A Visitors Guide to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Published: May 3, 2024

Alaska is renown as a top wildlife destination in the U.S. and many visitors arrive with hopes of seeing Alaska’s “Big 5” and other unique animals in Alaska, from large to small, furry to feathered, winged to antlered while on an Alaska wildlife tour. And for those who want to guarantee themselves a “meet and greet” with some of them, there’s an easy way to do this; just plan a visit to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC) located in Portage Valley near Girdwood, just south of Anchorage on the spectacular Seward Highway. The drive to the AWCC is incredibly scenic and takes visitors along Cook Inlet’s Turnagain Arm, framed by the majestic Chugach Mountains of Chugach State Park.

All About the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a wildlife sanctuary and a “must-visit” destination for wildlife enthusiasts. Established with a mission to rescue and rehabilitate injured and orphaned Alaska wild animals, Alaska visitors can enjoy immersive experiences with resident bears, moose, caribou, porcupine, muskox living in a 200-acre natural habitat. Resident naturalists provide excellent learning opportunities and experiences to discover the AWCC’s conservation efforts and the organization’s commitment to providing a safe environment in which Alaska animals can thrive.

Photo of Staff of AWCC with Arnold the Moose

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center Staff with Arnold the Moose

How to Get to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Getting to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center from Anchorage is as smooth as hopping in a rental car, a shuttle van or tour bus, boarding a car on the Alaska Railroad, or even joining a rideshare.  On your drive, watch for beluga whales and windsurfers in Cook Inlet’s Turnagain Arm and for sheep and goats grazing in the neighboring hills. Eagles hang on the mud flats at low tide and in trees year-round. There are frequent Seward Highway pull-offs just perfect for photos, accessing nearby hiking trails and fishing holes, and exploring the charming community of Girdwood.

Planning Your Visit: Tickets and Add-Ons to an Alaska Tour

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 can easily integrate this one-of-a-kind wildlife viewing opportunity at the Conservation Center into many of our popular tour packages and offers more than a dozen multi-day tour packages that already include Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center tours. Check out the Great Alaskan Road Trip and Quintessential Alaska: Denali, Glaciers & Fishing Tour.

Exploring the Alaska Wildlife Center: Self-Guided or Guided Tours

Pulling into the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, you’ll feel nature surrounding you, with authentic Alaska wilderness carefully preserved in the wildlife habitats which have been created here. The animals are surrounded by mountains, fields of grass and brush, and a few assorted trees …nirvana for Alaska wildlife including resident moose, muskoxen, bears, and wolves just to name a few.

You can choose a self-guided tour on a scenic 1.5-mile loop that visits each animal area accessible by foot, bike, or car (or even by kick sled in the winter). Interpretive signs greet visitors at each animal habitat and complimentary daily animal education programs are hosted by naturalists who provide in-depth education about wildlife feeding, mating and animal behavior.

Special wildlife conservation center guided tours get visitors even closer to the animals at an added cost. 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, with the chance to actually feed an animal. The Moose Encounter Tour ($25) is a meet-and-feed, as well as time to learn about their diet and behaviors.

Alaska Tours’ unique day trips out of Anchorage which include the Conservation Center are a great way to meet these Alaskan locals. Check out 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

Alaska’s Best Wildlife: What Animals to See

Most animal residents at the Conservation Center arrived when they were orphaned or injured, but all are expertly cared for by AWCC staff, and given a permanent home at AWCC where they thrive, completing the mission of the Center’s wildlife conservation efforts in Alaska. The lineup of Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center animals starts with Alaska all-star black and brown bears. Do you know the difference between a Grizzly and a Brown Bear? Next up are the mystical moose. Check out the 5 Things You Should Know About the Moose! You’ll also encounter the abundant Alaskan 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; majestic elk and deer; bald eagles and great-horned owls; and even quirky porcupines and frisky American red squirrels. 

The AWCC’s Mission of Wildlife Conservation

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

Check Out Visitor Reviews: Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Many Alaska visitors list AWCC as their most popular attraction in Southcentral Alaska and visitors certainly rave about the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in their online reviews. AWCC earned a 2023 Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice Award based on nearly 4,000 reviews averaging a 4.5 rating out of 5. Nearly 7,000 Facebook users rate the AWCC a 4 out of 5. 

Some recent Trip Advisor reviews of the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center:

“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.”

“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.”

“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

Here are some quick tips for travelers visiting the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center:

  • Summer is a great time to visit as the animals are more active, bears are awake, the sun is warm, and some special programs are only offered in summer.
  • Book special AWCC tours early, as they often fill up.
  • Bring comfortable shoes for walking between areas, a good camera to capture wildlife photos and binoculars can also be helpful.
  • Dress appropriately for the unpredictable Alaska weather 
  • Talk to the naturalists: they’ll provide insights and inside tips for having the best experience.
  • Snacks are available for purchase year-round and in the in summer, a food truck is on site for visitors.

In a state filled with many wild adventures, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center makes wildlife accessible to those traveling to Alaska, an “up close and personal” wildlife experience, in a natural setting, with conservation and education at its heart. And it’s all just an hour’s drive from Anchorage, Alaska’s travel hub.

Alaska Tours has 30-plus years of unmatched Alaska vacation planning expertise, providing visitors with unforgettable tour experiences. We can easily incorporate a visit to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center into your itinerary, either 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 multiday Alaska vacation featuring Alaska’s many highlights (Great Alaskan Road Trip and Quintessential Alaska: Denali, Glaciers & Fishing Tour). Enjoy!