Sweeping mountain vistas, incredible wildlife, and thrilling adventures that you’ll never forget await in America’s last frontier. Alaska is a destination rich in culture, dazzling scenery, and endless outdoor activities. You’ll be invigorated by the fresh air and wide-open spaces from the minute you arrive in the 49th state, where snow-capped mountains, pristine forest, mighty glaciers, and ocean beckon to be explored.
From exhilarating dog-sledding adventures and wildlife spotting excursions to incredible fishing trips and soaring scenic flights, there’s no shortage of ways to absorb Alaska’s natural beauty. With so many exciting adventures in Alaska, there’s something for every type of traveler, from hikers to photographers, wildlife spotters, and thrill-seekers.
Check off your Alaska bucket list with these nine once-in-a-lifetime Alaskan adventures.
Dog Sled Through the Wilderness
Experiencing the iconic Alaskan tradition of dog-sledding is one of the state’s ultimate adventures, with deep cultural ties. Dog-sledding has historically been one of the state’s best-known sports, with the punishing, 1,150-mile-long Iditarod race taking place every March.
Get a glimpse of life at the racing kennels, where you’ll have the opportunity to talk to the mushers and trainers, and meet adorable puppies. You’ll be whisked through the Alaskan wilderness in an authentic sled, in summer, with wheels rather than runners, with a chance to marvel at the gorgeous scenery.
Alternatively, take a helicopter to a glacier where you can get a taste of winter sled rides, even in summer, as eager teams of huskies race across the ice and snow. Popular destinations for dog-sledding include Fairbanks, Denali, Juneau, Anchorage, and Seward.
Kayak on Glacier-Fed Lakes
Kayaking in Alaska is one of the best ways to explore the pristine scenery. A little over 10 miles from the southeastern city of Juneau, you’ll uncover a paddler’s paradise at the beautiful Mendenhall Lake.
Chunks of ice bob in the milky blue water, breaking off the Mendenhall Glacier, which feeds the lake. You’ll paddle across the lake to within a safe distance of the glacier’s massive face, which creaks, rumbles, and occasionally calves into the water.
Look out for bald eagles, mountain goats, and even brown bears. You’ll also get close to Nugget Falls, a dramatic cascade tumbling down the rock face from a height of over 375 feet.
Another wonderful spot for kayaking is the Kenai fjords, close to Seward, a landscape of forested islands, snowy mountains, and tranquil waters rich in marine life. Join a kayak expedition with an experienced naturalist and glide through Resurrection Bay, looking out for colonies of seals, sea otters, humpback whales, bald eagles, and mountain goats.
Fish for Wild Salmon
Fishing is one of the main activities for which Alaska is known. For a true bucket-list experience, head out on a deep-sea fishing expedition.
Get your sea legs aboard a deep-sea fishing vessel from Seward, on the Kenai Peninsula. Or hop aboard one of Ketchikan’s unique fishing vessels where you can learn how to crab and try long-line fishing on the Bering Sea. This region is known for halibut, but you’ll also have the chance to reel in salmon and black bass.
If you prefer to stay ashore and soak up the scenery, cast a line in one of the many pristine rivers or lakes. Popular spots include the Kenai River, located on the beautiful Kenai Peninsula. Enormous king salmon and sockeye salmon run here, and the Kenai River is extremely bountiful during the summer months when anglers arrive in their dozens to fish, and bears come down to the water’s edge to feast.
Fish the rich streams in Icy Strait Point, where you’ll have a chance to hook trout and several species of salmon. Unearth some of the best saltwater King salmon fishing in Sitka, as well as trout and char. Ketchikan, dubbed “salmon fishing capital of the world”, is another great spot where you’re likely to catch king and silver salmon.
Hike in Denali National Park
Explore one of the most ruggedly beautiful national parks in the United States, miles of forest and tundra against the towering backdrop of Denali, North America’s highest mountain.
Located in the midst of the jagged Alaska Range, the park’s diverse landscape makes it a hiker’s dream, with superb wildlife viewing opportunities at the same time. The park is home to moose, caribou, grizzly and black bears, wolves, foxes, marmots, ptarmigan, and Dall sheep. You might spot golden or bald eagles, too, soaring above or keeping watch from the trees.
There are trails suited to every level of fitness. For a less challenging Alaskan hike that nonetheless has incredible scenery, head out on the Horseshoe Lake Trail, a two-mile hike that loops around Horseshoe Lake, with an opportunity to view a beaver dam and keep an eye out for beavers.
Or embark on the Savage Alpine Trail, a more challenging trek that stretches approximately four miles, across wild tundra, with some steep ascents and descents.
