Alaska makes a dream destination for a lot of travelers, being a wild hinterland in which visitors never run out of things to do.
You can see the crashing glaciers, go fishing and reel in a world-class record halibut, get to the peak of North America’s highest mountain or try your hand at panning for gold. If you still need convincing, or none of these things is your cup of tea, we still have a list of amazing activities to indulge in during a trip to this wonderland. Lovers of quiet and solitude can spend their Alaska vacation days and nights relaxed and snuggled up in any one of their warm cozy wilderness lodges.
1. Wildlife watching at the Denali National Park
Denali National Park, which sits on an area larger than the entire state of Massachusetts, is just as famous as Mt. Mc Kinley, North America’s highest mountain. Located 240 miles to the north of Anchorage and 120 miles to the south of Fairbanks, it was established in 1917, and was initially intended to be a game refuge. Denali is famed for the diversity of its wildlife: grizzly bears, Dall sheep, moose and caribou are not an uncommon sight for any visitor to the park.
Occasionally, you can catch sight of black bears and wolves, wolverines can also be found, but these are much more elusive. Chances of catching a glimpse of Mt. McKinley’s peak are also rather slim, with only about 35% chance at the height of activity between the months of June and August. Nevertheless, a visit to Denali is among the most basic activities to carry out on a trip to Alaska.
2. A ride on the rails of Alaska’s Legendary Railroad
A train raid is one of the best ways to explore Alaska. The summer months see the Alaska Railroad’s passenger cars teem with eager vacationers, enjoying the domed ceilings and wide windows as they journey through Alaska. The routes go from Seward to Fairbanks, passing through Anchorage, Denali and Fairbanks. There are also branches to Palmer and Whittier. There are luxury seating arrangements available, and tours can take anything from two hours to twelve. An especially matchless route is the one between the Hurricane area and Takeetna, called the ‘Hurricane Turn’ – the area has no roads at all, and residents use white flags/pieces of cloth to stop the train, making this route the only flag-stop railway route left in North America.
3. A Cruise to Glacier Bay National Park
Glacier Bay National Park stands as the epitome of almost everybody’s vision of Alaska, from its massive glaciers of tidewater and snow-capped mountain ranges to the diversity of its wildlife.
Situated only 63 miles from Juneau, majority of visitors to the park enjoy its beauty aboard a cruise ship. It is not uncommon to chance upon schools of fish with a humpback whale hot on their tail, harbor seals procreating on large floating ice plates and sea lions relaxing on rocky isles. Terrestrial animals such as coyotes, wolves, moose and bear live here in abundance, though these may be harder to see from the water. Other than whale and wildlife watching, visitors can also take part in kayaking. The park can only be accessed via a plane or on a ferry.
4. Go fish! Alaska is any fisherman’s dream destination.
The rivers are packed with all kinds of sport fish – halibut, salmon, trout and rainbow – among others. However, anyone looking to participate in fishing activity will first need to be licensed. Front here on out, whether you want a solitary excursion to a stream of your choosing, or take a day or week-long charter, it is up to you.
Anglers from the whole world over are drawn to Alaska, which presently has 21 different species of word recognized and accepted sports fish, from its inside passage right up to the Arctic.
5. Walking the Iditarod National Historic Trail
Tracing the Iditarod National Historic Trail is perhaps the most epic activity to indulge in while in Alaska. The trail maps a system over a thousand miles long, connecting one point 50 miles to the north of Seward to Nome. The route came about when prospectors and explorers to Alaska were searching for a reliable way to transport goods across Alaska’s frozen landscape. From the local inhabitants, they learnt that this could be done using dog-sled teams. Soon after the road was officially surveyed in 1908, the trail became the regular route for the influx of gold rushers. At present, the trail is explorable on foot, using a snowmobile, skis or a dogsled at any time of year.
6. A drive through the Deathly Dalton Highway
The Dalton Highway, known officially as Alaska Route 11, stretches out in 414 miles of road, beginning a short distance to the north of Fairbanks, right up to someplace near the Arctic Ocean. It is one of the country’s most isolated and deserted roads, and was initially a supply road built to complement the Trans-Alaska Pipeline system. The route passes through three towns and showcases some enthralling sights and several must-stop checkpoints: mile 115 – the Arctic Circle, Coldfoot – the world’s northernmost truck-stop, miles 244 to 248 – the Atigun Pass and mile 356 – the Coastal plain viewpoint. The highway, which was nicknamed ‘Haul Road’ owing to the high number of trucks that frequent the route, was featured on ‘America’s Toughest Jobs’ by NBC, as well as the 3rd Truckers’. One must therefore exercise due caution whilst driving on the Dalton Highway.
7. View of the Northern Lights
The natural displays of colour stemming from the dancing of the Aurora Borealis, popularly referred to as the ‘Northern Lights’ commonly light up the sky in the polar region. While their showing is random hence unpredictable, chances of seeing them are much higher in Alaska. The northern lights usually appear most in March and in September, when the weather is milder and skies clearer. They are far better visible in areas removed from city lights, and typically appear within an hour to hour-and-a-half after dusk.
8. Get to see a glacier
Alaska is estimated to have in excess of 100,000 glaciers spread out within the state and ice-rivers cover roughly 3% of Alaskan landscape. Massive chunks of tidewater glaciers can be found on the heads of inlets/fjords, and these tend to break off, falling into the sea. Creaking sounds can often be heard right before the roar of broken off chunks falling into the water in an impressive visual spectacle. Glacier Bay hosts a group of sixteen tidewater glaciers, but the longest is the Hubbard glacier, whose length is a whopping 76 miles.
9. Mining for some gold
Apparently with a little sweat and elbow grease, gold can still be found in Alaska, amid its hills and streams. There are quite a number of places across the state where hopefuls can try their chance at hitting the gold jackpot at no cost. Fairbanks makes a good starting point, as it marked the beginning of the gold rush. Nevertheless, you can pan for gold anywhere really, including certain places along Dalton Highway and the beach to the east of Nome.
10. Get to the end of the world
A visit to USA’s northernmost city called Barrow is among the lesser known excursions on a trip to Alaska. Barrow is a small town – under 5,000 inhabitants – accessible only by plane, there aren’t any roads linking the town to the rest of the state. For 50-70 days yearly, Barrow is in complete darkness, while from May to early August, the sun never sets on it. A visit to Barrow not only earns you the bragging rights to having been to the end of the earth, but also gives you a chance to tour the Pignig archaeological site – see the 16 mounds of a culture that has been dated back to 500-900AD. You also will enjoy a spectacular view of the northern lights especially in the dark days and get an opportunity to see firsthand the local dog-sledding and whaling traditions.
For more information about Alaska as your next travel or cruise destination please visit www.cruisemegastore.com.au