the Alaskan Mountains

Alaska has 3844 peaks that have been given names. Denali (or Mount McKinley) is the highest and most prominent mountain in North America, with an elevation of 20,308 feet (6,190 meters). It's the third highest peak on the planet. Alaska is known as "the last frontier" and "the land of the midnight sun," but its incredible craggy high altitude peaks and wild terrain have earned it a reputation for being "the real" last frontier. Alaska, at 570,380 square miles, is the largest of the 50 United States' individual states.

Alaska Denali landscape

Alaska can be roughly broken down into five distinct areas: the Northwest and Arctic, Interior, Southwest, Southcentral, and Southeast. The Brooks Range, Seward Peninsula Mountains, Nulato Hills, Yukon Tanana Uplands, Ogilvie Mountains, Kuskokwim Mountains, Alaska Range, Talkeetna Mountains, Wrangell Mountains, Aleutian Range, Kenai Mountains, Chugach Mountains, St. Elias Mountains, and the Coast Mountains are among the fourteen major mountain ranges that can be found in these areas.

Mendenhall Glacier Viewpoint

The Brooks Range is one of Alaska's most rugged and easily recognizable mountain ranges, stretching roughly 600 miles from the Chukchi Sea to the Canadian border, just south of the Arctic foothills. Within the Arctic Circle, the Brooks Range is the highest mountain range. The highest point in the Brooks Range is nearly 9,000 feet at the top of Mount Isto, making it the highest and the range's highest peak. Those without extensive mountaineering and backcountry survival skills should probably avoid venturing into the Brooks Range. There are several notable mountains in the Brooks Range, including Hubley, Chamberlin, and Michelson.

Central Alaska, also known as Interior Alaska, is characterized by vast highlands and basins and is often described as a cooler, wetter version of the Great Basin in the western United States. The uplands are typically divided into three distinct regions: the eastern highlands, the western highlands, and the Seward Peninsula. It's common for the mountains in this area to be significantly less lofty than their northern and southern counterparts.

Chugach Mountains

Mountains in Chugach State, Alaska

For instance, the Kigluaik Mountains, Bendeleben Mountains, Darby Mountains, and the York Mountains are all small, distinct subranges of the larger Seward Peninsula Mountains. In fact, Mount Osborn, the highest point in the area, is only 4,705 feet high. The Nulato Hills are a remote range of lush rolling hills located just south of the Seward Peninsula. The highest point, Debauch Mountain, is a mere 3,399 feet above sea level. There are also the White Mountains and the Ray Mountains in the nearby Yukon-Tanana Uplands, which span a total of 300 miles. This part of the state is often referred to as "the heart of Alaska," even though the state's alpine peaks and glaciers tend to get more attention. ”

The Kuskokwim Mountains, like the other inner region ranges mentioned, begin west of Fairbanks. These are just as impressive as the state's more well-known mountain ranges and peaks, but they are much more challenging to reach. Those who do make the journey to the Kuskokwim Mountains, however, will be rewarded with a glimpse of the true wild and remote wilderness.

The Alaska, Aleutian, Talkeetna, Chugach, Wrangell, and some of the St. Elias mountain ranges make up the southern region of Alaska. The landscape is dominated by the Elias Mountains. One of the largest and most visually stunning mountain systems in North America is formed by these mountain ranges. Ten of the United States' tallest mountains—Denali, Mount Saint Elias, Mount Foraker, Mount Bona, Mount Blackburn, Mount Sanford, Fairweather Mountain, Mount Hubbard, Mount Bear, and Mount Hunter—are found within these extraordinary ranges.

Mount Foraker and Mount Hunter

Sunrise over Mount Foraker and Mount Hunter

The Alaska range is a 600-mile arc of mountains that runs from the Alaska Peninsula to the Alaska-Canada border and is home to enormous glaciers and peaks. The Alaska Range, which includes Denali National Park, is a popular destination for hikers and campers. Denali, the highest peak in the Alaskan range, is also the tallest in North America and one of the tallest in the world (based on traditional measures of height). As the highest point in the Aleutian archipelago and a notorious active stratovolcano, Mount Spurr is another prominent Alaska range peak. Over a hundred volcanoes have been identified in Alaska, and many of them, including Mount Redoubt, Novarupta, and Mount Pavlof, are very active even today.

Although Alaska is primarily mountainous, the state has much more to offer than just its towering mountain peaks. Lake Iliamna, one of the largest lakes in the states, spans a whopping 1,000 square miles, and the state's coastline is longer than the rest of the United States' put together. Southeast and south-central Alaska are home to the nation's two largest forests, the Tongass and Chugach.