Walk on a Glacier
Trekking on a glacier is easily one of the most exciting Alaskan adventures. Strap on your spikes and take a guided walk on top of a vast, slow-moving river of ice, as layer after layer of natural history unfolds before you.
Peer into bottomless crevasses and marvel at the vibrant blue striations. On many of Alaska’s glaciers, you can embark on this unique and incredible expedition, whether accessed by driving and hiking, or by climbing aboard a helicopter to reach more remote areas.
Near Juneau, you’ll find yourself transported to another world as soon as you land on the Taku Glacier. Hear about the history of the ancient glacier as you carefully venture along the surface. As Juneau’s largest glacier, Taku is the deepest within the area’s icefield.
Also located just outside of Juneau, Mendenhall Glacier is a popular destination for glacier trekking. A guided walk will have you exploring, learning, and even discovering mystical ice caves.
Another popular hike in Alaska is Exit Glacier near Seward. This is a fantastic spot for those looking to get up close to the glacier without gearing up and trekking on top of it. Located in Kenai Fjords National Park, this glacier is part of the vast Harding Icefield, with several trails above and beside it, allowing visitors to observe the icy splendor. Longer hikes will take you with a guide over the ice, too.
View Bears in Their Natural Habitat
Bear viewing in Alaska is one of the most exciting wildlife adventures you can have while exploring the Last Frontier. Venture from the city of Anchorage to the protected terrain of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, where you have a chance of some of the best bear sightings in the state.
Accessible only by boat or plane, this is a place of untouched, pristine wilderness. Traveling a little over an hour by floatplane provides a breathtaking perspective of the landscape from above.
Salmon spawn in the park’s rivers, and where there are salmon, there are bears. Observe brown and black bears fishing and playing in the waters of Cook Inlet. Viewing these incredible creatures in their natural habitat is a photographer’s dream. You should be able to see them from the end of May to mid-September.
Embark on an Ocean Rafting Adventure
Harness your inner adventurer in Alaska with an ocean rafting expedition. Explore the amazing volcanic coast around Sitka via high-speed boat, traveling at up to 50mph. Zoom to Kruzof and St. Lazaria Islands, where you’ll slow right down and have the opportunity to observe marine life and wild landscapes.
Marvel at rugged cliffs and sea caves, spot sea birds like cormorants and puffins, and view the famous Mount Edgecumbe Volcano. This resident dormant volcano of Sitka towers a little over 3,200 feet; the beauty of this sleeping giant is a fantastic photo opp.
If the weather allows, your boat driver may even venture into some of the sea caves shaped by Edgecumbe’s past eruptions. Keep your eyes out for other wildlife along the way too, as otters, sea lions, and whales are often spotted here.
Fly Over Mountains, Glaciers, & Fjords
Flightseeing is one of the most exciting ways to view Alaska’s sweeping landscapes. Whether in a floatplane or a helicopter, a scenic flight will have you soaring above unbelievable terrain and allow access to places you wouldn’t otherwise get to view.
Head north to the Arctic Circle with a flight out of the city of Fairbanks. Gain a bird’s eye view of remote Alaskan terrain as you fly 140 air miles over arctic tundra, the Yukon River, and the impressive snow-capped Brooks Range, inside the Arctic Circle, where you’ll land. The journey continues by road along the remote Dalton Highway to the community of Wiseman for an insight into how local people live in this harsh, remote setting.
Out of Anchorage or Talkeetna, scenic flights will land you on nearby glaciers for the ultimate authentic Alaskan flightseeing experience, or have you soaring over Denali National Park for a new perspective of North America’s tallest mountain. When the clouds part, the vast, ice-and-granite bulk of Denali from the air is awe-inspiring.
In southeastern Alaska, hop aboard a helicopter for a thrilling flight over Skagway, where your destination is a nearby glacier. Marvel at the expansive ice sheet and snowfield from above, before landing on Denver Glacier, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Get Close to the Face of a Glacier
Alaska’s fjord-indented coast, carved by ancient glaciers, is often best admired from the water. Board the Katlian Express, a jet-powered catamaran, for an exhilarating ride through the Tracy Arm Wilderness Area near the capital city of Juneau.
Venture past South Sawyer Glacier under towering, 4,000-foot cliffs, and thundering waterfalls. You’ll get up close to the glacier face and with luck, hear the pistol crack and roar as great chunks of ice calve off into the water. Keep an eye out for eagles, whales, and bears on your fjord adventure.
Explore the awe-inspiring Kenai Fjords National Park by boat, just outside of Seward. This is a fantastic spot for spotting orcas, grey, and humpback whales. In addition, you’ll have a good chance of seeing bald eagles, as well as seals and otters playing in the glassy waters of the fjords. You’ll sail close to the faces of enormous glaciers, admire striking mountains, and find yourself immersed in pristine nature.
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