Often viewed as a rustic playground for explorers and adventurers, Alaska used to seem daunting to travelers. Over the years, however, countless methods to explore America’s Last Frontier have made it exciting for families, honeymooners, active travelers, and retirees alike.
Hiking and camping certainly remain authentic ways to explore Alaska’s interior, though not for novice outdoorsmen. Because cell service is spotty, trusted apps such as maps won’t work, so you must carefully plan out your route beforehand. Encountering wildlife on and off the trail is quite common, so be prepared at all times for a chance meeting with a bear or moose. Wolves are always watching from the forests, while the mountains are teeming with caribou, dall sheep, and goats.
Flightseeing tours are an unforgettable way to experience Alaska’s vast mountain ranges and icy glaciers. There is no substitute for flying within a half mile of Denali by a small plane to truly understand what an undertaking it is for hikers to complete the expedition to the top. Glaciers that seem like thin crusts of ice from miles away suddenly morph into half-mile-high walls as you navigate quite close to their cerulean crevasses. Some tours include a glacier landing so that you can experience these natural wonders first-hand.
If a slow, steady pace is more your style, a scenic trip via the Alaskan Railroad allows you to ride in comfort while taking in panoramic views through glass-dome ceilings. Tour guides point out wildlife and points of interest while recounting the colorful history of each small town along the way. Passengers are free to move about the train in order to enjoy views from different vantage points, visit the dining car, or purchase beverages at the stocked bar.
A motor coach tour is perfect for those whole like to stop periodically to photograph wildlife. The ride from Anchorage to the entrance of Denali is about six hours by bus, and if you decide to stay a few days in the park it can take twice as long to reach a lodge. However, the beauty of this road trip is that the drivers will pause whenever wildlife is spotted. The trip is broken up with stops at visitor centers, hotels, or train stations, so you can stretch your legs and take amazing photos…especially if Denali decides to emerge in the distance.
Cruises offer an easy and relaxing way to explore Alaska’s coastline and outlying islands, which are equally as spectacular as its interior. While most itineraries hit popular ports such as Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway, others navigate to more off-the-beaten path destinations, including Wrangell, Icy Strait Point, Haines, and Rudyerd Bay. Water excursions include kayaking, whale watching, zodiac explorations, and fishing for Alaskan salmon and halibut. Land excursions are just as exciting–think dog mushing, an ATV expedition, or mountain biking.
Although the various methods of travel appeal to different travel styles, each is guaranteed to leave you speechless as you soak in the breathtaking landscapes and wildlife.
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