Alaska's 18 Best Attractions According to Travelers

Edited by Chlo Ernst and Brad Lane, with an updated version published on March 22, 2022

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Alaska's size is matched by its grandeur in terms of its natural splendor. Anchorage, the largest city, is focused on commerce, and Juneau, the capital, is tucked away in the interior of the state and is inaccessible by road due to its location. The grand outdoors of Alaska, also known as The Last Frontier, is what really draws visitors to this state, despite the many interesting urban areas.

Alaska has some of the most extensive wilderness areas in North America, as well as the largest state and national parks. There are a plethora of things to do in these wild areas, such as hiking, paddling, fishing, and even whale watching. Bear watching, exploring the rain forest, and cruising the Inside Passage are all commonplace activities.

Alaskan urban centers are cultural hotspots with their own distinct appeal. These adventure starting points offer a wide variety of cultural and historical sites to visit. They also provide information about the communities that have lived in Alaska for thousands of years, thanks to museums like the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage.

The vastness of Alaska will astound visitors no matter where they choose to explore. Explore the best of this untamed beauty with our guide to the best of Alaska.

Denali National Park Protected Area of Denali, Alaska

Denali National Park, in the northern part of the Alaska Range, contains North America's highest mountain and is the third largest National Park in the United States. Originally known as Denali, modern explorers renamed the 20,320-foot peak Mount McKinley. For over a century, the debate over what to call North America's tallest mountain raged on, but in 2015, "Denali" was finally accepted.

The six million acres of this national park are as breathtaking as they are unnamed. Wide river valleys, tundra, high alpine ranges, and glacier-draped mountains all make for stunning scenery. The park can be reached by taking the Alaska Railroad and is located about halfway between Anchorage and Fairbanks.

There is only one road in and out of the park, and only designated park buses are allowed to cross Savage River. Depending on the weather, visitors to the park can catch glimpses of Denali from the park road. Near the park's entrance are a handful of short, well-marked trails (all of which are under two miles in length). However, seasoned explorers frequently travel off the beaten path to explore the park's remote interior.

Many different kinds of animals call Denali their home, including grizzly bears, wolves, reindeer, elk, and more. To date, 167 different species of birds have been spotted in the park. The Sled Dog Kennels are another popular attraction in the park. They feature demonstrations and are home to a pack of lively huskies.

Mile 240, George Parks Highway, Denali National Park, Alaska

Here is the link to the official website: http://www.nps.gov/dena/index.htm

Where to Stay near Denali National Park Lodging options close to Denali National Park

Tracy Arm Fjord Fjord of the Tracy Arm

To the south of Juneau is the glacier-edged fjord known as Tracy Arm. There are waterfalls crashing down the cliff faces, and icebergs being broken off from glaciers. Cruise ships and boat tours frequently visit this area.

The fjord is part of the Tongass National Forest, specifically the Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness. The Sawyer Glaciers, which are actually two separate glaciers, are located at the fjord's mouth. There is a wide variety of wildlife to see on tours, from brown bears and moose on land to whales and seals in the water.

Tracy Arm is a relatively unimportant glacier viewing area in Alaska. Glacier Bay National Park, located to the northwest of Juneau, and Prince William Sound, located to the southeast of Anchorage, are two additional popular destinations. Juneau is home to a number of tour operators, such as Adventure Bound Alaska, which provide reasonably priced day trips with unimpeded views of the region's natural beauty.

Where to Stay in Juneau Staying Over in Juneau

  • Top Juneau Attractions: More Reading
Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park In Alaska's Kenai Fjords National Park, you can leave the glacier.

This national park, located south of Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula, protects a large portion of the fjord-filled coastline and is home to some of the state's most breathtaking scenery. The park's panoramic landscapes include the innumerable glaciers of the 700-square-mile Harding Icefield and a coastline devoid of human habitation. As a result of the park's abundant supply of salmon, which is high in fat, it is home to monstrously large brown bears.

The area around Homer, Alaska's Highway 1 terminus, is a hub for a wide variety of tourist activities. The Alaska Railroad and the Seward Highway, which both end in Seward near the park's northern boundary, are two of the most popular ways to reach the park. Exit Glacier is the only driveable area in the park, and it features a number of hiking trails that lead to up-close vantage points of the icefield's terminus.