The potential for exploration and outdoor recreation in Alaska's landscape is unparalleled. Alaska is a state with breathtaking landscapes, towering peaks, glistening rivers and glaciers, gushing waterfalls, and a wide variety of unspoiled wilderness areas to discover.

Alaska Denali landscape

To the Alaskan National Parks

The largest and the smallest national parks in the United States are both located in Alaska, which is home to a total of eight. A total of nine national parks make California the only state with more.

  • Denali National Park was established in 1917, making it over a century old. Denali is the highest mountain in the United States.
  • To reach Katmai National Park, visitors must first take a boat or floatplane, as the park has no roads leading in. Brown bears are the park's claim to fame, and they attract a lot of visitors.

Katmai National Park, Alaska

The National Park Service and Preserve of Lake Clark

is yet another park inaccessible by road; however, getting there is a breeze thanks to the abundance of floatplanes in Alaska, which are as common there as taxis are in New York. Recent melting has revealed spectacular new landscapes in Glacier Bay National Park, including jagged peaks hidden under a blanket of ice. Visiting the park on a cruise ship is the most common activity. Harding Icefield is the largest icefield entirely within the United States, and it is located in the smallest national park in the United States, Kenai Fjords National Park.

Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elias Park

is America's largest national park At 13 The park's 2 million acres make it the same size as Yellowstone, Yosemite, and all of Switzerland put together. Some of the largest volcanoes in the Americas can be found here. Mount Wrangell, one of the world's largest (by volume) active volcanoes, has been fuming since its last eruption in 1900. It is not uncommon to see a steam plume rising from the vents located in craters along the rim of the summit caldera during the winter and on cool summer mornings. The geologists assure us that Wrangell is not about to erupt anytime soon, despite the volcano's frequent steam emissions.

Wrangell–St. Elias, Alaska

The Arctic National Park at the Arctic Gates

is smack dab in the middle of Alaska, well beyond the Arctic Circle, and serves as the northernmost national park in the United States. Though it receives fewer visitors than other national parks in the United States, Kobuk Valley National Park is special for its own reasons, including the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, which stand an unusual 100 feet tall well above the Arctic Circle.

Important Hiking Areas and Paths

The Denali National Park and Preserve

Seeing the highest peak in North America is a must for any tourist visiting Alaska. Denali National Park is a six-million-acre reserve just south of Fairbanks that is home to taiga, tundra, glaciers, wildlife, and a ton of opportunities for outdoor recreation. Denali is designed for visitors to experience vast, unspoiled wilderness and allows for off-trail exploration despite its lack of established hiking trails. There are a few trails, such as the 2 Mile Trail, that offer breathtaking views of Denali and other park highlights if you're too nervous to go off the beaten path. Mount Healy Overlook Trail (one way: 7) miles; Horseshoe Lake Trail (one way: 2 miles; round trip: 4 miles)

Denali National Park

Leave the Harding Icefield and Glacier Trail

The Exit Glacier trail is a popular and well-maintained way to reach the massive glacier just outside of Seward. The Harding Icefield Trail is a popular route among hikers due to its steep ascent of nearly 4,000 feet over a distance of 4 miles (one way). When you reach the peak, you can look out over the incredible Harding Ice Field and the surrounding Alaskan landscape.

Exit Glacier

Peak with a Flat Top

Flattop Mountain, located just outside of Anchorage, is one of the most frequently visited trails in Alaska due to its breathtaking vistas of the Chugach Mountains, the Turnagain Arm waterway, and the Cook Inlet. Hikers can see Denali and the Aleutian Islands on a clear day. Hikers will scramble up a series of wooden steps and cover a total of 3 moderate miles (out and back) to reach the peak.

Places Far From Civilization

Although there are many Alaskan hiking trails and scenic areas close to urban centers and lodging options, true wilderness experiences can only be had by venturing out into the state's more remote regions.

Glacier Bay National Park

Park, National of Glacier Bay, U.S.

Places like Glacier Bay National Park, Kenai Fjords National Park, Katmai National Park, the Arctic Coast, and the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge provide incredible scenery and solitude. Most of these locations, however, call for extensive preparation, expert-level backcountry and/or mountaineering skills, and/or unique lodgings. The vast majority of Alaska's most prized wilderness is undeveloped, meaning it lacks access to roads, utilities, and other basic necessities. However, genuine adventurers who travel to Alaska's uninhabited, remote regions will get to see nature in its most pristine state.

There is a national park here called Lake Clark.

Due to its isolated location, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve does not have an extensive trail system. Yet, if you're game for some off-the-beaten-path exploration, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve has no shortage of excitement to offer.

