flight or tour being delayed or cancelled in remote Alaska is more likely than not so it’s really important to consider this.

I like Insure My Trip for my own travel as you can see and compare all the options in one place. This is my affiliate link for Insure My Trip, which means if you book a policy through them I receive a small commission at no cost to you.

Cell service and Wifi in King Salmon

Do not expect to have cell service or wifi in King Salmon. Make sure to make all arrangements for where you are staying and where you are getting picked up in advance and definitely before leaving Anchorage.

If you are going to Brooks Camp on Katmai Air, they will pick you up at the airport or wherever you are staying, but you need to let them know and make these arrangements ahead of time.

I have cell service there, but not data and my cell service was not consistent. A lot of this is going to depend on what carrier you have. Assume you will not have it and make sure you have all logistics figured out ahead of time.

Where to stay in King Salmon

A grassy field with a few trees and some tables and chairs. There are several wooden cabins with porches and green roofs around the field.
The Sockeye Cabins in King Salmon

I recommend staying at the Antlers Inn or Sockeye Cabins (same business) in King Salmon. There are some other options, but this is a great option because you can walk to the airport (so handy) and it’s easy to get rides from your tour operator or small airplane company.

If you stay somewhere else, make sure you can get rides to where you need to go.

There is no camping in King Salmon, so make sure you have a plan for where you’re staying overnight. I really like the Sockeye Cabins because they have room to repack your gear which is really convenient, especially if you’re going to be camping in Katmai National Park.

Related: Complete Guide to Camping in Alaska

Where to eat in King Salmon

A bottle of Alaskan white beer and a glass with the beer poured into it on a table with a menu for the Sockeye Saloon. There is a wooden wall behind the table and a bar in the background with a tv
Enjoying an Alaska beer at the Sockeye Saloon while waiting for a flight

You have two options for eating in King Salmon – the Sockeye Saloon and Eddie’s Fireplace Inn. Both serve American style food. Eddie’s Fireplace Inn is open earlier in the day and closes a bit earlier and Sockeye Saloon is open later in the evening.

I recommend going to at least one of these restaurants to get a feel for life in remote Alaska! You’ll meet new people and learn just how expensive restaurants can be in a place where everything arrives by plane.

Both restaurants are walking distance (just a few blocks) from the airport, so they are great places to kill some time waiting for a flight.

You can also get candy bars, snacks and groceries at the Alaska Commercial Company Grocery store.

Related: What to pack for Alaska

Other things to do in King Salmon while waiting for your plane

Visit the National Park Service King Salmon Visitor Center

A small wooden building with an American and Alaska flag and a fence behind it. The signs reads King Salmon Visitor Center and has several bears drawn on it.
The NPS visitor center

Make it a priority to get to this small but excellent visitor center located right next to the Alaska Airlines terminal at the airport. Learn about Katmai National Park as well as the many other public lands on the Alaska Peninsula and Bristol Bay.

The staff are super knowledgeable and a wonderful resource for your time in the area. There is an Alaska Geographic shop here and exhibits about the human and geologic history of this area as well as the wildlife and volcanoes of Katmai National Park.

Go for a walk along the Naknek River and near the airport

I really enjoy exploring new places, and walking along the road between the airport and the river (the area between the Alaska Airlines terminal and the Katmai Air Seaplane base) is a great way to get a feel for what King Salmon is all about.

The constant buzzing of taking off and landing seaplanes (or the silence without them if it’s foggy) as well as boats on the river and the many planes taking off on the land based air strip really showcase how critical aviation is to this tiny remote community.

Check out the Grocery Store

A brown and red building with a truck parked in front. The sign says Alaska Commercial Company King Salmon.
The ACC grocery store in King Salmon

If you really want to get a feel for what life is like in rural Alaska off the road system, make sure to stop at the grocery store. The Alaska Commercial Company is located half a mile from the airport terminal, just up the road across from the Sockeye Cabins.

This is also a good place to pick up anything you need, like toothpaste or bug spray.

Take a fishing or jetboat tour

Depending on when you’re there, weather conditions and availability of guides, you might be able to secure a last minute fishing trip or jetboat tour. Ask in the visitor center if they know of anyone who might be available if you have some extra time on your hands and what to do more exploring.

If you want to make sure you have this opportunity, definitely book it in advance, but you might be able to do it last minute.

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Jennie Flaming
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite. I lived in Alaska for many years and I still spend lots of time there every year visiting friends and working as a tour director. I've been a guide for many years in both Alaska and Washington, am a field editor for the Milepost and host the Alaska Uncovered Podcast about Alaska Travel as well as the Washington State Hiking Podcast. I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you here!