With vast landscapes, glaciers, wildlife, rich history, and abundant outdoor activities, Alaska is a dream destination for nature and culture enthusiasts. A visit to America’s “Last Frontier” grants travelers access to soaring mountains, Alaskan Native culture, striking fjords, and much more.
Whether you’re interested in hiking, wildlife, fishing, history, or photography, Alaska has something that appeals to every interest. Spot whales in the Kenai fjords, race through the wilderness on a dog sled, or later in the season, watch the northern lights dance across the sky.
From the famous Denali National Park and discovering the state’s best waterfalls to exciting railway rides across deep valleys and jagged mountains, the 49th state has no shortage of thrilling activities.
Connect with the outdoors, make memories that will last a lifetime, and discover some of the best things to do in Alaska.
Alaska is known for its large population of grizzly and brown bears. The opportunity to view these creatures fishing for salmon in their natural habitat is one of the most popular things to do while visiting the Last Frontier.
Bear viewing season lasts from June to August and can be done by joining a guided tour to places like Lake Clark National Park, Katmai National Park, and in Ketchikan or Icy Strait Point in southeastern Alaska.
Keep an eye out for the Alaska coastal brown bear while embarking on a guided trek along the “Trail of the Bears” in Icy Strait Point’s Spasski River Valley. Or take a thrilling scenic flight to the edge of Lake Clark National Park where you can immerse yourself in the wilderness while looking for bears going about their daily routine.
One of the best things to do in Sitka is to visit the Fortress of the Bear, a sanctuary for orphaned cubs where education and research are the focus. Here, you can safely get an up close vantage point of the bears in their naturalized habitat from viewing platforms while learning about the species.
Visit Ketchikan, self-styled Salmon Capital of the World, where the rich rivers are host to thousands of salmon forcing their upstream to spawn—easy pickings for hungry bears.
Drive a Dog Sled
The traditional sport of dog sledding is one of Alaska’s top cultural experiences. Learn about the history behind dog sledding in Alaska, with its roots in the challenging 1,150-mile long Iditarod race, taking place annually in March.
Those looking to feel the thrill of the sport can do so with a dog sled ride through the wild Alaskan backcountry, expertly led by a team of huskies and experienced mushers.
This year-round adventure can be experienced even during summer in Alaska with a ride on a specially designed sled, outfitted with wheels.
Head to Alyeska, where you can take your adventure to new levels aboard a helicopter, landing atop a glacier, even in the summer months. Then hop into a dog sled for an unforgettable ride on the massive ice sheet.
Tour a 19th-century replica of an Iditarod Outpost and racing kennel at a musher camp near Juneau before enjoying your sled ride, too.
Denali National Park is another favorite destination in the state for dog sledding against the backdrop of the brooding hulk of Denali, North America’s highest mountain.
Some of the best things to do in Seward include cuddling with the husky puppies and then feeling the breeze of fresh Alaskan air as you ride two miles from Seavey Homestead to the base of beautiful Resurrection Mountain on the Kenai Peninsula.
Trek on a Glacier
With the largest concentration of glaciers in North America, viewing and trekking on these massive sheets of ice is one of the top adventures in Alaska. Those in search of a thrilling outdoor experience will find one in a guided hike atop one of the state’s many slow-moving glacial rivers of ice.
Climb aboard a helicopter from Juneau and be transported to a glacier wonderland, where you can explore the surface and ice caves of Mendenhall Glacier, one of the best glaciers in Alaska.
Just outside of Seward, it’s possible to take a guided trek on the famous Exit Glacier, part of the Harding Icefield. Look into deep crevices, marvel at caves, and view Alaskan waterfalls along the way.
Zipline Through the Forest
Get your adrenaline pumping on a speedy zipline ride through southeastern Alaska’s forest landscape, located around Icy Strait Point. On the world’s longest zipline, you’ll have the chance to experience the Alaskan rainforest by soaring above the tree canopy at up to 60 miles per hour.
As you zip along on one of the six lines, you’ll see Icy Strait and the village of Hoonah from a bird’s eye perspective, as well as possible wildlife like deer, bears, and eagles—and even whale blows out to sea.
You might even view the distant mountains of Glacier Bay National Park if the weather allows.
With more than 600 species of fish in Alaska’s lakes, rivers, streams, and ocean water, fishing is one of the top things to do.
Whether you’re interested in casting a spin rod, hopping aboard a crabbing boat, or trying your hand at fly fishing, there’s an angling adventure to appeal to almost anyone in the 49th state.
Enjoy the challenge of reeling in salmon, trout, halibut, arctic char, and pike in the pristine waters of Alaska.
Climb aboard a deep-sea fishing vessel in the Bering Sea where you can learn how to long-line fish for halibut.
Cast a line in the beautiful rivers and streams of Kenai Peninsula—one of the best places to fish in Alaska—during the sockeye and king salmon runs every summer. Head north to Denali National Park too, a fly-fishing haven with a spectacular backdrop.
