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The state of Alaska is a land of untouched nature, diverse wildlife, rich culture, and thrilling adventure; America’s “Last Frontier”. Alaska is known for its wide-open spaces, abundant outdoor experiences, and Alaskan Native culture.

Alaska is also one of the best places in the world in which to view the Northern Lights. From the mountains to the sea fjords, and Alaska’s vast interior terrain, the 49th state is a photographer’s dream.

Capture scenes from Denali National Park, walk on a glacier, explore historic Gold Rush towns, and venture through the wild terrain in a kayak, by hiking, or a scenic flight.

Wherever you choose to visit in Alaska, you’re sure to add something to your experiences of a lifetime.

Glaciers

Couple on a glacier

Denali

With almost 100,000 of these massive ice wonders, Alaska has the biggest concentration of glaciers in North America. Some are accessible and can be viewed relatively up-close while visiting the state; Anchorage alone has 60 glaciers, all within an hour’s drive.

Seeing and even walking on glacial ice sheets is an unmissable and thrilling Alaskan experience. Whether you choose to marvel from above on a scenic flight, or embark on a guided trek across this slow-moving river of ice, it will be a jaw-dropping experience.

View of Mendenhall Glacier from a helicopter

Mendenhall Glacier

Take a helicopter from Juneau to land on the Taku Glacier, the city’s largest. Or trek on Mendenhall Glacier, one of the most beautiful glaciers in Alaska, with its amazing ice caves.

Couple walking towards Exit Glacier

Exit Glacier, near Seward

Head to the Kenai Peninsula where the famous Exit Glacier outside of Seward is known to be one of the more accessible ice sheets. A short hike gives you a closer look at this glacier within the Harding Icefield without too much effort. This is one of the top attractions within Kenai Fjords National Park.

What is Alaska known for - Hubbard Glacier

Hubbard Glacier

View the six-mile wide Hubbard Glacier by boat in Disenchantment Bay, within Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. The scale is awe-inspiring, with beautiful landscape, a natural marvel, and possible wildlife sightings of otters, eagles, whales, and seals.

Listen for calving, when giant chunks of the glacier’s ice crash dramatically into the water. When considering what Alaska is known for, glaciers are at the top of the list.

Wildlife

Moose in Denali National Park

Moose

The wild lands of Alaska are home to a wide array of animal species, from moose and bears to majestic eagles and whales. Viewing wildlife in its natural habitat is one of the most exciting things to do in Alaska, when done safely from a distance.

Venture into Denali National Park and you may just see some of the “Big Five” Alaskan animals: moose, wolves, caribou, Dall sheep, and grizzly bears.

If you want to experience one of Alaska’s most famous wildlife scenes, travel to the state in the height of summer, when it’s bear viewing season. Join a tour to look for black and brown bears fishing for salmon or playing in the rivers with their cubs.

Humpback whale in Alaska

Humpback whale

One of the best things to do in Seward is to cruise through Resurrection Bay and onwards to explore the Kenai fjords on a boat tour in search of marine life. Look out for otters and seals, eagles soaring above and, between May and September, humpback, gray, and orca whales cruising the fjords.

Read: Alaska Whale-Watching Cruise: Everything You Need to Know

Mountains

Scenic view of snow-capped Denali Mountain

Denali

Alaska’s mountainous landscape is one of the top things the state is known for. Whether you choose to adventure among the mountains or gaze at them from afar, you’ll have abundant opportunities.

The most famous resident giant is Denali, one of the most beautiful mountains in Alaska. Viewing the top is weather dependent as it’s often hidden behind clouds. Marvel at the mountain up-close, a symbol of Alaska itself, from Denali National Park or enjoy from a higher perspective with a scenic flight from nearby Talkeetna.

Lush landscape of Mount Roberts with aerial tram

Mount Roberts

The vast mountainous ranges make for amazing hikes. Trek up the Mount Roberts trail near Juneau for an invigorating eight-mile hike where wildflowers and striking views await.

