Alaska offers seemingly endless things to do to get up close to spectacular natural attractions and wildlife. This is a destination which holds great appeal for adventurers who are willing to try their hand at never-before-experienced activities such as sea kayaking or mountain climbing, with numerous tour outfitters on hand to guide visitors safely in their Alaskan adventures.
Sea kayaking doesn’t require any prior skill and allows paddlers to get within close range of icebergs and sea lions. Indeed, most of the activities available in the state don’t require participants to have experience, with the exception of scaling Mt McKinley — a challenging climb spanning up to four weeks. Among the easier-going pursuits travelers can enjoy are guided bear viewing trips at Katmai National Park and day cruises at Prince William Sound.
Sea kayaking is one of the best ways to see Alaska’s humpback whales, icebergs and tidewater glaciers at close range. Tour lengths vary from a day to one week, with operators such as Sea Quest Expeditions offering a range of trips to discover Prince William Sound, Tongass Rainforest and the Tebenkof wilderness.
Guided bear watching tours in Katmai National Park, where the bears are uniquely not afraid of humans, are highly recommended. While visitors can usually spot bears from the park’s viewing platforms near Brooks Camp, a guided tour allows visitors to approach the animals for amazing photographs. Alagnak Lodge and Alaska Wildtrek Company are two local providers of this up close and personal experience.
Best witnessed in Alaska’s interior in winter (September to mid-April), the Northern Lights are a spectacle to behold with their vibrant green, red and purple hues. Fairbanks is one of the best places to witness this marvelous sight, with many viewing spots available outside the city, away from its light pollution. Go Alaska Tours specializes in taking visitors to remote destinations to appreciate this natural phenomenon.
Scaling Mt McKinley rewards climbers with perhaps the best views in the state, with its peak a lofty 6,194 m high. First ascended in 1913, the mountain today is a popular, albeit challenging, climb. Most commonly traversed via the West Buttress Route, the trek takes between two to four weeks. Alpine Ascents International is one of the most experienced outfits offering guided trips up to the peak.
The 12-mile long Mendenhall Glacier, near Juneau, is best seen by guided tour. This year-round Alaskan attraction can be enjoyed by hiking one of the trails that travels around it, with the longest nearly seven miles long. It is only possible to walk on the ice of the glacier with a professional guide. Helicopter tours of the glacier are also available for those so inclined through operators like Tour Dispatch.
Day cruises are hugely popular in Alaska, with one of the most favored destinations being William Sound. Passengers will witness tidewater glaciers and wildlife such as sea lions at close range. Allen Marine Tours offers dozens of cruises in the Inside Passage, where the sheltered waters are typically calm for a relaxing day at sea.
Dog sledding is a unique way to absorb the unspoiled wilderness of Alaska. Tours with Blue Kennels can be taken for as little as a half day or as long as nine days. A musher can take up to four people on the sled at once to showcase Alaska’s most popular winter sport.