Clinging to the coast of northern British Columbia and continuing northward, Alaska showcases a thriving indigenous culture, subarctic temperatures, tundra landscapes, and wildlife galore. Many visitors come on cruise ships that dock in Anchorage and, as a result, they barely skim the surface of this frozen land. Plan your trip and dare to venture beyond Anchorage for a fuller experience of the Final Frontier.
Nestled just below Canada’s Yukon territory, Juneau boasts natural beauty alongside the cultural delights of a capital city. Spreading more than 5,120 sq km (3,200 sq mi), it covers an impressive area of coastline, offering the possibility to practice an array of water sports, as well as whale watching, kayaking, and fishing. The city’s rocky terrain makes for incredible hiking, with views overlooking the sea. Plan your Alaskan trip to visit downtown Juneau, cozily tucked at the bottom of Mount Juneau, for historical sites, indigenous art galleries, and museums portraying various aspects of Alaskan life. Despite being the state capital, the peninsular city is not connected to the rest of the state by road--you can only reach it by boat or plane.
Set against a backdrop of tall mountains, Haines easily earns its place as the adventure capital of Alaska. The small port community in the northern region of the Alaskan panhandle boasts the longest fjord in the state, located along the Lynn Canal. Kick off a hiking excursion here: enjoy a casual walk along trails in and around the scenic city, or challenge yourself by scaling the snow-capped Takshanuk Mountains. Haines’ location on the Chilkat River also makes rafting a popular activity and definitely a thing to include in your Alaskan itinerary. The outdoor haven is a habitat for all kinds of wildlife, including sea lions, seals, orcas, and bald eagles. The city has a higher population of bald eagles (particularly in the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve) than people--which number fewer than 2,000--during the winter months. Despite being the outdoor playground of Alaska, the city itself moves at a relaxed pace; don’t be surprised if the locals stop to chat you.
Denali National Park and Preserve
A short drive from Anchorage, Denali National Park is worlds away from the state’s major city. The park is defined largely by its largesse--2.43 million hectares (6 million acres)--and it’s home to the highest peak in North America and some of the largest species in the United States. At 6,194 m (20,320 ft), Mount McKinley attracts an adventurous and ambitious crowd of people attempting to scale the summit. For a less challenging way to see the park, hike the well-maintained paths, but watch for grizzly bears, wolves, moose, and caribou, all of which roam freely in the enormous nature preserve. If you’re pressed for time, use our itinerary planner effectively so you can cover more ground in less time on the bus service through the park.
Despite its small size, Seward is well connected to Anchorage. Tourism in the port town is a thriving industry, second perhaps to the lucrative fishing industry. Accessed by rail, road, or air from Alaska’s largest city, Seward is home to just barely 2,000 permanent residents, but the unspoiled beauty and milder temperatures make it a prime destination for sightseeing. Take advantage of the sea for kayaking, fishing, boat tours of the nearby Kenai Fjord, and swimming if you can brave the cold waters of the Pacific.
Ketchikan hangs precariously on the bluffs of the southwestern shore of Revillagigedo Island. Known as the salmon capital of the world for the species swimming along the city’s shores, the city stretches several kilometers along the coast but is only 10 blocks across at the widest. With its unique coastline perch, many homes and businesses are built on stilts to rest above the water’s edge. You’ll marvel at the boundless beauty and appreciate the strong Native culture here.
By Roxanne Egan-Elliott