The 25 best places to visit in Alaska

 

Along the George Parks Highway, around 290 kilometres (180 miles) out of Anchorage on the way to Fairbanks is an abandoned hotel in a place commonly referred to as Igloo City. The decaying Igloo Lodge is a four-storey igloo shaped white building measuring 24 metres (80 ft) high by 32 metres (105 ft) wide. Once the dream of local entrepreneur Leon Smith, this giant structure has been abandoned for decades, becoming a somewhat unusual roadside attraction. As of 2018, the land, the Igloo Lodge and abandoned gas station is currently on sale to anyone with a spare $300,000.

25. Igloo City

 

Directly east of Fairbanks, close to the border with Canada's Yukon Territory is the town of Chicken. Founded as a gold mining community, most visitors today are just there to say they've been to Chicken.

24. Chicken

 

South east of the city of Fairbanks on the Richardson Highway, around 2,700 kilometres (1,700 miles) from the geographic North Pole is the town of North Pole, Alaska. Due to its proximity to the major city of Fairbanks, many visitors would make the short journey just to say they've been to the North Pole, home of Santa Claus. Because of this the town created more and more Santa themed attractions, including festive gift shops, candy cane street lights and year round Christmas decorations. The towns most notable attraction is a 15 metre (50 ft) fibreglass Santa Claus statue, regarded to be the largest Santa statue in the world.

23. North Pole

 

In the almost exact centre of the State, 315 kilometres (196 miles) south of the Arctic Circle is the city of Fairbanks, the second most populated city in Alaska. This quiet riverside city at the junction of several major highways is a regular stop off for most passing tourists, though its in the winter it really becomes special, with high chances of spotting the northern lights from the comfort of a major modern city.

22. Fairbanks

 

South of Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula​ is the town of Homer, the southernmost town on the contiguous Alaska highway system. Known as the Halibut Fishing Capital Of The World, nicknamed, The End Of The Road, its most famous landmark is the Homer Split, a 7.2 kilometre (4.5 mile) long piece of land jutting out into Kachemak Bay. The split is famed for having the longest road into ocean waters anywhere in the world.

21. Homer

 

On Revillagigedo Island, between the Gulf Of Alaska and British Columbia, within the Tongass National Forest at the southernmost entrance to the famous inside passage, is the city of Ketchikan, the most south easterly city in Alaska. Named after Ketchikan Creek, which flows through the town into the Tongass Narrows, the city is known for its idyllic scenery, native culture and abundance of salmon, sometimes referred to as the salmon capital of the world. Home to the worlds largest collection of standing totem poles, the areas premier attraction is the nearby Misty Fjords National Monument, a pristine area of wilderness within the Tongass National Forest.

20. Ketchikan

In the southern centre of the State of Alaska, home to more than forty percent of Alaska's population is the city of Anchorage, by far the most built up area in the State. Settled on a strip of coastal lowland where the Cook Inlet splits into two fjords, the Turnagain Arm and the Knik Arm, its backdrop from the coast is framed by the picturesque Chugach Mountains. For the best view in town, visitors are advised to head to Point Woronzof Park.

19. Anchorage

 

In the extreme west of the State, encompassing an area of some 10,915 square kilometres (4,214 square miles) on the Seward Peninsula is the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, the most remote national park in the United States. A remnant of the land bridge that once connected Asia to North America, the majority of those ancient lands today lie under the waters of the Bering Sea. With no roads into the preserve, access is only possible by charter planes or boats in the summer and ski planes or dog sleds in the winter. The top attractions of this vast barren landscape include the hot springs, Trail Creek Caves, Devil Mountain Lakes and the Lost Jim Lava Flow.

18. Bering Land Bridge National Preserve

South east of the of Anchorage, close to the city of Whittier, on the Kenai Peninsula within the Chugach National Forest is the 6 kilometre (4 mile) long Portage Glacier. Hundreds of years ago the glacier measured 23 kilometres (14 miles) in length and filled the entire Portage Valley, connected to what are now five separate glaciers. The Boggs Visitor Centre was built in 1986 as a viewpoint, but due to the recession of the glacier it can no longer be viewed from there. Visitors that wish to view this wonderful natural spectacle will need to take a boat tour.

17. Portage Glacier

 

East of the small city of Valdez along the Richardson Highway is the Worthington Glacier, acclaimed to be the last remaining glacier in the United States accessible by paved road. Within sight of the highway, it is just as easily reached by a short hike from the car park, making it a prime location for glacier treks or ice climbing trips. Even for those too lazy to get out of the car, this valley glacier makes for a spectacular view from the road.

