Grizzlies of Bear Cave Mountain - 2026Grizzlies of Bear Cave Mountain - 2026Join me in the northern Yukon Territory for one of the most amazing wildlife photo safaris on the planet! Photograph grizzly bears (brown bears) in one of the wildest and most intimate settings possible.

The Bear Cave Mountain camp is at the core of the Ni’iinlii’njik (“where fish spawn”) Territorial Park, located a little south of the Arctic Circle in the northern Yukon Territory. The area is extremely remote (2+ hrs by helicopter from Dawson City) and strictly managed.

Our trip is in run conjunction with guide Phil Timpany at Nakina Adventures, who has over many years worked closely in partnership with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation to develop the Bear Cave Mountain camp and bear viewing business.

Phil has been coming to this area for 30-years and knows the personalities and family lineage of many of the bears.

Only 28 people get access to Bear Cave Mountain each autumn during grizzly bear viewing season, 7 groups of 4 individuals.

Grizzlies of Bear Cave Mountain

A unique 2-week ice bear photography safari

Wednesday, September 20, to Sunday, October 08, 2023

Ni‘iinlii Njik Territorial Park & Wilderness Preserve, Yukon

15-days of wilderness photography - 3 spaces available!
 

CDN $32450 (about USD $26800; £19100 using May 2021 exchange rates)

All-inclusive price covers: all transport, meals, and accommodation after arrival in Whitehorse, and all Canadian sales tax

 

Click here to express your interest for this safari

Note that I also have Bear Cave Mountain safaris running in autumn 2022 to 2026 - see my schedule for details

 

Winter grizzly monochromeWinter grizzly monochromeA 3-year old male grizzly on the bank of the Fishing Branch River, Yukon Territory, 23 October 2018

Join me, Murray Rudd, in the northern Yukon Territory for an ice bear double shot!

Photograph grizzly bears (brown bears) in one of the wildest and most intimate settings possible.

I have the final two slots of the 2026 season, opening up the entire 'ice bear'  viewing window and giving us 13 full-days and 2 half-days of some of the finest wildlife photography on the planet.

The Bear Cave Mountain camp is at the core of the Ni’iinlii’njik (“where fish spawn”) Territorial Park, located just 60-miles south of the Arctic Circle in the northern Yukon Territory. The area is extremely remote (2+ hrs by helicopter from Dawson City) and strictly managed.

Our trip is in run conjunction with local guide Phil Timpany at Nakina Adventures, who has over many years worked closely in partnership with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation to develop the Bear Cave Mountain camp and bear viewing business.

Phil has been coming to this area for 30-years and knows the personalities and family lineage of many of the bears.

Only 28 people get access to Bear Cave Mountain each autumn during grizzly bear viewing season, 7 groups of 4 individuals.

For 2026, I have two adjacent slots reserved; this Bear Cave Mountain safari is limited to 3 photographers.

_____________________

 

 

Who is this safari for?

This safari is meant for adventurous photographers who want a profound and personal wilderness experience.

A 'once in a lifetime' experience is sometimes a term that is used very casually; this safari, however, truly fits the once-in-a-lifetime billing.

We will capture images that reflect the up-close and very personal encounters we have with one of the world's greatest predators, the amazingly intelligent grizzly bears that live near the Arctic Circle.

In addition to the grizzly bears, we may also see wolves, caribou, moose, martens, and even wolverines. 

Physically, this is a relatively easy trip with walking on forest paths of distances up to about 1-km to daily shoot locations.

 

Grizzly winter portraitGrizzly winter portraitGrizzly bear in a snow storm, Fishing Branch River, Yukon, 26 October 2018. This is an almost smiling female grizzly watching for salmon (she was about 20 ft distant at this point).

Above: a female grizzly portrait shot from about 20-25 ft (7-8 m) distance
 

Below: Bear Cave Mountain camp - our home for 14-nights (notice the bear prints on the boardwalk)

 

Our safari schedule

Our overall schedule is built around a core shooting schedule that includes 13 full-days and 2 half-days at Bear Cave Mountain. To get in and out of the the camp, we allow 2 extra days at each end so that we have flexibility in case of weather-related travel complications in Dawson City.

