• Kathy Kelly Nesbitt

10 Best Places to Visit in Alaska




DENALI NATIONAL PARK

Our country’s highest mountain towers of the Denali National Park. Home to all kinds of wildlife, it is a protected wilderness area where you can spot bears, moose, and wolves. Hiking along enjoying nature and the fresh Alaska air, keep your camera ready to capture wildlife at its best. Savage River, Wonder Lake and Polychrome Pass are among many places to take in this popular and most famous of all places of Alaska.

Bus tours are a safe and convenient way to get around, but for those more adventurous hiking, back-country camping and even whitewater rafting are among popular ways to explore the park.

Don’t miss the Denali Visit Center, offer informative and educational exhibits along with short, ranger-led trail walks.


KATMAI NATIONAL PARK

Down in the Southwest region of Alaska you will find a scenic retreat. Close to Homer and Kodiak Island, Katmai National Park offers incredible opportunities to get up close and personal with the local wildlife. During the salmon run, you can watch brown bears catching their prey as they jump up the waterfalls enroute to spawning grounds. A popular pastime to many is fishing for the abundant rainbow trout as well as salmon – you might want to give it a try!

The park is also home to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, an enormous ask flow dating back to the 1912 eruption of the Novarupta Volcano.

Wrangell St. Elias National Park

Known as the Mountain Kingdom of North America are three mountain ranges. The Chugach, the Wrangell and the St. Elias are all found here, and in the heart of these giants you will find the largest national park in the U.S. – Wrangell St. Elias National Park.

You can get off the beaten track and explore glacier hiking trails or overnight camping adventures. A number of informative visitor centers and ranger stations are convenient for visitors. Popular pastimes such as hunting, fishing, mountain biking and kayaking are activities here.


ANCHORAGE

You probably thought Anchorage was the capital of Alaska!

It is the largest city in the state, and the home to over half of the state’s residents. This city is a modern hub and economic heart of this state and a short drive away from the Alaska wilderness.

So much to see and do even in the city – Anchorage Museum of History and Art, Alaska Native Heritage Center, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center to name a few. Escape then from the city and drive along Seward Highway for incredible birdwatching at Potter’s Marsh or enjoy a hike along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. You will find Anchorage to be a convenient hub for your daytime activities. Oh, and Juneau is the capital of Alaska – in the Southeast part of Alaska – the Inside Passage.



KETCHIKAN

The southernmost city in Alaska is Ketchikan, a scenic destination known for being the first stop for many cruise ships that head north along the coast. Located at the foot of Deer Mountain, Ketchikan is home to a wide range of attractions.

Visitors may want to stop in at the Totem Heritage Center, the Tongass Historical Museum or the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center. Once a rowdy red-light district, these days Creek Street is home to a quieter class of establishment but still retains its delightful historic charm. The most scenic downtown stretch is historic Creek Street, which is only a short distance away from the cruise ship docks.

Ketchikan is a hub for outdoor adventures with guided day tours from salmon fishing to ziplining through the tree canopy of Tongass National Forest.


GLACIER BAY NATIONAL PARK

This world-renowned spot to admire glaciers is in what is known as the Panhandle of Alaska. Glacier Bay National Park gives you an opportunity to get active outdoors and see wildlife. Kayaking is an amazing way to get around the park and can be rented.

Hike around on the trails that wind in and out among the glaciers. The two most visited and photographed spots in the park are Muir Inlet and John Hopkins Glacier.

Homer

For those mainly interested in exploring nature and perhaps doing some fishing, Homer is your place to go. Located on the Kenai Peninsula, it is the fishing capitol of Alaska.

You can walk along the beach to the iconic Homer Spit, or spot wildlife in Kachemak Bay State Park, watching for mountain goats, bald eagles, sea lions, humpback whales and black bears.

Halibut fishing trips are incredibly popular here and you can be almost guaranteed to catch one that a local restaurant will happily cook for your dinner.


JUNEAU

Yes, Juneau is the capital city, not Anchorage!

It is also the major port for cruise ships that pass through the Inside Passage either on a roundtrip back to Vancouver or Seattle or on their way to or from mainland Alaska.

Home to major attractions such as the Alaska State Museum, the Alaska State Capitol and the incredibly serene Shrine of St Therese.

Take a ride on the Mount Roberts Tramway for a view out of this world! From the top you can set off on one of many hiking trails that overlook the city.

Juneau also has many breweries and a tour there is a great way to warm you up on a cool day. Front Street is the place for every type of souvenir to be found in Alaska.



MENDENHALL GLACIER

While in Juneau, a must visit is to the Mendenhall Glacier. This enormous glacier is calving – or separating – into its own adjacent lake. You can experience the glacier in many ways – a shuttle ride from town, or a helicopter ride that will take you up close for a true appreciation of the sheer size of the glacier.

Fit and adventurous visitors may want to give the Mendenhall Glacier Just a short drive from the city of Juneau is the Mendenhall Glacier, an enormous glacier that is calving, or separating, into its own adjacent lake. There are a number of different ways to experience the glacier, ranging from a simple shuttle ride to see it up close or a helicopter ride to truly appreciate the sheer size of the glacier.

The fittest visitors may want to try out the Mendenhall Glacier West Glacier Trail, which is very challenging but provides incredible opportunities for photography. Also worth a visit is the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, which includes exhibits about the glacier as well as several viewing platforms.


KENAI FJORDS NATIONAL PARK

Step back into the ice age at Kenai Fjords National Park!

Glaciers and ice caps still exist here and as they touch the edge of the ocean, they create such unforgettable and dramatic views.

Although much of the park is covered in ice all year, there are still deep fjords resulting from where the water valleys are formed. Here is the home to a lot of aquatic wildlife and you can easily spot the migrating whales and also birds swooping to feed on fish in the water.

It is probably best to visit Kenai Fjords on a guided day tours as the icy conditions and limited accommodations choices can make it a bit trying to visit on your own.