The biggest attractions for most visitors to Alaska are the state’s outstanding natural beauty and abundant wildlife. Scenic backdrops of mountains, glaciers and icebergs are plentiful, as are populations of beavers, moose and sea otters. Perhaps the best place to experience Alaskan nature is in one of its national parks, such as Katmai or Denali, or via a cruise along its shores. Many boat trips allow for up-close views of tidewater glaciers and killer whales, especially those that take passengers through the scenic Prince William Sound.
Katmai National Park and Preserve
This preserve in southern Alaska wasnamed after its centerpiece volcano and is best known for its brown bears and desolate landscape of the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Covered in ash flow from Novarupta’s 1912 eruption, the valley is filled with many fissures on the ground that resulted from venting steam. While Katmai itself hasn’t erupted since 1927, there is still evidence of volcanic activity in the park. Brooks Camp is the main visitor base where favorite attractions include backpacking, camping and fishing. However, the most popular pastime here is brown bear sighting, either via the established bear viewing platforms or on a guided tour. Address: Katmai National Park & Preserve, #1 King Salmon Mall, P.O. Box 7, King Salmon, AK 99613 Phone: +1-907-246-3305 Website: http://www.nps.gov/katm/index.htm
Part of Denali National Park and Preserve, the highest peak in North America rests in Interior Alaska. Mountaineers come from far and wide to climb the mountain, while winter activities such as dog-sledding, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing are popular with all visitors around its base. At 6,194 m high, Mt McKinley makes for a challenging ascent, with climbers on the West Buttress Route typically taking between two and four weeks to reach the summit. Address: Denali National Park, P.O. Box 9, Denali Park, AK 99755-0009 Phone: +1-907-683-9532 Website: http://www.nps.gov/dena/index.htm
Best accessed from nearby Juneau, this 12-mile long glacier can be visited throughout the entire year. The informative Visitor Center receives around 500,000 visitors annually, many of which are cruise ship passengers. Marked trails take visitors around the glacier for wildlife and nature viewing,, but bear sightings are best in the summer months of June through August. Photo Point Trail is the easiest hike at just 0.3 miles long, while the West Glacier Trail takes walkers on a 6.8-mile track along the glacier’s west side. The visitor center can be accessed by car from Juneau in less than 30 minutes for any information or questions you may have. Address: Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, Juneau Ranger District, 8510 Mendenhall Loop Road, Juneau, AK 99801 Phone: +1-907-789-0097 Website: http://www.fs.fed.us/r10/tongass/districts/mendenh...
Prince William Sound
A popular day cruise spot, the inlet sits off of Alaska’s south coast to the east of the Kenai Peninsula. It offers amazing views of tidewater glaciers, the Chugach Mountains, wildlife such as sea otters, killer whales and harbor seals, and the many barrier islands that form it. The protected, calm waters of the sound make for a smooth sailing experience amid breathtaking scenery. Most cruises operate from May through September and popular stops include the sea lion rookery at Port Wells, the narrow channel of Esther Passage and glaciers such as Surprise Glacier. Address: Southcentral Alaska Phone: n/a Website: n/a
Alaska’s most populated city and main air gateway houses around half the state’s entire population. It is no surprise then that Anchorage is a hub of Alaskan culture, with around half a dozen interesting museums. The Alaska Native Heritage Center looks at the traditions and native dwellings of the state’s main cultural groups, while the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center houses objects and artworks related to Alaskan ethnology and history. Just beyond the city limits are populations of grizzly bears, black bears and moose, making Anchorage a great jumping-off point for short jaunts into the wilderness. Address: Southcentral Alaska Phone: n/a Website: n/a
This peninsula which juts out from Alaska’s south coast is a prime spot for fishermen and wildlife viewing. Much of the southeast is covered by the Kenai Mountains, which are protected by Kenai Fjords National Park. Salmon fishing in the Kenai River is popular, as is glacier viewing to the south and east. The peninsula is one of the most populated areas of Alaska so visitors are sure to find many accommodation options inits nearby towns and villages. Address: Southcentral Alaska Phone: n/a Website: n/a
Fairbanks is Alaska’s second-biggest city and one of the state’s few large settlements which is connected by highway and rail, making it a popular travel destination. Creamer’s Field is an excellent bird viewing spot while the University of Alaska Museum traces the history, culture and nature of the state and includes an exhibit on the Northern Lights, which can be viewed just outside the city in winter. Pioneer Park takes visitors back to the gold rush days and is a must-see for families. Around 60 miles from the city center are the Chena Hot Springs where swimming and wildlife viewing is possible. Address: Interior Alaska Phone: n/a Website: n/a