Discover the Top 10 Destinations to Explore in Alaska
Alaska, physically detached from the rest of the United States, boasts scenic beauty and enigma that draws nature enthusiasts and daring travelers alike. This 49th state's isolation enhances its allure as an ideal escapade destination.
Exploring the natural landmarks and attractions enhances the experience, including prominent cities like Anchorage. Plan your trip's itinerary to include as many of the following best places to visit in Alaska as possible.
10. Wrangell St. Elias National Park[MAP VIEW]Wrangell-St. Elias NP / Flickr
The Mountain Kingdom of North America converges three mountain ranges; the Wrangell, St. Elias, and Chugach. Wrangell St. Elias National Park sits in the heart of this kingdom and is the biggest national park in the U.S.
The park features informative visitor centers and ranger stations offering glacier hiking trails and overnight camping adventures. You can also choose to hunt, fish, mountain bike, or go kayaking in Wrangell St. Elias National Park.
9. Anchorage[MAP VIEW]V31S70 / Flickr
Anchorage is Alaska's most significant city, although not the capital. The city offers urban comforts, and almost half of Alaska's population lives in or around Anchorage. Anchorage is the economic heart of Alaska and is only a 30-minute drive from the Alaskan wilderness.
Begin your visit by exploring Anchorage's top attractions, including the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, or the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Take a drive along the Seward Highway to Potter’s Marsh, where you can enjoy bird watching or hike along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.
8. Ketchikan[MAP VIEW]
Ketchikan, the southernmost city in Alaska, is a scenic destination and the first stop for many cruise ships that head north along the coast. Ketchikan features a diverse range of attractions and is located at the foot of Deer Mountain.
Tourists must visit the Totem Heritage Center, the Tongass Historical Museum, or the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center. Historic Creek Street highlights downtown's scenic stretch, a short distance away from the cruise ship docks. This former rowdy red-light district offers an authentic Alaskan experience that retains its historic charm to date.
Ketchikan provides guided day tours for outdoor enthusiasts, including salmon fishing, hiking through the Tongass National Forest, or ziplining through the tree canopy.
7. Glacier Bay National Park[VIEW MAP]MrTavis / Flickr
Nestled in Alaska’s Panhandle, Glacier Bay National Park is a mecca for glacier enthusiasts, nature lovers, and adventure-seekers alike. Glide across the serene waters in a kayak for a front-row seat to picturesque vistas. Whether you opt for a guided tour or to rent on your own, kayaking provides a unique way to explore the park and its surroundings.
If you’re feeling more intrepid, trek through Bartlett Cove to get up close with glaciers. Muir Inlet, a no-motorized boat zone, and the John Hopkins Glacier are two popular spots in the park you won’t want to miss.
6. Homer[VIEW MAP]
For those seeking a nature-centric experience in Alaska, Homer is a must-visit stop on your itinerary. Located on the stunning Kenai Peninsula, it boasts the title of “fishing capital of Alaska” and is a gateway to various national parks.
While exploring Homer, bask in the vastness of the Homer Spit from the beach or scenic Skyline Drive. Catch a glimpse of wildlife such as mountain goats, bald eagles, sea lions, humpback whales, and black bears in Kachemak Bay State Park.
Don’t forget to indulge in the town’s most popular activity, halibut fishing, with highly sought-after day-long trips. Local restaurants will expertly prepare your catch for a delicious seafood meal.
5. Juneau[VIEW MAP]Joseph / Flickr
As the capital of Alaska, Juneau is a popular port for cruise ships as well as a hub of impressive attractions. Explore the rich culture and history of the region at the Alaska State Museum, the Alaska State Capitol, or the tranquil Shrine of St Therese.
For panoramic views of Juneau, take a ride up the Mount Roberts Tramway and explore the multiple hiking trails atop the peak. Take a break and indulge in a brewery tour or sample regional cuisine at one of the many local restaurants on Front Street, which also features souvenir shops.
4. Mendenhall Glacier[VIEW MAP]Joseph / Flickr
Close to Juneau, the Mendenhall Glacier is a stunning feat of nature. Watch this massive glacier calve or separate into a neighboring lake when seen up close, either with a simple shuttle ride or an awe-inspiring helicopter tour.
For more daring visitors, the Mendenhall Glacier West Glacier Trail is a challenging hike with unparalleled views and photo opportunities. Visit the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center to learn more about the glacier and enjoy its various exhibitions and viewing platforms.
3. Kenai Fjords National Park: A Beautiful Icy Time CapsuleGregory "Slobirdr" Smith / Flickr
Embark on a journey to the Kenai Fjords National Park, where you’ll be transported back in time to an era of ice. Stand in awe of stunning and unforgettable views of glaciers meeting the ocean. Half of the park is always covered in ice, while deep fjords form from water valleys, giving shelter to abundant aquatic wildlife. Spot migrating whales and swooping birds feeding on fish in the water. Due to icy conditions, guided tours are a popular choice, with limited accommodation within the park.
2. Katmai National Park: A Serene Haven for Wild AnimalsMarshmallow / Flickr
In Southwestern Alaska lies the beautiful and serene Katmai National Park, nestled close to Homer and Kodiak Island. The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes is at the heart of the park, which formed from an enormous ash flow following the 1912 eruption of the Novarupta Volcano. Experience rare opportunities to witness the local wildlife up close, with the brown bears being the favorite for many visitors. Watch them feed on salmon, or go fishing for rainbow trout and salmon.
1. Denali National Park: A Protected Wilderness with a Majestic PeakDenali NPS / Flickr
One of the most famous places to visit in Alaska is the magnificent Denali National Park. The towering peak of Denali, the highest mountain in the country, is an iconic must-see during your visit. The protected wilderness area is home to various wildlife with brown bears, moose, wolves and more that are easily spotted while walking through the Savage River, admiring the stillness of Wonder Lake or hiking through Polychrome Pass. Hiking, back-country camping and whitewater rafting are popular ways to explore the park, with bus tours offering a climate-controlled and safer alternative. Short ranger-led trail walks are also available from the Denali Visitor Center, which boasts informative educational exhibits.
Map of Alaska
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