16. Worthington Glacier

 

Extending some 1,900 kilometres (1,200 miles) from the Alaskan Peninsula are 14 large volcanic islands and 55 smaller ones known as the Aleutian Islands, marking the dividing line between the Bering Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. Crossing the international date line the islands consist of both the most westerly point of the United States, and the most easterly. The most populated of the Aleutian Islands is Unalaska, whose city of the same name holds 80% of the islands population, including many Aleut people who have inhabited the area for thousands of years.

 

Pictured is Unalaska. 

15. Aleutian Islands

 

In Alaska's extreme north east, touching the Arctic Ocean in the north, and straddling the Canadian border along the Yukon Territory in the east, is the 78,050 square kilometre (30,135 square mile) Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, the largest wildlife reserve in the United States. The area is a vast untouched landscape of rugged terrain, Arctic mountains and harsh conditions. Designated to protect a large variety of plants and animals, the park is home to caribou, wolves and polar bears.

14. Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

 

In the north west of Alaska, north of the Arctic Circle is the 7,084 square kilometre (2,735 square mile) Kobuk Valley National Park, designated a protected area to preserve the caribou migration routes and the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes. Rising above the surrounding trees along the southern bank of the Kobuk River, the dunes cover an area of 64 square kilometres (25 square miles) and reach up to 30 metres (100 ft) high, making them the largest dunes in the Arctic. With no roads, the area is accessible only by chartered plane. Visitors are expected to bring everything they require to survive in the wilderness and there are no marked trails. One of the least visited national parks in the United States, very few people witness this most unusual sight.

13. Great Kobuk Sand Dunes

 

South east of the capital, Juneau, close to the border of British Columbia in the Tongass National Forest is the blue iceberg of South Sawyer Glacier, the larger of the two tidewater glaciers at the head of Tracy Arm Fjord. Visitors can only witness this natural wonder aboard ships, and as well as seeing this majesty of nature there is also a good chance of spotting whales breaching the surface, as well as seals and sea lions sunning themselves on the rocks.

12. South Sawyer Glacier

 

From the Elliott Highway just north of Fairbanks stretching 666 kilometres (414 miles) to Deadhorse near the Arctic Ocean is the Alaska Route 11, better known as the Dalton Highway, named after the native engineer James Dalton. Mostly gravel, the highway has become one of the most famous stretches of road in the world, regarded also to be one of the most dangerous drives. The roads beyond Deadhorse are privately owned by the Prudhoe Bay oil companies, restricted to authorized vehicles only. For those wishing to go further and see the Arctic Ocean, commercial tours are available. Due to the extreme remoteness, any visitors embarking on a journey along the Dalton Highway are advised to take survival gear.

Pictured is the Atigun Pass, the highest pass in Alaska, and the only paved road across the Brooks mountain range.

11. Dalton Highway

 

North east of the city of Anchorage along the Glenn Highway is the enormous 43 kilometre (27 mile) long Matanuska Glacier, reputed to be the largest easily accessible glacier in the United States. Visible from the highway, visitors can walk straight out onto the glacier without the crowds of other glaciers in the region, thanks mainly to its location keeping it out of the way of the big cruise circuits. Located on private land, the fee for visiting the Matanuska Glacier is $30.

10. Matanuska Glacier

 

South west from Anchorage on the Alaskan Peninsula is the 16,564 square kilometre (6,395 square mile) Katmai National Park, a vast wilderness named after Mount Katmai, a large stratovolcano that reaches 2,047 metres (6,716 ft) above sea level. Home to a number of other active volcanoes, the park also contains the worlds largest population of brown bears. Every summer around July when the sockeye salmon make their run upstream, the bears congregate along the river, making for one of the best wildlife sights in the world. The most famous and probably best place to witness this natural event is from the Brook Falls Viewing Platform.

9. Katmai National Park

 

South west of Anchorage, directly north from Katmai National Park is the 16,308 square kilometre (6,296 square mile) protected area of Lake Clark National Park. With the most diverse eco-system in Alaska, virtually all major Alaskan animals, marine and terrestrial, may be seen in and around the park. As with nearby Katmai National Park, the sockeye salmon flood the rivers, making brown bear viewing one of the areas biggest tourist attractions. The parks terrain is as diverse as its eco-system, straddling the junction where three mountain ranges meet, it holds a rain forest coastline along the Cook Inlet to the east and also a plateau of alpine tundra to the west. It is a place of high snowy mountains, glaciers, glacial lakes, huge open valleys and two stratovolcanoes, Mount Redoubt and Mount Illiamna. With no roads leading into the park, it can only be reached by boat or small aircraft, typically sea planes.

