Cub Love

If you are looking for a fun yet safe trip to take with the kids this summer, escape the desert heat and head for the forest to visit Bearizona Wildlife Park in Williams, Arizona. The park just celebrated its 10th anniversary in May.
Right at the gateway to the Grand Canyon, this park is a great place to stop along the way and stretch your legs while taking in some wildlife.
The best part is, you can experience nature yet stay in you car the entire time if you choose. There is a drive-through loop where guests can see all of the animals from the safety of their vehicle.
The resident black bears are the main attraction, but there are many other species to see at the park as well. During the driving portion of the park you will encounter mountain goats, elk, deer, burros, bighorn sheep, arctic and tundra wolves, bison and, of course, bears.
Half of the animals are rescues, and they do not breed the bears, so they save space for more animals in need of a permanent home.
As you drive through the wilderness, the animals roam freely — they are not in cages. From the safety of your car, the animals may approach you giving an up-close and personal view. Cars must be completely enclosed and guests are required to stay inside their vehicles at all times. Windows must be rolled up through most of the park. You may drive through the loop as many times as you wish.
After finishing the driving loop, there is also the option of a self-guided walking tour within the park. The temperature outside is typically 20-30 degrees cooler than the Tri-state area, around a nice cool 80 degrees.
The animals in this portion of the park live in open-air habitats, with a trench keeping them a safe distance from the pedestrians. Here you will see otters, beavers, foxes, bobcats, javelinas and more. You could spend an hour easily just watching the otters swim and slide and the bear cubs chasing each other and playing.
Bearizona recently rescued a trio of orphaned bear cubs from Montana after their mother was tragically shot by a hiker while trying to protect her cubs. The three cubs were rescued by a local rancher and Bearizona stepped in after hearing their story and brought them to Arizona the beginning of June, as once the animals have come in contact with humans they cannot be safely released back into the wild.
The grizzly cubs all have special names — Crockett is named after Boone & Crockett conservation ranch where their mother lived; Hanna is named after the renowned zookeeper Jack Hanna; and Sky is named after Montana, otherwise known as “Big Sky Country.”
The cubs have a happy new home, and while they grow, Bearizona is building a huge new 40,000 square-foot enclosure for them. Guests can help with the construction costs by purchasing any grizzly bear themed items in the online store. Profits will go directly towards the construction of their new enclosure. Shop online at ShopBearizona.com/grizzly to give your support.
There is a snack shop and picnic area along the walking tour for a convenient pit stop to grab a cold drink or refreshment. You may also bring in your own picnic, but no outside alcohol is permitted on the premises.
If you are looking for more of a meal, the Canyonlands bar and restaurant is open from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. The two-story restaurant features a wilderness theme with canyon walls and an animal scene. The outdoor seating on the upper deck is especially popular as it offers views into the jaguar exhibit next door.
The jaguar exhibit features a 25-foot waterfall with a pool for the felines to play in. It is a real treat to see these gorgeous cats, which are close to becoming an endangered species on the conservation list due to massive habitat loss in the wild. The only known wild jaguars in the U.S. are in southern Arizona.
Before you head home, you must check out the 12,000 square-foot Bearizona gift shop, with every animal-themed gift you could dream of. Stuffed toys, clothing, bags, dishes, jewelry and so much more, fill the shop. A mask is required to enter.
You can also meet Wafer, the Great Basin Gopher Snake, slithering around his cage in the back corner of the gift shop.
The park is open daily from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission for adults is $25, children ages 4-12 is $15, and seniors ages 62 and older is $23. Children 0-3 are free. The maximum price for one carload is $120.
Make sure to follow Bearizona on Facebook for live videos featuring the animals and park keepers explaining how they care for and provide enrichment for them.