The National Park of Katmai

Katmai National Park and Preserve is a vast, 4,093,077-acre (16,564 km2) area in southern Alaska that is well-known for its teeming brown bear population. Park and Preserve are huge, about the same size as either Connecticut or New Jersey. If you're looking for a place to go hiking or backpacking, Katmai National Park is your best bet, but don't count on there being any trails.

Arctic Frontiers

Trail-less mountain passes, tundra, and rushing rivers characterize Gates of the Arctic National Park, so hikers should pack accordingly. Backpackers typically aim to cover six miles per day, but often fall short due to the terrain (tussock, boggy ground, and a lack of trails).

Find out which air taxis depart from Fairbanks or Bettles, and then study a topographical map and daydream about your adventure into Gates of the Arctic. It's hard to go wrong with a backpacking trip to the Brooks Range, but the Arrigetch Peaks area is especially well-loved by park visitors.

Arrigetch peaks

The Arrigetch Range

Stunning Routes

Alaska is full of picture-perfect scenic drives, most of which are close to major cities and resorts, making it easy to experience the state's incredible mountain terrain.

Highway Turnagain Arm/Seward

The Seward Highway, which leaves Anchorage and heads south, is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful scenic drives in Alaska, what with its uninterrupted views of the surrounding mountains and abundance of opportunities for outdoor recreation. The Seward Highway linking Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula is one of only 15 routes in the United States to be honored with the designation of "All American Road." There are turnouts along this route where visitors can look out for beluga whales and Dall sheep, and the drive itself showcases the 3,000-foot peaks of Chugach State Park.

A Trip to Denali

Denali Highway was once the only road from Paxson and Cantwell into Denali National Park, and it was only partially paved. In a matter of miles, you'll go from treetops to bare tundra, passing breathtaking vistas of mountains and wide open spaces. The famous Alaska Range, the Amphitheater Mountains, the Maclaren Glaciers flowing off Mount Hayes, and the northernmost extension of the Talkeetna Mountains can all be seen from Denali Highway.

Getting Through the Hatchers

Hatcher Pass is one of Alaska's best-kept secrets, located in the Talkeetna Mountains between Willow and Palmer. In addition to passing through beautiful, stereotypically Alaskan mountain scenery, this road also provides access to several alpine hiking trails, a historic mine, and a number of pristine glacier-fed lakes. It is possible to reach the pass from Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali, and Fairbanks after a scenic 3-hour drive (round trip).

Talkeetna Mountains

Range of Talkeetna

Cities and Vacation Spots of Note

Fairbanks

Fairbanks, also known as "The Golden Heart of Alaska," is famous for two things: the aurora borealis (during the winter) and the midnight sun (during the summer). In the summer, when there are 24 hours of daylight, tourists flock to the White Mountains to the north and the Alaska Range to the south, even though the city itself doesn't offer nearly as many opportunities for outdoor recreation as other Alaskan towns. Tours, late-night hikes, and scenic drives are available in Fairbanks during the winter, when it is one of the best places in the world to see the aurora borealis.

Fairbanks is home to two ski areas, both of which provide lodging, amenities, and winter recreation opportunities: Moose Mountain Ski Resort and the appropriately named Mount Aurora Skiland.

Anchorage

The majority of tourists who visit Alaska will fly into Anchorage. Anchorage is home to over 50% of the state's inhabitants and boasts numerous attractions such as museums, microbreweries, restaurants, hotels, and, of course, breathtaking mountain scenery. Anchorage is positioned beneath the highest peaks of the Chugach Mountains and is within easy driving distance of 60 glaciers and several national parks. Sightseeing flightseeing tours, glacier and wildlife cruises, canoe and kayak rentals, epic hiking and backpacking trails in Chugach State Park, shuttles to popular outdoor recreation areas like Flattop Mountain, and more are all available to tourists from town.

The Alyeska Resort, located not far from Anchorage, is widely regarded as the best ski destination in all of Alaska. It boasts over 1,600 skiable acres, 76 named trails, and an aerial tram that provides breathtaking views of the surrounding terrain. Popularly known as "steep and deep," Mount Alyeska is home to the North Face, the longest continuous double black diamond run in North America.

Mount Alyeska

The peak of Alyeska

Seward

Seward, located at the Kenai Peninsula's northern tip on Resurrection Bay, is one of the state's most beautiful urban areas and a fantastic jumping-off point for adventures in the great outdoors. Seward, Alaska, is a popular tourist destination due to its breathtaking natural beauty, which can be experienced by foot, boat, or airplane tours of the region's glacial lakes and Harding Icefield. Close to Seward is Kenai Fjords National Park, which features marine life and tidewater glaciers across more than 600,000 acres of glaciated terrain. Famous Alaskan glaciers like Exit Glacier can be seen from the many spectacular hiking trails in and around Seward.

