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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Bear down at Bearizona


A bear peeks out of a wooden den at Bearizona Wildlife Park on Saturday, July 4. Bearizona has three different bear exhibits that host bears of all ages. 

As Tucson blazes headlong into that sweaty mess we call July, both animal and human residents are taking shelter from the extreme sun. For those looking to escape the heat and travel up north, perched in the cool mountains of Northern Arizona, the Bearizona Wildlife Park has an abundance of animals and welcomes visitors to intimately meet them.

I took a four-hour journey and visited Bearizona during the July Fourth weekend, and in some ways it was the most American holiday experience. As we drove under the craggy, wolf-infested arch that marks the entrance to the park, we were greeted by smiling attendants wearing American flag regalia. I realized I was in for a treat when, upon second glance, I noticed there were no stars on their stylized American flag shirts, but instead white bears. After paying admission we followed a trail of cars to the first exhibit.

Bearizona is mostly a drive-thru experience. While this may be off-putting for some, Bearizona’s animal inhabitants are desensitized to the traffic and get incredibly close to your vehicle. This leads to some intense moments, like mountain goats trying to open your passenger door or American bison napping in front of your car. Animals are separated by cattle guards into sprawling exhibits, and your journey through is self-paced.

The drive-thru nature of the park can have its downsides. It is nearly impossible to pass a car on the road, which means you can get stuck behind a large vehicle that blocks your view or drives at a frustratingly slow clip. You might also feel pressured to drive faster through your favorite exhibits because a line of cars is behind you. You can drive through the trail as many times as you’d like, but it may be difficult to stay in most of the exhibits for long because you will be blocking traffic.

After winding turns featuring roaming black bears and snoozing arctic wolves, I found myself outside the wooden walls of Fort Bearizona. The fort is the first time you are able to exit your car during a trip to Bearizona, and the parking lot was nearly full during this holiday weekend. The fort features restaurants, gift shops and other animal attractions, and serves as a starting point for the Wild Ride Bus Tour. The tour goes on the same route that you previously drove through, but is led by Bearizona staff who explain the history of the park and some details about the different animals. The bus is great for photographers, as it periodically stops in the exhibits to refill the animals’

food bowls.

Fort Bearizona is also home to a bird of prey show and keeper talks where visitors can learn more about the animals and the conservation efforts of the park. The most popular attraction at Fort Bearizona is the bear cub exhibit. If you do not see the cubs playing or lounging in the exhibit, they might be perched up high in a tree. The cubs are accomplished painters and their paw-drawn work is available for purchase in the gift shop.

“It’s really fun to see wildlife—like bears—this close,” said Simon Cobb, a Phoenix resident visiting the park with his family.

If you plan to visit Bearizona’s 30-plus species of animals, make sure not to roll up in your new sports car. Animals have been known to damage cars, and the wolves in particular are very attracted to the mud flaps behind your tires.

Bearizona is a great side trip if you are visiting the Grand Canyon, but you could easily spend a day there if you drive through the park a few times and take in all the exhibits. Bearizona is open all week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $20 per adult, and annual passes are available. 

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