There’s a reason that over two million tourists go to Alaska every year. Between the stunning scenery, majestic wildlife, and exhilarating adventures, The Last Frontier has something for everyone. There’s more to Alaska than just glaciers. Keep reading if you want to learn key reasons to visit Alaska.
We recommend doing the research before your trip to ensure you see everything you want to. With such a wide array of things to do on your trip to Alaska, how do you even start making your vacation bucket list?
Lucky for you, we’ve made a list of our seven favorite Alaskan tourist must-sees. Keep reading to find out what to do in Alaska to make the best of your holiday.
7 Reasons to Visit Alaska
1. Aurora Borealis
An aurora is a must-see when you visit Alaska. These dancing lights are sometimes called aurora borealis or the northern lights.
This natural light display can be seen in high-latitude areas of the world. Alaska is one of the best places in the world to take in this sight.
Some tourism companies even provide excursions to see the lights. They know the best places to go and when to go to increase your chances of seeing them.
Your best time to view the aurora in Alaska is between October and March.
Alaska is home to a wide array of wildlife.
Bring your birding binoculars and see how many species you can spot. Look for sandhill cranes, sharp-shinned hawks, and northern hawk owls.
Keep your eyes open on land for the three common Alaska bears – brown, black, and polar. Other mammals like the arctic fox, marmot, and northern collared lemming call Alaska home, too.
If you plan to spend a little time fishing on your trip in Alaska, there are plenty of species you may be able to see. Alaska’s icy pure waters give their salmon a unique flavor. The state’s shellfish are sweet, tender, and flavorful because of the frigid waters.
3. Denali National Park
The Denali National Park needs to be on your Alaska bucket list.
The park is home to North America’s tallest mountain – Denali. At 20,310 feet, it’s the third-highest mountain of the Seven Summits.
There’s no shortage of things to do during your stay in the park. If you have some adventure-seekers in your group, an ATV or dogsled tour might fit the bill. If you’re searching for thrilling water adventures, white-water rafting is perfect.
A helicopter tour is perfect for anyone dying to see the sky-scraping mountains of the park.
4. Midnight Sun
The midnight sun is a naturally occurring phenomenon in the Arctic Circle. It happens during the summer months and is quite a sight to see.
During certain parts of the year, the sun does not set in the northernmost communities of Alaska. This happens because the sun travels around Alaska in an arc formation. Even if it goes below the horizon, twilight will still be bright.
You can expect to see the midnight sun from May 10 to August 2. Some communities host events that begin late at night, squeezing every drop out of that extended sunshine. You can hike, go golfing, or take a bike ride at any hour of the day.
5. Scenic Drives
No Alaska visit would be complete without a scenic drive or two.
The state provides visitors with the perfect combination of wildlife, mountains, glaciers, and oceans. So if stunning vistas and breathtaking views are on your bucket list, you need to plan for a scenic drive.
Hatcher Pass is an excellent option for visitors to the south-central and interior regions of Alaska. During the winter months, this drive will get you where you need to go for your snow adventures. You can even park the car and go hiking if the trails are calling to you.
Another great option is the Matanuska Glacier drive. This glacier is the largest one in Alaska accessible via vehicle, so it’s a definite must-see. It’s only a two-hour drive from Anchorage, making it the perfect day trip.
If you’re in the Kodiak area, check out the Chiniak Highway. This drive provides 42-miles of non-stop views. Whether you want to see salmon streams or exposed beaches, this highway has something for you. Fisherman might want to pack their tackleboxes and stop at Russian or Salonie Creeks.
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6. Whale Watching
What trip to Alaska is complete without a whale-watching expedition? It’s home to several species, including humpback, gray, killer, and beluga whales. The key knows when and where to go to maximize your chances of seeing these majestic creatures.
Humpbacks can be seen throughout the summer almost everywhere along the coastline.
Gray whales migrate to their feeding area in the Arctic during the summer months. They’re easy to find near the state’s outer coast when they travel back to Baja California in the spring.
Killer whales can be seen in Alaska’s bays and inlets throughout the entire year. Though the best time to spot whales in Alaska is throughout June and September.
There are around 300 beluga whales that call the Cook Inlet home. Belugas are listed as a critically endangered species, with only 150,000 left in the world. Seeing these beautiful creatures would be a privilege given to very few.
There is a seemingly infinite amount of mapped-out hikes in Alaska. Whether you’re looking for a weekend-long hike or something to eat up a few hours, there are options for you.
Visiting Alaska and hiking go hand-in-hand for the more adventurous tourists. But it’s essential to be ready for anything when you’re exploring the great outdoors.
Let someone outside of your party know where you’re going in case you don’t return at the end of the day.
Be sure you pack enough food and water to last you the duration of your hike and beyond. It doesn’t hurt to bring extra in case you get lost or decide to extend your adventure.
If you encounter a bear on your hike, give it a wide berth. Female bears are especially protective of their young and will not think twice about coming after you.
Wear appropriate clothing. Dress in layers to ensure you’re ready for whatever weather Mother Nature throws at you.
Buy or rent trekking poles to help you with the more challenging terrain.
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There certainly is no shortage of things to do or see during your trip to The Last Frontier. With a little bit of pre-planning, you’ll know exactly what to do in Alaska when you visit.
Check out our Destination guide to find more travel tips and advice to squeeze the most out of your trips.