Here is the link to the official website: http://www.nps.gov/kefj/index.htm

Where to Stay in Anchorage In Anchorage, Alaska: Lodging Options

  • Anchorage, Alaska's Top Attractions: More Reading
The city of Anchorage, Alaska

With a population of over 299,999, Anchorage is Alaska's largest city. The city is large and easily accessible, making it a common entry point for visitors flying to Alaska. Anchorage International Airport is located there, along with many hotels and other tourist facilities.

Given the abundance of exciting opportunities in all directions, Anchorage is also a fantastic jumping off point. This city is conveniently located close to the fantastic Chugach State Park, which spans almost half a million acres. The Alaska Railroad has its headquarters in Anchorage, making it a convenient point of departure for trips into the surrounding wilderness. The railroad spans a total of 470 miles.

In fact, one need not travel far from the heart of the city to experience excitement. The Alaska Native Heritage Center and the Anchorage Museum are two of the most visited landmarks in the city. Additionally, the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is a beautiful 11-mile bike ride that will allow you to get out into nature without having to go too far out of your way. The whole city has places to rent bicycles.

Where to Stay in AnchorageAnchorage Lodging: Where to Stay

Alaska Highway The Alaskan Route

The Alaska Highway, also known as the Alaska-Canada Highway or the Alcan Highway, is a road that stretches from Dawson Creek in British Columbia (Canada) to Delta Junction in Alaska's Yukon Territory, not far from Fairbanks. Eight months was the record time it took to construct it in 1942 for military use during World War II.

The trail has been the primary land route to the Yukon Territory and southern Alaska since the war's conclusion. Recreational vehicle enthusiasts love it too. The highway begins in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada and continues across the international border into Delta Junction, Alaska.

Between 30 and 50 miles apart, you'll find accommodations like motels, shops, and gas stations. Although the Alcan Highway is largely uncomplicated, travelers should be prepared for anything along the way.

Artifact from the North Museum at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks

The University of Alaska Museum of the North in Fairbanks houses over a million artifacts and specimens from Alaska's past and present. The permanent collection features both Alaskan art and ethnographic items created and used by indigenous communities.

Several paleontology specimens, an assortment of birds, and prehistoric cultural artifacts are also included in the collection. The museum itself is notable, but so is the structure that houses it. The white building, designed by Joan Soranno, features curvy lines and angles that are meant to evoke the Alaskan wilderness.

University students and staff can enter the museum for free, while the general public must pay to enter. Individual museum goers are welcome to take as much time as they like exploring, while larger groups can arrange for individualized tours by phone.

Located at 1962 Yukon Drive, Fairbanks, Alaska

Access the official website at http://www.uaf.edu/museum/.

Where to Stay in Fairbanks Fairbanks Lodging: A Guide to Overnighting Options

Inside Passage Tunnel beneath the surface

Sheltered waterways in Southeast Alaska are collectively known as the Inside Passage. Large ships, charter boats, and private yachts are the most common forms of transportation for fjord cruises, making them the most common means of tourism there. Haines, Skagway, and Hyder are all great off-highway options.

The Tongass National Forest is a 17-million-acre wilderness area in southeast Alaska's Inside Passage, complete with islands, mountains, glaciers, ice fields, fjords, and waterfalls. Prince of Wales Island, the second-largest U.S. island, is included in the forest. In addition to the Tlingit and Haida, the Tsimshian also call this region home.

Skagway, home to the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park; Sitka, the former capital of Russian America; and Ketchikan, where stoic totems are on display at Totem Bight State Historic Park and the Totem Heritage Center, are three major towns along the route.

Here is the link to the official website: http://www.fs.usda.gov/tongass/

Alaska Railroad Transportation on the Alaska Railroad

The Alaska Railroad, known as the "Backbone of the Last Frontier," is a significant part of Alaska's history and an important means of transportation even today. This railroad, which ran from Seward to Fairbanks, was instrumental in the transformation of Anchorage from a tent city into the modern city it is today. It also played a crucial role in the shipping industry during World War II.

Over half a million people ride the Alaska Railroad annually, and the state now owns and operates the railway. The Chugach National Forest, Anchorage, and Denali National Park and Preserve are just a few of the many well-known stops along the way. Backcountry ski packages and a Halloween Train for kids are just two of the many excursions and event rides on offer from the Alaska Railroad.