Read: Alaska’s Best National Parks
Spot Wildlife in Denali National Park
The sprawling Denali National Park is one of the most beautiful places in Alaska and a top place to spot wildlife on the tundra terrain. With almost 70 species of mammals and 169 species of birds, Denali is a fantastic place for wildlife viewing.
Keep an eye out for “The Big Five” animals in Alaska, which are caribou, wolves, grizzly bears, moose, and Dall sheep, all native to the park. Additionally, you may see other creatures such as wolverines, snowshoe hares, foxes, arctic ground squirrels, and marmots.
Whether you explore on foot with a hike on one of the park’s many trails, or relax on a guided and narrated bus tour, spotting wildlife in its natural habitat is an exciting Alaskan experience.
Taste Craft Beer
Craft beer enthusiasts will enjoy the bustling brewery scene in the city of Anchorage. The state’s pristine water is the foundation for creating the high-quality brews that are a delight to taste. Join a brewery tour or embark on self-guided brewery-hop where you can try some of the best varieties.
Learn about the local beer history and culture in taproom favorites such as Midnight Sun Brewing Company, the city’s oldest. Try their flagship IPA, barrel-aged stouts, and the Sockeye Red.
Next, venture to 49th State Brewing and King Street Brewing Company where you can sample the “Beer of the Month” and pair it with delicious appetizers or food truck fare.
Read: The Ultimate Alaska Food Guide
Go Whale Watching
Alaska is one of the best places in the world to go whale watching, with its large population of gray, humpback, and orca whales that migrate to the state’s coastal regions every year.
Starting in April, gray whales appear in the waters, but peak season is generally May through September when humpbacks and orcas can also be seen.
Cruising out of Seward through scenic Resurrection Bay and the Kenai Fjords during these months will raise your chance of viewing these graceful giants.
Homer, Juneau, and Sitka are also favorite destinations for whale watching in Alaska, particularly for humpbacks, which frequent the Inside Passage.
In addition to whales, you may spot other marine life such as dolphins, otters, and seals, as well as the majestic eagle soaring in the skies above.
Read: Expert Tips for Photographing Alaska
Hiking in Alaska is an excellent way to explore the diverse landscapes and magnificent views.
Hike Sawtooth Mountain near Skagway, a three-and-a-half mile nature trail where you’ll get a taste of the Tongass National Forest, views of the Sawtooth Mountains, and have the opportunity to look for wildlife such as bears and moose.
The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail in Anchorage is proof that you don’t have to venture outside of the cities in Alaska to enjoy some hiking.
This popular 11-mile trail spans the coast of the Knik Arm from Kincaid Park to downtown Anchorage. Views are nothing short of impressive along this easy-to-walk route.
Waterfall enthusiasts will enjoy the hike to Virgin River Falls, located in Girdwood, just 45 minutes from Anchorage. Take one of two trails through the temperate rainforest, the trees draped in moss.
The lower trail skirts the river for half a mile while the upper trail continues to the summit of Max’s Mountain after visiting the cascade. Whichever route you choose, you’ll see beautiful scenery.
Learn About Native Alaskan Culture
With eleven different Alaskan Native Cultures in the state, there are many historical sites that pay homage to the Indigenous people. From rich history and sporting culture to the arts, visiting some of the celebrated points of interest tied to the Native peoples is a top thing to do when visiting Alaska.
Visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center near Anchorage for an educational and immersive experience learning about Alaskan culture and groups such as the Tlingit, Eyak, Haida, and more.
Tour the recreated Native dwellings onsite near Lake Tiulana and watch one of the theatrical performances in the Hall of Cultures during your visit.
One of the best things to do in Ketchikan is to discover the “silent storytellers” at Totem Bight State Historical Park and Totem Heritage Center. This point of interest celebrates the totem pole artwork of the Tlingit and Haida people, salvaged in the 1930s.
Nearby Saxman Native Village is another fantastic site where you can view one of the largest collections in the world of the impressively hand-carved totems.
Read: Best Towns to Visit in Alaska
Marvel at awe-inspiring landscapes from above with a scenic flight, one of the best things to do in Alaska. Soaring above mountain ranges, glaciers, river valleys, and fjords offers a unique aerial vantage point of the wild terrain.
Fly out of the northern city of Fairbanks and travel across the Arctic Circle, where the sun skims the horizon and doesn’t set during the summer solstice.
Enjoy the views of endless Alaskan mountains, tundra, and valleys on your flight. Land in Coldfoot, a small community set in the Brooks Mountain Range, just east of Gates of the Arctic National Park.
In the southern coastal region, take a scenic flight out of Homer where you can view mountains, glaciers, and sea as you take a journey over Kachemak Bay State Park and Kenai Fjords National Park.
Read: Downtown Fairbanks: What to See & Do
Discover outdoor adventure in the true wilderness of America’s Last Frontier. A luxury cruise is a fantastic way to experience some of the amazing things to do in Alaska.
From wildlife spotting in the national parks and hiking the diverse and beautiful landscape, to learning about Native culture and tasting the state’s best craft brews, there’s no shortage of exciting endeavors to enjoy during your trip to Alaska. Browse our luxury Alaskan cruises and book your adventure today.