Day 1 (Monday 19 Oct 2026)

Arrive Whitehorse International Airport (airport code YXY); overnight at the Coast High Country Inn (single)

Day 2 (Tuesday 20 Oct 2026)

Fly from Whitehorse to Dawson City in the early morning. We have a full day free to explore and photograph the historical buildings of this famous gold rush hub and the local trail network; overnight at the Aurora Inn (single)

Day 3 (Wednesday 21 Oct 2026)

In the morning we head out by helicopter, passing through the spectacular Tombstone Mountain range and open tundra, to Bear Cave Mt, a 2+ hour flight (watch for caribou herds on the way); after arrival and lunch, we will be out on the shore of the Fishing Branch River for our first photo session; overnight at Bear Cave Mt camp (shared cabin)

Day 4 (Thursday 22 Oct 2026) to Day 16 (Tuesday 03 Nov 2026)

All day photography on the shores of the Fishing Branch River; overnight at Bear Cave Mt camp (shared cabin)

Day 17 (Wednesday 04 Nov 2026)

After our final morning photo session, we wait for the chopper to arrive and whisk us back to Dawson City; overnight at the Aurora Inn (single)

Day 18 (Thursday 05 Nov 2026)

We fly from Dawson City south to Whitehorse in mid-afternoon. That evening we will have a farewell dinner in Whitehorse; overnight at the Coast High Country Inn (single)

Day 19 (Friday 06 Nov 2026)

Depart Whitehorse for national and international connecting flights

 

Click here to express your interest for this safari

______________________

Above: on the way in, we have one full day to explore and photograph historic Dawson City

 

Below: up close and personal with grizzly bears

 

What's included?

Once you step off the plane in Whitehorse on Oct 19th, all food, accommodation, and tour expenses are covered 

Transfers to/from Whitehorse airport to hotel

Hotel accommodation on Day 1 (Coast High Country Inn standard room, single accommodation)

All meals starting with dinner on Day 1 and ending with farewell dinner on Day 18

Round-trip flight Whitehorse-Dawson City with Air North

Hotel accommodation on Day 2 (Aurora Inn standard room, single accommodation)

Group helicopter flight from Dawson City to Bear Cave Mountain

All meals and accommodation (shared log cabin) at Bear Cave Mountain camp

Accommodations on the way out: Days 17 (Aurora Inn) and 18 (Coast High Country Inn): 

All park access and guiding fees

Canadian sales tax is also included in this all-inclusive package price

 

Not included:

Canadian tourist visa, if needed

Travel and evacuation insurance

Airfare to get to Whitehorse

Tips and gratuities

Personal gifts and spending

Alcohol

Food other than with regular meals

Excess baggage charges (see the FAQ)

Any costs to compensate for delayed / cancelled flights

______________________

 

Above: our ride landing on the shore of the Fishing Branch River

 

Below: our experiences with the grizzlies are 'unfiltered' (no hides, no baiting - we are out with the bears in their world)

Fishing Branch photography set-upFishing Branch photography set-upI've had a number of people ask me about how we were shooting at the Fishing Branch River (Bear Cave Mountain). Our main viewing area for the week (for 4 photographers) was along a flat bit of an isthmus between the Fishing Branch River (off to the right and behind) and this side slough, where there were around 150 chum salmon spawning. The bears came down trails just behind the bear in the stream most often, but sometimes came down another path just behind where I was sitting (at most, 2 m from my head!). The bears used all this part of the stream for hunting salmon and occasionally walked right past in front of us (3 m or so). This picture was shot at 16mm on a full frame camera, so you can figure from there how close the bear was in reality (about 5 m at the moment) - given the speed at which they could accelerate that would be the equivalent of a second or so to lunch over our way. We rotated positions each day we were there - while we all agreed there that it was to get different vantage points, I'm not entirely convinced that it wasn't to share the risk of being at the sharp end of a charge ;-). Taken at Bear Cave Mountain, Yukon Territory, 27 October 2018.

 

______________________

 

What should you bring?

