A Visitors Guide to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Published: December 11, 2023

Alaska puts the wild in wildlife, and visitors arrive with hopes of seeing unique animals in Alaska, from large to small, furry to feathered, winged to antlered. There’s a very special, and easily accessible, place to witness wildlife up close: the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC). With 30-plus years of commitment to creating memorable tours and making Alaska dreams reality, Alaska Tours connects travelers to the AWCC in many ways. We have put together this comprehensive guide so travelers can feel inspired and learn everything they need to know before they go: must-meet animals, the AWCC’s mission of conservation, where it is and how to get there, fun facts and tips to make the experience unforgettable, thrilling and educational bonus tours, and more.

What is the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center?

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center or AWCC is a renowned wildlife sanctuary and must-visit destination for wildlife enthusiasts located just a one-hour drive south of Anchorage. Established with a mission to rescue and rehabilitate injured and orphaned Alaska wild animals, visitors have immersive experiences with resident bears, moose, caribou, porcupine, muskox, and more in a 200-acre scenic natural setting. They also learn about AWCC’s conservation efforts and its commitment to providing a safe environment for animals to thrive.

Photo of Staff of AWCC with Arnold the Moose

Photo AWCC Staff with Arnold the Moose

Where is the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center?

With its natural setting and wild residents, many wonder, “Where is the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center?” It’s surprisingly easy to reach, right off Alaska’s busiest highway. Nestled amidst Southcentral Alaska’s awe-inspiring landscapes, AWCC’s captivating wildlife sanctuary is 50 miles, about an hour’s drive, on the spectacular Seward Highway south of Anchorage. There are scenic stops and major landmarks along the way, like the ski hamlet of Girdwood and pretty Portage Lake, with Portage Glacier, hikes, and campgrounds nearby.

The best part of the AWCC’s location is that Alaska Tours can easily integrate these one-of-a-kind wildlife viewing opportunities into many of our popular tour packages. 

Journey to the Wild: How to Get to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

With so many things to do in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city is an Alaska experience of its own. The journey from Anchorage to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center unfolds as another adventure along Cook Inlet’s Turnagain Arm, framed by the majestic Chugach Mountains of Chugach State Park and its wilderness and wildlife. 

Getting to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center from Anchorage is as smooth as hopping in a rental car, a shuttle van or tour bus, on the Alaska Railroad, or even in a rideshare – all take you on the picturesque Seward Highway. From the southern port of Seward, it’s a longer, yet equally scenic drive. Need clarity? Alaska Tours outlines the many transportation options.

On the ride, watch for beluga whales and windsurfers in the water and sheep and goats in the mountains. Eagles hang on the mud flats at low tide and in trees year-round. There are frequent pull-offs for photos, hiking trails, fishing holes, the charming community of Girdwood, and many other interesting stops.

Whatever your mode of transportation or stops along the way, you’ll arrive at AWCC before you know it.

Planning Your Visit: Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center Tickets and Tours

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center tickets are available year-round upon arrival. Prices range from $20 for adults; $16 for youth; $18 for Alaska residents; $18 for military; and free for children 4 and under.

Alaska Tours offers more than a dozen packages that include Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center tours, either as essentials with admission/add-ons or paired with other popular Alaska travel wish list spots that provide travelers with the best experiences. Check out the Great Alaskan Road Trip and Quintessential Alaska: Denali, Glaciers & Fishing Tour.

Exploring the Alaska Wildlife Center

Pulling into the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, you’ll feel an instant sense of Alaska wilderness in this Alaska nature preserve: surrounded by mountains, fields of grass and brush, and a few assorted trees … what an Alaska wildlife refuge! You’ll likely spot moose, muskoxen, bears, and wolves wandering.

After checking in, check your options. Self-tour the scenic 1.5-mile loop that visits each animal area; it’s accessible by foot, bike, or car (kick sled in the winter!). Interpretive signs greet visitors at each animal habitat. Free daily animal education programs hosted by naturalists provide in-depth education each day.

Special wildlife conservation center tours at an added cost get visitors even closer. The Bear Encounter Tour ($125) brings visitors to meet a big brown bear and see its daily training and feeding. The Walk on the Wild Side Tour ($125) provides a personal guide through the Center, offering history, wildlife stories, and a chance to feed an animal! The Moose Encounter Tour ($25) is a meet-and-feed, as well as time to learn about their diet, behavior, and counterparts.

Alaska Tours’ unique day trips out of Anchorage are perfect plans to meet these locals: the Turnagain Turnaround Tour; the Glacier and Wildlife Turnagain Arm Tour; and the Bears, Trains & Icebergs from Anchorage Tour

Photo of a brown grizzly bear by Nicole Geils

Photo of a brown grizzly bear by Nicole Geils

Witnessing Alaska’s Wildlife: What Animals to See

The lineup of Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center animals starts with Alaska all-star black and brown bears, surrounded by their mean mystique; moose, which are as Alaskan as wildlife gets; and caribou, which AWCC calls reindeer because they are domesticated. There’s also the burly, wooly wood bison and muskox; the quick, curious lynx, foxes, and coyotes; the majestic elk and deer; impressive to behold bald eagle and great-horned owls; and even quirky porcupines and frisky American red squirrels. 

