Alaska has amazing State and National Parks, and some places are only accessible by float plane, which is where we come in handy! We provide access to the following parks and public use cabins/yurts. If you don’t see the perfect cabin or yurt listed below, the Public Lake Cabins website is a great idea source for public use cabins accessible by float plane. The following public use cabins and yurts are our most popular destinations:
We provide access to Katmai National Park on the remote Alaska Peninsula for bear viewing, fishing, camping, rafting, climbing, or hiking. The near edge of Katmai is approximately 90 air miles from Homer, but due to the size of the park, costs of travel vary by destination. When requesting to “go to Katmai”, majority implies Brooks but there is so much more to the park! We have had campers/backpackers in places like Fourpeaked glacier lake, Kaguyak Crater, Spectacle Lake, Battle Lake, Hammersly Lake, Geographic Harbor, Kukak Bay. One thing we require is good communication (inReach or similar, no satellite voice-only phones please!) and overall preparedness for backcountry travel.
The only developed campground in Katmai is at Brooks Camp, which lies between Naknek Lake and Lake Brooks. To make a campsite reservation, follow this link to NPS website: Camping at Brooks Camp. Spots go quick once reservations open up for the year in early January. See below for possibilities if you missed out on a reserved spot. We also offer Day Trip Bear Viewing at Brooks Camp and Falls. Brooks Falls is the world’s most famous and photographed brown bear viewing location. Our signature evening bear viewing trip avoids crowds of hundreds of people that descend on the bear viewing platforms late mornings. See our Blog for details.
We get a lot of requests from those looking to camp at Brooks Camp. In the busy times of bear viewing season, we are usually well booked up with day trip bear viewing at Brooks. We would be trying to squeeze you and your camping gear into a packed flight. This works for a single traveler or a couple that packs really light. So here is another way of getting to Brooks:
Take Alaska Airlines to King Salmon, then a float plane or a boat onto Brooks. If you book early, prices (2023 season) seem to be as low as $400 per person, round trip to King Salmon from Anchorage. For summer 2023, there are two daily flights: 10:10 AM and 5:10 PM. We’d recommend the morning flight as getting into King Salmon at 6:20 PM makes it likely that you would be spending the night before the final leg of your trip and that might be an adventure in itself. Then from King Salmon to Brooks with Katmai Air ($450 round trip) or Branch River Air (does not seem to have per seat prices published but we see them in and out of Brooks multiple times every day). Also there is a boat ride with Katmai Water Taxi at $330 per person, round trip. This works out to $730 per person round trip from Anchorage. Keep in mind that last week of July is the end of commercial fishing season so prices for King Salmon to Anchorage flight spike up to $280. Getting a seat on last moment’s notice might be next to impossible. Also, getting yourself oriented in King Salmon and making it on time for your float plane (or boat) ride might be an adventure. Cell phone service in King Salmon varies: Verizon works great and AT&T, not at all (2022). Return flights out of King Salmon to Anchorage are 3 PM and 7:20 PM, so plan for extra time to get from your Brooks to King Salmon flight/boat ride to the airport terminal. Morning fog is a thing so planning on getting out of Brooks early may throw a wrench into the works of having to be in King Salmon by noon-1PM.
You could also charter entire airplane out of Homer, but keep in mind that in July and August everyone is busy. For a larger group of 4-5 people this would make perfect sense. We can do this in June and mid August on, but for the height of the season we would recommend one of our friends and neighbors on Beluga Lake.
Once you are at Brooks, there is no simple way to communicate with the outside world unless you have an inReach or a similar device. There was a time I came across someone looking to book a scenic flight out of King Salmon for when they got back there. They were getting a run around by everyone they talked to: lodge was too busy and NPS was not going to get involved. I suggested a company that would be able to do the flight for them but the only way they accomplished this was by walking the beach and asking float plane pilots if they knew who flew for that one certain company. Most of us fly airplanes with large logos of our companies right on the tail, and some others, not so much. It did not take long before someone said they needed to talk to the pilot landing in fifteen minutes and the color/tail number of the plane. From there with a little bit of pencil and paper messaging back and forth to the office in King Salmon, their dream flight was booked.
Over the years, several times our passengers were determined to camp at Brooks even though the campground was booked at capacity. No-shows and cancelations do happen. One time we had a lucky group that scored a spot (for free!) in the campground for three nights in a row due to no shows. Bad weather kept groups with reservations from coming in. This might be a workable solution for those who do not mind lack of a rigid confirmed itinerary. Seems like every summer there are few people that come up as soon as we land and ask if we will have a seat or two going back to Homer. If we do not, it does not take long to find another operator from Homer that will have open seats on the way back. Also for the more adventurous travelers there is free back country camping on Dumpling mountain , about 1.5 mile hike up the switchbacks on a steep hill trail. It is also possible to camp off the road to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, see the link above for rules and recommended practices. Even though away from the river full of salmon, bears frequent the area. You would have to be very comfortable with their presence and really good at keeping a clean camp. NPS highly recommends a bear fence. The trail up Dumpling mountain is overgrown with Cow Parsnip aka “pushki” at lower elevations, so please familiarize yourself with safety around this plant.