You will receive a recommended kit list from me prior to departure. We will have some strict weight limits on the chopper flight, so you have to be very selective in the camera kit you bring (see FAQ). In brief, you should bring:

– two or three camera bodies –

– a tripod and head –

– wide-angle, mid-range, and telephoto lenses –

– a laptop computer or tablet, charging and storage devices –

– warm clothing (if needed, winter boots and winter camo suits are provided by Bear Cave Mt camp) –

 

Click here to express your interest for this safari

______________________

 

Above: moose are also common along the Fishing Branch River (and caribou herds sometimes move through the area)
 

Below: (1) in the midst of a charge down the river bank to head off some salmon after this bear 'herded' fish downstream by batting snow into the creek and (2) a leap into the water on top of the salmon Grizzly bear fishing technique series - monochrome 04 of 05Grizzly bear fishing technique series - monochrome 04 of 05The third image in the series shows the bear in mid-charge when she realizes that she does not need to go all the way to her favorite spot because a salmon she is interested in has come near to shore just underneath her. Here, she is just in the process of changing direction from here path towards the river.

Grizzly bear fishing technique series - monochrome 04 of 05Grizzly bear fishing technique series - monochrome 04 of 05Much to my amazement as I was shooting this sequence, the bear just launched out over the stream in a long jump that took her about 4-m from shore, where she came down right on top a group of salmon. During this whole charge, I was not aware of her once taking her eye off the fish. Bear Cave Mountain is extremely remote (2+ hours by helicopter north of Dawson City) and strictly managed by the local First Nation. Only seven groups of 4 photographers each get to visit annually for bear viewing. Of all the places in the world I have traveled, this spot is the only place I have ever been that I would consider truly pristine.

 

FAQ

How safe is this trip?

This safari has a number of risk factors. First, and probably foremost, is that we are flying in relatively small turboprop planes and in helicopters in the Arctic. Weather conditions in this part of the world can be challenging but northern pilots are famous for the flying skills.

At Bear Cave Mountain, we are out on trails and on river shores in very close (5-m or 15- to 20-ft) proximity to one of the world's greatest predators. Fortunately their favorite food is salmon eggs, so they should be healthy, happy, and fat bears at this time of year.

Still, they are potentially dangerous and we always have a local guide with us who carries a shotgun and is always watching our local environment.

In all the time that photographers have been visiting Bear Cave Mountain, it has never been necessary to shoot a bear. Because of the protocol in place to manage human-bear interactions (e.g., using only specific viewing sites where the bears know they may see humans, by avoiding quick movements and loud talking, and by being extremely clean at our viewing sites, not leaving any food scraps that might get bears associating humans with feeding opportunities), grizzly bears are essentially indifferent to photographers in their presence.

Humans are not viewed as competition for salmon, nor as a threat, so we aren't really worthy of any effort whatsoever by the bears! They have better things to do!!

I have added some unedited videos of the trip in, which helps give you an idea of some of the flavor of the tour (and some of the risk factors). Click here to get to that page.

Will we see ice bears on this safari?

Yes. Bear Cave Mountain is most famous for 'ice bears' and this final slot of the season often has temperatures from -20 to -30 C. 

______________________

 

Below: a mature male grizzly taking the dry option for a stream crossing Log crossingLog crossingA medium-size male grizzly bear doing a stream crossing via a slippery log in a snow storm, Yukon Territory, 26 October 2018.

Why do grizzly bears gather here?

In the early-1980s I worked in the Yukon and heard fables about the grizzly bears of the Fishing Branch River from fisheries officer friends.

The Fishing Branch River is unique in that it has warm spring water percolating up through the gravel beds where chum salmon spawn. This is an extremely late run of salmon that have adapted to the unique conditions here.

For grizzlies, this is a pre-hibernation buffet that allows them to gorge on very nutritious salmon eggs prior to waddling up the side of the mountain above, where there happens to be caves perfect for their over-winter slumber.

 

Claws!Claws!Claws of a grizzly bear, Fishing Branch River, Yukon Territory, 27 October 2018.

 

What kind of camera(s) should I bring?

Bring a camera(s) that you are comfortable with, that is reliable, and that can fire quick bursts for bear fishing action. This trip is also suitable for photographers shooting video. In my view reliability is the most important factor to consider. The last thing one would ever want was a camera malfunction on a trip like this. Personally, I stick with DLSRs for this reason (I bring a Canon 1DX ii as my primary body, with a second DLSR as back-up). Bringing a mirrorless and DLSR would also be a good combination.

