One of the questions I’m most often asked is “where can I see bears in Whistler?”. And I get it – they’re fascinating creatures, plus bear cubs are super cute! However, I’ve seen people go searching for bears on their own and that is a really harmful and dangerous practice. (You can see my post on Bear Safety Tips here.) So I teamed up with Whistler Photo Safaris to experience one of their bear viewing tours in Whistler and it BLEW MY MIND.
Whistler Photo Safaris describes its bear watching experience as an “authentic opportunity to head into the wild in style, with award winning photographers, adventurers, and highly educated guides.” Let me tell you – they are being humble.
Their level of knowledge about the bears in Whistler is extraordinary. Not only do I learn about the local bear population, the different personalities of the bears, the mamas, their cubs, and their history in the area, but it was done in a responsible way. At no time on our tour did we ever disrupt, frighten, or impose ourselves upon the bears. In fact, our guide specifically went to great lengths to ensure we never got in their way, even if that meant taking a longer, bumpier route around them.
The bears in the Callaghan Valley, which number about 60 in population, are not used to human activity as much as bears in other areas, like on Whistler Blackcomb, and they’re not tagged. And since Whistler Photo Safaris has exclusive access to Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan after hours when it’s gated and locked, you can watch the bears undisturbed in their natural habitat.
The bear watching tours run five times a day, seven days a week so given the amount of time Whistler Photo Safaris is operating, they know the bears and their habits intimately. This means you are extremely likely to see bears on your tour – I saw 11 bears! – but also that the experience is authentic yet respectful to the bears.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW:
What happens on the bear tour?
Your guide will pick you up at your Whistler hotel or pre-determined location in a 4×4 jeep and drive you out to Callaghan Valley. We stopped along the way at the spectacular Alexander Falls before proceeding to Whistler Olympic Park. Once inside the park, the search begins! The guides are always on the lookout for bears, whether its favourite snacking or napping locations or by tracking new scat left by the bears. The 4×4 jeep allows for some serious off-roading, too! We also get a very cool tour of the Olympic venues and went right up onto the ski jump! The views are incredible but nothing really matches the splendour of seeing the bears. We saw a mama with three cubs right at the end of our tour, and we just sat and watched them forever. It was amazing!
How long is a bear tour?
We did the sunset bear viewing tour. We were picked up at 7 p.m. in Whistler village and the tour lasted about 2.5 hours. It was incredible!
How often do the tours run?
Whistler Photo Safari’s operates five tours a day, seven days a week from May to October (weather dependent). The tours run at 6 a.m., 9 a.m., 12 p.m., 4 p.m., and 7 p.m. Bears are usually most active around sunrise and sunset (they like to nap during the heat of the day) so you may want to keep that in mind when booking.
How much is a bear tour?
The price of the Whistler Photo Safari bear tour is incredibly affordable considering the value that is included. The rate is $189 for adults and $129 for children 12 and under. Each bear tour is private, which is something that was implemented during 2020 but I’m told it will continue. A two-guest minimum is required, which is what we did and I can tell you that it is such a cool, intimate experience.
What to bring on a bear tour?
Definitely dress in layers because we’re in the mountains and temperatures can vary. I brought a warm and waterproof jacket with me. Since we were doing the evening tour, I anticipated the weather might fluctuate a lot. I’d recommend wearing hiking boots or sneakers with lots of grip. You’ll also want sunscreen and a hat, as well as a bottle of water. I’d suggest you leave food at home. And lastly, don’t forget bug spray! The mosquitos are vicious in the mountains and are particularly hungry in the evening.
So if you’re still considering where is the best place to see bears in Canada, I cannot recommend Whistler Photo Safaris enough. Their bear watching tours are one-of-a-kind and incredibly memorable, even for a longtime local like myself.
I am so grateful to Whistler Photo Safaris for hosting me and my husband for this experience.
If you have any questions about the tour, please drop me a comment below! In the meantime, enjoy my favourite photo of our whole experience!