8. Lake Clark National Park

 

Completed around 1942, running from Manley Hot Springs, west of the city of Fairbanks, and extending 2,232 kilometres (1,387 miles) across the Alaskan border with Canada, through British Columbia and into the Yukon Territory, is the Alaska Highway. Officially Alaska Route 2, the name given to Alaska's portion of the Alaska Highway, the road cuts through some of the most picturesque landscapes of North America, meaning the Alaska Highway is often considered to be one of the finest driving roads in the world.

7. Alaska Highway

 

Just north of the capital, Juneau, in the Mendenhall Valley within the Tongass National Forest is the Mendenhall Glacier, one of the most viewed glaciers in the State of Alaska. Measuring 22 kilometres (13.5 miles) in length, the glacier has retreated 2.82 kilometres (1.75 miles) since 1929, and will continue to retreat for the foreseeable future. From the parking area visitors are able to start a selection of trails. East Glacier Loop takes visitors to within 1.6 kilometres (1 mile) of the glacier, whereas Nugget Falls will get slightly closer, and the easily accessible Steep Creek provides salmon and bear viewing opportunities. The west glacier trail offers access to the glacier itself, and the spectacular Mendenhall Ice caves beneath it.

6. Mendenhall Glacier

 

In the north west of the State, covering an area of 34,287 square kilometres (13,238 square miles) is the Gates Of The Arctic National Park, protecting a vast area of the Brooks Mountain Range. Entirely within the Arctic Circle, it is the northernmost national park in the United States, and due to its remoteness it is also the least visited. Straddling the Dalton Highway for only a few miles in the east, no roads go directly into the protected area. The landscape is an enormous wilderness of mountains, valleys, rivers and substantial tundra. With such difficult terrain to navigate in the harshest of conditions, the Gates Of The Arctic National Park should not be attempted by everyone, meaning it will remain a seldom seen location.

5. Gates Of The Arctic National Park

 

In the south west of the State, bordering the Gulf Of Alaska in the south and Canada's border with the Yukon Territory in the east is the 53,320 square kilometre (20,587 square mile) Wrangell St. Elias National Park, the single largest protected area of designated wilderness in the United States. Encompassing the Saint Elias Mountains, which include the highest peaks in North America, the parks name comes from the 5,489 metre (18,008 ft) Mount St. Elias, the second tallest mountain in both the United States and Canada, and the active volcano of Mount Wrangell. Glaciers in the park include Malaspina, the largest sloped glacier in North America, the Hubbard Glacier, the longest tidewater glacier in Alaska, and Nebesna Glacier, the longest valley glacier in the world. Covered by the vast Bagley Ice Field, this incredible terrain filled with spectacular natural wonders and breathtaking landscapes has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

4. Wrangell St. Elias National Park

 

Directly south of Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula is the 2,711 square kilometre (1,046 square mile) Kenai Fjord National Park, encompassing the Kenai Mountains and the enormous Harding Ice Field, one of the largest ice fields in the United States. Named after the numerous fjords carved by glacial valleys moving down from the ice field, the park is also home to at least 38 current glaciers, the largest of which is Bear Glacier. The parks most popular destination is Exit Glacier, lying within easy reach of the parks only road. The rest of the protected area is accessible by boat, plane or trekking, with lucky visitors getting the chance to spot brown bears, black bears, moose, harbour seals, humpback and killer whales.

Pictured is Exit Glacier

3. Kenai Fjord National Park

 

West of the capital, Juneau, within the Tongass National Forest is the 13,045 square kilometre (5,037 square mile) Glacier Bay National Park, named after the areas abundance of tidewater and terrestrial glaciers, of which there are over a thousand. Accessible only by boat, it has become one of the most popular locations in Alaska thanks to the spectacular landscape of its glaciers and ice fields. Most tours include a visit to Margerie Glacier, pushing out into the West Arm Fjord up to 14 ft a day it calves frequently, with seals sunning themselves on the resulting icebergs. The panorama from here also takes in the Grand Pacific Glacier, and more often than not the sight of whales breaching the water. Such is the importance of this special area of protected land, the entire park has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pictured is Margerie Glacier.

2. Glacier Bay National Park

 

In the southern centre of the State, between the cities of Fairbanks and Anchorage is the 19,185 square kilometre (7,407 square mile) Denali National Park, centred on Mount Denali, at 6,190 metres (20,310 ft) above sea level it is the tallest mountain in the United States. The landscape, sitting within the centre of the Alaska Range is a mix of forest at low elevations, tundra at its mid range and glaciers, snow and barren rocks at its peak. The only road leading into the park is the Denali Park Road, a privately owned road that can only be accessed by tour buses. The view of Mount Denali rising behind the winding Denali Park Road has become an iconic picture of Alaska, and one of the single greatest sights of North America.

1. Denali National Park

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