You should consider three lens options: a medium to long telephoto; a mid-range zoom or portrait lens; and a wide angle. On my last visit to Bear Cave Mountain, I brought my Canon 200-400mm with internal extender (so 200-560-mm range) plus an external 1.4X extender. I found that this reach was overkill and all my best images were shot between 250-mm and 500-mm range. Bears behave differently each year, however, so in some years a longer lens could be useful. Personally, my plan now for Bear Cave Mountain is to bring my 300-mm f/2.8 with a single 1.4X extender.

Last visit I brought my Canon 85-mm f/1.2 portrait lens. I used it for shooting some video and for close-up details of bear claws. I found it a little short, so next trip will more likely bring a lightweight 70-200-mm f/4 or a 100-mm f/2.8 portrait lens. For a wide angle, you might consider something in the 16-mm to 35-mm range (there can be some stunning sunsets at Bear Cave Mt and a wide-angle is also useful for shooting in Dawson City).  If you are shooting on a cropped sensor, consider that I was on full frame cameras and adjust accordingly.  

Also bring a sturdy tripod and head. Even if you prefer to shoot hand-held action shots, the tripod can be useful just as a place to keep your camera handy (we will be sitting for some long periods).

What clothing should I bring?

Expect cold winter conditions, as we are just 100-km (60-miles) south of the Arctic Circle. Bring multiple layers, durable pants (e.g., soft-shell), a warm jacket, hat, and mitts (I like fingerless gloves inside mitts in which I can also roll back the ends and get my fingertips free). Bring waterproof outerwear in case it rains or gets really cold. Bear Cave Mountain camp will supply warm winter hunting camo suits and winter boots. You should be counting on temperatures dropping to as low as -30 C  (-22 F) overnight with days hovering around the -10 to -20 C range. Each cabin has a small woodstove that keeps sleeping conditions warm most of the night. You may want to have some synthetic base layers for sleeping.   

How much stuff can I bring?

You have two considerations: the Dawson City scheduled flight and the helicopter ride. Officially the Air North flight has some pretty severe gear restrictions, especially for carry-on (10-kg). You have 20-kg of checked bags allowed, with overweight (in 2021) charged at around CDN $2.75 per kg. In practice, it seems that hand baggage does not get closely scrutinized but that is a dangerous thing to count on when traveling with expensive camera gear.

We need to exercise common sense with regards to the helicopter flight as well as it also brings in fuel, food, and other things needed for camp operations. Technically we will be on a weight limit so you should only count on camera kit plus clothing. Basically think of one camera backpack fully loaded and one moderate size duffel bag.

Do I have to spend all day sitting on a river bank?

It is possible to spend part of the day at the camp should you wish. Our camp is actually a shoot location: grizzlies regularly wander through camp and rub their backs on scratching trees adjacent to our cabins.

Many photographers, however, will want to stay out on the river all day, where we may end up sitting in the bush or snow for many hours. When out all day, we bring a packed lunch and have lots of water, coffee, tea, and snacks along.

 

Below: approaching Ni’iinlii’njik Territorial Park and Bear Cave Mt camp by helicopter in late-October

What is the food like?

 

At Bear Cave Mountain camp, our local guides do all the cooking. I can attest the food is hearty and delicious! Vegetarian and vegan options are available if you let me know ahead of time they are required (I am vegetarian).

Do we have internet access?

After we leave Dawson City, we have no internet or cellular connections. The Bear Cave  Mountain Camp has satellite internet connection for emergencies only, and I always carry a Garmin Inreach satellite communication system. If you are not bringing your own Inreach or equivalent, I can provide my contact information for you to use as a point of contact for urgent text messages to/from home . 

What are accommodations like?

In Whitehorse and Dawson City, we stay in comfortable hotels and have single accommodations. At Bear Cave Mountain camp, we need to share the small log cabins.

Bear Cave Mountain camp has a simple shower facility with water heated by wood stove. Toilet facilities are primitive (an outhouse is down a trail, about 30-40 yards from the cabins - an interesting middle-of-the-night trek in bear country!).