Check out the official website here: https://www.alaskarailroad.com/.

Dalton Highway Interstate 75

To reach the remote community of Prudhoe Bay in Alaska's far north, travelers must travel over 400 miles along the Dalton Highway. It was constructed in close proximity to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, making it accessible from both Fairbanks and Anchorage. The road is isolated, rough, and rarely used by anyone other than those working in the oil fields.

Travelers who come well-prepared can find rewards at the end of the long, lonely highway in the form of Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The northern end of the Dalton Highway passes through the Arctic Circle, a latitude where the summer solstice brings 24 hours of daylight and the winter solstice brings 24 hours of darkness. From Fairbanks and Anchorage, tourists can take one of many daily bus or plane tours to the Arctic Circle, so getting there in your own car isn't necessary.

The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, are a major tourist attraction in this region from September to mid-April. As temperatures drop, taking an aurora tour is a great way to keep warm.

Where to Stay in FairbanksLocation of Overnight Stays in Fairbanks

Alaska Native Heritage Center Modified photograph of the Alaska Native Heritage Center by Frank Kovalchek

The Alaska Native Heritage Center provides visitors with an opportunity to engage with the state's eleven major cultural groups through song, story, and art. The Heritage Center is more than just a place to find interpretive materials; it's also a hub for local gatherings and activities.

A short drive from Anchorage will take you to the Heritage Center. The Hall of Cultures features exhibits and local vendors showcasing Alaska Native handicrafts and artwork, while The Gathering Place is where you can watch Alaska Native dance and storytelling.

Beautiful Lake Tiulana can be found on the property as well, encircled by Alaska Native homes. The modern Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center offers a shuttle service during the summer months to take visitors to this out-of-the-way attraction.

Anchorage mailing address: 8800 Heritage Center Drive

For the canonical website, please visit http://www.alaskanative.net/.

  • Anchorage, Alaska, Has Many Must-See Attractions, but These Are the Best
Mendenhall Glacier Mendenhall Ice Cap

The Mendenhall Glacier, which can be seen from the road 12 miles to the northwest of the state capital, descends from the 1,500 square mile Juneau Icefield to the shores of a small lake. Trails lead along the shore to the roaring Nugget Falls and the impressive ice mass, and the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center offers sweeping views of the glacier and the iceberg-dotted waters.

Guests can float among the bergs on rafting and kayaking excursions. Black bears, porcupines, and beavers are just some of the animals that can be encountered in this dazzling blue landscape. In general, the weather is nicer and more predictable between May and October, so that's when most people choose to go. Rainy days are also great for a visit to the glacier because the ice takes on a unique shade of blue.

Site officiel : http://www.fs.usda.gov/tongass/

Where to Stay in Juneau Staying Over in Juneau

  • Find Out More About Juneau's Best Tourist Attractions
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve Wrangell-St The Elias Park and Preserve National Park

Wrangell-St The vast and beautiful Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve can be found in Alaska. In this magnificent mountain range, you'll find nine of the sixteen highest peaks in the United States. This park is notable for its proximity to Canada, as well as its glaciers, lakes, mountain streams, and abundant wildlife.

Wrangell-St If you enjoy hiking, mountaineering, or any type of water sport, Elias is the perfect place for you to travel. And the Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark in the park sheds light on the history of the mill town with its few remaining historic structures and derelict mines.

There are also 14 wilderness cabins to choose from, many of which can be reached only by flying into tiny airstrips.

Mile 106, Address Copper Center, Alaska, 8 Old Richardson Highway

The official website is available at http://www.nps.gov/wrst/index.htm.

Where to Stay in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Lodging Options

Iditarod National Historic Trail The Iditarod Trail, a National Historic Landmark

The Iditarod Trail is the only National Scenic Trail in the entire state of Alaska. More than 2,300 miles of trails connect Nome on the Bering Strait to Seward in the Anchorage area. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is held along this historic route, which was once used by ancient hunters and later by gold prospectors.

The route is surrounded by expansive landscapes that are home to breathtaking vistas of mountains, glaciers, and wildlife. Hikers use parts of the trail in the summer, particularly the popular Crow Pass Trail in Chugach State Park, which is primarily used in the winter.