Juneau

Juneau is located on one of the largest wilderness areas in the United States, making it a beautiful spot to take in the country's iconic scenery. This outdoor enthusiast's paradise is located close to Mendenhall Glacier, the fifth largest icefield in North America. Hikers and tram riders alike will be rewarded with sweeping vistas of the surrounding Chilkat Mountains and Gastineau Channel from the peak of Mount Roberts. Eaglecrest Ski Area is owned by the local community and features 640 acres of groomed runs and backcountry access during the winter.

Skiing in Alaska: A Guide to Resorts

Heli-skiing, backcountry skiing, and ski touring are all hugely popular in Alaska because of the state's remote and wild nature, so it's no surprise that the state's ski resorts offer a wide variety of exciting possibilities.

Snowbird hut skiing

Skier cruising high above Snowbird lodge and the glacier that gives the mountain its name.

  • Alaska's most frequented ski area is Alyeska, located on the mountain of the same name. It's only 40 miles away from the heart of Anchorage. The North Face is popular among advanced skiers because it has the longest unbroken double black run in North America. The long top-to-bottom runs and open bowls are favorites of intermediate and advanced skiers. See the resort's online event calendar for some fantastic musical performances. Whether it be the state of the weather or the status of the lifts, you can find just about anything out there on the internet.
  • Skiing at Eaglecrest, Juneau's community-run ski area, gives you access to big mountains and incredible backcountry terrain. Mount Ben Stewart, the island's highest peak, provides the backdrop for this place.
  • Fairbanks, Alaska's Ski Land boasts North America’s most northerly chairlift. Views of the Brooks Range and the Alaska Range in the distance are stunning from the ski resort. Aurora Viewing is a place where you can relax and take in the beauty of the northern lights. For the price of admission, you can drink all you want of hot chocolate, tea, or coffee. Plus, there's a good full menu and wine list to go with it. The resort has the best view of the dark night sky within a 30-minute drive of Fairbanks, thanks to its location atop Cleary Summit, which overlooks the Poker Flat Research Range and provides unobstructed views of the northern, eastern, southern, and western skies. The best chances of capturing stunning images of the Northern Lights are at higher altitudes, away from any competing hills or trees. The current conditions at ski areas can be checked online.
  • The Mount Eyak Ski Area, located high above the city of Cordova, is a popular destination for winter sports enthusiasts. The chairlift on Mt. Eyak is a vintage one, manufactured by American Steel and Wire in 1939. It has a special slope with a rope tow for beginners.
  • Located just outside of Anchorage proper, Hilltop Ski Area is a cozy little ski resort. Hilltop Ski Area is the best in terms of convenience to the slopes. This 30-acre winter recreation area at the base of the Chugach Mountains is just 15 minutes from downtown Anchorage, making it ideal for a day of easy skiing, snowboarding, or telemark skiing without breaking the bank. Hilltop, which sits at an elevation of 486 feet, receives between 12 and 30 inches of snow per year, with the help of snowmaking. The majority of its trails (around 80%) are considered to be beginner-friendly, with a further 10% being classified as intermediate, and 10% as advanced.
  • On the outskirts of Fairbanks, Shred the Moose is the largest alpine ski and snowboard area in interior Alaska. There is a short beginner tow at the base lodge, long gentle cruisers, and steep, narrow black diamond runs that can challenge even the best skiers and boarders on the Moose's 750 acres and 1300 vertical feet. Only Moose Mountain uses a fleet of school buses as its primary lift system, and each bus can carry up to 100 skiers per hour. When necessary, extra buses are added. A standard speed chairlift would take 13–15 minutes to get you there, while this ride takes only 10 minutes.
  • Anyone looking for a taste of the backcountry while still having access to the amenities of a ski resort will love Arctic Valley. It is only a 10-mile drive from Anchorage.
  • Skeetawk, a brand new ski resort currently under development. From the current parking lot at mile 10 of the Palmer-Fishhook Road leading up to Hatcher pass, skiers and snowboarders can access the future ski area on the slopes of Government Peak.

Visit the World Mountain Lifts page for maps of ski areas across the globe, including Alaska. Included is up-to-the-minute data on when and where in Alaska ski lifts and slopes are open for the winter. A variety of mountain lifts, including cable cars, funiculars, cog railways, aerial tramways, and more, operate year-round.

Alyeska Ski Resort in Girdwood

Girdwood, Alaska's Alyeska Resort

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