 

Sleeping quarters at Bear Cave Mountain camp

 
How much does it cost to get to Whitehorse?

If you book your travel early, airfare can be very reasonable to Whitehorse. For example, Los Angeles and Toronto return tickets to Whitehorse can be as low as USD $500 range when booked in the spring, while late bookings will be substantially more expensive.

Whitehorse is serviced by Air Canada, WestJet, and Air North. For most people arriving from a distance, I recommend booking with Air Canada: if you encounter delays on your trip, the odds are much higher with Air Canada that they will be able to reroute and still get you to Whitehorse more or less on time. 

What happens if I have a medical emergency while we are at Bear Cave Mountain camp?

Should we have a medical emergency at camp, the only evacuation option is helicopter: that means that you must have travel insurance that includes helicopter medivac coverage.

Because helicopters cannot, however, fly in all weather conditions, it is also possible that a medivac could take some time. Our local guides are trained in first aid and I am a trained Wilderness First Responder - our training is only meant to help stabilize people sick or injured in remote locations, not to provide ongoing medical care or advice. 

Do I need travel insurance?

Yes.

Besides providing you with compensation if you need to cancel your trip prior to departure, good travel insurance will help you if you have problems during your trip to Whitehorse or on the safari. 

I suggest that you consider both policies with Global Rescue to cover evacuation expenses and a policy for adventure travel medical treatment.

______________________

 

Below: packing for the flight to Bear Cave Mountain

 

When are payments due?

An initial reservation fee of CAD $2000 secures your space for the safari and is applied to your 50% deposit, when that comes due. The balance of your 50% deposit (CDN $14225) is due 18-months prior to departure, by midnight Atlantic time on April 19, 2025. Your final balance of CAD $16225 is due 6-months prior to departure, by midnight Atlantic time on April 19, 2026

What happens if I need to cancel?

If you need to cancel up to 12 midnight Atlantic time on April 19, 2026, I will provide a full refund less your CAD $2000 deposit. There are no refunds after April 19, 2026

I strongly advise that you arrange travel insurance at the time of your booking to ensure that you are able to get compensation in the event of health or family emergencies.  

I know things happen in life and that this is a very expensive safari, so should you need to cancel late I will certainly make every effort to fill your spot with another photographer (and I will start a waitlist once this safari fills). If I can fill your spot, I will refund all payments made less your CAD $2000 reservation fee.  

Do I need to pay Canadian sales tax?

Yes. However, the Canadian sales tax is already build into the price of the safari, so the price you see is the total amount of what you need to pay.

If comparing safari prices with other tour operators, please bear in mind that there are no other extra charges once you reach Whitehorse, either for sales tax, or for food, accommodations, or the Dawson City flight.

How do I pay?

You can transfer your payments directly to my bank account.

You can pay by credit card if you wish, but there would be a 9.5% surcharge on the safari price to cover online credit card booking fees.

Does the trip need a minimum number of people to guarantee it runs?

Yes, I need 3 photographers to run this trip. If we are short and you have paid a 50% deposit, you will be offered the opportunity to cover the cost of a vacant space(s) or will receive a full refund of all monies you have paid. 

What happens if Tendrel Images cancels the trip?

If for any reason I need to cancel the safari, you will receive a full refund of all monies you have paid, including the CAD $2000 reservation fee. 

Booking for 2026 is just too far in the future - can I come to Bear Cave Mountain sooner?

Yes. I have slots reserved at Bear Cave Mountain from 2022 through to 2026.

In Autumn 2023, I have another double session with 15-days of photography. In other years, I have single slots available, which feature 6 full-days and 2-half days of wilderness grizzly bear photography.

My tour in 2024 is in mid-October, so we should see ice bears. In 2025, I have the final slot of the season, so we get the coldest conditions and full-on ice bear opportunities.

I am also offering grizzly bear photos in early-August in the Taku Wilderness in northern British Columbia; those 6-day tours can handle a slightly larger group and are a relatively more economical way to have a very personal experience with grizzly bears.

 

I hope you can join me in the Yukon!

 

Queen of the NorthQueen of the NorthA female grizzly on the bank of the Fishing Branch River, just south of the Arctic Circle, Yukon Territory, 23 October 2018.