Visit the official website at https://www.blm.gov/programs/national-conservation-lands/national-scenic-and-historic-trails/iditarod for more information about the Iditarod Trail.

Brooks Falls is a popular spot for grizzly bears to catch salmon.

In Katmai National Park, where Brooks Falls is located, brown bears are practically a household name. Because the Brooks River fills with spawning salmon beginning in June and peaking in July, the park's largest mammals come in for the feast. Now, visitors can enjoy some of the best wildlife viewings in the country from the many observation platforms set up around the falls.

The Alaskan Peninsula, where Brooks Falls and Katmai National Park can be found, protrudes southwest from the main land. You can either fly in or take a boat to the park's location. Although it is not required, many tourists book all-inclusive vacation packages that include a visit to the falls. Additionally, there are a number of airlines that provide shuttle service to the park.

Seward, Alaska Alaskan town of Seward

There's just as much allure in getting to Seward as there is in the town itself. The Seward Highway connects those coming from Anchorage to the neighborhood. There are 127 miles of this All-American Road that pass through beautiful wilderness in Alaska. Turnagain Arm and the southern border of Chugach State Park are followed for the first 50 miles out of Anchorage. Nearby attractions include mountains, glaciers, and the occasional breaching beluga whale.

From Anchorage to Seward, tourists can also take the scenic Alaska Railroad. Fairbanks is farthest north the Alaska Railroad travels from Anchorage.

Seward, Alaska, is known for its scenic commutes and its many interesting cultural attractions, such as the Alaska Sealife Center. The city is also a jumping off point for trips to nearby Exit Glacier and other Kenai Peninsula attractions. Travelers on the Kenai Peninsula can easily reach the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, which was established to safeguard the Kodiak bear and other endangered species.

You can visit the official website here: http://www.seward.com/.

Where to Stay in Seward Seward Lodging: Where to Stay

Totem Bight State Historic Park Located in Totem Bight State Park

The United States Forest Service launched an initiative in 1938 to preserve the dwindling art of making totem poles by salvaging, reconstructing, and creating new poles. Older generation carvers were commissioned with the aid of these funds in order to restore or recreate totem poles that had been left in disrepair. Through this work, they were able to teach new skills to members of the community's younger generation.

Totem Bight State Historic Park in Ketchikan, Alaska, is home to fifteen poles that have been designated as historic thanks to their inclusion on the National Register. A nineteenth-century clan house, faithfully recreated here, can be seen as well. The town's Totem Heritage Center has additional historical totem poles and information about the area.

To contact the Ketchikan Ranger Station, write to 9883 North Tongass Hwy, Ketchikan, Alaska 99601.

Check out the official website here: http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/units/totembgh.htm

Where to Stay in Ketchikan Ketchikan Lodging: Where to Stay

White Pass & Yukon Route Railway The Railroad Over White Pass and the Yukon

Beautifully restored structures from the Skagway historic district are preserved in Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park to honor the 1897–98 Gold Rush. Starting at the Taiya River Bridge, the 33-mile-long Chilkoot Trail commemorates the journey and hardships endured by early gold prospectors. In addition, there is a visitor center and museum for guests to peruse while they are here.

From Skagway, you can take the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway to the summit of White Pass, located at an altitude of 2,865 feet. The visitor center is located in one of the oldest depots in Alaska.

Refer to http://www.nps.gov/klgo/index.htm for the official site.

Where to Stay near Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Lodging Options

Ketchikan

Ketchikan is a rugged metropolis that faces the renowned Inside Passage and is surrounded by Tongass National Forest. Many Native American totem poles can be found all over town and in parks like Totem Bight State Historical Park, which gives the city its name. However, the city is also surrounded by the wild, unspoiled Alaskan wilderness.

Much of the natural landscape around Ketchikan is characterized by a lush temperate rainforest. This includes raging rivers, verdant mountain ranges stretching for miles, and a wide range of climates that call for boots. Taking a guided tour through the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary is a great way to learn more about this unique ecosystem.

The 40-acre forest preserve on the outskirts of town is managed by Kawanti Adventures, which also provides guided tours. These roughly three-hour excursions go above and beyond the typical hiking experience by including a narrative guide with interesting tidbits about the local history and culture. Interpretive exhibits, such as a totem park and a historic sawmill, are also part of these tours.

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