If you’d prefer to enjoy the vista in a more relaxing manner, consider the Goldbelt tram up to the top, 1,800 feet above sea level.

Alaskan Native Culture

Natives performing Alaska dance

Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage

Known for its rich Indigenous culture, Alaska has many sites that pay homage to the Alaskan Native people and their historical ties to the land. Eleven different Alaskan Native cultures have lived here off fishing and hunting.

Since the very first ancestors arrived in the state thousands of years ago, they have fostered a strong artisan and sporting culture. Intricate embroidery, wood and ivory carvings and the famous totem poles are some of the amazing artwork created by these Native peoples.

From sites that celebrate Athabascan culture in and around Fairbanks to Tlingit culture around Sitka and the Inside Passage, the entire state has a plethora of interesting and informative cultural points of interest, institutions, and experiences to discover.

Totem poles in Saxman Village

Saxman Native Village, Ketchikan

One of the most unforgettable things to do in Ketchikan is to see amazing displays of totem pole art. View one of the biggest collections in the world at Saxman Native Village, where you’ll be dazzled by more than 20 hand-carved totems.

Totem poles at the Totem Bight State Park

Totem Bight State Historical Park, near Ketchikan

At Totem Bight State Historical Park and Totem Heritage Center, you will find some of the oldest totem poles in the state. Explore the parklands, surrounded by lush temperate rainforest as you learn about these vivid and intricate totems, known as the “silent storytellers”.

They were salvaged in the 1930s to preserve the culture of the Tlingit and Haida people. Be sure to visit the onsite Clan House as well, for an inside glimpse into Alaskan Native family living quarters.

People sightseeing from the Alaska Native Heritage Center

Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage

One of the best things to do in downtown Anchorage is to visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Here, you’ll learn about and experience the living culture of the Haida, Tsimshian, Iñupiaq, Eyak, Alutiiq, Cup’ik, Tlingit, Yup’ik, St. Lawrence Island Yupik, Athabascan, and Unangax̂ Alaska Natives.

Browse the collection of exhibits, take part in their immersive educational programs, and explore the life-sized village models.

Read: Best Towns to Visit in Alaska

Denali National Park

What is Alaska known for - Denali National Park

Denali National Park

The tallest mountain in North America lies in an Alaskan national park that preserves six million acres of beautifully wild landscape. Denali National Park is a major natural attraction in the state and one of the top things Alaska is known for.

With abundant outdoor adventures, wildlife, and stunning scenery, it’s easy to see why. Acres of tundra and forest surround the granite bulk of Denali, one of the most beautiful places in Alaska.

Bald eagles on a tree in Denali

Bald eagles

The ruggedly beautiful Alaska Range is a backdrop for hiking within the park’s terrain where fantastic wildlife viewing is a large draw as well. Home to wolves, foxes, Dall sheep, caribou, grizzly and black bears, bald eagles and moose, the park has a diverse wildlife population.

Humpback whale in Alaska

Humpback whale

Head out on one of the shooter loop hikes, the two-mile Horseshoe Lake Trail where the scenery will dazzle. For those looking to embark on a more physically challenging trail, the four-mile Savage Alpine Trail mixes steep ascents with wild tundra and possible wildlife sightings.

If you prefer to sit back and relax while enjoying the park’s sights, take a guided driving tour along a section of the park road. Venture into the protected backcountry wilderness with awe-inspiring views of the mountains, river valleys, and subarctic forests while keeping watch for “The Big Five”.

Northern Lights

Northern lights as seen from Fairbanks

Northern lights in Fairbanks

Alaska is one of the best places in the world to view Mother Nature’s colorful display of Northern Lights. Seeing these vibrant bands of light dancing in the night skies is a breathtaking experience.

The northern lights viewing season typically goes from late August to April, with September being one of the optimal months.

The city of Fairbanks is one of the top destinations for viewing due to its northerly location and auroral activity, although you could be lucky with a sighting anywhere if you visit in September, when the evenings begin to close in.