Lake Clark NP is one of the least visited National Parks in the United States. Perhaps this is one of the reasons it is such a pristine wilderness. It is a great destination for bear viewing, fly-fishing, camping and hiking. This park encompasses a large area, including many lakes and rivers. We have supported hikers with drop-offs and pickups on Twin, Telaquana, and Turquoise lakes.
A very popular trip is to Dick Proenneke’s Cabin on Twin Lakes, made famous by the documentary film Alone in the Wilderness. Proenneke built his cabin using hand tools in the late 1960s. It has been preserved as an “outdoor museum” and makes for an interesting park visit. Campsites are nearby.
Kenai Fjords is just a short flight over the amazing Harding Ice Field from Homer. World-class fishing and kayaking are just a couple of the reasons to put this park on your list of places to visit. There are public use cabins available in the park accessible by floatplane charter. There are no developed campgrounds on the coast of Kenai Fjords National Park back-country camping is beautiful along the coast, a short half hour flight from Homer.
Hiking, Kayaking and Public Use Cabins are just some highlights of “K-Bay” State Park. We drop off or pick up groups on many saltwater locations protected from swell and lakes including: China Poot/Leisure Lake, Emerald Lake, Petroff Lake, Wosnesenski Lake, Halibut Cove, Halibut Cove Lagoon, or Tutka Bay. There are many cabins and campsites that are available throughout the park.
Halibut Cove Lagoon
Halibut Cove Lagoon has 3 public use cabins for you to choose from. The lagoon can be difficult to access by boat because of the rapid tide change; a float plane is perfect for accessing this remote location. We can land and depart at any time, without being dependent on the tides. The public use cabins here offer a wide range of activities that will satisfy almost anyone’s outdoor adventure needs. Whether you want to hike, fish, kayak, or paddle board you can do it all here. While staying at the cabins you have full access to the public use hiking trails as well as an 80ft long floating dock. King Salmon fishing is also excellent here in early June.
China Poot (Leisure Lake)
The Leisure Lake cabin is one of the coolest places to go camp across the bay. There are campsites on the lake and the public use cabin is top notch with great trails right outside your door. The two most popular trials that can be accessed form the Leisure Lake cabin are The China Poot Lake Trail & The China Poot Peak Trail. Our floatplane will pull right up to the beach just feet away from the cabin. Camp as long as you want, we will come back and pick you up when you are ready to head back across the bay.
Tutka Back Door trail
We recommend getting dropped off at Taylor Bay and hiking towards Tutka Bay. This way a pickup by boat (contact your favorite water taxi) is not at the mercy of Gulf of Alaska, Outer Coast weather. However, please keep your plans flexible as drop-offs get delayed for weather. Trail conditions vary: check Facebook group if anyone has been down the trail earlier in the season as snow can be slow to melt off in the pass. Per advice of some of the successful groups, have a pack raft for crossing Taylor river, an ice axe (and be ready to use it). Have an inReach device for when you realize that the trail is a bit more than you imagined.
Four cabins are available on Shuyak island – and almost the entire island is an Alaska State Park!
Hiking, Rafting, & Kayaking
At Steller Air, one of our favorite things is getting you going on a wilderness adventure. Kachemak State Park, Katmai National Park, Kenai Fjords National Park, Lake Clark National Park, and the remote Alaska Peninsula offer spectacular hiking, kayaking, and rafting opportunities.
Hike Kachemak Bay State Park from a drop off at Leisure Lake, also known as China Poot Lake with a pickup by a water taxi
Other lakes we can put within your reach: Wosnesenski, Emerald, Petroff, Lower Hazel, Seldovia, Caribou, Tustumena, Green Lake, Bradley, Second Lake in Nanwalek, Delight, Desire, Dinglestadt glacier lake. If you have never been there and are looking for information on terrain and access, please send us an email.
Mt. Augustine is a 45 minute flight from Homer and is accessible from the tidal, salt water lagoon. It is an active volcano that has erupted in 2006, 1994, 1986, and 1976. On a slow day after a drop-off in Katmai area we love to to make a stop and explore the island.
Mt Iliamna, also a volcano can be accessed from Hickerson Lake on the SE side. It is always steaming near the summit but it has not erupted since 1876.