Most animal residents came orphaned or injured, are cared for by staff, and given a permanent home at AWCC, part of the Center’s wildlife conservation Alaska efforts.

The Mission of Conservation: What Makes the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center Special

Visitors fuel the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center’s mission to act as “a sanctuary dedicated to preserving Alaska’s wildlife through conservation, education, research, and quality animal care.”

Operating as a non-profit for more than 20 years, AWCC’s vast natural area and resident animals are referred to as “education ambassadors for their species.” It’s also the perfect place for high-quality education about Alaska’s wildlife for all ages with field trips, tours, interpretive signage, and animal presentations.

AWCC’s success stories span from daily education for visitors to working with Alaska Department of Fish & Game to reintroduce native wood bison back into Alaska after a 100-year absence.

AWCC Animal Care Staff with a baby Muskox

AWCC Animal Care Staff with a baby Muskox

Capturing Memories: Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center Photos

AWCC is an unforgettable experience, but visitors will still want to take lots of photos. With animal access so close, excellent Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center photos and videos are a snap. Be patient for quality shots that show the whole animal, their faces, and offer perspective of their size. Ask staff about the best photo spots. Fun photos are usually available when animals feed – they focus on food, you focus on them. Utilize the backdrop of 200 acres of natural living space framed by Chugach Mountains and Turnagain Arm waters – now that’s picture-perfect! Post shots on social media, tagging AWCC, Alaska Tours, and your friends and family who will go wild!

Visitor Insights: Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center Reviews

Many bill AWCC as the most popular attraction in Southcentral Alaska; visitors’ Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center reviews certainly rave. AWCC earned a 2023 Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice Award, collecting nearly 4,000 reviews averaging 4.5 out of 5. Nearly 7,000 Facebook users rate it 4 out of 5. 

Recent Tripadvisor reviews include islandlovingtwosome writing, “It was undoubtedly my favorite stop and many others on the bus agreed. We saw wolves, bison, moose, caribou, bears, elk, musk oxen, reindeer and more all in a beautiful setting.” J.M. added, “The animals are very well cared for and the staff is great. … We watched the brown bears get fed which was amazing. … I really appreciate this place saving these orphaned animals.” And KArnold84 wrote that it’s the “Best way to see a lot of wildlife. … The fact that you can see so much wildlife in one place is GREAT! and two types of bears is amazing.”

A photo of male Elks grazing in a field by Nicole Geils

A photo of male Elks grazing in a field by Nicole Geils

Essential Tips for Your Visit to the AWCC

Keep these useful, important tips in mind when planning a visit to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center:

  • AWCC recommends bringing essentials like comfortable shoes for walking the area and a good camera to capture the experience. Binoculars are nice, too.
  • Take lots of photos and videos – you’ll want to show off this experience to friends, share on social media, and archive to remember.
  • It’s open year-round, but summer is the best time to visit. Animals are more active, bears are awake, the sun is warm, and some programs are summer only.
  • Dress for Alaska weather – while animals may not be bothered by sudden rain or wind, it could dampen your tour.
  • Book special tours early, as they often fill up.
  • Follow center safety guidelines and signage for you and the animals.
  • It’s a quick drive to get here, so take time to see it all.
  • Talk to the naturalists: they’ll provide insights and inside tips for having the best experience.
  • Snacks are available for purchase year-round; in summer, a food truck also serves visitors.
  • Before going, let Alaska Tours offer overviews, advice, and tour connections, from booking in advance to the best transportation for your plans.

Your Getaway to Alaska’s Wilderness with Alaska Tours

In a state filled with wild adventures, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center makes wildlife accessible – up close and personal, in a natural setting, with conservation and education at its heart. For visitors, so many enchanting experiences await at the 200-acre AWCC – exploring the scenic 1.5-mile loop that visits each animal; seeing Alaska superstars like moose, bears, caribou, wolverines, muskoxen, and more; enjoying countless photo opportunities; and joining daily animal programs and special behind-the-scenes tours with bears and moose. And it’s all just an hour’s drive from Anchorage, Alaska’s travel hub.

Alaska Tours and its 30-plus years of unmatched expertise in providing visitors with unforgettable tour experiences have numerous ways to help travelers include the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center into their itineraries, as part of a day trip from Anchorage (Turnagain Turnaround TourGlacier and Wildlife Turnagain Arm Tour, and the Bears, Trains & Icebergs from Anchorage Tour) or as a stop during a weeklong trip featuring Alaska gems (Great Alaskan Road Trip and Quintessential Alaska: Denali, Glaciers & Fishing Tour).

Ready to book your Alaska Wildlife Viewing tour? Contact Alaska Tours today for ease, reliability, and to learn about their many special tour packages!