Dog Sledding

People dog-sledding in Alaska

Dog sledding in Alaska

The traditional sport of dog sledding is not just one of the 49th state’s thrilling cultural adventures, but also one of the top things that Alaska is known for. Rich history lies within the popular sport, with the challenging 1,150-mile-long Iditarod race taking place each March.

Various destinations within the state allow visitors to experience a dog-sled ride, tour a racing kennel, interact with mushers, and meet the dogs, of course. Fairbanks, Seward, Anchorage, Juneau, and Denali are all great places within Alaska to experience the wonder and excitement surrounding the sport.

Dog sledding on a snowy path in Alaska

Dog sledding in Alaska

Speed through the gorgeous Alaskan backcountry in an authentic sled led by a team of huskies. Dog-sledding isn’t just a winter experience either; during summer in Alaska, sleds are outfitted with wheels instead of runners, making it possible to enjoy it year-round.

Couple walking on a glacier

Denali

Another thrilling option involves hopping aboard a helicopter where you’ll be transported to a snowy wonderland atop a glacier, even in the warmer months. Sled rides on a glacier through the ice and snow bring this authentic activity to new heights.

In Juneau, it’s even possible to tour a 19th-century replica of an authentic Iditarod Outpost at the musher camp.

Read: Where to Go Dog Sledding in Alaska

Fishing

Crab fishing in Bering Sea, one of the best Alaskan adventures

Bering Sea

Whether you’re catching sea crabs, salmon, or halibut, fishing is one of the most popular activities for which Alaska is known. The sea, rivers, streams, and lakes in Alaska all provide fantastic fishing opportunities.

Every summer, anglers come to the Kenai Peninsula during the king salmon and sockeye salmon runs, a bountiful season for fishing. Aboard a deep-sea fishing boat in the Bering Sea, you can also learn to crab and long-line fish for halibut and black bass on a true Alaskan adventure.

Silver salmon caught from Knudson Cove, Ketchikan

Knudson Cove, Ketchikan

Fish from the edges of Icy Strait Point’s pristine streams, known for its trout and variety of salmon species. Or head to the “salmon fishing capital of the world” in Ketchikan’s Knudson Cove, where king and silver salmon are the prize. In Denali, try your hand at fly-fishing amid breathtaking scenery.

Adventures

View from the ZipRider in Icy Strait Point

ZipRider in Icy Strait Point, Alaska Photo by Werner Bayer on Flickr, licensed under CC0 1.0

Alaska is a land rich with exciting outdoor adventures that allow thrill-seekers to experience some of the best scenery the state has to offer. Soar through the Alaskan treetops on the world’s largest zipline in Icy Strait Point and marvel at the view over the rainforest landscape below.

Bring your hiking boots to explore Chichagof Island, just outside of Icy Strait Point. Trek through Native-owned lands where you’ll see great views of Glacier Bay, learn about the local history, and hopefully sight wildlife such as humpback whales, brown bears, and Sitka black-tailed deer.

Couple on a flightseeing tour around the Arctic Circle

Arctic Circle

From Fairbanks, visit the Arctic Circle on a scenic flight, where you’ll land in the Brooks Mountain Range before venturing along the well-known and remote Dalton Highway. Go bear viewing during the summer months when the salmon spawn occurs.

Bears spotted in Lake Clark National Park

Lake Clark National Park

On a tour out of Anchorage to Lake Clark National Park, you’ll have the opportunity to spot bears catching fish in their natural habitat. This area is known for some of the most reliable bear sightings in Alaska.

Whether you trek upon a glacier, take a scenic flight, go deep-sea fishing, or hike through the unspoiled wilds of the state, Alaska is the ultimate adventure state.

Couple rafting in Denali National Park

Denali National Park

Want to explore Alaska’s wild and untouched landscape, immerse yourself in authentic culture, go dog-sledding and fishing, or see the Northern Lights? Browse our luxury Alaska cruises for more inspiration and book your adventure today.

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Free Vacation Planning Services